We watch TV and the general media in the United States. Talk shows and news are broadcast 24 hours a day. Themes are being repeated constantly. Of course, important issues such as North Korea, Iran, the future of Obamacare, and tax reform are being discussed. These are all vital issues, no question about it, yet, with such 24/7 flow of news, how is that the Venezuelan crisis is ignored?
What justifies ignoring the crisis in Venezuela, a country located a few hours’ flight away from the United States, whose actions are so consequential in terms of democracy, human rights, and our own national security?
In the last several days we are witnessing men and women in the streets fighting for their lives, struggling for their children and for a life of freedom and dignity. The current popular uprising has been named “The Mother of All Protests”, meaning this is the ultimate battle to depose a regime whose existence is no longer humanly tolerable.
We have seen people marching and screaming in despair. Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro and all the security forces are up against innocent civilians in order to preserve an obsolete and oppressive regime. The police, the Bolivarian National Guard (militarized police), and the army are spreading tear gas. Paramilitary and street gangs are attacking civilian neighborhoods and destroying property. We have seen a courageous Venezuelan woman standing in front of an armored car forcing the car to withdraw. This act of unbelievable courage has very much reminded us of the events of Tiananmen Square 27 years ago. Two young people already lost their lives, as I am writing these lines. A young 17-year-old girl stated that she does not care if she dies “as long as this murderous regime collapses”. This state of mind is similar to the one we witnessed in Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring and in Tunisia during the revolt against the Ben Ali regime, where two courageous individuals set themselves on fire in a sign that they preferred to die rather than live a life without human dignity.
People continue to starve and are being helped by Venezuelan emigres in the United States and other countries. Food, basic products, soap, clothing is being shipped to Venezuela. Families struggle to feed their children. In many households, husband and wife take turns to have dinner one night each, while the government and security apparatus continue to illicitly enrich themselves.
It is unbelievable that in the year 2004, when the people of the Ukraine rebelled against a fraudulent government, they got more American and international attention than Venezuela is getting now. A few years ago, the Obama Administration asked Hosni Mubarak to step down from office as popular uprisings began to fill the streets of Cairo. The Reagan Administration in the late 1980’s asked Ferdinand Marcus in the Philippines to step down as soon as it realized that the regime was unsustainable.
In Venezuela, this is the third popular uprising and the international reaction has been mild. In the United States, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson expressed concern that the Maduro government is working to silence the opposition.
“We are concerned that the government of Maduro is violating its own constitution and is not allowing the opposition to … organize in a way that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people.”
Well this censorship is an old problem and is not going to resolve itself. Maduro is seeking to silence and eliminate the opposition altogether. So, we know this is happening so we need to finally raise our voice and act accordingly.
Can we be mild with a country that only a few days ago, it was disclosed, provided more than 10,000 passports to Syrians, Iranians and other questionable individuals from the Middle East?
Can we have a ‘wait and see’ approach towards a government that has transformed a petro-state (and one of the wealthiest in South America) in a narco-state enabling massive traffic of drugs destined to the U.S? How many chances can we give to a government that has deceived everyone and has proven over and over again that is not interested in compromising?
Maduro reacted to the protests by blaming the United States and rushed to seize the General Motors plant in Venezuela.
Meanwhile PDVSA, the giant Venezuelan oil company, has systematically lobbied our government and Congress to avoid punitive action. They have been able to secure support through donations. Former Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana actively tried to prevent a sanctions bill against Venezuelan individuals involved in human rights violations from passing. Most recently PDVSA had the audacity to donate half a million dollars to the presidential inauguration ceremony, expecting to achieve similar results. This shows how permeable our system is.
We cannot allow this situation to go on. The U.S needs to demand the resignation of Mr. Maduro and apply heavy sanctions on the corrupt and murderous elite that governs the country. If we don’t do it in the name of human rights, we have to do it in the name of regional, and our own, national security.
Published by Center for Security Policy on Friday April 21st, 2017.