Venezuela's socialist president labels planned opposition protest a coup

The ongoing crisis in Venezuela could escalate this Thursday. The opposition party is holding a rally designed to pressure the ruling socialist government to allow a referendum which could remove unpopular President Maduro from office. In a sign that his government may be preparing a crack down on the protest, President Maduro said Monday that the planned protest was part of a U.S led coup attempt. UPI reports:

“It has become clear the brand and authorship of the coup d’etat planned for this coming Sept. 1, 2016, in Venezuela in complicity with the anti-democratic opposition and the international right,” Maduro’s Foreign Ministry, through Venezuela’s Office of the Deputy Minister for North America, said in a statement. “The government of President Barack Hussein Obama, in his last years, seeks the instability of Venezuela and the region to legitimize its imperial plans against the peace and development of the people.”…

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela alerts the international community and declares directly responsible the U.S. government for these conspiratorial plans,” the foreign ministry added.

Venezuela’s socialist government has been pushing the bogus coup claim for months. However the government has also begun expelling journalists who planned to cover the opposition rally. From Fox News Latino:

The Venezuelan government is set to expel a crew of journalists working for Al Jazeera who planned on covering Thursday’s march against President Nicolás Maduro.

The detainment of the Al Jazeera journalists appears to be another sign that the Maduro administration is trying to keep tight control over how Thursday’s protest will be covered across the world.

On Saturday, the government issued a decree banning all private aircraft and drones over Venezuelan territory until Sept. 5 — no was explanation given, but many are connecting it to the ongoing rallies.

Maduro already has control of most of the media outlets in the country which means the truth about his response to the protest will probably only be seen on social media. Meanwhile, as the Washington Post pointed out in an editorial Monday, the Obama administration has mostly responded to the growing crisis with statements about dialogue:

The United States and most of Venezuela’s neighbors have responded to this collapse of a once-prosperous oil-producing country by doing their best to ignore it. They issue feckless statements calling for “dialogue,” overlooking the by-now obvious reality that the regime has no intention of seriously negotiating with the opposition…

Prodded by the secretary general of the Organization of American States, the Obama administration and 14 other governments issued a statement on Aug. 11 calling for the referendum to be held “without delays.” On Sunday, the State Department toughened its rhetoric, condemning the imprisonment of opposition leader Daniel Ceballos as “an effort to intimidate and impede the Venezuelan people’s right to peacefully express their opinion September 1.” The administration should be prepared to act if the regime responds violently to the protest. It should quickly punish officials involved in repression and press the OAS to move against Venezuela under its democracy charter.

With a majority of Venezuelans facing triple-digit inflation, high murder rates and the real possibility of starvation, the U.S. ought to become more active in pressing for an end to the socialist regime’s grip on the country.