On Sunday, after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that the election he promoted to create a Congress with similar power to the Soviets some decades ago had been successful and that eight million people voted, countries around the world not only rejected what they called “a fraud of election” but also said that Maduro had become a “dictator.”
Unfortunately the results mean that the Venezuelan people—who don’t have enough food and medicines and are under a social and economic tragedy—have been suffering under a dictatorship for a long time. . The judiciary is a mockery, the Congress that was elected two years ago has been under attack every minute and has not been able to make one single decision, there are thousands of political prisoners suffering torture in prison and media have been closed down.
So, when European officers say that after what they call a fraud election on Sunday, Maduro has become a “dictator,” they are coming late.
The Assembly that has been established now will sweep away any seed of opposition and the dictatorship will be installed definitively. But in reality, it is the culmination of a process of many years, and the countries of the Americas and Europe have watched without taking serious actions, related to, among other issues, the violation of human rights. Now the situation looks very bad, as it usually happens when the world finally sits up and takes notice.
After the election, the Venezuelan regime found full support in Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador in Latin America. But most important for Venezuela, Maduro received public support from Russia, China and Iran. Those are the friends of this regime.
The Trump administration on Monday imposed sanctions on Maduro. The U.S. government froze any American assets Maduro may have and banned Americans from doing business with him.
But even with international pressure building and Venezuela’s economy collapsing, opposition activists were facing a new challenge. How could they confront a machine that now controls all branches of government?
The new super-congress, made up entirely of government backers, will have sweeping powers to rewrite the constitution and redraw Venezuela’s governing system.
Maduro dismissed the U.S. measures, saying on television that they were imposed because he didn’t obey the “North American empire.” He added: “Impose all the sanctions that you want, but I’m a free president.”
Luisa Ortega Díaz, Venezuela’s attorney general, who broke with the government in March, on Monday declared the vote fraudulent. She suggested that Maduro and his inner circle, including a vice president accused by the U.S. government of narco-trafficking, would now seek to use the new assembly to monopolize money and power. “How will we control the public budget now? How will we know how much and in what things money is being invested?” she said. The answer is simple: there will be no control.
Latin American nations from Argentina to Panama to Brazil, including Peru and Colombia, have also declared the vote illegitimate, with regional foreign ministers set to meet in Peru next week to review the crisis. But nobody expects that crucial decisions will be made.
Last Sunday one important question was whether the domestic opposition can sustain the pressure it has brought to bear on Maduro’s administration. The brutal answer from Maduro came between Monday and Tuesday: in the middle of the night, the secret police took Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, two of the major opposition leaders, to prison.
With the support of Russia and Iran, with Hezbollah cells installed in the country, Venezuela, now a full dictatorship, is a great threat for the Americas. Its sponsors, mainly Iran, mean terrorism. And terrorism, under this picture is at the front door in the region.
The Organization of American States and the United Nations Security Council should find a way to protect Venezuela and its people, as well as the rest of the region, from such a threat. It is not only their duty, it is an urgent need.
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American affairs since 1984. Before joining B'nai B'rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, click here.