On Monday, June 12, 2017, Venezuelans put the torch to their Supreme Court building in the capitol of Caracas. It was the latest in a series of violent protests that have been continuing for 12 weeks. This current round of protests is focused on the Supreme Court basically dissolving the legislature and refusing to block President Nicolas Maduro’s effort to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution. It is being seen by the people as consolidating more power in Maduro’s hands and furthering his intent to solidify his place as dictator.
The Political Crisis
Maduro was the hand-picked successor of President Hugo Chavez. His oppressive regime is seeking to make the once oil-rich nation into a totalitarian socialist nightmare:
Maduro became president four years ago, after the death of Hugo Chavez. He has steadfastly continued the socialist economic policies of his predecessor. Also, he has been as stringent, if not more so, against any who opposed him.
In March of 2017, the Supreme Court, at the behest of Maduro, stripped the elected National Assembly of the ability to create laws. So far, the military is supporting the dictator. However, the people of Venezuela are not, and they are making their voices heard, unfortunately, with violence in the streets. Burning the Supreme Court building was a symbolic statement against the failures of the socialist regime.
The Economic Crisis
The South American nation has been in economic turmoil the last few years. Hyper-inflation has forced the citizenry into poverty. The grocery stores are virtually empty, and the ones that were not vandalized are unable to restock. The Maduro government recently increased minimum wage by 60 percent, which raised the monthly total to just under $48 for each person:
Now, the results of state-controlled production and distribution are coming to a head. Unemployment in Venezuela is topping 25 percent. Inflation is at an astronomical 720 percent, in 2017. Economic forecasts speculate that inflation could reach an unbelievable 2,068 percent, in 2018!
There have been shortages of both food and medicine as a result of the failure of state-controlled economics. That has also fueled an humanitarian crisis which grows worse each day.
The Humanitarian Crisis
The people of Venezuela are suffering from malnutrition and disease because of the shortages. Those that can manage it have left the country. Those who cannot leave are regularly found eating from garbage cans. The average citizen lost over 19 pounds in the last year. The public has grown more restless because of the extreme suffering.
Protests began three months ago. They have grown increasingly violent in recent weeks:
Protests have grown smaller but more violent over the past two months, with at least 67 killed and thousands injured.
The response to the protesters has also become more severe than ever:
…people — from students to housewives and retirees — have taken to the streets to express their outrage, confronting National Guard troops armed with tear gas and water cannons. On May 4, footage emerged of an armored car rolling over a defiant crowd.
This push-back by the Maduro regime has not calmed the violence. Last month protesters burned down the historic family home of Chavez. The former leader is widely recognized as Maduro’s mentor and the person who groomed him for succession. This latest reaction by Venezuelan protesters to burn their own Supreme Court building indicates the country may be on the brink of completely falling apart.
How Did This Happen?
Venezuela was once a much richer and more stable nation than today. Chavez’s early years as president were markedly better for the citizenry. He became president in 1999. At the time, high oil prices kept Venezuela running. The country derives 95 percent of their export income from petroleum. Chavez instituted government actions that nationalized banks and companies. Many large companies left the country as a result.
To exacerbate the situation, the bottom fell out of the oil market. Oil prices dropped almost 60 percent in the last decade. The lifeblood propping up Chavez was gone, and the descent into chaos began.
The people of Venezuela are floundering under the weight of this crisis. There seems to be no end in sight, as long as Maduro remains in power. This has not been lost on the United States.
The United States Responds to the Crisis
The move to dissolve the Venezuelan legislature, by Maduro, was recently condemned by the U.S. State Department. Additionally, the Trump administration is considering sanctions against the Maduro regime.
Congress put forth a bill, in May. to provide:
$10 million in humanitarian aid to the country, require the State Department to coordinate a regional effort to ease the crisis, and ask American intelligence to report on the involvement of government officials in corruption and the drug trade.
Venezuela has been a key trade partner and ally of the U.S. in the past. It is feared that the situation could become another version of Cuba, should the turmoil continue. Hopefully, the U.S. aid and support for the people will help in finding a peaceful resolution to the suffering, and in building a stronger and freer Venezuela.
Opinion News By D.T. Osborn
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Breitbart: Venezuela: Protesters Burn Down Supreme Court Building
NBC News: Venezuela Protests and Economic Crisis: What Is Going On?
The Public Slate: Venezuela Is Facing an Uncertain and Troubling Future
The Telegraph: Venezuela protesters set fire to Supreme Court building as crisis deepens
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Jorge Andres Paparoni Bruzual’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License