‘A crime against humanity’ – Venezuela on the edge


It’s been almost two years now since the renowned Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann caused a stir in his native Venezuela by posing an uncomfortable question, Bloomberg reports:

Why does a country that’s so starved for cash keep honoring its foreign debts? In other words, how does it justify shelling out precious hard currency to wealthy bondholders in New York when it can’t pay for basic food and medicine imports desperately needed by millions of impoverished citizens? “I find the moral choice odd,” Hausmann concluded. … In a recent interview, he called the government’s insistence on paying the debt, coupled with a church’s claim that it rejected offers of international aid, “a crime against humanity.” ….. How can they sleep at night? “It’s beyond belief.”

Not long ago, the regime that Hugo Chávez founded was an object of fascination for progressives worldwide, attracting its share of another-world-is-possible solidarity activists, according to Moisés Naim and Francisco Toro, a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and editor in chief of Caracas Chronicles, respectively.

Today, as the country sinks deeper into the Western Hemisphere’s most intractable political and economic crisis, the time has come to ask some hard questions about how this regime — so obviously thuggish in hindsight — could have conned so many international observers for so long, they write for The Washington Post:

Venezuelans have gone to the polls 19 times since 1999, and chavismo has won 17 of those votes. The regime has won by stacking the election authorities with malleable pro-government officials, by enmeshing its supporters in a web of lavishly petro-financed patronage and by intimidating and marginalizing its opponents. It worked for more than a decade — until it didn’t work anymore.

After every election, another little piece of the constitution would be chipped away: Courts and oversight bodies were stacked high with supporterschecks and balances strippedbasic freedoms eroded.

None of the South American governments that profess support for democratic norms has offered any material support to Venezuelan civil society or any capacity building for pro-democracy activism, say analysts Federico Merke, Andreas E. Feldmann and Oliver della Costa Stuenkel.

“This kind of democracy support, which is standard fare in other regions, is still apparently anathema in Latin America—even in the case of such a repressive autocratic turn as witnessed in Venezuela,” they write for a Carnegie Endowment analysis. “Venezuelan opposition leaders told us how disappointed they are with the lack of wholehearted support from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and other states.”

Sadly, the Venezuelan crisis is also highlighting a cruel reality of the 21st century, argue Toro and Naim, a former board member of the National Endowment for Democracy:

The international community wrings its hands, but its professed solidarity is thin. Talk is cheap; the millions of innocent Venezuelans who fell victim to chavismo’s long con need more than declarations.

For the newborns who have died from medicine shortages, it’s already too late. The least we can do to honor their memory is to say it loud and clear: Venezuela’s democratic facade has crumbled altogether, and the predatory dictatorship it used to cover up is now plain for all to see. RTWT

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