The sordid tale continues. I started following this story during the rule of Hugo Chavez, a populist anti-American, who bolstered his position by invoking wage and price controls, during the course of which action he violated some basic economic principles and shorted civil rights. With Chávez dead and Nicolás Maduro in the driver’s seat, the situation continued to dissolve:
In close parallel to the Castro regime in Cuba, the ideologically-based rule in Venezuela has sent the country’s economy into a downward spiral. Only Chávez, and now Maduro, haven’t had somebody like the former Soviet Union to prop them up. As with the failing Cuba, the staggering Venezuela has cast about for somebody to blame. A villain is needed. For such as Mr. Maduro there is always one close at hand.
Today CNN aired a report produced by one of their reporters who entered the country disguised as a tourist. In February the government banned CNN from the country after that network published a report about the issuing of passports to potential terrorists:
Conatel [Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission] accused the channel of attempting to “undermine the peace and the democratic stability” of Venezuela.
It did not specifically mention the passport story, but government officials had earlier in the day disputed it at a press conference.
The story was the product of a year-long investigation into allegations that Venezuelan passports and visas were being sold to people in Iraq, including some with terrorism links.
The report alleged that Venezuelan Vice-President Tareck El Aissami was directly linked to the granting of 173 passports, including to members of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and other Western powers.
The video report, apparently smuggled out of the country and airing this afternoon, shows people digging through trash for food scraps. A street juggler, once able to earn money by performing at weddings, now spends his time looking for food. His face shows sever damage he says came from his encounter with police attempting to suppress protesters. People are being killed.
Claiming to be primed for civil war, a Venezuelan general issued orders to prepare for the future use of snipers against anti-government protesters, according to a secret recording of a regional command meeting held three weeks ago at a military base in the northwestern Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto.
On the recording, obtained from a Washington source that has provided el Nuevo Herald with information on Venezuela for previous stories, the generals discuss the legality and risks of using snipers during the massive demonstrations taking place almost daily against President Nicolás Maduro.
Aljazeera offers a broader look:
Venezuela’s political crisis is escalating fast.
With the economy in freefall, protesters have hit the streets and violence is on the rise.
Has the Venezuelan government gone authoritarian?
“It’s important to say Nicolas Maduro was democratically elected,” says Gabriel Hetland, a professor at the University of Albany. “But I think actions over the last 16 months have moved Venezuela unfortunately in a more authoritarian direction.”
“It is a government under siege,” counters Venezuelan-American journalist Eva Golinger, who also served as an adviser to former President Hugo Chavez. “The opposition doesn’t play by democratic rules, unfortunately has not, and as of yet we haven’t seen any such initiative or indication that they will in the near future.”
Whatever the rules are supposed to be, the socialistic government is rapidly losing support from its base. From The New York Times:
The threats Venezuelans face today are not the result of foreign or domestic conspiracies, but Mr. Maduro’s disastrous leadership. On his watch, the country’s health care system has atrophied so severely that scores of Venezuelans are dying every week because of chronic shortages of medicine and ill-equipped hospitals.
Violence has soared as armed gangs loyal to the government roam the streets. During the first three months of this year, 4,696 people were murdered in Venezuela, according to the government, and in 2015 more than 17,700 were killed. The three-month death toll is higher than the 3,545 civilians killed last year in Afghanistan, a record number.
Shortages of food and basic goods are likely to worsen as Venezuela’s economy continues to contract this year. Political prisoners, meanwhile, have languished behind bars for years, victims of a corrupt and broken justice system.
My title for this post reflects, of course, the history of the Peron regime in Argentina over 60 years ago. Evita, we will not cry for you.