Looting and chaos in Venezuela
The situation continues to go from bad to worse in Venezuela, so much so that the U.S. State Department has warned Americans that its dangerous to live in or even visit that country.
The State Department’s Security Advisory Council last week sent the following message via Twitter: “Travel Warning: If the security climate worsens, U.S. citizens should be aware that they are responsible for making arrangements for their exit from #Venezuela.”
Chilling words if you’re an American living in Venezuela. The advisory also said Americans should not to travel to the deteriorating South American country because crime and social instability have exploded.
The State Department also emphasizes that the political and security situation in Venezuela is unpredictable, a moment-to-moment exercise. In the past, Venezuelan authorities have arrested U.S. citizens with no evidence that they committed crimes.
These red alerts are no surprise. The economic crisis has created a situation of precariousness and anguish among the population — and among the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who live in exile in South Florida.
In the latest twist, on Tuesday, just as quickly as the Venezuelan government announced the Jan. 2 closing of its border with Colombia — where desperate Venezuelans dash for goods — the order was rescinded.
That came days after President Nicolás Maduro annulled all 100-bolivar notes, leading to massive lines at banks, and making cash transactions difficult. But then he changed course late Saturday, announcing the notes could be used until Jan. 2. Before that announcement, riots and looting broke out in several cities.
Today, Venezuela is a place of mass despair. Street protests occur at any time and without warning. They can be peaceful or turn violent. The homicide rate has also skyrocketed, highlighting the social turmoil and the inability of the authorities to stop criminal activity.
Last week, the National Assembly declared the national crisis the political responsibility of President Maduro. But on Thursday, the Supreme Court of Justice — a chavista entity — annulled the parliamentary trial, claiming that the Assembly’s actions were unconstitutional.
Despite a crumbling government, Mr. Maduro persists in keeping the remains of chavismo afloat. But by now he should admit that his system is not viable. In fact, it is doomed.
Still, he’s playing Santa Claus, too. The government confiscated 3.8 million toys from a distributor that Mr. Maduro claims hoarded them in a scheme to claim a shortage and charge higher prices. And now, the president will oversee the distribution of the toys. “We will not let them be robbed of Christmas,” an official with the country’s consumer protection agency said on Twitter. How touching.
He can hand out all the toys he wants, Venezuelans won’t be fooled, they know they have been robbed of so much more that a holiday. President Maduro has a tenuous hold on a regime that represses opposition demonstrations, suffocates private enterprise, creates shortages of food and other commodities and offers no hope to a tired population.
As for Americans, the State Department has already indicated that traveling to Venezuela is dangerous. And the warning should be taken seriously.
Venezuela is a country on the edge.