The year 1989 was one of the most significant of the 20th century. Since the end of WW2, Eastern Europe had been held captive by the Soviet Union via a series of puppet dictatorships. The resident populations were not entitled to basic freedoms and were kept impoverished whilst high-ranking party officials enriched themselves. Eventually the pressure for change became too great and a wave of mostly peaceful revolutions led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall and an end to communism in Eastern Europe. Thirty years on, the current situation in Venezuela has similarities to that of Eastern Europe in 1989, with peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations taking place in opposition to the Maduro presidency. However in this case, government negligence has had a much more catastrophic effect and the government’s response will lead to a much more catastrophic conclusion.

Since 2010, Venezuela has been suffering from an economic crisis brought about by government mismanagement and corruption. This has led to mass shortages of food and medicine, with people raiding zoos to feed their families and pregnant mothers having to bring their own disinfectant and painkillers to the hospital or go without. Venezuela has also become one of the most violent countries on the planet and over 2 million people have fled, resulting in one of the largest peacetime refugee crises in history. This doesn’t concern President Maduro however, who nears obesity at the same time his people near starvation. This is a leader who keeps pastries in his desk drawer and eats them in front of thousands of his suffering citizens during state TV broadcasts. A government who claimed its sole mission was to lift the poor out of poverty and foster economic equality has instead stole the nation’s industry and resources in order to make themselves billionaires.

As was the case in 1989, there are those in 2019 who would prefer to defend dictatorships rather than admit they were wrong to back them in the first place. They look at the crisis in Venezuela and see the USA trying to take the country’s oil, ignoring the fact that America could easily cut a deal with the regime for cheap fuel without going to the extremes of trying to overthrow the government. The truth is that these people are willing to ignore the free will and deaths of thousands of people if it helps support a government who opposes America and has an ideology they are sympathetic towards. To them the USA is the only one to blame for the crisis and this allows them to label a left-wing opposition movement as fascistic and ignore the fact that Cuba and Russia are guilty of the exact crimes that they accuse America of being guilty of.

Whilst Venezuela is currently the closest country in the world to revolution, there are other nations that are experiencing similar protest movements, such as Sudan, Nicaragua and Iran. As in 1989, it is ultimately the decision of those nation’s populations what the future of their country should be and outside military intervention should only be considered if civil war breaks out and massacres become a daily occurrence. Hopefully however, the events of thirty years ago can be replicated today and bring an end to regimes that rob, humiliate and murder their own people.

Cameron Forbes

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