Over the past several weeks, students, activists, political leaders and other protesters have faced increasingly violent repression from Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela.
Many of these activists are outraged by Maduro’s tactics of dividing the Venezuelan people and stifling dissent. Even worse, his characterization of the opposition as enemies of the state, murderers or terrorists and arrests of those who speak out against him are outrageous assaults on Venezuelan civil society. His use of the military to intimidate and harm protesters is yet another disturbing development.
Meanwhile, crime rates and inflation continue to soar while necessities have become scarce. Inflation increased by more than 50 percent last year, basics like cooking oil and toilet paper are in short supply and Venezuela’s bonds have been downgraded to worthless.
It is a marvel that the Chávez-Maduro regime has failed so spectacularly that it could devastate the economy of a country so rich in natural resources.
I represent many Venezuelans who have experienced firsthand the intimidation tactics, vengeful reprisals, corruption and energy blackouts of Hugo Chávez or who have family living under Maduro’s escalating repression. I am alarmed by the deterioration of civil liberties, the corruption of democratic institutions and the ever-deepening influence of the Castro malignancy in virtually all aspects of Venezuelan society. We are working together to support the student protesters, pro-democracy activists and others who are calling for an end to Maduro’s violent repression, corruption and disregard for basic liberties.
It is essential that the international community stand with the Venezuelan people at this pivotal time and support their demand for a government that does not punish expression, censor the media or criminalize the opposition.
President Obama’s administration should join the people of Venezuela and the U.S. Congress in the efforts to regain democracy and sovereignty in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan people, who are courageously demanding more from their government, deserve our complete solidarity.
Mario Diaz-Balart, congressman, Miami