Venezuela’s day of reckoning approaches

In Caracas, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro pumps his fist during an August rally in support of closing the Colombian border.
In Caracas, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro pumps his fist during an August rally in support of closing the Colombian border. AP

World history suggests that, sooner or later, all dictatorships — whether formal or in disguise — end up falling. In their stubborn struggle to shut down all spaces to any idea that they deem contrary, they begin digging their own graves until, one day, they push what cannot be pushed, and their moment of reckoning comes. Hope and dialogue expatriate fear and silence and, wherever there was imposition and unilateralism, democracy and freedom arise.

For the people of Venezuela, getting ready for the Dec. 6 parliamentary elections, this moment is right around the corner. The baseless sentence against Leopoldo López — whose only crime was dreaming the contagious dream of a free, prosperous, and democratic Venezuela — was intended by Maduro as a strong blow to Venezuelan hope and as a calculating move against López’s political rights, as it would preclude him from being voted for.

But it is, in fact, a self-defeating move from a desperate dictator.

I saw how, despite the indignation of many, the overwhelming power of Hugo Chávez deepened. Many of us broke diplomatic ties with a regime whose very core stood at odds with our innermost values and beliefs. Today, we are an ever-growing majority that recognizes that our differences with the Maduro regime — which, among other things, is capable of using its military to cowardly open fire in Colombian territory — have become irreconcilable.

It has not exactly been news that, since Feb. 2, 1999, there have been scandalous and systematic violations to human rights and a raging authoritarianism in Venezuela. But things have gotten worse. Experts cite more than 30,000 severe human-rights violations — from arbitrary jailing to rape and execution in disguise. Of those, 97 percent of them have gone unpunished.

Even though the injustice against López seems like one more atrocity, it is substantially different from the rest. López has managed to bring together a majority of individuals, families and groups that are hurting and rightly alarmed by uncontrollable poverty and galloping authoritarianism. Despite Maduro’s unlawful efforts, millions at a time have been willing to believe in López’s ideas and recognize in him a contagious hope that shines brightly in their own hearts.

Today, Venezuelans are more awake than ever and, knowing that both hope and reason are on their side, they are not willing to take the abuse from its government anymore.

I am convinced, unequivocally, that even in the face of the terrible situation Venezuela is going through, violence is neither necessary nor constructive. López is clearly a political prisoner and no democratic country, institution or individual should fail to denounce this. But, despite the crudeness of Venezuela today, I’m hopeful that it will not cave in to the temptation of senseless violence.

I add my voice to those of many former presidents who pray that the Organization of American States will be given enough access, resources and power to ensure that the electoral process is closely and independently watched. I’d be happy to serve as an electoral observer, as well. I invite all individuals, governments and institutions that love liberty and democracy to stand with our Venezuelan friends in this final stretch of an intense, purpose-driven struggle — an authentic revolution of hope.

Maduro has been stumbling for a long time. When he tried to finish off López, his time of reckoning drew close. Now, this is Venezuela’s time.

Vicente Fox served as president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006.