Pavlich: Lessons from Venezuela

It’s been three months since the United States government officially recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president. 

“Today, I am officially recognizing the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the Interim President of Venezuela. In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolás Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant,” President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE said in January.

“The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law. I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” he continued.

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Not to be confused with a coup, Guaidó was duly put into power by the National Assembly and is backed by the vast majority of the Venezuelan people. Using the Venezuelan Constitution, Guaidó came into his position legally and through an established process. 

Regardless, the transition of power from dictator Maduro to President Guaidó has been a violent one, dragged out by Venezuelan military leaders who have been bought off. Not to mention the geopolitical factors of the situation. Maduro, who has been able to maintain power throughout years of fraudulent “elections” in the country, is backed by Russia, China, Iran and personally protected by Cuban gangs. Guaidó is backed by U.S. allies Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Israel, Canada and others. For the sake of democracy alone, the choice here is obvious. 

There are two main lessons to be learned about Venezuela’s incredible collapse. The first is obvious and can be found in the economic story of the country. 

Once one of the richest countries in the world with a plethora of natural resources, Venezuela is now one of the poorest and at the bottom of the list for places to conduct business. With the backing of full-blown communist regimes, the slide toward socialism and the nationalization of entire industries by the government is directly to blame. 

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In 2006, former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez ran on an openly socialist platform, “won” and immediately started a government takeover of every private industry in the country. The economics were immediately changed for the worst, eventually collapsing into what we’re seeing today with extreme poverty, starvation, lack of basic medical supplies and more. Adding insult to injury, Chavez’s successor, Maduro, has been blocking desperately needed humanitarian aid from entering the country. 

The second lesson is about the Venezuelan government’s 2012 decision to force citizens to turn in their firearms under the guise of combating crime. 

“Venezuela has brought a new gun law into effect which bans the commercial sale of firearms and ammunition. Until now, anyone with a gun permit could buy arms from a private company. Under the new law, only the army, police and certain groups like security companies will be able to buy arms from the state-owned weapons manufacturer and importer,” the BBC reported at the time. “Hugo Chavez’s government says the ultimate aim is to disarm all civilians.”

This week, military members loyal to Maduro were seen deliberately running over unarmed pro-Guaidó demonstrators in the streets with heavy, armored vehicles. Less than a decade ago, regular everyday Venezuelans were forced to turn in their weapons, leaving them defenseless against the very government that continues to oppress and attack them today. 

With the current crisis raging in the streets, the potential for the situation to rapidly spiral out of control is high and so are the stakes. The United States and much of the pro-democracy global community have backed Guaidó, but serious enemies looking to gain a stronger foothold in the hemisphere aren’t backing down from Maduro. What happens now will be definitive and will determine a free or tyrannical future for the country. 

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“If this effort fails, they will sink into a dictatorship from which there are very few possible alternatives,” White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonWill Iran 'break out' for a nuclear weapon, and what can Trump do? Hillicon Valley: FTC reportedly settles with Facebook for B fine | Trump calls to regulate Facebook's crypto project | Court rules Pentagon can award B 'war cloud' contract | Study shows automation will hit rural areas hardest Trump again considering dismissing intelligence chief Dan Coats: report MORE said from the White House this week. “We’ve been planning for what we call the day after, the day after Maduro, for some time.”

Let’s hope that day comes soon and that true liberty can be restored to the Venezuelan people who once understood what it is like to be free. 

Pavlich is the editor for Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor.