As American public attention has been focusing on terror attacks in Paris, the crisis in Syria and the nuclear-armed lunatic running North Korea, Venezuela to our south is about to explode into violence and civil war with incalculable consequences in our own hemisphere. The “Bolivarian Revolution” that began with the coming to power of Hugo Chavez in 1999 and continues under his successor Nicolas Maduro has destroyed the nation’s economy and its democratic institutions.
Last week a dozen or more protesters died as hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities demanding elections, food and medicine. Thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing to neighboring countries, creating a refugee crisis that threatens to tax the ability of neighboring governments to provide services not only to the refugees but to their own citizens. Venezuela is already among the world’s most violence-prone nations with rampant crime and a homicide rate almost 20 times that of the United States. It is estimated that government officials and their cronies have looted as much as $11 billion from the state-owned oil company alone, and Venezuela is today ranked by Transparency International as having the 10th most-corrupt government on earth.
A recent International Monetary Fund report suggests that the nation’s unemployment rate of 25 percent can be expected to increase as the economy shrunk by a full 18 percent in just the last year; inflation this year is expected to reach 720 percent and could go to 2,000 percent next year.
Mr. Maduro and his henchman blame the nation’s problems on capitalism and the United States, but the people of Venezuela beg to differ. A recent poll shows that he has a “negative” rating among his own people exceeding 70 percent, which explains why he is methodically jailing his opponents and doing all he can to avoid anything resembling a free election.