There are times when one must speak out because to remain silent is to be complicit in a great crime. Over the past 16 years the Chavista regime in Venezuela has undermined democracy and the rule of law in that country while erecting a totalitarian regime there. Too many continue to pretend that Venezuela is still a democracy and keep silent. However the facts speak otherwise and we owe it to courageous democratic Venezuelans not only to speak out but to take a stand for freedom in Venezuela.
Last night imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was able to get a message out over twitter reaffirming his commitment to nonviolence as the means to achieve a better Venezuela and calling on his fellow citizens to take to the streets of Caracas today, dressed in white and nonviolently in their exercise of their fundamental rights. Recall his final speech in freedom it remains extremely relevant today.
As I write these lines, in Venezuela journalists continue to be expelled from the country, armed raids by Maduro's political police are being carried out against the nonviolent political opposition, and confirmed that 37 Venezuelans arbitrarily detained over the past 48 hours leading up to today's protest. Among them, Yon Goicoechea, a youth leader and the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize Laureate.
What drives the dissatisfaction with the Maduro regime? Consider the following:
- Hugo Chavez undermined the rule of law when in 2009 over television he denounced a judge's legal decision that followed both Venezuelan and international law to release an individual who had been arbitrarily detained and called for the judges imprisonment. The judge was jailed, raped, and today is still fighting a legal battle over that arbitrary and criminal act by the late President Hugo Chavez.
- Chavez regime's arbitrary seizure of private property and campaign of slander led Franklin Brito, a biologist to engage in a series of hunger strikes to demand his rights. He died on August 30, 2010 while being held in custody.
- Cuban troops and intelligence agents have been involved in the torture of Venezuelan dissidents and are overseeing the transition of Venezuela to totalitarianism. When Hugo Chavez died his succession was managed by the Cubans and Nicolas Maduro stole the election from a passive opposition candidate after the regime threatened violence against the opposition if they contested the election.
- Under Nicolas Maduro the targeting of the nonviolent democratic opposition has intensified as his popularity has plummeted.
- 44 students were killed while peacefully protesting the Maduro regime in 2014. Many were shot in the head by snipers and paramilitary armed groups called colectivos that work in coordination with the Chavista intelligence service and military.
- There are prisoners of conscience in Venezuela who are jailed simply for wanting a better Venezuela and being willing to use nonviolent and constitutional means to achieve it. The European Parliament recognizes that there are 2,000 people arbitrarily detained for political reasons in Venezuela. Their names need to known and remembered and not just the high profile names such as: Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma (2015), former mayor of the Caracas municipality of Chacao Leopoldo Lopez (2014), Popular Will party activists Francisco Márquez and Gabriel San Miguel (2016) but those who are not known such as Vasco Da Costa (2014), Araminta González, who is a victim of torture (2014) and many more.
- There are hunger riots in Venezuela and foot shortages. Venezuela is selling oil to Jamaica in exchange for food and medicine and seeking to resolve its food shortage using forced labor.
- Inflation rates in Venezuela are reaching the levels of Zimbabwe with flour, pasta and milk consuming a month's pay according to a August 2, 2016 CNN report and the International Monetary Fund is predicting a 1,600% inflation rate in 2017.
- The most basic life saving medical supplies are unavailable in Venezuela The Venezuelan National Assembly declared a "humanitarian health crisis" that includes the lack of 872 essential medications.
Venezuelans in sixty cities around the world are organizing solidarity events around the hashtag #ConCaracas which translates to English #WithCaracas beginning on September 1, 2016 and ending on September 4, 2016.