Favoring ‘Stability’ Over Liberty in VenezuelaU.S. policy toward Venezuela is not only unjust, it’s foolish.
Havana and Washington are on opposite sides of virtually every foreign policy issue — be it Iran, Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, terrorism, or even the destiny of the Western Sahara. The one place on the planet where the United States and Cuba appear to have found common ground is in Venezuela, where both favor a farcical “national dialogue” to end a popular uprising against the incompetent and criminal regime of Nicolás Maduro.When members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee question the Obama administration’s Latin America policymaker, assistant secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, on Thursday morning, they might ask why it is in the U.S. interest to help a hostile, leftist regime crush democratic protests, and what we should do now as that strategy fails.
Beginning in early February, university students took to the streets of key Venezuelan cities to protest rampant street crime and the scarcity of basic goods. The regime’s response was brutal and disproportionate, with government-armed street gangs beating and shooting peaceful protesters. More than 40 people have been killed, and leading opposition figures have been jailed or removed from office on trumped-up charges, leading the nation’s Catholic bishops to denounce the regime’s “totalitarian” tendencies. The government’s violent tactics against the students in turn drew millions more to marches and barricades. Although massive protests have receded, the student movement continues to challenge the regime.
Human Rights Watch issued a scathing report on May 5 evidence of serious and systematic abuses by Venezuelan security forces, including extrajudicial killings, torture, inhuman treatment, and unlawful detention.
Rather than side with Venezuelans from across the political spectrum struggling to save their country and defend their rights, U.S. diplomats coaxed the opposition into talks that were supposed to address their grievances. On April 10, one prominent opposition group agreed to participate in a “dialogue” sponsored by South American governments sympathetic to Maduro. However, the student movement and other key opposition figures reject the dialogue as long as the government holds political prisoners and uses pro-regime street gangs to terrorize the country.
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