On the brink of civil war, Venezuela’s President Maduro dismantles the remains of capitalism

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Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets in violent protests against President Nicholas Maduro. The deepening economic crisis has left Venezuelans without basic necessities such as medicine and food, leaving Venezuelans sick, hungry, and desperate for change.

The most recent wave of anti-Maduro protests were triggered by two events. First, on March 29, the Supreme Court announced that it would be taking away the power of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. While the Supreme Court reversed its ruling just three days later, the incident resulted in Venezuelan’s distrust of the Maduro government and courts boiling over.  Second, the opposition’s leader was issued a 15-year ban from public office, leaving the opposition party without a strong and viable candidate for the upcoming election.

The opposition protesters have expressed four main demands: the removal of the Supreme Court Justices who issued the ruling on March 29, general elections in 2017, the creation of a “humanitarian channel” to allow the import of medication and food, and the release of all political prisoners.

As the Venezuelans fill the streets for “sit-ins” and marches across Venezuela, they have been met with tear gas and rubber bullets from Venezuelan authorities. Armed civilian Maduro supporters have shot anti-Maduro protestors, who have fought back with Molotov Cocktails. Over 1,400 people have been detained since the protests began a month ago and 12 have been killed.

Maduro relies on an army of loyalist militia members, ready to do his bidding who he has armed. It is clear that Maduro is preparing to go to war with pro-democracy protestors who dare challenge Maduro’s rule.

Amid protests and political demonstrations, Venezuelan authorities seized General Motor’s Venezuelan plant “preventing normal operations.”

“G.M. strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the [Venezuelan] authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions to defend its rights,” GM said in their statement. In response, GM is moving its production and sales out of Venezuela and taking nearly 7,000 jobs with it.

For 45 days, the plant was shut down due to an aggressive takeover by members of the union and when GM was unable to regain control, they asked Venezuela to step in. However, instead of mediating the dispute, Venezuela seized the plant and took it for themselves. Additionally, the Venezuelan government seized other assets of the company, such as cars, causing irreparable damage to GM, its suppliers and Venezuelan dealerships that make up a large portion of the auto parts market. However, the plant has not actually been in operation since they stopped producing cars in late 2015.

The seizure of the General Motors plant reflects the broader economic conflict raging in the country. Anti-Maduro forces cite the socialist policies of Chavez and Maduro as the cause of the more than 450% inflation rate, which has made it nearly impossible for companies to secure the foreign currency required to import materials necessary for production.

Pro-Maduro forces, however, attribute reduced output to an “economic war” they are fighting against multinational companies who they accuse of seeking to sabotage the Maduro administration. As the economic and social situation continues to devolve, it is certain the Maduro and his government will continue to grasp for control. As the government continues to grasp for control and oppress its people, the country spirals towards an all-out civil war.

If the Venezuelan people are going to succeed in their fight against an oppressive government, they won’t be able to do it alone. They need help from their neighbors and allies outside their borders to ensure that Venezuela does not completely fall to tyranny.

As the reversal of the Supreme Court’s ruling last week shows, the Maduro government is susceptible to international and internal pressure. Because of this, it is likely that sanctions against key government officials could be effective in curbing the violence and suppression of the Venezuelan people.

As the situation worsens, more than 4,000 of Venezuelans have fled into Brazil, seeking asylum. Unfortunately, their appointment slips have dates as far out as 2018 and it is unclear if these appointment slips give them temporary permission to stay, or if they could be deported like hundreds of Venezuelans before them.

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