Venezuela mired in protests, but Maduro still isn’t listening

Miami Herald Editorial Board

A protester throws a bottle during an anti-government demonstration in Caracas.
A protester throws a bottle during an anti-government demonstration in Caracas. AP

For Venezuelan protesters who have held massive anti-government demonstrations, the end game is nothing less than the end of the Nicolás Maduro government. This, of course, is a local story, too, as thousands of exiled Venezuelans support their fellow countrymen. As important, the international community is finding its voice to condemn the undemocratic excesses of the Maduro regime.

Last week, Venezuelans lived through “the mother of all demonstrations,” the culmination of a month of protests sparked by the Supreme Court’s decision to strip the Congress, controlled by the opposition, of powers, a ruling that was later reversed.

The human toll has been high: At least 24 people have died in the past few weeks in the violence unleashed in street clashes between Maduro’s forces and protesters.

Monday, the opposition held a strategic sit-in to cripple the city of Caracas, blocking important thoroughfares. Unfortunately, more people were killed. It’s a telling sign of so many Venezuelans’ anger and despair that they are willingly putting themselves in danger.

In Miami-Dade County, a group of local politicians denounced as “atrocities” the acts being committed against protesters and called for more U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.

“We are asking for the support and help of the U.S. Congress to return democracy to Venezuela,” said Doral’s Mayor Juan Carlos Bermúdez.

Maduro’s opponents have taken to the streets to demand general, nationwide elections and respect for the autonomy of Parliament. Protesters are right not to be appeased by upcoming mayoral and regional elections.

“I am ready to accept what the electoral power says,” Maduro has said. We add our voice to all those who say, “Prove it.”

Speaking to the Miami Herald Editorial Board last week, Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), said small-scale elections will not solve anything.

“Regional elections in Venezuela are a cosmetic solution,” Almagro said. He pointed out that the country is in the grips of a dictatorship, a humanitarian crisis, with nothing but disrespect for citizens’ rights. “What the country needs is democracy,” the secretary general said, “and that comes through general elections.” He’s right.

Seven out of 10 Venezuelans, according to polls, reject Maduro’s government, which has asphyxiated the nation, causing an economic crisis with severe shortages of food and medicines. Venezuela’s inflation is considered the highest in the world.

Maduro, who has drained the economic lifeblood out of his country, but who could attemmpt to cozy up to President Trump with a $500,000 donation to his inauguration, has offered to sit down with opponents willing to seek a solution to the fraught situation. But who can believe the repudiated ruler? Everything indicates that it is simply a ploy to gain time, since it invites dialogue at the same time that the regime has declared that it will arm 500,000 chavistas — all Maduro’s supporters.

Venezuelans are declaring that they will no longer endure the disastrous combination of fierce political repression with a commodity shortage whose magnitude exceeds that of any previous crisis.

These protests have shown, without a doubt, chavism’s failure. It is imperative that the international community continue to condemn Maduro and that the United States explore best ways to impose economic pain on the regime, while sparing its people.