Posts tagged ‘Venezuela’

Venezuela’s Long Fight for Freedom

SEE IT: Armored military vehicle plows into protesters as violence breaks out in Venezuela

Credit: NTN24

In a scene reminiscent of the slaughter at Tiananmen Square, last Tuesday, a Venezuela National Guard vehicle ran over a group of protestors who were supportive of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, after he called upon members of that nation’s military to rise up against President Nicolás Maduro.  Nicholas Casey reported on the situation for The New York Times:

It was the boldest move yet by Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s opposition leader: at sunrise, he stood flanked by soldiers at an air force base in the heart of the capital, saying rebellion was at hand …

In the streets, anti-government demonstrators clashed with forces loyal to the president amid reports of live fire, rubber bullets and tear gas. A health clinic in Caracas took in 69 people injured during the day. An armored vehicle rammed protesters, but it was not immediately clear how many people were hurt … 

Since January, Mr. Guaidó has run what amounts to a parallel government, counting on support from more than 50 countries, including the United States, even as Mr. Maduro remains the country’s leader. Despite Mr. Maduro’s low popularity, however, the opposition’s momentum has been sapped as Mr. Guaidó has failed to depose the president or solve the shortages of food, medicine, water and power that plague the country’s 30 million people.

Venezuela is in trouble.  And anyone who has been watching knows that Venezuela has been in trouble for a very long time.

President Trump has been a strong supporter of Mr. Guaidó’s opposition movement, decrying Mr. Maduro’s authoritarian rule.  As news of the protests broke, the president tweeted:

I am monitoring the situation in Venezuela very closely. The United States stands with the People of Venezuela and their Freedom! 

The freedom of the Venezuelan people is indeed critical.  How to attain such a freedom, however, is complicated.  When President Maduro first came to power in Venezuela in 2013, some people saw him as a national savior, following the disastrous presidency of Hugo Chávez.  They were most certainly wrong.  His crimes against his people are many and well-documented as he has continued his predecessor’s legacy of economic and humanitarian oppression.  As is often the case, politicians who promise to save a nation often only wind up becoming authoritarian and crooked.  To use the famed axiom of Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt.”

Ultimately, freedom cannot be given by any man, whether that man be Nicolás Maduro or Juan Guaidó, for freedom is not the property of any man.  But freedom can be celebrated and protected by every man.  This is why the framers of our Constitution were not so interested in enumerating the powers of our government as they were in limiting the powers of our government.

Venezuela’s struggles remain.  And it will take humble people who hold power lightly – instead of dictators who wield power recklessly – to begin to truly address the country’s ills.  The exercise of power must yield to the practice of compassion.  Venezuelan lives depend on it.

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May 6, 2019 at 5:15 am 2 comments

Venezuela’s Humanitarian Crisis

File:Homelessness in Venezuela.jpg

Credit: Wikipedia

Venezuela is in crisis.  Nicolás Maduro, the nation’s president, stands accused of all sorts of heinous crimes against humanity.  Luis Almagro, writing for the Washington Post, exposes some gruesome examples, including:

…subjecting opposition demonstrators such as Echenagusia Guzmán to electric shocks, beating them with nightsticks, kicks and fists and burning them with cigarettes. And [the Maduro regime will] continue to douse young men such as 18-year-old Marco Cello with gasoline, threatening to burn him, or fracture the skull of others such as Jorge León, beating him with rifle butts and helmets.

This is disgusting.  But it is also only just the beginning.  Mr. Maduro’s government stands accused of murdering some 8,290 people between 2015 and 2017.  His penchant for corrupt governance has turned what was one of Latin America’s richest countries into an economic and humanitarian disaster.

Recently, however, the heat has been turned up on Mr. Maduro.  Opposition leader Juan Guaidó is gaining political traction among the Venezuelan people and is now recognized as the interim president of Venezuela by the U.S.  Still, Mr. Guaidó’s path to power is anything but certain.  When the U.S. attempted to send some much needed aid to this desperately impoverished country, Venezuela’s neighbor, Colombia, stepped in to prevent it from reaching its desired destination, fearing a messy clash at the border between supporters of Mr. Guaidó, who were delivering the aid, and supporters of Mr. Maduro, who oppose all U.S. intervention.

In these types of situations, there are never any perfect – or, many times, even great – options.  Unfortunately, this reality is often used as a justification for a failure to act against morally abhorrent realities in the name of a cynical realpolitik.

Genocide and starvation are simply not acceptable status quos – not only because they destabilize whole regions by creating floods of refugees, but because genocide and starvation are objectively and grossly immoral.  Period.

Yes, other nations must think and carefully strategize before attempting to exert influence in a situation like Venezuela’s.  But thinking cannot become a conveniently indefinite buffer against acting.  Something has to change.  Lives are at stake.

For us in the general public, perhaps the first step is simply paying attention.  Our news cycles are dominated by domestic affairs – soap operatic machinations of a deeply divided Washington D.C.  Special counsels, special investigations, salacious testimonies, presidential tweets, executive orders, and border walls fill our headlines.  International crises often register only as a blip on our consciences, if at all.  But they should and they must.

In Venezuela, people are needlessly dying.  And as Christians, if there’s anything we should want to stand up to, it’s death.

March 11, 2019 at 4:15 am 3 comments

Venezuelan Victims

Venezuela Slum.jpg

As our national attention is riveted on a myriad of local stories, most of which are political in nature, the people of Venezuela are languishing.  In what is perhaps one of the most underreported stories of this year, Venezuelans are on the brink of staging an all out revolt.  Tensions are so high in this volatile South American nation that even the future of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro is uncertain.

A confluence of calamities has brought the country to the brink of collapse. Plummeting crude oil prices have pilfered Venezuela’s economy and a severe drought has strained the nation’s hydroelectric power supply, forcing the government to enact rolling blackouts and enforce a two-day work week just to save power.  Along with these troubles, food is becoming scarce and medical care is becoming even poorer than it already was.  A headline from The New York Times says it all: “Dying Infants and No Medicine: Inside Venezuela’s Failing Hospitals.”

Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis is something that deserves and demands our attention and thoughtfulness.  There are lessons to be learned here.

We can learn that corruption – no matter how powerful it may seem for a season – cannot stand.  Like Hugo Chavez before him, Mr. Maduro is a corrupt head of a corrupt government.  By one count, government officials there have stolen some $350 billion public tax dollars, using them to line their personal pockets.  Outside economic factors certainly play a roll in Venezuela’s high poverty rate, but the government isn’t helping matters.  Venezuela’s politicians are stealing from their own people, taxing them into poverty while they live in luxury.  And the people have had enough.  And they are revolting.

The apostle Paul reminds us that the government is “that which God has established” (Romans 13:1).  And this is certainly true.  God establishes governing authorities and we are to respect and pray for them.  But, to borrow a phrase from Job, “The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away” (Job 1:21).  If history is any indication, the Lord has no problem wresting power from governments that would misuse and abuse their authority against their own people.  And the Venezuelan government’s turn for downfall – with Mr. Maduro at its head – may be coming soon.

It is also important to point out that human crises, no matter how foreign or far away they may seem from our perspective, cry out for our compassion and attention. Scenes of cold incubators and critically wounded people in squalid conditions betray not only the incompetence and corruption of a government that demands our repudiation, but the pain and fear of a people who deserve our compassion.  Stories of people’s pain – even if they’re a hemisphere away – demand our engagement.

All this is to say that Venezuela needs a change.  What is happening there now cannot continue.  Americans, understandably, have not been all too friendly with the Venezuelan government.  And this is wise.  Cozying up to corruption, after all, only breeds and makes one complicit in further corruption.  Furthermore, sending relief to the Venezuelan people is complicated.  What we send often ends up in the wrong hands.  But even with these complicating factors, the Venezuelan people are hurting.  And as such, they deserve our notice – and our prayers.

May they find the relief, the resources, and the freedom they seek.

May 23, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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