Once the richest country in Latin America, and the most stable democracy in the region, Venezuela has exemplified the failures of extreme socialism and communism. Through the modern advantages of social media, pictures and videos of malnourished adults and children dying from lack of food or medication present in real time a modern-day genocide unfolding in this once prosperous and free nation.
A citizenry whose fabric is woven in the values and traditions that bind generations of families, has seen its way of life unravel as abundant opportunities have been replaced by a struggle to survive, and families are separated as those who can escape must seek opportunity elsewhere to help survive those left behind. This exodus has caused one of the biggest migrant crises in the world, from a country that was once a beacon of hope, opportunity, and stability for its region.
For years, the people of Venezuela have participated in countless protests against the regime established by Hugo Chavez and inherited by Nicolas Maduro. Venezuelans have peacefully protested in many ways: staying in the streets for days, blocking streets, striking for months, walking across cities, confronting the authorities, participating in elections, not participating in elections - you name it, they have tried it. Men and women of all ages and walks of life have participated in these protests, many posting pictures and videos to document the cruel reality of their situation. Old women plead with authorities not to kill their children. Young women and men have fought like warriors in defense of their freedom, many of whom are injured, killed or imprisoned.
The root cause of Venezuela’s deterioration is not merely an ideology but also its captivity by outside interests. Hugo Chavez could never realize his socialistic vision within a functioning democracy, so he partnered with the Castro regime in Cuba and facilitated an infiltration of Castro’s communist operatives into Venezuela’s government. This opened the gates for the regime to partner with other communistic and even terroristic forces at odds with the traditions of western democracy, including those of Russian, China, and Iran. This has resulted in Venezuela’s people and vast economic resources being captive to these outside forces as Venezuelans see their lives disintegrate and their opportunities plundered.
With Venezuela as its benefactor, the Castro regime had the means to revitalize its once bankrupt communist regime and regain its parasitic influence in the region through its Venezuelan host. In reality, the Chavez and Maduro regimes have reminded the world that communism in practice is not a genuine ideology but merely a front for a mafia-like enterprise of government corruption, drug smuggling, and other criminal activities that exploit its citizenry. Other countries in the region once lured by these leftist influences, most notably Brazil and Argentina, recently have seen governmental corruption exposed and the election of pro-capitalist governments bent of fighting corruption and other criminal enterprises. Yet lessons are not learned as Argentinias are going to a run-off to elect a new President or re-elect Mauricio Macri against the old communist-criminal guard of Alberto Fernandez and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Blessed with the largest oil deposits in the world and countless other resources, both natural and human, Venezuela has the means to once again sustain itself and be a valuable partner to its neighbors in the region. However, like any hostage that has been kidnapped, it has limited ability to free itself.
On January 23, Venezuelans filled the street in protest of Maduro’s defiance of recent elections, as the United States officially recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimately elected Interim president. President Trump promised, as a presidential candidate, that he was going to help the Venezuelan people to gain back their democracy and freedom. And this promise, together with democratic progress in Argentina and Brazil, has given the Venezuelan people motivation to fight for their freedom, leading to massive public protest that for the first time in a long time has provided Venezuelans a glimpse of hope for freedom. However, after months of expectation and insistent from the Opinion, also all of them leftist, to negotiate with the Regimen Venezuela continues to be oppressed and under dictatorship.
Just as it took outside influence to nearly destroy Venezuela, it will take outside help to free the Venezuelan people so they can take back their country. The only one that can help free Venezuela is the United States, not merely for its diplomatic and military might in pursuit of its own national security interests in the region, but because America is the one true beacon of hope for all nations of people that seek freedom and opportunity on their own soil.
Carmen Maria Montiel is a former Miss Venezuela, journalist and political activist who lives in Texas.