The Latin American left has experienced a steep decline in its fortunes in recent months. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in Venezuela. The precipitous drop in state oil revenues and the attendant decline in the government’s ability to fund social welfare programs, coupled with triple digit inflation and severe shortages of basic necessities, have led to increasing protests and a recall effort against President Nicolás Maduro.
Venezuelans refer to their country’s slums and the individual improvised constructions as ranchos (ranches). These feats of engineering are ubiquitous throughout the country; they spill down the hills and mountains surrounding the capital city of Caracas, down to the port of La Guaira north of the city and south into the Tuy valleys, and dominate the periphery of even more intermediate cities like Maracay, Ciudad Bolívar, and San Cristóbal. Some Venezuelans claim that the rancho that has overtaken the colonial town of Petare
After the murder of former Miss Venezuela and soap opera actress Monica Spear, more concerns have contributed to the discussion of safety in the violence-stricken country. After being in a vehicle deemed “too modest” by her attackers, Monica Spear and her husband were murdered by gunshots, leaving their five-year-old daughter an orphan.
Claims of conspiracy and sabotage, ones all-too-familiar for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, resulted in the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats from Venezuela on February 16th. As might be expected, the decision was made after the U.S. State Department articulated its concerns over the perpetual discord throughout the nation, most evident in the February 12th protest that gained international attention. The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry was quick to issue a statement critiquing the U.S.
What started out as a relatively calm student protest in Venezuela on the afternoon of February 12th turned into a day of grieving for three Venezuelan families whose loved ones perished in an effort to affect change in light of the continuous corruption that marks the fabric of the country. This march was the most recent in a series of manifestations rallying against the ineffective economic policies of President Nicolás Maduro.
On February 12th Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez called on opponents of the socialist Venezuelan government to take to the streets and support student groups that had been protesting the overwhelming problem of violent crime in Tachira State the week before. Ever since protests have continued on an almost nationwide scale.
Venezuela is an incredibly dynamic country. After several decades of stability, the country has been shaken by major political realignments, economic shifts and policy changes since El Caracazo took place in 1989. In that year, the population rose up violently in response to the government's economic reforms that included increases in the price of gasoline and transportation.
As the third week of anti-government protests in Venezuela starts an important question has been lingering: why has the international community been so passive in the face of violent repression against protesters in Venezuela? This, even as prominent international human rights organizations have condemned the government’s unchecked response against dissidents. Why have they not acted with the same resolve as in other similar recent cases in Honduras in 2009 or Paraguay in 2011?