Venezuela is facing a protracted political crisis. Images depicting its streets tell the tale: Student unrest coalesced into massive demonstrations around the country, triggering a violent crackdown on opposition leaders and protesters. The ensuing violence and destructive confrontations over the last several weeks have left at least 13 people dead and scores wounded, with casualties on both sides. Tensions remain high.
Headlines in the United States broadcast unchallenged narratives of widespread discontent with mounting economic woes and denounce the ensuing repression by an unpopular and discredited administration barely clinging to power. But the reality in Venezuela is far more complicated and nuanced than what the media and the U.S. government spin suggests.
For instance, it is difficult to say who is responsible for provoking the conflict. Despite the uncertainty over who is inciting the violence, the U.S. government and press largely condemn President Nicolas Maduro’s administration while framing the protests as popular revolution, in some cases tacitly or even overtly rooting for regime change.
America’s unfettered leverage
The United States’ disenchantment with Venezuelan politics in the last 15 years is no secret. The U.S. has a sordid history of exerting unfettered influence in Latin America. It has supported the ouster of democratically elected governments and backed strongmen whose policies advance U.S. economic and political interests, inflicting incalculable suffering on the most vulnerable citizens of those countries.
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