Is Venezuela Becoming a Cuba-Style Dictatorship?

BloombergTrue to his threat, Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, will proceed with an election on July 30 that will start the process for convening a constituent assembly to consider changing the country’s constitution. His adversaries oppose the move as an illegal power grab, predicting that Maduro will stack the assembly with his supporters and move the country closer to a dictatorship. International opposition is building. U.S. President Donald Trump warned of “strong and swift economic actions” if Maduro proceeds with his plans. The head of the Organization of American States has called for fresh presidential elections and Spain’s former prime minister has tried to broker a compromise.

1. How is this expected to work?

Unless Maduro withdraws the proposal at the last minute — either because of pressure from within his own party and the military or an agreement with the opposition — voters will be asked to select 545 delegates who will make up the constituent assembly and re-write the constitution. But what’s not on the ballot is just as important as what is. Voters are not being asked if they even want the assembly, which polls say only about 20 percent of Venezuelans support. With the opposition boycotting the process altogether, all the names on the ballot presumably are Maduro supporters, and only about 25 of them are known politicians. If the vote goes forward, the government can’t lose. …

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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.