As the debate over the 2nd Amendment continues unabated in the United States, it's not unusual for foreign nationals to observe the infighting and wonder why Americans are so protective of their right to bear arms.
That curiosity may be turning to understanding for some Venezuelans, however, as a group called Rumbo Libertad — described in this Breitbart op-ed as a conservative Venezuelan group — begins to push for gun rights as citizens patiently await the exit of Nicolas Maduro.
Rafael Valera, communications director for Rumbo Libertad, writes that his countrymen once had partial gun rights before the “Communist anti-gun law” instituted by Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez in response to a failed coup attempt against him.
Chávez progressively violated those [partial gun] rights, especially after the 2002 failed coup against him, before ultimately pushing for his total “Disarmament Law” (Ley Desarme). Chávez did not live to see Maduro impose that law in 2013, redeeming “the cause” after the first dictator’s passing.
Valera calls the disarmament of Venezuelans an “affront to individual rights” and says that, while most citizens remain unarmed and unable to defend themselves with firearms, “Venezuelan prisons overflow with advanced weaponry,” and the nation is traumatized under a disturbingly high murder rate, making it one of the world’s “deadliest non-wartime states.”
Valera mentions that the disarming of the citizenry has led to the rise of organized crime and the marauding of Chavez’s citizen gang known as “colectivos” who are tasked with “eliminating dissidents, breaking into the private property of innocents, and attacking activists and journalists.”
Complicating matters — and perhaps adding to the support of Rumbo Libertad’s ultimate goal — is the drop in support for interim President Juan Guaido, who has, thus far, been unable to present enough of a unified front to convince Maduro to leave.
The latest polls released by the firm Meganálisis show that Guaidó’s support has dropped from 83.7 percent (01/23/19) to 54.9 percent (04/01/19). Followed by that number is the growing support for ending the chavista regime, peaking at 89.4 percent (04/01/19). This situation made Venezuelans propose what was a taboo measure in past years: the abolition of (or rebellion against) the anti-Gun Law that has helped the regime to control Venezuelan society.
Valera says his organization’s proposal to re-arm Venezuelans would look more like the self-defense laws recently passed in nations like Italy, where homeowners are allowed more options and better protections under the law to defend their domicile.
Venezuelans push toward independence and the right to protect and defend themselves doesn’t quite reach the level of the American assertion that citizens can arm themselves as a foundational principle of freedom and Democracy.
But it’s a start.
Sarah Lee is a freelance writer and policy wonk living and working in Washington, DC.