While bloodshed in Ukraine has received widespread attention, the violence — and the death count for political protesters — has mounted in Venezuela relatively unnoticed. The crude populism and bullying tone for which the late Hugo Chavez was known have yielded to the far more sinister tactics of leftist President Nicolas Maduro. Six people died over the past week while conducting protests. US diplomats have been expelled on charges of inciting protests, creating a crisis that demands a change from the business-as-usual approach to Venezuela.
No doubt the 200 protesters who formed a human chain in Copley Square recently would agree. Conditions have continued to deteriorate in Venezuela, which leads the world in inflation — 56 percent in January — and suffers from growing poverty and crime. It faces major shortages despite being the major oil producer in Latin America.
Under these conditions, protests are only natural. But the new and insecure president clamped down, not only leading to deaths but also to a broad ban on political protests and the imprisonment of dozens of opposition leaders, including the leading one, Leopoldo Lopez.
To his credit, President Obama condemned the killing of protesters, but a more concerted diplomatic effort is in order that would include not only the United States but also Venezuela’s Latin American neighbors. It wasn’t long ago that Venezuela had a growing economy and a prospering middle class. Now the country is in shambles, and passive disapproval is no longer an acceptable stance.