Venezuela, the socialist, populist bastion of Latin America, is at a crossroads. For the past twenty years, it has been under the influence of Hugo Chavez. After Chavez’s death in 2013, Nicolas Maduro, a protégé of Chavez, took power and the country has taken the fast lane to chaos.
I lived in Caracas from 2007 -2009 while Chavez was still in power, and while there were some shortages of food and essentials, it was not to the extent it is today. Now there are seemingly endless line lines of citizens looking for the most basic, essential products and nutrition. Massive protests have also erupted throughout the country which, as of May 24th, has claimed at least 42 lives according to the LA Times.
How does this crisis stop? To me, it seems very clear that Venezuela needs a true counter-revolution.
In order to know the politics of Venezuela, one must first understand the people of Venezuela and know that they are a proud people. When I was there there were many people who constantly reminded me that their country was the best in the world when it came to oil, weather, and women. They were right in some regards. Gas was seventeen cents a gallon, it was seventy-five degrees and sunny almost every day, and the women were gorgeous. However, the one glaring weakness was their government.
Chavez became increasingly more authoritarian after becoming the head of state in 1998. Those who wealthy or educated simply left the country if they thought their freedom was at stake, but this triggered something resembling a “ brain drain.” Those who didn’t have the resources simply stayed and suffered.
Though the people of Venezuela were suffering, Chavez was a truly brilliant public speaker. He was able to convince the populace that their suffering was part of the Venezuelan struggle against imperialism. The severe decline in standard of living was a brief, intense struggle for autonomy.
When Chavez passed, Maduro took power. While the long standing kleptocrats who surrounded Chavez stayed in government, the leadership style visibly changed. There was no longer an energetic, popularly-supported leader that the people related to and the government found that it could not sell their own “revolution” against the “imperialist U.S.” anymore.
Food and toilet paper began disappearing from shelves. Soon lines to get food became hours long, and grocery stores quickly became barren.
Many Venezuelans are seeking respite from hunger and are migrating to Colombia— causing a migrant crisis in Colombia. Food shortages and massive migration have both contributed to the unrest in Venezuela today. Young and old alike are protesting against the food shortages and for basic human rights to be fulfilled while the United Nations has barely condemned the violence and unrest, with two human rights experts merely chiding the arrests of journalists and the censorship of media according to an official press release from the UN Human Rights Commissioner.
The elephant in the room that no one seems to mention or take note of is that those in power have two options: they can either stay put and defend their power (potentially violently), or they can elect to be removed from power peacefully and most likely condemn themselves to long prison terms simultaneously.
Based upon my observations of the Venezuelan government and Latin America, I believe that Maduro and others will need to be forcibly removed. But the fate of Venezuela is left to the people of Venezuela to decide.
Protesters have emphasized their peaceful purposes, but unless something is done to actively remove those in power, nothing will change, and, if nothing is done, Venezuela will descend deeper into chaos as it begins to resemble Cuba.
The Venezuelan government must be challenged by the protesters through a concerted armed resistance effort as well as diplomatic means. No one will be removed from power if this is not done. While foreign pressure is also needed, it should come mostly from Venezuela’s Latin American neighbors like Colombia. Any intervention from the United States will only give the Venezuelan government propaganda.
I am confident that if the Venezuelan people stand up to their oppressor, similar to how they deposed the Kingdom of Spain in 1810, they will once again become free and one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America. Venezuela has the resources and natural climate to become a prosperous and free country, but only once despotism is removed from the country.
Venezuela’s ancestors knew that armed resistance was required to remove a dictator. Hopefully contemporary Venezuelans will learn this before it is too late.
Photo Credit: Andrés E. Azpúrua
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.