Death toll mounts among Venezuelan protesters

We may have just dropped the Mother of all Bombs in Afghanistan, but in Caracas, Venezuela the residents are promising the Mother of all Protests this week. The unrest has been going on for months now, but it’s been significantly ramped up in the past few weeks as starving citizens raid the few remaining shops with any food and take to hunting dogs, cats and rats (or even flamingos and anteaters) just to survive. The response from the government of President Nicolas Maduro has been swift and consistently brutal, leading to injuries and even deaths among the protesters. In the past few weeks as many as a half dozen have died. (NPR)

Protests are mounting against embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and the death toll is mounting too. As demonstrators braved a tropical storm on the streets of Caracas on Thursday, a 36-year-old died elsewhere of wounds he had sustained in other protests days earlier.

Opposition lawmaker Alfonso Marquina announced Gruseny Antonio Calderon’s death on Twitter, calling him “another victim of the dictatorship.”

Calderon is the fifth protester to die of injuries sustained in clashes with police since the latest round of protests kicked off roughly two weeks ago. According to authorities, others include a 13-year-old boy and two college-age students.

Who knows if the starving citizens will eventually be successful? They’ve certainly been showing a bit more spine of late. As John noted earlier this week, Maduro was actually pelted with rocks and garbage at one public speaking event as he seeks to calm people down. The residents seem to finally be catching on to what’s really happening in their country. NPR quotes one 64 year old protester as saying, “There’s no bread or medicine. In every corner of Venezuela, this socialist project has failed.”

It’s good to see at least some Venezuelans learning the hard lessons of history, and hopefully it’s not too late. This is how socialism always ends. It begins with flowery promises of everyone being in it together as brothers in arms, with a government which will give to each according to their needs. But almost immediately those promises are broken and things begin to change. Those who are well connected with the ruling party continue to live well, with plenty of food, medical care and even such luxuries as may still be available. And they are quick to rat out any of their less well connected neighbors who may begin grumbling. The gap between the powerful and the powerless continues to grow until you see the starvation and mayhem in the streets which describe Caracas today.

Imagine how things might have turned out differently for Venezuela under a free, market driven system. The country still has some of the richest proven reserves of accessible, sweet crude oil in the world (though the Unites States is ahead of them if you count shale oil) but they can’t get it out of the ground. Why? Because the government (any government, really) isn’t very good at running a massive energy operation and it wouldn’t help the common people anyway if they’re stealing all the money. They once commanded not only rich agricultural production, but mining operations producing and exporting diamonds, bauxite, gold, iron ore and other riches. There was plenty of money to be made and the opportunity to generate employment for all who were ready to work.

But look at them now. The government has stolen the nation’s riches and the citizens are fighting over scraps of food. Their doctors have no medicine to heal the sick. Their children are dying in the streets as they attempt to protest the abuses of a tyrant. Socialism has once again taken a nation rich with promise and resources and turned it into a hell hole.

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