This classic drama is drawing to its logical outcome:
Relying on a populist base for support, while continuing to ignore some basic economic and human rights principles, the Maduro government has rudely extended the fantasy world of the late Hugo Chávez. 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.
Taking over from the deceased Hugo Chávez over four years ago, designated survivor Nicolás Maduro has extended the Chávez legacy, one might say with a vengeance. The election held on Sunday had the clear intent of settling power solidly in Maduro’s grasp. Prior to the vote Mr. Maduro’s opponents controlled the national assembly, and he is seeking to reverse that. But the outcome may not be to his liking. The New York Times reports:
But the powers of the new assembly members will be so vast that they could possibly remove Mr. Maduro from office, some analysts noted, ending a presidency that has been deeply unpopular, even among many leftists.
Chávez, rode a populist movement to power, opposing the oligarchical political structure then in place, an echo of Venezuela’s, and much of Latin America’s, colonial history. He embraced socialistic reforms, generally wrong-headed, which produced an inexorable inward folding of the country’s economy. As Maduro continued these policies the situation in the country reached unbearable, with necessities disappearing from store shelves and people digging into trash heaps for something to eat. A response has been street protests and many killed:
Headlines about ongoing violence in Venezuela are practically inescapable, with at least 123 people dead since opposition-led protests aimed at toppling the government began in early April.
In addition to those killed, hundreds have been injured in the protests.
Other regional governments are becoming increasingly concerned. Chávezista sentiment is prevalent among many:
Bolivian President Evo Morales on Thursday slammed ongoing right-wing opposition protests in Venezuela, claiming they serve the interests of multinational elites looking to privatize the country’s oil resources.
Morales also said foreign and domestic attacks against President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution are intended to send a threatening message to anti-imperialist governments around the world.
“The plan of the empire is to overthrow the constitutional president elected by Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, as a warning to anti-imperialist governments,” Morales said.
“Any internal conspiracy or external intervention is intended to steal Venezuelan oil.”
Checking to see if there is any validity to the Evo conspiracy theory, I find this:
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez Friday “to address the dire situation in Venezuela,” as concern over U.S. interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs continues to grow.
In his phone conversation with Lopez, Pence praised “Mr. Lopez for his courage and outspoken defense of Venezuelan democracy,” according to the White House press statement.
A repressive government roiling an oil-rich country? The United States becomes suddenly aware? People at the top of our government weighing in and taking sides? Sanctions and what else under consideration? Where have we heard this before?
Disregarding Bolivia’s President Evo, there is a load of nonsupport for Maduro among countries south of the Rio Grande:
Eight Latin American nations, including Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, have collectively denounced Venezuela’s “excessive use of force” against civilian protesters after the death toll from anti-government unrest in the country rose to 36.
The group of nations, also including Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Paraguay, condemned the increase in violence in the oil-producing country and urged its government to respect the human rights of its citizens.
Can we pull back a moment and see if other countries in the region will step up and work to quell this local brush fire? The drama will continue to play out, and there will be more. Keep reading.