The nationwide riots that ravaged America during June aren’t new to me. I grew up in Venezuela hearing stories of the 1989 riots that ultimately led to the rise of Hugo Chavez and his socialist regime to power. In America, peaceful protests over the unjust death of George Floyd and others at the hands of police officers turned into violent occupations in Seattle, looting, and killings of civilians and police officers throughout the country. What started as a call for police reform turned into a call to defund the police and then into a call for socialism.
Leftist groups are using the pandemic-induced economic calamity and police brutality as an excuse to push their socialist agenda. But they will only succeed if they persuade just enough American voters, like the Venezuelans before them, to lead themselves down into the dark abyss of government control.
My parents used to tell me about life before socialism, how people in Venezuela weren’t afraid to leave their homes and how we didn’t have problems with food or electricity. I saw how my four grandparents, immigrants who didn’t finish high school, prospered because they worked hard and had freedom. It sounds a lot like America, and they felt that way.
But in the mid-1980s, oil prices plunged. By that point, the country depended on the oil industry more than ever, because successive administrations had stifled private enterprise. This crisis forced the government of then-President Carlos Andres Perez to implement free-market reforms, including reducing subsidies for gasoline in 1989. These were good and necessary policies, but painful in the short term.
On February 27, 1989, the day gas prices increased, one protest broke out near the capital. Within hours, the whole country was rioting. My parents, teenagers then, remember hearing gunshots, watching people loot stores, and feeling overwhelmed with panic for days. As Margarita Lopez Maya recounts in the Journal of Latin American Studies, “In Caracas, the main avenues were taken over by hundreds of demonstrators, smashing shop windows and doors and seizing everything they could lay their hands on.”
International leftist journalists quickly justified the riots as a backlash against the “voracity and luxury” of the rich. True, Venezuela was in a tough economic position. But it wasn’t the Great Depression, and in a free and democratic country, violence is not an acceptable means of change.
Sadly, the residents of Minneapolis, Minnesota are very familiar with the picture I just painted. Their city suffered damages near $500 million due to recent looting and violence. In America’s largest cities, criminals looted stores and vandalized property. And as they did in Venezuela, left-wing outlets disgustingly justified the violence. The Nation even titled an opinion piece “In Defense of Destroying Property.”
The riots that ravaged Venezuela stopped, but the government backtracked some reforms, derailing the economic recovery. Three years later, Hugo Chavez, a lieutenant-colonel in the army, attempted a coup d’état. He failed and was imprisoned, but he became a leader for Venezuelans angry about corruption and the state of the economy. After he was released from jail, Chavez ran for President and won the 1998 election. He proceeded to destroy my country with his socialist agenda.
Now we know from documents and interviews with former military officers who worked with Chavez that he had planned this coup for over a decade. He worked with groups which led the looting in 1989. We also know from a former Venezuelan general that the Cuban regime armed violent protesters during the riots.
This is an important story for Americans to know because—while peaceful protesters deserve to be heard—both peaceful and violent protests have been organized by groups whose intention is to impose socialism à la Venezuela in the United States. Organizations like Antifa, BLM, and Code Pink are Marxist organizations masked as anti-fascist, racial justice, and anti-war movements.
This is no crackpot conspiracy theory. BLM leaders are self-described Marxists who praised Maduro and are pictured with him. Code Pink leaders traveled to Venezuela last year to receive congratulations from the dictator, and their members organize to harass Venezuelans when we protest against Maduro.
Last year, when I organized a Venezuelan protest in Indianapolis against the Maduro regime as part of a worldwide effort, Code Pink activists yelled at my group “¡Maduro Presidente!” from several cars that surrounded us. Afterward, unidentified men followed us for hours around the city.
All this turmoil and far-left surge in America makes me remember this October 2019 warning from the second-in-charge of the Maduro regime to Americans: “The Bolivarian breeze will arrive to the United States and it will bring someone who will govern for the people.”
Americans should heed this warning, because it reveals that, since socialism can only come into America through the ballot box, socialist politicians will try to convince you that America is an evil nation whose problems can only be solved if they’re in control.
I ask you to never give up all the good things America has in the name of the few bad things we must get rid of. We can and must protect America every single day.