Venezuela bans protests ahead of vote

CNN nuVenezuela’s government says it will ban protests ahead of this weekend’s vote for a special constitutional assembly — a direct challenge to opposition leaders who planned massive Friday demonstrations against the election.

The ban, announced Thursday toward the end of an opposition-led general strike that shuttered some businesses nationwide for two days, begins Friday and continues through Tuesday, interior and justice minister Néstor Reverol said.

He prohibited “all public meetings and demonstrations, gatherings and other similar acts that might disturb the electoral process.” Those who run afoul of the ban risk prison sentences of five to 10 years, he said. …

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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 radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. 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, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

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 policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.