Venezuela’s Deepening Crisis Exposes Split in Ruling Party

BloombergCracks are beginning to show in Venezuela’s ruling party after a ratcheting up of violence surrounding the deadly street demonstrations demanding President Nicolas Maduro’s ouster.

Public Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz, long loyal to Maduro and his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez, has become one of the most strident critics of a crackdown on dissent that has left more than 65 dead and hundreds behind bars. On Thursday, she lambasted the president and decried a “brutal repression” against dissidents. Days before, the defense minister made a rare public plea to stop “atrocities” being carried out by the National Guard.

Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz shows a tear gas pump during a press conference in Caracas.Photographer: Federico Parra/Afp via Getty Images
While Venezuela’s deterioration has been well documented for years, observers say the country has entered a new phase as Maduro asserts his control. Elections have been delayed, rules to rewrite a constitution that usually require a referendum have been ignored and civilians are being brought before military tribunals on charges of betraying the fatherland. …

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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.