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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 21, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsIn Other News

Help the Venezuelan people, not your ego

While most of the world turns its back on Latin American politics and focuses on the Middle East, the beginning of a dictatorship and civil war brews in Venezuela.  

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro ordered the Venezuelan army to march April 17 in “repudiation of the traitors of the country.” By “traitors,” he means the thousands of people who have been taking to the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, for the past month to protest Maduro’s administration, the negligence of the current socioeconomic conditions in Venezuela and the government’s refusal to host a referendum — or any elections — to get Maduro out of power. But these “traitors” are simply supporters of a democratic process, basic human rights, a sustainable economy and freedom of speech.

Ever since Maduro took office, there has been a decline in basic goods available for sale in Venezuela, a silencing of public opinion and an increase in military and police violence, though the government will not call it that because it cannot admit it has been committing human rights abuses.

Ignoring what is happening in Venezuela is unwise for many reasons. The first is that situations like these cause mass migrations to the U.S. and neighboring countries because foreign powers fail to get involved when the root of the problem is growing.

At the same time, when people do get involved, it is usually for the wrong reasons and is not done through adequate means. Former presidents of Colombia Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana Arango held a meeting with President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Florida April 14 to discuss the Colombian peace treaty and the authoritarian state Venezuela is becoming.

The way the former Colombian presidents framed the situation was along the lines of fighting communist dictators and the possibility of them. The problem with this is that even though Maduro is turning into a dictator — some argue he already is one — secret meetings and anti-socialist rhetoric are the same tactics that led to a rise of dictatorships and left-wing militia groups in Latin America in the first place.

This makes me scared that the “aid” provided to Venezuela to end this dictatorship will simply be another military intervention followed by a right-wing authoritarian and that the people who have been suffering human rights abuses will simply continue to suffer them.

This is not about helping governments or ideologies succeed over others — this is about helping the people of a country who have been suffering for years. But we all know toxic political masculinity trumps solving human rights abuses.

Isabella Grullón Paz can be reached at igrullon@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @isagp23