On Saturday August 4th, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was in the middle of a speech at a military celebration in the capital city of Caracas when several explosions were heard, disrupting the event on live television. Multiple sources shared footage of the incident, showing Maduro addressing hundreds of soldiers when the sound of explosions caused the leader and his entourage to look upwards, and his bodyguards could be seen shielding Maduro before the video switches, ending with a scene of chaos as soldiers broke formation to flee in panic.
The left-wing leader is reported to be unscathed, according to his Twitter press account. No identifiable evidence has been verified or revealed, but Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez claimed on a live broadcast shortly after the incident on Saturday that “several drones armed with explosives detonated near Maduro as he was delivering a speech”. According to the Associated Press, seven people were injured from the incident so far, and no perpetrators have been authentically confirmed. Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, David Smilde, described the attack as “amateurish” and dismissed the idea of it being a staged effort by the Maduro government to garner support. The Venezuelan President was quick to accuse local far-right wing factions with the collaboration of Colombians and Americans, the AP reported.
Although the truth or identities of those culpable are still uncertain, this alleged assassination attempt on the Venezuelan leader would only intensify the country’s ongoing turmoil to a new high. Maduro would likely respond by further restricting civil liberties to combat growing unrest, implying more pro-active detaining by security forces and clashes with protestors, not to mention the eradication of any remaining detractors within the government, as he tightens his grip on power.
Venezuela is known to be the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. However, due to its leaders’ decisions to rest its economy primarily on the oil industry and a failure to adapt when oil prices plummeted in 2014, the country amassed huge deficits, resulting in hyperinflation, notoriously possessing the highest inflation rate in the world. Consequently, crime rates have soared as basic provisions such as medical and food supplies run scarce, highlighting the desperation of the people. Key figures provided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees states that over 1.5 million Venezuelans have left the country since 2014, and the number of applications to seek asylum worldwide by Venezuelan nationals have increased by 2,000% since 2014.
Furthermore, there is no nonpartisan government institution to regulate or determine the use of executive power since the judges of the courts are all supporters of Maduro, as indicated by Human Rights Watch. In June, a panel by the Organization of American States (OAS) cited evidence showing that since 2015, more than 8,000 people have been extra-judicially executed and more than 12,000 have been arbitrarily detained since Maduro got elected in 2013, as noted by UN Dispatch. Maduro’s re-election victory in May this year was criticized as a “sham election” by opposition leaders and international observers.
The humanitarian crisis and human rights violations in Venezuela demand international attention. If left unchecked, the situation may result in an all-out civil war, causing a surge in refugees into neighboring countries, as well as the costs needed for accommodation and assimilation efforts thereafter. Hence, the cost and effort to develop and drive for a peaceful resolution, including the provision of international aid, seems wiser as compared with trying to intervene and resolve a civil war or, manage a mass refugee exodus in the long term.
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