Venezuela used to be the world’s fourth-richest country — ahead of Canada, ahead of the UK. They actually have larger oil reserves even than Saudi Arabia.
That country should be like Singapore or Hong Kong — actually, better, because those two little countries don’t have any oil. It’s western, though; it’s Christian; it’s educated; it’s industrialized.
But then it was taken over by Communists. You can call them socialists; there’s not much difference. But I think Communism is a better description, especially considering how the country has effectively been colonized by Cuba over the past thirty years. It’s practically certain that were it not for Cuba special forces operating in Venezuela — usually not in uniform, but as “police” or even plain clothes — that Venezuela’s democracy movement would have toppled their dictatorship long ago.
The worst dictator was Hugo Chavez, whose daughter is the richest person in the country — she stole $4.2 billion from her people.
Then Nicolas Maduro took over as tyrant after Chavez died in 2013, and he's been wringing money out of his starving people ever since.
Venezuela is so poor that the average Venezuelan has lost nearly 20 pounds, not from diet or exercise — but from malnutrition.
Independent media have been shut down. Labour unions dissolved. Political activists imprisoned. Obviously property expropriated. Violence — at the hands of Chavez and Maduro, and at the hands of Cuban mercenaries.
Elections rigged. Courts rigged. It’s a slow motion disaster.
And, given Obama’s friendship with Chavez, did you really think America would do something about it?
This week, Donald Trump did. After a democracy activist named Juan Guaidó became the genuine and legitimate president of Venezuela this week, Trump weighed in, with an impressive statement that said, in part:
Today, I am officially recognizing the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela. (...) The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.
I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy. (...) We continue to hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any threats it may pose to the safety of the Venezuelan people.
I should point out that it took the full day before Canada said a word about Venezuela. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro immediately joined in support of the new president. Most democracies did, including in Latin America.
Not our Chrystia Freeland.
While 100,000 people took to the street of Caracas, Freeland was too busy on a media panel discussion at the fancy jet-set conference in Davos, Switzerland to make a statement.
What an embarrassment.
At this point, I was planning to show you a list of North American celebrities who have lavished love and praise on Chavez and Maduro over the years: Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, most of Hollywood. Political leaders from Bob Rae to Bernie Sanders to one of Rachel Notley's MLAs, Rod Loyola.
But today is not the day for their disgrace. There will be plenty of time to talk about them, and their collusion in the crimes of Chavez and Maduro.
For now, let us focus on the people of Venezuela and put our hopes and prayers with them in these dangerous days.
NEXT: I'm joined by an expert on this region, Joseph Humire, the Executive Director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, to talk more about what's happening in Venezuela.
FINALLY: Your messages to me!