Against the dictatorship, let’s raise our voice
A few days ago, "elections" were held in Venezuela to establish a National Constituent Assembly. The aim is to rewrite the constitution so that the "Bolivarian" regime of Nicolás Maduro can perpetuate itself in power in accordance with the Cuban model that has brought so much "prosperity" to its people.
In previous elections in 2015, given popular discontent, the opposition took control of the National Assembly. Naturally this displeased the dictator since, even in Venezuela, the legislative branch was independent of the executive branch of government, something that even Hugo Chávez himself respected.
As a "brilliant" solution, Maduro decided to carry out this brazen constitutional exercise, whereby citizens were not even given the opportunity to decide whether or not they wanted a new constitution. Voters were simply given the choice of a deciding on list of candidates previously selected by the regime. In a prior citizen plebiscite, seven million Venezuelans weighed in against adopting a new constitution.
This farce took place amid growing popular discontent stemming from the lack of freedoms and the severe economic crisis in which "Socialism of the 21st Century" has mired this country:
- Hyperinflation caused by senseless government spending financed by the central bank through the printing of money. For 2017, inflation is expected to approach 1,000%.
- Macro-devaluation of the currency, which has gone from 28 bolivars to the dollar to 11,200 per dollar in a few years.
- Extreme shortage of all types of basic goods such as medicines, food, and groceries of all kinds. This has sadly reached the point that people are being robbed on the street at gunpoint for a few rolls of toilet paper.
- A runaway increase in crime and violence.
- And of course, all this has led to a massive exodus of those who can get themselves out of that hell.
Given the desperation of the entire nation, it should come as a surprise to no one that in the past few months, street protests have escalated at the same time as repression, resulting in dozens of deaths and thousands of demonstrators injured and arrested. There is no shortage of accounts of those who have been dragged from their homes in the middle of the night to be imprisoned. The number of political prisoners is multiplying.
What was once a nation with great aspirations of well-being, today faces terrible economic problems. Per capita income, which had already weakened over the course of more than 15 years, plummeted as soon as Nicolás Maduro assumed the presidency, falling from $13,000 to a record low of slightly more than $9,000 in four years. In 2016 alone, the economy contracted by almost a fifth. In this context, the index that measures the lack of goods stood at 56% last year, while the absence of basic products exceeded 80%.
If we add to this the devaluation of the currency, the rising unemployment, and the alarming rates of violence, we have the conditions for a social explosion. What Venezuelans are today experiencing is reaching levels of a true humanitarian crisis.
All this raises the question of how one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America, which has the largest oil reserves in the world, could be led to a situation of tremendous misery in a few years.
Although the conditions and causes were very different, it is worth recalling what occurred in Rwanda in 1994, where the ethnic conflict ended in genocide, with about one million people, 70% of the Tutsi population, being brutally murdered, in the face of the negligence of the international community.
Indifference to these situations can be criminal. It is the responsibility of every citizen and every democratic government to raise their voice in the face of repression and the pronounced deterioration in the standard of living experienced by Venezuelans. In this regard, I acknowledge that the Mexican government acted timely and responsibly in condemning the violence against the population and not recognizing the results of a spurious election.
Today we see that in Venezuela a dictatorship that clings to power, at any cost, is being cynically consolidated. According to a Datanalisis poll, only 23% of Venezuelans favor the Constituent Assembly and half the population feels that it only seeks to perpetuate President Nicolás Maduro’s government. Furthermore, a growing group of Chavista politicians and military officials are even beginning to raise their voice against Maduro. Evidence of electoral fraud is multiplying.
Those of us who truly share a liberal outlook cannot remain silent. If something similar were to occur in our country, Mexicans would not expect our Latin American brothers to abandon us to the will of a tyrant.
It is not a question of "doing the gringos’ dirty work," as some left-wing activists baselessly charge. In fact, we see today that democracy north of the Rio Grande is also facing serious challenges. This goes beyond ideological positions, left or right. It is a question of liberal values and humanity. It is our duty to raise our voice clearly and forcefully. This also holds true for the government that represents us.