“To blame American imperialism, as some do, is to dismiss Maduro’s responsibility and to close our eyes to another socialist catastrophe.”
The opposition leader and self-proclaimed president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, has called for protests against the allegedly illegitimate president Nicolás Maduro. Guaidó, who appeared in a video alongside military forces, based his position on the assumption that the Venezuelan army—which has been co-opted by Maduro—was now on the people’s side. However, Guaidó discovered that this was not true, and his assumptions had consequences.
The protests were followed by repressive actions, and the shocking footage of armored vehicles running over protesters in Caracas showed the world the authoritarian face of the regime. Indeed, some soldiers were by Guaidó’s side, and it may show that there is a growing resistance within the security forces. However, the highest ranks in Venezuela are still backing the socialist president.
Members of the government elite know the role security forces play in maintaining the status quo; a whole set of resources have been provided for the military, including food, water, money, weapons, and so forth. At this point, it is not in the best interest of government officials simply to leave the Maduro camp and risk their own safety as well as that of their loved ones.
Critics who accuse Guaidó of attempting a coup d’état against the government of Venezuela fail to understand what goes on under an authoritarian regime that is not open to dialogue. This situation is not about a democracy that has been threatened by the opposition. In fact, there is no democracy at all, and the humanitarian crisis seems to be worse than before.
Hyperinflation is above 1 million percent already, and over 5 million people may be part of forced immigration in 2019, as reported by the Organization of American States (OAS). The number may rise to 8 million people in 2020 if there are no changes in the political scenario; that is roughly 25% of the total population. The report also points out the fact that many of these immigrants suffer from nutritional problems.
These are not the only issues Venezuelans have endured; blackouts have become constant as Venezuela’s electricity system has begun to collapse. Alongside these blackouts, the Internet has been censored for months now, and state-run CANTV has “blocked access to social media.”
This disaster is not due to sanctions imposed by the United States, as some claim. Rather, it is the result of a series of terrible policies and economic choices within Venezuela over the past two decades. To blame American imperialism, as some do, is to dismiss Maduro’s responsibility and to close our eyes to another socialist catastrophe.
The efforts of the United States and the Lima Group, a body of Latin American countries established to discuss a peaceful end to this crisis, are more than valid and have nothing to do with the sovereignty of Venezuela. South America is suffering from the consequences of Maduro’s actions, and they will carry a heavier burden as it gets worse. At the same time, we must avoid a situation that escalates too quickly into a genocide, as happened in Rwanda in 1994.
This humanitarian crisis affects all the aforementioned countries, and they should take peaceful and diplomatic measures to solve it. It is not even a matter of ideology anymore. If the situation gets worse, more people will suffer and die at the hands of a madman.
Julio Araujo is a law student at FMU. He writes about politics, economics, and society.