The heavy-handed tactics of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro have been on full display in recent days as thousands of demonstrators march for much-needed economic and political change in that South American country.
At least two protesters have been shot to death, a key opposition leader is being hunted by police, dozens of student protesters are behind bars and several American consular officials face expulsion, according to The New York Times.
The White House should consider tough economic sanctions if Maduro continues to kill protesters and jail his political opponents.
Maduro came to power after the death last April of Hugo Chavez, who taunted the U.S. while introducing a failed “21st Century Socialism” that weakened the country’s Democratic institutions. It also caused the economic turmoil that is fueling anti-government protests.
A housing crisis, inflation, rising crime rates, and shortages of basic goods are a result of the government’s disastrous economic policies.
Thirty percent of the population lives below the below poverty line.
Maduro continues to follow those failed socialist policies.
Yet he is accusing opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez of sparking the protests and violence by orchestrating an attempt to overthrow the government.
According to press reports, an arrest warrant the government issued for Lopez accuses him of murder and terrorism.
The State Department says the United States is Venezuela’s most important trading partner, exporting to Venezuela machinery, organic chemicals, agricultural products, optical and medical instruments, autos and auto parts.
About 500 U.S. companies are represented in Venezuela, one of the top five suppliers of foreign oil to the U.S.
Maduro reacted with defiance last week to State Department officials who warned of consequences if the government jails Lopez. “I don’t accept threats from anybody,” he said.
In Hillsborough County, home to thousands of Venezuelans, protesters gathered last week to demand the U.S. impose sanctions.
The White House should listen to the protesters here and in Venezuela and demand Maduro end the crackdown, or face the economic consequences from its most important trading partner.