Ahead of a planned protest against his government, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has criticized 11 of his country’s neighbors for “rude meddling.”
How did they meddle? Since late March, when Venezuelans began protesting a (now mostly reversed) Supreme Court decision to usurp the functions of the legislature, widely seen as the last stronghold of the opposition, six citizens have died demonstrating.
And so, before Wednesday’s planned protest in Caracas, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay released a joint statement condemning violence, and asking the government to “guarantee the right to peaceful protest.” They also asked opposition groups to protest responsibly. (Noticeably absent from the list: Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, other members of the Venezuelan-led leftist ALBA bloc.)
Like the opposition, many of Venezuela’s neighbors are asking the government to set a date for elections, which the government is postponing — while it keeps opposition leading figure Leopoldo Lopez in jail and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles banned from holding office.
This was apparently too much for Maduro, who is calling on his supporters to hold their own counter protest. He was echoed by his foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez. Rodriguez called the missive “rude interference,” and said, “there is no imperialist force in this world which can defeat the sovereign people of Venezuela.” (No word on how the likes of Brazil and Mexico felt at being called an “imperialist force.”)
Unfortunately for Rodriguez, it is not at all clear that the sovereign people of Venezuela support the Maduro government. Protests have spread to the low-income suburbs of Caracas, which were previously seen as strongholds of support for the government.
And there won’t be any good economic news to assuage the angry crowds. Unemployment is expected to pass 25 percent this year, the fourth straight in a recession, and the International Monetary Fund expects inflation to increase a tidy 2000 percent by the end of 2018. Human Rights Watch wrote on Tuesday that tens of thousands have fled the country seeking refuge in bordering countries. (Refugee flows might have given Venezuela’s neighbors cause to “meddle” in the first place.)