Venezuelans went to the polls on Dec. 8 to elect more than 300 mayors and over 2,000 city council members in a nationwide ballot. Though the opposition coalition made some important gains in the cities, the ruling socialist regime of Nicolás Maduro managed to edge out its rivals in the popular vote (49% to 43%). I now fear that my country is one step closer to becoming a full-fledged dictatorship along the lines of Zimbabwe in Africa.
Less than a year after Hugo Chávez succumbed to cancer, Venezuela is now mired in a crisis unprecedented during the 14 years of the so-called “Bolivarian revolution.” Chávez was certainly a ruthless authoritarian; I know this from firsthand experience. Between 2000 and 2005, I was an elected opposition representative challenging the comandante’s agenda in the National Assembly.
I was forced to leave after Chávez officials tried to remove my parliamentary immunity by fabricating allegations of my involvement in a U.S.-backed conspiracy.
Now Mr. Maduro, whom I knew well in parliament as a more conciliatory figure, is rapidly accelerating the late president’s economic and social policies to their deadliest conclusion.
This is happening because Mr. Maduro, who served as Chávez’s foreign minister from 2006-13, has ties with Cuba’s ruling Communists that stretch back to the 1980s, when he trained in Havana as a labor-union organizer. Having entered Chávez’s trusted circle with the support of the Cubans, Mr. Maduro emerged as Chávez’s handpicked successor and came to power in April, defeating the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, by a razor thin margin of 1.5%. Despite thousands of allegations of voter fraud, the regime refused a recount.