Venezuela has continued to assault on civil liberties started by the late Hugo Chavez under his “mini-me” President Nicolas Maduro. That legacy took a particularly menacing turn when opposition congresswomen Maria Corina Machado was stripped of her office after speaking to the Organisation of American States (OAS) about the violence in her country. The Venezuelan government insists that she “acted as a Panamanian official” by accepting the invitation and that her speech constituted a crime of “inciting violence”.
The violence in Venezuela has claimed the lives of more than 30 people and injured some 460 others as the public grows angry over an economy ravished through mismanagement, government takeovers, and controls. Not only is the government denying free speech and international principles in cracking down on Machado for speaking to the OAS, but it has denied legislative powers and privileges. Venezuela’s National Assembly’s president, Diosdado Cabello, has declared Machado in violation of the country’s Constitution and said that she was introduced at the OAS meeting in Washington DC as an “alternate ambassador” to Panama. He suggested that Panamanian government “now name her permanent ambassador.”
President Nicolas Maduro now refers to his critic as “former congresswoman.”
The move against Machado appears to struggle to confirm her warnings of a dictatorship in Venezuela. After ruining an economy in an oil-rich nation, the Chavez-Maduro government appears to be plunging even further into authoritarianism — much like Chavez’s hero Fidel Castro did. Venezuelans can look over at Cuba at an island frozen in the 1950s to see what that mix of authoritarianism and centralized controls can mean for a nation.