Violence in Venezuela must end

Miami Herald Editorial Board

An anti-government protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s decree to rewrite the constitution have been raging for weeks, with deadly consequences.
An anti-government protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s decree to rewrite the constitution have been raging for weeks, with deadly consequences. AP

While the Organization of American States on Monday dismissed a resolution against a maneuver by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to stay in power, a 17-year-old teen was fatally wounded in a popular protest in Caracas against government.

The young man, Fabián Urbina, was shot in the chest during a clash with National Guard soldiers in the Altamira neighborhood.

With his death, the number of citizens killed in national protests that began about 80 days ago has climbed to 75. This is a national tragedy for Venezuelans.

The mayor of Chacao, Ramón Muchacho, also a member of the opposition faction, said on Twitter that he condemned ‘the use of firearms to repress citizens exercising constitutional right to manifest peacefully.” We agree.

But President Maduro’s regime is determined to do everything in order to continue its grip and control on Venezuela, a country now tittering on the brink of financial collapse.

Following the murder, yes, the murder of the teen, the head of the Bolivarian National Guard, Antonio Benavides, announced that he had ordered the arrest of two members of the Guard involved in the fatal clash. And Interior Minister Néstor Reverol said he was opening an investigation into the “improper and disproportionate use” of force by police officers on citizens.

We do not know what the official investigation of teen’s murder will reveal, but the toll of 75 dead and more than 1,000 injured in the protests in Venezuela is a painful claim that the situation in the South American country is unsustainable.

That is the spirit that encouraged the officials who on Monday tried to approve a resolution in the OAS against the Maduro regime. The resolution called on the Venezuelan government to abandon the convening of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution. And the document also called on the Venezuelan government to respect human rights. However, the resolution was eliminated when it failed to garner the 23 votes necessary.

It is painful to see that, despite the abuses and the crisis in Venezuela, chavismo retains allies in the region. But Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, who favored passage of the resolution, spoke up and said that while there was no agreement within the OAS, the reality is that “violence is still on the streets of Venezuela.”

The vote in the OAS gives Maduro a green light to convene the Constituent Assembly and draft a Magna Carta of his liking. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez said at the meeting of the hemispheric body that the Constituent Assembly is a mechanism of dialogue aimed at resolving the national crisis. But the reality in Venezuela is that the democratic order has broken.

If Maduro really wants a dialogue with the opposition, he does not have to resort to the laborious process of creating a new Constitution, whose usefulness in resolving the nation's crisis is doubtful.

What he must do is to suspend violations against human rights, listen to the demands of the people, understand the suffering of the people.

Unfortunately, there is nothing to indicate that Maduro has the slightest intention of stopping the repression, and nothing indicates that he is willing to listen to those who take their lives in their hands when they protest against his administration.