The coming collapse of Venezuela

Article Appeared in The Washington TimesAs U.S. policymakers fret about Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine and North Korea, far too little attention is being paid to the powder keg to the south of us that may be about to blow. Once-prosperous Venezuela has been coming apart for years, but the roundly condemned Constituent Assembly election engineered by presidential strongman Nicolas Maduro lit the fuse that could ignite a civil war in his country. With a Sunday attack by uniformed insurgents on a military base, the internecine battle may have already begun.

Mr. Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, was a dedicated socialist who hated the United States and laid the foundations on which Mr. Maduro has built, but he was a lot smarter than his successor. If Chavez was the Venezuelan revolution’s Lenin, Mr. Maduro is its Stalin. From the day he took office, he’s targeted his opponents for annihilation, built an internal private secret police force and moved headlong to emulate what the Castro brothers did in and to Cuba.

He’s blamed everything that’s gone wrong on an evil alliance of capitalist businessmen and the imperialist United States while the once-booming Venezuelan economy has collapsed around him. His problems were made worse by the drop in oil prices, but the command economy he built has driven business and investment out of his now-impoverished nation. Inflation is projected by the International Monetary Fund to reach 700 percent this year, and neighboring countries are working to process the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the country. …

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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.