2016-05-02 — washingtonpost.com
Venezuela, a country of 30 million that despite holding the world's largest oil reserves has descended into a dystopia where food, medicine, water and electric power are critically scarce. Riots and looting broke out in several blacked-out cities last week, forcing the deployment of troops. A nation that 35 years ago was the richest in Latin America is now appealing to its neighbors for humanitarian deliveries to prevent epidemics and hunger.
The regime that fostered this nightmare, headed by Hugo Chávez until his death in 2013, is on the way out: It cannot survive the economic crisis and mass discontent it has created. The question is whether the change will come relatively peacefully or through an upheaval that could turn Venezuela into a failed state and destabilize much of the region around it.
Remarkably, most of the Western hemisphere is studiously ignoring this meltdown. The Obama administration and Washington's Latin America watchers are obsessed with the president's pet project, the opening to Cuba. As it happens, the Castros turned Venezuela into a satellite state, seeding its security forces and intelligence services with agents. Yet now that it is decreasingly able to supply discounted oil to its revolutionary mentor, Venezuela appears to have become an afterthought even in Havana.
Most of all, however, Venezuelans hope for U.S. leadership in pushing Maduro to accept an election. Said Vecchio: "The moment has arrived when you can no longer ignore this. Because what happens in Venezuela is going to affect the whole region.''
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