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Coup in Venezuela

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Uta Thofern
March 30, 2017

As of today there is no longer a separation of powers in Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro's regime has completed its telegraphed coup d'etat. DW's Uta Thofern says the situation in Venezuela is a scandal for the free world.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
Image: Reuters/Miraflores Palace

This is what public asphyxiation looks like. For the last fifteen months the world has watched as Nicolas Maduro's Chavista regime has slowly strangled Venezuela's democratically-elected parliament. Now the country's Supreme Court has assumed the responsibilities once accorded to elected representatives – sealing the end of democracy.

Just one day before, a majority of members at the Organization of American States (OAS) finally called for the Venezuelan government to join them in finding solutions to the country's political, economic and humanitarian crises. The United Nations had declared an expulsion of Venezuela from the OAS too drastic, so the majority of its member states decided to try a diplomatic approach. But for the Chavistas that surround President Maduro, diplomacy is obviously nothing more than a sign of weakness.

- Venezuela's government hopes for international sanctions

- Venezuela pleads to UN for help as medicine supplies run dry

- Venezuela's appeal to UN an 'admission of inability'

Supreme Court as a willing enabler

Ultimately, that same president went to Venezuela's Supreme Court just prior to the OAS meeting to get its stamp of approval for special penal, military, political and other presidential powers. At the very same time, immunity was also being taken away from opposition parliamentarians – who, incidentally, make up two-thirds of Venezuela's National Assembly. Anyone who can make such moves with impunity certainly won't stop there. 

Much like Turkey's would-be dictator, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Maduro has systematically quashed all opposition and destroyed democracy in the process. Yet Maduro has far fewer supporters than Erdogan and does not have any aces – such as NATO membership – up his sleeve. Unfortunately, this so-called socialist has an even more potent weapon: the suffering of his people.

For months, Venezuela has been suffering food and medical shortages, and now the country with the world's largest oil reserves has run out of gasoline. Bakers are being arrested for supposedly baking expensive cakes instead of urgently needed bread, as they wait in vain for flour deliveries.

Thousands of Venezuelans have fled to neighboring Colombia, and many young Venezuelan woman have become so desperate that they have gone to Brazil to work as prostitutes. Young couples are having sterilization operations because condoms are nowhere to be purchased and it would be impossible to feed a child. Cancer patients must go without treatment and even the most common antibiotics are no longer available. This is the scene in a country that was one of the richest in Latin America into the 1980s.

Uta Thofern
DW's Uta Thofern says the international community must intervene in Venezuela

Targeted sanctions are needed

No one can even consider the threat of economic sanctions in such a situation. Maduro knows that. The man who for months refused to acknowledge that the humanitarian crisis gripping his country was just that, asked the United Nations for humanitarian aid just a few days ago – because of the "economic war being waged against Venezuela."

The international community will help, it must. But it should do so under the strictest of terms. Aid deliveries must not pass through the hands of the government, but rather must be allocated by UN administrators. Sanctions must be imposed against Maduro and his henchmen – sanctions that will affect them personally. And not only apply in the USA, where most of their corruption "income" is invested. Of course the Organization of American States must suspend Venezuela's membership. The regime does not deserve to be recognized internationally.

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US sanctions Venezuelan Vice President

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Uta Thofern Head of DW's Latin America departments with a focus on democracy, rule of law and human rights