People in Venezuela have struggled for years to remove the socialist regime that continues to destroy their country. But after years of rallies and protests, some with hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, President Maduro and his socialist cronies have maintained their stranglehold on power through a combination of intimidation, abuse of power and control of the media. The Associated Press reports:

As the price of oil has fallen and laid bare years of mismanagement, Maduro’s administration has responded by becoming more repressive. It has purged state institutions of potential traitors, kept out foreign reporters, detained prominent businessmen and declared null all decisions by the opposition-controlled congress…

Protester Marcello Gonzalez, 69, said all his 15 grandkids and seven of his 10 children have left the country.

“There’s a terror campaign here,” he said. “The government is using tear gas and arrests to intimidate the young people and make them stay home. We older people don’t have to worry as much. We know we’re not the target.”

One moment, cited as a kind of last straw for the protest movement, was the failure to oust President Maduro through a legal referendum process. The opposition put all its effort into collecting the millions of signatures needed. Polls showed an overwhelming percentage of Venezuelans were prepared to vote Maduro out of office.  There were massive street protests last September in support of the effort. And then the Maduro government simply declared the process marred by fraud and refused to allow the vote it knew would result in his ouster. It was at this point that President Obama stepped in:

The Obama administration then dispatched a top diplomat to walk back the opposition leaders and tempt them with a Vatican-sponsored dialogue, which has since collapsed. In hindsight, to many it felt like capitulation, with the only result being that Maduro was never punished for trampling on the constitution. Now, there is an effort underway to block opposition parties from competing in future elections altogether.

Venezuelans had been counting on the levers of self-government to save them but the last two years have revealed President Maduro is no longer playing by those rules. He is a dictator who intends to remain in power by any means necessary. There is no peaceful solution to this situation. The only options left for the opposition are to flee or fight.

Food is scarce to the point that people have resorted to eating stray dogs, cats and even pink flamingos to survive. As Jazz pointed out two days ago, 3/4 of the population has lost an average of 19 pounds on the “Maduro diet.” It’s hard to imagine these starving, frightened people having the energy for a rebellion. Venezuelans are living through a socialist nightmare from which there seems to be no escape.

Perhaps the most important lesson, which doesn’t get mentioned by the AP, is that many of the people now suffering in Venezuela voted for this regime.