President Nicolás Maduro is facing a marked deterioration of the economy and intense shortages of food and basic goods, increasing the risks of social protests and widespread looting, as well as potentially threatening political stability. The Venezuelan oil sector provides over 96% of the country's export revenues, 25% of GDP and about half of its fiscal revenues.
University students and civil society groups are likely to continue staging anti-government protests and roadblocks despite incumbent president Nicolás Maduro's calls for dialogue. The protests, which Maduro has said constitute a "coup in motion", have continued despite heavy use of force by the security forces. A total 18 people have been killed during the protests – most of them protesters – and hundreds of others have been wounded or arrested, amid reports of human rights violations including excessive use of force, the use of live ammunition, shooting rubber bullets at short distance, and even allegations of torture reported by local human rights group Foro Penal Venezolano. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have all condemned the violence and both the EU and US have joined calls from human rights groups for the judiciary not to be used to persecute opposition leaders and dissidents.
Venezuela heads to the polls on 7 October with Hugo Chávez, battling cancer, seeking to extend his rule until 2019. The increased prospects of victory for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, grave concerns over Chávez health and post electoral scenarios and fraud claims, coupled with weak political institutions, raise fears over the country’s stability.