The people of Venezuela are suffering from interlocking man-made political and economic crises that have transformed a once thriving and prosperous democracy into a country overridden by poverty, corruption, and repression.
Nicolas Maduro came to power in 2013 in a questionable election and destroyed Venezuela’s economy through corrupt dealings and restrictive laws and regulations that have decimated theA private sector. Mismanagement and expropriations led to the exodus of world-class companies and killed investment. Venezuela now ranks 188th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2019” report.
Maduro and his cronies bled the country of its wealth, enriching himself and his corrupt circle at the expense of the Venezuelan people. To secure loyalty, the military was given control over the lucrative drug and food trades, as well as gold mining. When world oil prices fell and Maduro was unable to continue payoffs, he just printed more money. This drove up inflation to more than one million per cent, making basic goods unaffordable.
Venezuela has “won” the Misery Index (based on inflation and unemployment) every year since Maduro came to power. During all of this, the black market flourished, gangs took control of city streets, and the murder rate has soared to 15 times the global average. More than three and a half million Venezuelans have fled and sought refuge in other countries.
Venezuela’s health care system is collapsing and its people are nearly starving. Ninety percent of Venezuelan households are unable to afford food and non-food needs. Medicines are in desperately short supply, hospitals lack basic supplies, and thousands of doctors have left. Preventable infectious diseases have surged. Moreover, 87 percent of the estimated 79,000 HIV infected patients registered with the Venezuelan public health care system are not receiving treatment.
Maduro has responded to criticism with authoritarianism. When the political opposition took control of the National Assembly in 2015, Maduro began taking power away from the legislature. Defenders of Maduro’s regime say he was re-elected. But his destruction of democracy culminated in his jailing, exiling, and disqualification of political rivals before the flawed and fraudulent presidential election of May 20, 2018. Forty-six countries correctly condemned the sham election as neither credible nor legitimate.
Because the election was not fair, Maduro’s re-election was not recognized by the National Assembly. Legally, Maduro is a “usurper” and the presidency is considered vacant. In January 2019, the democratically elected National Assembly – the only remaining legitimate democratic institution in Venezuela – followed articles 233 and 333 of the Venezuelan Constitution and designated Juan Guaidó as Interim President.
The United States is proud to stand among the 54 countries, including almost all countries in Latin America, the Organization of American States, the Lima Group, and the EU, who have declared their support for Interim President Guaidó, the National Assembly, and the Venezuelan people.
Just a few weeks ago, in response to peaceful protests and the clamor for democratic transition, the former Maduro regime and its political mercenaries responded with brutal force and media censorship. International media broadcast deeply disturbing images of an armored vehicle ramming through crowds and running over protestors. The regime used live ammunition and tear gas, injuring hundreds, and blocked Twitter, radio stations, and television channels. This proved yet again that Maduro can only maintain power through censorship, intimidation, and violence.
The United States is working alongside the Lima Group and others to help Venezuelans return their country to prosperity and democracy. To alleviate this crisis, the United States has provided more than $256 million in humanitarian and development assistance to Venezuelans displaced in the region. We will continue to find ways to support the Venezuelan people during this complex emergency humanitarian crisis and we ask other nations to do the same.
By certifying that the democratically elected National Assembly has full authority over assets of the Venezuelan government and central bank, the United States has safeguarded those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people. By sanctioning more than 90 individuals most directly associated with the Maduro regime, the United States is preventing them from enjoying the wealth they plundered as they drove their country into ruin.
The United States stands with the people of Venezuela, and we will continue to support them until they succeed in restoring democracy to their homeland. Venezuelans are entitled to live in a democracy characterized by free and fair elections, and the ability to speak freely without fear of persecution. They deserve an end to corruption and state-sanctioned violence. And they have the right to lead this change.
Unjust regimes often claim that their abuses are “domestic matters” and that others should not “intervene.” Countries that have suffered from disenfranchisement lack of self-determination, or repression of dissent should recognize all too well the plight of the Venezuelan people. Without the spotlight of international scrutiny, the former Maduro regime will inflict even more pain and suffering on innocent Venezuelans. Juan Guaidó is the Interim President of Venezuela. His actions are part of a peaceful call to restore democracy to Venezuela and return freedom, dignity, and prosperity to this once great nation.
* Lisa Johnson is U.S. Ambassador to Namibia.
2019-05-31 09:44:57 19 days ago