The New York Times: Venezuela's sham election
The best means of eventually ousting Mr. Maduro is in collective action by the Western Hemisphere, led by Latin America, to further choke off funds to his government while supporting the National Assembly, which has been sidelined by Mr. Maduro since the opposition won a majority in 2015.
The issue in Venezuela is not whether Nicolás Maduro won another term fairly or not. Neither the Lima Group of Latin American countries plus Canada, nor the United States or the European Union recognized the election as legitimate. The question is how to get rid of Mr. Maduro before he completes the destruction of his country.
The devastation he and his leftist firebrand predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, have visited on Venezuela is hard to fathom, especially as the country has the world's largest oil reserves . For the fourth straight year, Venezuela has been ranked the world's most miserable economy by Bloomberg. The economy has shrunk by more than 30 percent since the collapse of oil prices in 2014, and the oil industry is collapsing; the inflation rate is by far the world's highest, set to reach 13,000 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
More than a million people have fled the country since 2015; the health care system is in such dire straits that malaria , once almost wiped out, is soaring; about three quarters of the population has involuntarily lost nearly 20 pounds of weight and people scrounging for food in garbage has become, according to the Brookings Institution, the new normal.
In the midst of this horror, the election on Sunday was less a contest than a dictator's classic reach for a false patina of legitimacy. The largest opposition political parties were banned from taking part, key politicians were barred from running and there were widespread opposition calls for a boycott. In the end, the turnout was pathetically low, with Mr. Maduro garnering 68 percent of what votes were cast. Some of those who voted for Mr. Maduro apparently did so in the fear that their food rations would be stopped if they didn't; others were the remaining Chavista faithful still loyal to the socialist upheavals led by Mr. Chávez from 1999 to his death in 2013 and by Mr. Maduro since.
Even as massive spending on those socialist policies, combined with falling oil prices, poor management and corruption, have driven Venezuela to a socioeconomic disaster of extraordinary dimensions, Mr. Maduro has continued blaming the problems on what he terms an economic war waged by the United States. He has given no indication how he plans to halt the economic meltdown.
It is clear that Mr. Maduro must go. But that emphatically does not mean American military action, as hinted by President Trump in his cryptic comment last August , “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary.” It's hard to see how a violent regime change led by the Trump administration would improve Venezuela's lot, and the saber-rattling inevitably feeds into Mr. Maduro's propaganda as evidence of American perfidy. As the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, said at the time , “The possibility of a military intervention shouldn't even be considered.”
The best means of eventually ousting Mr. Maduro is in collective action by the Western Hemisphere, led by Latin America, to further choke off funds to his government while supporting the National Assembly, which has been sidelined by Mr. Maduro since the opposition won a majority in 2015. The United States and many other countries have already imposed various economic sanctions against the Maduro government, and less than 24 hours after the sham election, the Lima Group announced it would take further steps to strengthen the controls. The group also said its members would reduce diplomatic ties with Venezuela.
That may not do the trick quickly, given Mr. Maduro's readiness to destroy his country to stay in power. But he and his suffering countrymen must understand that in the eyes of their neighbors, he and his ilk are the root cause of their misery.
The Editorial Board
The Editorial Board of The New York Times (NYT), an American daily newspaper, founded and continuously published in New York City since September 18, 1851, The New York Times has won 117 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization, its weekday circulation has fallen to fewer than one million daily since 1990 . Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
This commentary was originally published by The New York Times on May 21, 2018. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Petroleumworld and its owners.
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