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Venezuela's President Cracking Down on Opposition
On Saturday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was the target of an unsuccessful drone attack during a rally to honor the country’s National Guard. He was delivering lines in his speech about the need for national economic recovery when blasts occurred, guardsmen scattered, and chaos ensued.
Maduro quickly declared himself the victim of an attack by Venezuela’s democratic opposition and President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. But the people of Venezuela, not Maduro, are the real victims in this story. Once again in history, socialist economic policies and authoritarian government have failed an entire nation miserably.
For nearly 20 years, Maduro, and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, have waged ideological warfare on Venezuela, destroying one of the Western Hemisphere’s most vibrant economies and thriving democracies. They have achieved this sad state by expropriating property, nationalizing industries, scaring off foreign investment (except China and Russia), and generally upending market forces wherever possible. The International Monetary Fund recently caused a stir when it predicted that hyperinflation could rocket to 1 million percent by the end of 2018.
Millions of Venezuelans now wonder where their next meal will come from or how they will treat a sick child. Hundreds of thousands have fled to, Colombia, Brazil, Europe, and the United States. In fact, Venezuelans currently top the count of asylum seekers coming to the United States—more than any other migrant group in the world.
While Maduro has plunged Venezuela into poverty, he has also accelerated the country’s descent into dictatorship. For years Freedom House has documented Venezuela’s decline in political rights and civil liberties. First, under Hugo Chavez. Now, under Maduro. Since his rise to power in 2013, freedom in Venezuela has simply fallen off the cliff.
The Organization of American States condemned Venezuela’s sham presidential elections this May and called on the government to “guarantee the separation and independence of the constitutional branches of power and restore the full authority of the National Assembly, the rule of law, and the guarantees and liberties of the population.” It also paved the way for member states, including Washington, to take greater political, economic, and financial action to “assist in the restoration of democratic order.”
While the recent uptick in anti-regime violence in Venezuela is worrisome, it may be a signal—along with bare shelves, long lines, and fleeing families—that Bolivarian socialism has finally run its course. The way National Guard forces scattered during Saturday’s drone attack might also suggest that their loyalty has its limits. Maduro, put simply, increasingly looks like a straw man, not a strong one.
Amanda Schnetzer serves as Fellow, Global Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas.
Previously, Amanda served as Director Global Initiatives after serving as founding director of the Human Freedom Initiative. In this role, she was responsible for developing innovative research, programmatic, and policy efforts to advance societies rooted in political and economic freedom and to empower women to lead in their communities and countries.
Amanda has twenty years of experience in the international arena and a background in public policy research and analysis, public affairs, and management of diverse, high-level stakeholders. As senior fellow and director of studies at Freedom House in New York, Amanda guided research for the organization’s definitive studies of freedom. She began her career at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, supporting research on U.S. foreign policy and international politics. Amanda is a published writer and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.Full Bio
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