Austin Bay

Venezuelans have been complaining about corruption for years, but complaints about economic mismanagement have increased since mid-2013. In October 2013, Maduro accused the U.S. of plotting a coup, then had soldiers seize several businesses that he claimed were gouging the public. How classic. Blame America, have thugs seize private property. But inflation continued to soar.

Earlier this month, Lopez rallied student demonstrators protesting Maduro's crackdown on civil rights. Subsequently, at least three demonstrators died as protests spread. Several other people have been killed in what Maduro claims is violence instigated by Lopez and outside forces (America).

Lopez is now charged with terrorism and threats against the Maduro government.

Lopez firmly believes there should be no Maduro government. Lopez and several million other Venezuelans think Maduro stole the 2013 election. Maduro beat pro-democracy candidate Henrique Capriles by about one percent of the vote. Capriles accused Maduro of fraud, but then he capitulated.

Lopez thinks Capriles made a huge mistake. He told a Venezuelan interviewer that the country cannot survive until the next election (2019). "The struggle against poverty," Lopez said, "against drug smuggling, against irregular groups (paramilitary militias) tearing into the fabric of our country ... can't wait six more years. It would be immoral to not do all we can right now."

On Feb. 18, Lopez turned himself in to security agents and was hauled off in a military vehicle. Lopez said he had done nothing wrong, and he was being arrested by "unjust justice." However, he hoped his illegal incarceration would spark more mass protests.

Maduro and his Chavista clique, however, will continue the crackdown. Why? Because unjust justice, poverty, their paramilitary thugs, socialist looting and crony drug smuggling aren't the source of Venezuela's problems. No, America is. On Feb. 17, Maduro's regime declared three U.S. "personae non gratae" and expelled them. The U.S. diplomats were accused of organizing the protests and plotting against Venezuela. In September 2008 (Bush Administration), Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador for supporting anti-Chavez political groups. The Bush Administration said no, the U.S. ambassador was supporting freedom.

On Feb. 18, Obama's State Department rejected Maduro's accusations and said the U.S. supports "fundamental freedoms."

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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