The inevitable has happened. Venezuela has reached the point of no return.
After more than a 100 days of nationwide protests against the regime, the result is catastrophic. Up to 100 people have been killed, more than 3,000 protesters detained, and 1,500 have been injured. Military forces have not hesitated to fire their guns against brave young millennials equipped with wooden shields and rocks. In this era of smartphones, images of the crackdowns across social media are terrifying and fuelling even more anger among the population.
President Nicolás Maduro’s regime is not showing any signs of bringing the brutal repression to a halt. Instead, the president seems defiant.
After a sham election of a national constituent assembly on July 30 to write a new constitution and replace the opposition-controlled national assembly, Maduro has cemented his dictatorship.
This has triggered United States government sanctions against him personally. Maduro now joins Kim Jong-un, Robert Mugabe, and Bashar al-Assad as sitting presidents sanctioned by the U.S government. Like North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Syria, Venezuela has plunged into a conflict that poses a threat to international peace and security.
More than 1.5 million Venezuelans have fled the country. Anti-government demonstrations have multiplied across the country. Not even the leaders of the opposition can control the masses. The national guard has been deployed in the main urban areas and its mission is to stop, at all costs, any dissident from exercising their right to peaceful protest.
Roadside bombs were used to attack security forces and Molotov cocktails are used during clashes between military forces and groups called La Resistencia. These are young millennials who, inspired by the 2013-14 Ukrainian revolution, have taken to the streets to protest Maduro’s regime and now form the so-called resistance.
The uprising is taking a more unpredictable turn. It’s reminiscent of Syria in 2011, when, inspired by the Arab Spring, people peacefully protested against a lack of economic freedom, until the detention of 15 boys and the murder of a 13-year-old boy at the hands of police forces became the turning point that resulted in the deadliest conflict the 21st century has witnessed.
Venezuelans’ extreme public anger and desperation could lead to a dramatic outcome.
Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign ministry, has been taking more proactive action in the last month to address the crisis in Venezuela. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (herself a daughter of a Ukrainian immigrant), has joined her colleagues from Germany, France, Switzerland, the European Union, the U.S, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile, to name but a few, who have issued several statements calling for the restoration of democracy and the end of violence in this oil-producing country.
Canada could concentrate efforts in the hemisphere on providing humanitarian aid to Venezuelans.
U.S. President Donald Trump is considering delivering the most dangerous blow to Maduro’s regime so far: a set of sanctions that include a ban on Venezuelan oil exports to the United States. Although sanctions might have an immediate impact in Venezuela, Cuba’s example demonstrates that in the long run they would not produce the expected outcome. The U.S. has long maintained a trade embargo to punish the continuing communist Castro-family rule in Cuba.
Venezuela is suffering the worst humanitarian crisis in the region and Maduro’s dictatorship will not ask for foreign aid. Yet Canada, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership, could be persuasive enough and prevent a deeper humanitarian crisis. Peruvian Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna suggested that Trudeau serve as a possible mediator for the crisis in Venezuela. This is an opportunity for Trudeau to take advantage of his status as a well-known world leader to openly defend the universal value of solidarity and help Venezuelans with medicine and food, and avoid what it seems inevitable.
Nelson Dordelly-Rosales holds a PhD/LLD and a master of law from the University of Ottawa, a master of education from the University of Saskatchewan and JD and bachelor of education from the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Venezuela. He recently was the director of the master of law program in human rights and development of the University of Antwerp in Belgium.
The Hill Times