During the socialist reign of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela enjoyed the benefits of having the richest oil reserves in the world. The Chavez government was making more money than they could spend, but Chavez did his best to spend every dime and then some. Chavez died in 2013, and he passed his socialist ways to former truck driver and political newbie, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro didn’t know how to run a country, but he did know how to spend money and pocket some for his retirement.
When the price of crude oil began to drop in 2015, Maduro was faced with an enormous amount of overseas debt and shrinking oil exports. The cash cow that had given Maduro a get-out-of-economic-jail free card was expiring, and Maduro did what any inexperienced leader would do. He cut government programs and began enforcing policies that put companies out of business. Men like agricultural entrepreneur José Manuel González were faced with important decisions, and they had no help from the government.
But José Manuel González wasn’t like the other businessmen that stood by and let the Maduro policies ruin their lives. González decided to become politically involved and start the process of getting Maduro removed from office. Mr. González is the deputy of the National Assembly in his hometown of Guárico, and he has been an important player in the agricultural segment of Venezuelan’s economy. José predicted that Venezuela was going to face severe repercussions for the decisions that Maduro was making, and he was vocal about them. Maduro considered González part of the opposition, but José didn’t care. The people of Venezuela were suffering more than ever, and González believed the suffering was unnecessary.
The shortage of simple things like toilet paper and the closing of factories that had been in business for years infuriated González. He decided to take an active part in a referendum to remove Maduro from office. More than 400,000 people have signed a petition to start the referendum that could eventually remove Maduro as president. González thinks that referendum could succeed by the end of 2016.