Post by PL
Part of the story as usual.
Venezuela Could Be The Next North Korea If The World
The time for choosing is now.
06/02/2017 06:42 pm ET
LA PAZ, Bolivia ― Two centuries ago, Venezuelan leader
Simón Bolívar, sword on his hip, got up on his horse,
traversed the Andes Mountains and liberated six
countries. Today, Venezuelans take to the streets,
cellphones in hand, beaming up into the sky via
Periscope, Instagram and Facebook their epic struggle for
freedom against a narco-criminal dictatorship in the land
of "the Liberator."
Venezuela is a magical country, but it is now mismanaged
by a ruthless regime that has turned it into a dark
dystopian nightmare. People stand in endless lines, their
arms marked like cattle, waiting for their rations of
things like cooking oil, flour or toilet paper.
Inflation is higher than in Zimbabwe, violent death rates
are similar to those in Syria and scarcity of resources
is of catastrophic levels reaching the scale of some
sub-Saharan African countries. Blackouts are recurrent,
people eat out of garbage bins, malaria is back and dead
children are placed in cardboard caskets.
Democracy is also in shambles. Opposition leaders have
been jailed, exiled or disbarred. Their passports have
been annulled. And they are not allowed to board local
flights. The regime has muzzled the free press, and it
owns most media outlets.
Venezuela is at the crossroads: the beginning of the end
of this narco-dictatorship or the beginning of a North
Korea in the Caribbean.
How did we get here? In part from the regime's own
struggles to maintain a grip on power even after it lost
ground ― and the opposition's immense effort to continue
to hold it to account.
In December 2015, President Nicolás Maduro's party
suffered a landslide defeat in congressional elections.
The opposition secured enough seats in Parliament to end
over 15 years of legislative control by the regime. As a
result, Maduro unleashed a multi-part rolling coup of
sorts to offset this major setback.
Looking for a way to restructure the government in his
favor and neutralize Congress, Maduro's outgoing
Parliament forced several early resignations in the
Supreme Court and packed it with over 30 of his own
supporters to gain absolute control of the judiciary.
This paved the way for the blocking of legislative
prerogatives that the opposition could exercise.
But the opposition didn't react lightly to Maduro's
actions. Instead, it channeled its energy in 2016 towards
demanding a referendum to end the president's tenure. The
dictatorship, attempting to do everything to survive,
used its political leverage to cancel the referendum all
Facing pressure from the Organization of American States,
or OAS, Maduro maneuvered to gain a veneer of legitimacy,
at least within the international community, by setting
up a "dialogue" with the opposition.
In truth, Maduro's objective was solely to delay and
defer elections, detain more opposition leaders, deflate
street protests, divide the opposition and deactivate OAS
disapproval. Seeing through this false diplomacy, the
Vatican called out the regime's deceit in December 2016.
But it was too late ― the dictatorship had castrated
Congress and cancelled elections.
By the start of this year, the regime was facing
increasing economic problems, with many in the country
struggling to pay for food and medicine. Drowning in
debt, the anti-American, capitalism-bashing friend of
Wall Street put up half of the Venezuelan-owned Citgo
petroleum company ― a major U.S. oil refiner ― as
collateral to bondholders and used the other half for a
Russian loan. Oil reserves were also given as a guarantee
for Chinese loans and Venezuela withdrew its
International Monetary Fund reserves.
Despite this and other financial efforts, creditors were
jittery and loans required congressional approval. To
keep the country from defaulting, Maduro made his next
controversial move just two months ago: the Supreme Court
shut down Parliament, assumed legislative power over the
country and approved a series of loans. This move
unleashed the massive street protests that we see on the
streets of Venezuela today that have already killed at
least 60 people.
Since then, Maduro has continued to assert his power in
defiance of the public demonstrations. In May, the
dictator announced the creation of a "constituent
assembly," tasked with rewriting the constitution. The
assembly would allow Maduro to essentially rule
indefinitely without elections.
Initially, Maduro attempted to maintain his tyrannical
practices, disregard precedent and avoid a referendum on
the new constitution. But continued dissent from leftist
former Chavez supporters, known as Chavistas, has now
made him change his mind.
If there were any remnants of democracy left in the
nation, this ploy demolishes its last chance at survival
― popular, direct, secret, universal balloting. The
regime in its final throes is attempting to cancel all
future elections, close Congress, remove opposition
governors or mayors and approve all the odious loans that
steal the future of Venezuela.
In surreal scenes, Maduro first proposed this fraudulent
scheme dressed in traditional Venezuelan clothing,
dancing on national television. Days later, he went to a
livestock fair and invited cows to be part of his
constituent assembly, as if voters were just cattle to be
duped and herded. As protests go on, it has become clear
that he cannot stop himself from taking advantage of the
Venezuelan people, and unfortunately neither can Goldman
Sachs, which just this week bought $2.8 billion worth of
Venezuelan bonds at around 30 cents on the dollar ―
essentially injecting 865 million dollars into Maduro's
These are truly the hunger bonds that economist Ricardo
Hausmann describes that are funding a dictatorship in
last hurrah for power, desperate to steal whatever it
can. It is contradictory that the United States
government implicitly condones Venezuelan government
officials' corruption, freezes their U.S. bank accounts,
seizes their assets, yet keeps this Wall Street spigot
open for future corruption to prop up a cruel
dictatorship. If Maduro stays in power, he will never be
able to repay these hunger bonds.
his governmental policies, continued violence and
repressive dictatorship or more killings, jail and
He is right about one thing. The time for choosing has
arrived. Liberty or tyranny. Democracy or
narco-dictatorship. General elections now or a new Cuba
forever. We no longer have the option to wait.
The military in Venezuela and our Americas must also make
The OAS general assembly convenes in Mexico this month.
Our hemisphere must position itself clearly. The world
must put regime crooks on notice. The crimes they are
committing have no statute of limitations, and they will
be held personally accountable.
The people in the streets of Venezuela have chosen the
path of no return, because they no longer fear the
dictator, and they march, swallow tear gas, wave their
flags and sing the Spanish version of "Les Misérables" at
the barricades. Courageous young people face guns with
violins, march in front of snipers, sacrifice their
lives, bury their dead, scream that the dictatorship is
no more and clamor for freedom.
Venezuelans have made a moral choice: they will die
marching on their feet and never kneel to the dictator in
the true spirit of Simón Bolívar. Now it is time for the
world to make a choice, too.