Here, Cuba is compared against Venezuela, in an attempt to determine why the economy of the latter has failed. One of the assertions, that Venezuela is a Dictatorship (ignoring the socialist modifier for this question), stoked debate.

Can Venezuela, of September 2018, be called a Dictatorship?
If so, by what metrics? What measures or actions of the government are indicators for a dictatorship? How does it compare against other dictatorships?

If not, what measures prevent such a classification? Is it trending towards dictatorship?

2 Answers 2


There are some metrics which may help a naive assessment.

The Economist's Democracy Index ranks nations on a scale from 0 to 10.

0-4 Authoritarian Regime, 4-6 Hybrid Regime, 6-8 Flawed Democracy, and 8-10 Full Democracy.

Between 2006 and 2017 Venezuela fell from 5.42 to 3.87, making it an authoritarian regime.

The Economist's Intelligence Unit explain their methodology, which takes into account measures of "free and fair competitive elections", "civil liberties", "functioning of government", and "political culture".

Freedom House's Freedom in the World 2018 report classifies nations on a scale of "free", "partly free", and "not free", finding Venezuela not free. Their methodology is based on how national realities compare with the the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Reporters Without Borders' 2018 World Press Freedom Index ranks Venezuela 143rd out of 180 countries, with a score of 46.03. They score nations from 0 to 100 (best to worst). RWB methodology calculates press freedom based on questions of "pluralism", "media independence", "environment and self-censorship", "legislative framework", "transparency", "infrastructure", and "abuses".

In 2017 they described Venezuela as being "ever more authoritarian":

Nicolás Maduro does his utmost to silence independent media outlets and keep news coverage under constant control. The climate for journalists has been extremely tense since the onset of a political and economic crisis in 2016, and is exacerbated by Maduro’s frequent references to the “media war” being waged by national and international media outlets to discredit his administration. Arbitrary arrests and violence against reporters by the police and intelligence services reached a record level in 2017. Foreign journalists are often expelled.

From these measures we can conclude that Venezuela has become an increasingly authoritarian society. This has been driven in no small part due to the leadership of presidents Chavez and then Maduro.

Presently Maduro has exhibited many of the characteristics we would think of as quintessentially dictatorial, and has made decisions to empower himself at the expense of the parliament. For example, the 2016 state of emergency, declared by the presidency and supported by the Supreme Court against the will of parliament.

Because the slide into authoritarianism is owing primarily to an overbearing presidency, this can be said to make Venezuela effectively a dictatorship.

  • 1
    Consider the game "Paper-Rock-Scissors" if Rock changed the rules so that it would also beat paper then it would be a Rock dictatorship Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 17:49
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    @FrankCedeno Can you please make your point using plain English?
    – user8398
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 18:38

I would argue that Venezuela is not currently a full dictatorship, but not fully not-a-dictatorship, either, but rather is currently transitioning out of a democratic republic and into dictatorship.

A pure dictatorship is a government that is kept in power by force, generally physical. It also answers only too itself, with no legal limits on its power.

A democratic form of government is ultimately governed by the citizens. A republic has rules governing how the government functions.

The actions of Maduro's government are indicators for slide into dictatorship include:

  1. Imprisonment of political opponents and dissidents (e.g. Leopoldo Lopez), as well as (alleged/disputed, I've seen reports of it after the fact) harassment via government-back armed militias.

  2. The suspension and otherwise interfering with the opposition-controlled National Assembly, starting in 2016 (Venezuela' Legislature; note that this was technically ordered by Venezuela's Supreme Court, but that is widely seen (if news reports are to be believed) to be an instrument of Maduro's government, rather than an independent body).

  3. Bypassing the Legislature to re-write the Constitution of Venezuela to remove checks on the Executive (such as term limits)

  • 1
    "A republic has rules governing how the government functions." Also monarchies, like Japan, United Kingdom, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Morocco, etc. These monarchies are also democratic, so that statement could be rephrased. I'm sure there's also got to be examples of constitutional dictatorships as well.
    – user8398
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 8:54
  • I would argue that there is no such thing as a constitutional dictatorship (in the modern era), since my definition of dictatorship is a government maintained by force, rather than by consent. I didn't mention monarchies, because this answer wasn't a whole definition but rather explaining my argument on Venezuela specifically, which to my knowledge hasn't had a monarchy since it broke away from Spain in the early 1800s.
    – sharur
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 16:14
  • 1
    @sharur That may be a problematic definition. If a majority of the people supports the leader, like it was the case in Nazi-Germany, this wouldn't be a dictatorship, and it only becomes one when the support wanes? Note that preventing a minority opposition from seizing power without elections is also something that democracies have to do, so using force can't be an identifying factor for dictatorships.
    – Thern
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 10:12
  • @Thern: if the majority supports the leader, a dictatorship is not necessary (to achieve goals or protect the leadership) but that does not it will do the logical thing (due to ideology, etc.). In the case of Venezuela, I would argue that its actions did not become dictatorial until the economy started tanking, and people started turning against them. For example, Leopoldo started facing sanctions in 2008, and wasn't imprisoned until 2014, where the current government (counting Maduro as a continuation of Chavez) began ruling in 1998.
    – sharur
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 17:30
  • 1
    @sharur "if the majority supports the leader, a dictatorship is not necessary" - This is a serious misconception. Majorities may change over time, so suppressing opposition or the free press may be necessary to avoid losing support in the future. Minority groups may seize power by force, especially when assisted by parts of the army. Some actions might still require repressive actions because these specific actions are not accepted by the otherwise supporting majority. Personal enrichment - and hiding these actions - are easier when critical voices are silenced etc.
    – Thern
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 17:44

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