ICYMI: A former bus driver and trade union leader who rose through the ranks of Venezuelan government under former and deceased president Hugo Chavez has finally driven the country off the proverbial cliff.
Under Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela is officially a full-fledged dictatorship. And the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis has now reached critical mass following a July 30 election widely described as a “sham.”
The election in late July of this year propped up a new legislative body — a “constituent assembly” — without a national referendum as required by law, essentially trashing the country’s 1999 constitution.
Maduro’s authoritarian assault on his people has naturally, thankfully, ignited a firestorm, bringing about U.S. sanctions and drawing worldwide criticism. Regional governments, many in the expat community, student leaders and Americans from all walks of life are among the many condemning his actions.
It is truly devastating and heartrending to see the images coming from Venezuela.
In this interview with our own Think Freely Latino project ambassador for Venezuela, an impassioned Jorge Jraissati provides analysis. Jraissati describes how Maduro’s regime continues to escalate war on his own people by nullifying the country’s constitution, jailing dissidents and killing innocent civilians.
The Venezuelan people’s liberty, what little they still own that has not yet been confiscated, and their very lives increasingly hang in the balance.
According to Jorge, whose parents and little sister still live in the country, the situation in Venezuela is beyond dire. The government has expropriated more than 1,200 businesses. The average salary remains about $40 a month. Venezuela has price controls and, at the same time, one of the worst rates of inflation in the world. Raids on homes and politically motivated jailings and killings of dissidents and civilians — including students — are now commonplace.
Currently in the United States on a student visa, Jorge underscores why it is so important to pay close attention to what is happening in Venezuela today.
“The time to defend liberty, is while you still have it,” Jorge warns.
“You defend it by reading, by writing, by getting involved, and by denouncing … It is very important to always defend freedom,” he continued. “Otherwise, you will have to defend it like us — by taking to the streets and taking bullets and tear gas.”
The question that remains is whether Venezuelans will be able to regain their liberty and prosper once again. Or will their beloved country become a permanent fixture of socialism and authoritarian rule, potentially posing innumerable security and economic threats for the United States as well as the entire region.
It is the hope of many Hispanic and Latino Americans that freedom, liberty, democracy and prosperity will prevail for a country that once was a major U.S. trading partner and one of the most free economies in the world.