There is Still Time to Prevent Civil War in Venezuela

Photo by Andreas Lehner | CC BY 2.0

As Latin America celebrates the end of the region’s longest violent conflict in Colombia, I have watched with pain and dismay as its neighbor, and my adopted country, Venezuela, rapidly descends towards a deadly state of war.  I lived in Venezuela for more than a decade, much of that time as an advisor and friend to former president Hugo Chavez.  I believed in and strongly defended his bold efforts to eradicate poverty, empower grassroots democracy, redistribute Venezuela’s massive oil wealth and ensure universal healthcare and education for all Venezuelans. Today, many of Chavez’s flagship social justice policies are being unraveled by an economic and political crisis that has spiraled out of control under the government of his successor, Nicolas Maduro.

Over one hundred Venezuelans have been killed during months of anti-government protests, some at the hands of state repression, others by protestors using letal weapons.  The demonstrations arose from the massive discontent throughout the country as food shortages, lack of access to medications, skyrocketing inflation and erosion of democratic institutions have intensified since Maduro won office by a slim margin in 2013.  The opposition has made no attempt to conceal its objective of regime change and efforts by the Venezuelan government to dialogue were met with skepticism and distrust and resulted ineffective.  The more the opposition ramps up its protests, the deeper in…

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