A distracted world at last pays attention as Venezuela flirts with outright dictatorship

The IndependentQuiz time: when is a democracy in danger of ceasing to be a democracy? One possible answer might be, when its supreme court usurps all the functions of its elected congress to shut down the last vestiges of political opposition and concentrate power in the hands of an already authoritarian leader, then three days later apparently reverses course.

Next question: when should the rest of the world care? Let’s see. Maybe when said leader is already scorned by a large majority of a population that is suffering everyday privations the likes of which it has never seen before, including the collapse of its entire system of medical care, extreme shortages of just about everything from shampoo to flour and inflation in the triple digits.

Or maybe if the country concerned is huge, with a formidable military and the biggest oil reserves in the world. If you’re only now clocking that this is Venezuela, perhaps it’s because you haven’t been hearing a whole lot about what’s happening there. Was it discussed even once during Britain’s March presidency of the UN Security Council, for example? It was not. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.