Thousands of supporters and opponents of Venezuela’s socialist government have taken to the streets this past week. Initiated by student groups, the protestors are voicing their grievances against soaring crime rates, high inflation, a shortage of basic goods, and a lack of political and economic freedom.
All the while, the Obama Administration has been relatively silent. The occasional press release from the State Department uses the same recycled lines of “deep concern” that we’ve come to expect from an indifferent Administration. Not even the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats Sunday evening could elicit a stronger statement.
So far, three people have been killed and hundreds have been arrested and tortured. Some even disappeared thanks to government security forces. Videos, pictures, and eyewitness testimony blame the governing regime for the deaths of two of the victims. Armed with automatic weapons, tear gas, grenades and even tanks, the military and police are using all means to silence the democratic opposition.
Much like the Arab Spring, demonstrators have taken to social media—mainly Twitter—to relay information to the international community.
Yet a few days into the demonstrations, the Venezuelan government shut down Twitter and one of the last private cable broadcasters, Colombia’s NTN24. The government has even called for the arrest of leading opposition figurehead Leopoldo Lopez.
At the helm of this sinking ship is Venezuela’s leader, Nicolas Maduro. The former union leader and bus driver-turned-ordained president, he was handpicked by his successor Hugo Chavez. Much like his predecessor, Maduro has been quick to blame the demonstrations on “facists,” Colombia’s former president Alvaro Uribe, and even the United States.
It was only three months ago that Secretary Kerry gave a speech at the OAS and declared that the situation in Venezuela was nothing more than a weakening of democratic institutions. Not really sure what definition of democracy the Obama Administration is working off of, but when a government slaughters protestors, represses political dissidence, and gives bad actors like Hezbollah safe haven, they are not worthy of such a title.
It’s time the Obama Administration woke up and recognized the looming threat in its own hemisphere. Not only are the regimes governing the socialist ALBA bloc of Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua hostile to their own people, but they are a danger to the United States.