Venezuela is seeing people take to the streets. Argentina is one small step away from the same situation. Things are heating up throughout South America. Venezuela’s failed policies are bringing people into the avenidas y bulevares — even the elderly are fed up with the dictatorial form of socialism that Maduro is running. Argentina is not far behind. With the two countries being among the strongest allies in Latin America, the rampant inflation, consumer goods scarcity and corruption that is seen in Buenos Aires has its roots in Caracas.
Many in America, who have never visited South America for any length of time, find it easy to Monday morning quarterback the violence that is shaking the southern half of the Western Hemisphere. Conspiracy theorists who rely on other conspiracy theorists for their information pump out ream after ream about how the US is behind the latest uprisings in South America.
The truth is scarier than that. The rumblings of change happening in Venezuela and Argentina have their roots in failed socialism, corrupt and inefficient leaders and a population that has long hoped for improvement. The citizens have almost given up on hope and are starting to take to the streets in numbers never seen before to announce their desire for real, meaningful lasting change.
In Venezuela, long known for bitter politics, the current volume is the loudest that it’s been in a long time. For over three weeks, students in Venezuela have been holding determined street protests against the administration of President Nicolas Maduro. The government has responded with repression and many have been wounded and arrested while at least 15 have died.
The students are ready to keep on. The government is not giving any indications of giving up. In the stalemate, the students have already taken two important victories. One, they’ve gotten a message to Maduro that the opposition has been impotent in conveying. Two, the protesters have shown to the world the real nature of the Venezuelan regime.
For the past several years, the Venezuelan government has been forcing its economy into the dirt. Even with tremendous in-flows of cash from oil revenue, policies such as deficit spending along with price controls have brought the country to financial ruin. Basic consumer goods are hard to be found and inflation is rising. Maduro has continued to point fingers at others and refused to admit to any culpability. Instead, he blames the country’s business community and mysterious forces outside of his nation for the country’s woes.
Maduro’s regime believed that the Venezuelans would blindly accept his policy. This is leading Maduro to believe that his office could be permanent. Maduro has stated the purpose of his administration is to continue the work begun by Chavez and solidify the revolution.
The current student protests are the first grass-roots movement to show the administration that staying on the same path is unacceptable. Crime exists not because of capitalism but because of government policies that allow the criminals to get away with impunity. The rarity of goods exists not because of personal greed, but because of price controls that discourage production. Inflation is rampant not because stores want to cheat the customers, but because of Maduro’s irresponsible fiscal and exchange-rate policies.
Maduro’s opposition has told this message, many times, to the government’s unwilling ears. While the government has tried to repress the vote and spend more than its rival on elections, the opposition has achieved impressive showings in elections. Maduro almost lost the presidential election in April. In December the opposition didn’t do as well, but it still managed to win in the important urban areas. Even defeat in the heavily populated urban areas of the country didn’t show the government that things were shaking apart.
The students have put an end to the complacency. They’ve reminded Maduro that sectarianism in Venezuela is not acceptable where half of the population has objections to government policy. While many of the protesters would like to see a new president in Venezuela, that is not their objective. The protesters aren’t so naive that they believe that Maduro will simply give up because of students in the street.
Instead of changing the regime, the students are focusing on unmasking it. They have been able to show the world that Maduro’s natural instinct is to put down opposition. Once the protests got started, the students knew that their actions gave the government two choices, negotiate or repress. The protests have tested the government’s rhetoric that the revolution is all about mutual admiration between the people and its leaders.
Instead of negotiating, the government has increased repression. The days when plain citizens would go into the street to speak up for the government are gone. Maduro has sent out forces against the students, relying on military groups as well as unofficial, non-uniformed paramilitaries who scoot around on motorcycles trying to intimidate protesters.
The protests have not failed. They have succeeded in laying bare to the world what kind of creature Maduro’s revolution truly is. If nothing else happens, the Venezuelan protests have done their country a great favor.
As Venezuela and Argentina continue their struggle for meaningful freedom, a suggestion to Americans would be to leave the statistics at home and come south to learn, firsthand, what is really going on.
Editorial By Jerry Nelson