Pope Francis is appealing for an end to violence in Venezuela saying in his Sunday mass:
“I make a heartfelt appeal to the government and all components of venezuelan society to avoid any more forms of violence, to respect human rights and to seek a negotiated solution.”
Weeks of some deadly protests have turned into a standoff between protestors and the government. As these violent anti-government protests rage on in Venezuela, the situation in Venezuela is getting worse.
The latest clashes have had protestors face down armored vehicles, bombarded from the air with tear gas, even some of them jumping into a river to escape the calamity.
Both sides for and against the Venezuelan government have taken to the streets. Wednesday, Yibram Saab released a video calling on his father, a top government official charged with investigating human rights abuses, to take action saying:
“Dad, at this moment you have the power to put an end to this injustice that has sunk this country. I ask you as a son, and in Venezuela’s name, which you serve, to reflect and do what you are supposed to do.”
Venezuela has come undone as the country’s economy has slipped into a death spiral thanks to long riven social divisions. Food and medicine are scarce, lines to buy food stretch for blocks, and inflation is among the highest in the world.
Venezuela is now broke despite sitting on top of the world’s richest oil reserves. The opposition blames the government’s socialist policies than started years ago by then President Hugo Chavez, which came with massive government corruption and mismanagement.
Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro says his country is the victim of an international conspiracy and has rejected opposition calls for a new election, but the Venezuelan government could be trying to buy time in the hopes that oil prices will rise. David Smilde of the Washington Office on Latin America says:
“If oil were to surge to 60 or 80 dollars a barrel, it certainly would give them some more breathing room and that’s what they are hoping for. If oil can go up, they can defeat these protests. They go to elections and perhaps rig the playing field, rig the campaign enough that they can actually stay in power.”
So far, Venezuela’s President doesn’t appear to be concerned about the turmoil as he throws around a baseball saying:
“To those violent groups, the law will find them. It has already arrived for many of them. And by way of the law, there will be peace.”
But that peace, seems highly unlikely. In better economic times, Venezuela bought influence across the region by supplying billions of dollars of oil to other socialist countries like Cuba, which has been a supporter of Venezuela. But Venezuela is increasingly isolated, announcing it will leave the Organization of American States as concerns grow in Latin America that the unrest will become a humanitarian crisis, spreading far beyond Venezuela’s borders.