The United States ordered the family members of employees at the embassy in Venezuela to leave the country Thursday and gave embassy personnel themselves the option to leave if they wish, as a vote that could either wipe out the last vestiges of democracy or unleash a full-blown civil war rapidly approaches.
Reuters notes that deaths are now being reported on a daily basis from the streets of Venezuela, opposition leaders are threatening to barricade the streets, and international airlines are beginning to suspend flights into the country due to security concerns.
The government has banned protests until after President Nicolás Maduro’s attempt to take over the constitutional assembly is resolved on Sunday, which increases the odds of violent confrontations on the streets. Indeed, opposition leaders are openly calling for demonstrations that would violate the government’s decree.
On the other hand, the general strike called for this week does not appear to have been embraced as robustly as the opposition hoped, possibly because Venezuelans are starving and terrified that what remains of their national economy will collapse. This may portend a less explosive reaction to the Constituent Assembly vote on Sunday than many observers feared.
Maduro held a rally in Caracas on Thursday in which he denounced “Emperor Donald Trump” for threatening sanctions if the Sunday vote proceeds as scheduled.
“The usual suspects came out to say Maduro had become crazy. Of course, I was crazy! Crazy with passion, crazy with a desire for peace!” Maduro said of accusations that he wants to rewrite the constitution to make himself into a dictator.
Venezuela’s political atmosphere includes a good deal of anti-American paranoia, making the State Department’s concern for embassy personnel understandable, particularly if Trump follows through on his threat of new sanctions, and other countries like Mexico follow suit. Even Venezuela’s last few reliable sources of foreign currency, Russia and China, appear to be preparing exit strategies from the collapsing nation. Russia’s exit strategy seems to involve seizing Venezuela’s oil resources, a plan the United States would certainly move to thwart.
Residents of the capital city of Caracas are reportedly stocking up on supplies to the extent that is even possible in emaciated socialist Venezuela. Some speak of barricading themselves in their homes throughout the weekend.
One protester described herself as “a bit sad” to the Washington Post over the relatively low turnout for street demonstrations on a rainy Friday while she was stuffing fuses into Molotov cocktails.