Venezuela: A growing threat of civil war
Venezuela is now a dictatorship, said O Globo (Brazil) in an editorial. “Repression and authoritarianism” are evident in every aspect of civilian life. Eager to cripple the opposition-controlled national legislature, leftist President Nicolás Maduro has created a new body that will rewrite the nation’s constitution and govern with almost unlimited authority until its work is done. The first act of the new constituent assembly, whose 545 members were elected in a rigged vote last week, was to fire Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz, “one of the few critical voices” remaining in government. Numerous opposition leaders have been jailed on trumped-up charges. Peaceful protests against the corrupt regime, which has overseen the almost total collapse of Venezuela’s economy, have been violently repressed—more than 100 people have died since April in clashes between demonstrators and security forces. Still, there is resistance. A small group of rebellious soldiers raided an army base this week and stole 100 assault rifles and a handful of grenade launchers, a “first sign that the Venezuelan president cannot count on the full support of the armed forces.”
The risk of civil war is real, said El Tiempo (Colombia). So far, the opposition has refused to embrace violence, recognizing “how disastrous it would be to succumb to the temptation to take up arms.” But if the military itself splits, bloodshed will be inevitable. Maduro may copy Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who used a failed coup attempt as an excuse “to purge the military” of all opponents. As long as the military gets its oil and drug money, it will stay loyal to Maduro, said Joaquín Villalobos in El País (Spain). Any other regime would have imploded by now, after four months of mass protests that have seen millions of hungry, angry people take to the streets. But the “right-wing military and the left-wing” government remain allies, because they jointly control Venezuela’s oil industry and profitable drug-trafficking business. Venezuela is now a “military dictatorship in leftist clothing” that threatens to spread criminality to the whole region. It has already sent tens of thousands of economic refugees fleeing to Colombia and Brazil; if civil war breaks out, even more will follow. Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, has suspended Venezuela, and that’s a good first step. But only a boycott of Venezuelan oil can stop this regime.
Venezuela would be a workers’ paradise were it not for the bourgeois opposition, said José Vicente Rangel in Últimas Noticias (Venezuela). Funded by foreigners and representing only moneyed interests, the opposition has “arrogant contempt” for our socialist system, and so they denounce Maduro’s government as illegitimate. Their “ethical, political, and moral degradation” has “fallen to unimaginable levels,” and they now encourage terrorism and violence in the street. Our unwavering belief in “peace, justice, and the rejection of impunity” will guide us through these difficult times. Maduro will prevail. ■