On Monday night, new protests took place in the capital of Venezuela with an escalation of violence that has the government shaken. In Caracas, the outbreak of activists turned into a riot until the police dispersed the crowd with water cannons and tear gas. After most of the opposition leaders have been silenced by the government, the last woman standing has become the new rebel.
As the death toll of the student-led protests has risen to 39, reports of the police firing pistols into the crowd has brought question to the extent of President Nicolas Maduro’s corruption and if he has gone from a defensive position to intentional war-criminal like President Bashar Assad in Syria. The opposition has become so intense that Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Elias Jaua has pleaded for an open dialogue with the rebellion to avoid more chaos and to curb the threat of a possible civil war.
While the Venezuelan government is busy pointing fingers at the United States for supporting the protesters, the foreign minister himself recently stated that Secretary of State John Kerry had called upon him in private to “tone down” the anti-rebel rhetoric. With US President Obama already mired in the conflicts of Ukraine and Syria, up until now there has been little attention given to the fledgling uprising of this particular revolution. For the government of Venezuela to be outwardly stating for the global media that they do not want the United States to be involved in their political affairs has become the greatest proof of their fear that America will side with the righteous cause and bring an end to the despotism that has plagued the country and stained their supposed democracy with blood.
The revolution itself is being called a counter-revolution, because late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez started his socialist movement with the name of Simon Bolivar, who was a 19th century revolutionary against Spanish domination of Latin America. Though Chavez argued for democracy, an equal distribution of wealth, an end to political corruption, and a new age of economic independence, upon taking power he quickly sidelined the will of the people and infantilized them under his megalomania. Now President Nicolas Maduro is reaping the backlash, and by telling the world that the United States should mind its own business, this is precisely the trigger that warrants American involvement.
The ruling party of Venezuela still has support among the wealthiest of the population out of worry that more chaos will arise from total anarchy and that there is little alternative among legislators who were all placed by Chavez to be lap dogs for his “revolution.” The people of Venezuela, however, are unwilling to relent, and they have little reason to do so now that they are winning. Maduro’s drive to appease them is enough evidence to suggest that he understands how more violence against the opposition is merely digging the graves of the corrupt government. After the pacification of rebellion voice Henrique Capriles Radonski, the conciliatory governor of the state of Miranda, who has allowed his worry for unarmed demonstrators to quiet him, as well as the detainment of Leopoldo Lopez, the former mayor of Chacao and a militant supporter of the opposition, the spotlight for the new leader of the rebels has fallen at the feet of a woman, and mother of three, Maria Corina Machado.
Though Maria Machado grew up in a privileged family and worked at her father’s steel mill, SIVENSA, a company that was later expropriated by Chavez without remuneration, while touring a shelter for abandoned children in Caracas and pregnant with her second baby, something stirred her to activism. She quit her job in the early 2000s as Chavez was rising to prominence, and in 2002 she started the civic group Sumate to battle for voter rights. In 2004, she helped organize the presidential recall, which Chavez won, but the attempt garnered her a reputation and in 2010, she joined Venezuela’s National Assembly with more votes than any other legislator. Staying true to her reform policies, she was speaking out against the government last year when President Maduro’s henchmen broke her nose and injured 17 other lawmakers while trying to force their acquiescence.
In fighting the corrupt oligarchy and leading street demonstrations in the barrios of Caracas, she has been speaking with diplomats in Panama, Peru, and the United States in the attempt to gain external support. With millions of students and the middle-class workers of Venezuela behind her, she is currently marching for the welfare of her people and the expansion of social rights against the tyranny of a frightened government that understands how dangerous she is, and that violence will only create martyrs for the opposition that is already drowning them in protests. President Obama has failed to adequately support the revolutions occurring in Syria and Ukraine, and politicians around the world are viewing American liberty as becoming an insular concept of a self-centered nation, but when a woman of substance is willing to stand against oppression and students are being murdered in the streets, the United States should be proud to align its absolute support for the new rebel leader.
By Elijah Stephens