Short of Options, Venezuela Opposition Stages Flash Protests

US News & World ReportCARACAS (Reuters) – A dozen activists alight surreptitiously from cars, walk determinedly toward Venezuela’s heavily-guarded Food Ministry, and dump two bags of garbage at its front entrance.

Soldiers quickly form a cordon and a young opposition lawmaker pounds their riot shields with his fists as government supporters appear from nowhere, throwing punches at the protesters.

The activists, who use garbage to symbolize how people are scavenging for food because of Venezuela’s economic crisis, chant “The People Are Hungry!” and “Democracy!” After a few minutes, they are chased back to their cars by a fast-growing crowd of supporters of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The mid-morning fracas in a working-class district of Caracas is the latest of near-weekly “surprise” protests by the opposition this year intended to embarrass Maduro, galvanize street action and highlight Venezuela’s litany of problems. …

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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.