Venezuelans used to be among the happiest people on the planet.
In 2012, they voted themselves into fifth place in a global Gallup survey on happiness. In 2013, this South American country ranked 20th out of the 156 countries included in the United Nations’ annual World Happiness Report, which assesses well-being worldwide based on measures like wealth, life expectancy and corruption.
My home country used to be a prosperous, cheerful place. People were proud to be from Venezuela – a place known for its friendly citizens and beauty queens: Venezuela has produced six Miss Worlds and seven Miss Universes.
Venezuela has changed dramatically in recent years.
President Nicolás Maduro – who was elected to succeed the popular late leader Hugo Chávez in 2013 – has turned out to be a kind of King Midas in reverse. Everything he touches seemingly turns to garbage.
Many Venezuelans have lost any hope of political change. Maduro has crippled Venezuela’s independent institutions, stacking the Supreme Court with loyalists and stripping the National Assembly of its legislative powers. Freedom of speech is long gone.