In Venezuela, A Home-Grown Version Of ‘Shock & Awe’ Tearing Country Apart

ForbesVenezuela is going through its own version of “shock and awe” as protests continued again on Tuesday. The economy is in shambles. Its political landscape is inching closer to dictatorship. President Nicholas Maduro banned one of his biggest ideological rivals from running for office against him. And the brain drain continues, as thousands flee to Brazil, Colombia, the United States and Spain to flee this socialist failed state.

The country is Latin America’s new drama queen. It has surpassed Brazil with its oily politician scandal. It has surpassed Mexico with its invisible walls and undocumented workers and drug war violence. In fact, if Venezuela could have any of those two crises instead, the locals would likely pick either one. At least they can still eat. Venezuela is hanging like a loose tooth. It is hard to assess the future because the day-to-day brings to light new strains on Maduro and his United Socialists Party (PSUV).

“A larger shock is necessary to break the status quo of autocracy,” says Siobhan Morden, managing director for Nomura Securities in New York.

Venezuela is witnessing its sixth day of anti-government protests. Opposition demonstrators and government security forces clashed in the capital of Caracas and other cities again on Tuesday. The violence in the streets is worse now than it was when protests began in September with video today of police firing tear gas canisters from helicopters. Maduro accused the opposition in parliament for promoting the anti-PSUV protests and — in typical Maduro fashion — “conspiring with international actors” (shorthand for the U.S.) to destabilize the country. At the time, Maduro was in Cuba for a meeting with the fledgling Bolivarian Alliance, a coalition of three Latin America states and Caribbean islands like Grenada. None of the major South American economies are involved in this sideshow. Maduro’s once biggest supporters have either been kicked out of office in Brazil and Argentina, with new leadership now shutting Venezuela out from regional trade associations, in this case Mercosul. Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador can have him. No one else wants Maduro at this point. …

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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.