CARACAS, Venezuela — Swaying to the D.J. and sipping cocktails on the open terrace of a mountain side bar, a party of private-school teenagers in Prada sneakers and Chanel bags looked down over the shantytowns of Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, spread over the valley below.
On the poorer outskirts of the city, residents continue to struggle with water shortages and malnutrition. And in the countryside beyond, Venezuela is falling apart, with residents lacking even the most basic services, like electricity and the police.
But the wealthier areas dotting the capital have undergone a striking economic boom in recent months.
With the country’s economy derailed by years of mismanagement and corruption, then pushed to the brink of collapse by American sanctions, President Nicolas Maduro was forced to relax the economic restraints that once defined his socialist government and provided the foundation for his political legitimacy.
The changes have helped transform Venezuela in ways few in Washington or Caracas had envisioned, but that are reminiscent of how its allies, Cuba and Nicaragua, relaxed Communist policies and allowed some private investment when faced with economic collapse in previous decades.