The current condition of Venezuela is symbolized by Stefanía Fernández, Miss Universe 2009, in a stunning photograph symbolizing her as her beloved country as it struggles to regain its freedom:
President Nicolás Maduro on Thursday said he was willing to sit down with the opposition under the watch of an outside observer. He floated the name of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who served as the Holy See’s ambassador to Venezuela before being called to Rome last year.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told The Associated Press Friday the Holy See and Parolin were “certainly willing and desirous to do whatever is possible for the good and serenity of the country.” He said Parolin, in particular, “knows and loves” Venezuela. But he added that the Vatican needed to understand the expectations of its intervention and whether it could bring about a “desired outcome.”
Mediation I think would be would be worse than useless in this case. You have a murderous regime intent on using any means to hold on to power, confronting a fed up populace that has had enough as they have seen their liberties taken away and their economy destroyed:
The masked gunmen emerged from a group of several dozen motorcycle-mounted government loyalists who were attempting to dismantle a barricade in La Isabelica, a working-class district of Valencia that has been a center of unrest since nationwide protests broke out last month.
When it was over, two La Isabelica men were dead: a 22-year-old student, Jesus Enrique Acosta, and a little league baseball coach, Guillermo Sanchez. Witnesses told the AP the first was shot in the head, the second in the back. They said neither was at the barricades when he was killed.
Similar shootings across Venezuela by gunmen allied with the socialist-led government have claimed at least seven lives and left more than 30 people wounded since the anti-government protests began in mid-February.
President Nicolas Maduro has done nothing to publicly discourage the violence by armed pro-government militants, loosely known as “colectivos,” which are also blamed for scores more cases of beatings and intimidation in multiple cities. That includes a March 19 incursion into the architecture academy at the Central University of Venezuela in the capital in which some 40 masked men and women identifying themselves as government defenders bloodied at least a dozen students.
The Washington Post, to my surprise, is on target in its editorial yesterday:
The chief protagonist of this meltdown is Mr. Maduro, the former bus driver who succeeded Hugo Chávez a year ago and has since proved himself as crude in his political tactics as he is ignorant of economic fundamentals. The president portrays moderate opponents as “fascists,” claims that he is the target of incessant plotting by the CIA and increasingly depends on force — delivered by riot police or organized groups of thugs — to answer popular protests.
The opposition, for its part, is splintering between those who favor a patient strategy of winning over Venezuelans who still support the Chavista movement and militants who hope that building street barricades will somehow trigger the regime’s collapse — or perhaps a military coup. The violent clashes may be driving away citizens who would support a movement that aimed for change by peaceful and democratic means.
The Obama administration, too, has been a non-factor in the Venezuelan crisis, other than as a foil — even though the United States, as a major buyer of Venezuelan oil, has plenty of potential leverage. So it was encouraging to hear the senior State Department official for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson, say Thursday that sanctions against the Maduro government could be “a tool” if “there isn’t a possibility of dialogue, if there is no space for the opposition.” (Ms. Jacobson spoke in Spanish.) That might get the attention of the regime’s more rational minds.
Congress is considering legislation that would sanction Venezuelan officials guilty of human rights offenses; that, too, could be useful. It may be that nothing can stop Venezuela’s downward spiral. But it is shameful that its neighbors have not made more of an effort.
If you have any prayers to spare you might wish to say a few for the people of Venezuela as they walk their Via Dolorosa.