Venezuela's Crisis, Right On Our Doorstep - An Article by Martin Rodil Published in Forbes
For the last few weeks the most violent city in the world has reached new terrible lows. No, not Baghdad. No, not Kabul. The most violent city in the world, in terms of homicides, violent crime, and police brutality, is actually Caracas; right on our doorstep.
Venezuela, a country awash with natural resources, has been systematically dismantled by two Socialist dictators in two decades. Economic mismanagement, nationalization and expropriation of private enterprise, exorbitant corruption, and a trickle down culture of cronyism and impunity have left Venezuela as the poorest nation in the America; right on our doorstep.
With the death of Hugo Chavez, things have gone from bad to worse. His successor Nicolas Maduro has hammered rusty nails into the coffin of Venezuelan democracy. With all the powers removed from the opposition led parliament, the Supreme Court filled with regime cronies, the constitution undermined at every step, and pro-democracy voices silenced by both imprisonment and torture, Venezuelans have been pushed to the very edge. A true state of terror; right on our doorstep.
As the political oppression continues, mismanagement and corruption have caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. The medical system is collapsing, and diseases are rife and spreading. There is no food on the shelves, with over 80% of Venezuelans struggling to meet the recommended daily allowance of calories. Children – given up by parents who cannot afford to feed them – now wander the streets hungry. Kidnapping for ransom has even become an all too common source of income. It's chaos, anarchy, helplessness. Right on our doorstep.
It is no surprise that the people have therefore decided to protest, a basic human right after all. The last few weeks have witnessed protest after protest. Pictures coming out of Venezuela show popular desperation met with state-sponsored brutality. The regime’s security forces (the National Guard and the National Police) have restricted access to Caracas ahead of every march. They have incited pro-government counter-protests and armed gangs – colectivos -- to attack the peaceful pro-democracy protesters. Maduro, on a daily basis, deploys his bullies to repel women, children, and elderly protesters with tear gas, pepper spray, high-pressure water cannons, and even live fire. All on our doorstep.
Since the beginning of these protests, over 1400 peaceful demonstrators have been arrested, at least half them are still being detained. There are even local and foreign journalists among the detained whose only "crime" has been their commitment to cover the protests. Though in Caracas, when you are arrested, you aren’t read your rights, you are thrown into one of Maduro’s infamous dungeons, and more often than not, tortured. Yes, this is still happening on our doorstep.
So as the number of peaceful protesters dead in the last several weeks reaches thirty, and desperate Venezuelans already fleeing across borders, what are we going to do about it?
For President Trump, this is a real opportunity. Support democracy. Support freedom. Support basic human rights. Punish this Socialist dictator.
Use the smart power at your disposal to make sure that, at least in this part of the world, freedom reigns. Because neither America, nor the Americas, can ever be great again while this human tragedy unfolds under our own eyes, right on our doorstep.