From Venezuela, stories of hardship

Poverty, food shortages, government critics dying in custody: The stories coming out of Maduro’s Venezuela are ones of hardship and struggle.

Children view the body of their 17-month-old cousin, Kenyerber Aquino Merchán, who died of severe malnutrition in Venezuela. (© Meridith Kohut/New York Times/Redux)
Children view the body of their 17-month-old cousin, Kenyerber Aquino Merchán, who died of severe malnutrition in Venezuela. (© Meridith Kohut/New York Times/Redux)

Carlos Aquino, a construction worker in Venezuela, was forced to endure every parent’s worst nightmare when his 17-month-old son died of starvation.

“Such scenes of misery are now the norm in Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela, where millions of children are suffering from malnutrition and starvation thanks to a socialist experiment that caused the economy to collapse,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a January 26 address to the United Nations Security Council.

Pompeo urged countries to support interim President Juan Guaidó and the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore democracy.

Venezuela’s National Assembly declared Guaidó interim president in January, in accordance with the country’s constitution.

Those who have tried to stand up for ordinary Venezuelans have suffered at the hands of Maduro and his cronies. In 2018, a Caracas city council member named Fernando Albán came to the United Nations to speak about the Maduro regime’s failures, Pompeo said. When Albán returned to Venezuela, Maduro’s secret police arrested him at the airport, and he died in their custody three days later.

Friends and relatives carry the flag-draped casket containing the remains of Fernando Albán during his funeral in Caracas. (©Ariana Cubillos/AP Images)
Friends and relatives carry the flag-draped casket containing the remains of Fernando Albán during his funeral in Caracas. (©Ariana Cubillos/AP Images)

“Maduro’s prisons are full of political prisoners unjustly behind bars, and the graveyards hold dissidents and protesters that have been killed by this regime,” the secretary said.

A future of prosperity, hope and security for Venezuelans “didn’t magically disappear on its own,” Pompeo said. “The Maduro regime’s failed policies, oppression and corruption stole that future.”

Pompeo said many other nations have recognized the legitimate government of interim President Guaidó but noted some, including China, Russia, Syria and Iran, have not. “It’s not a surprise that those who rule without democracy in their own countries are trying to prop up Maduro while he is in dire straits,” he said.

I want to let you, los Venezolanos, know that the American people are rooting for you. Mike Pompeo
I want to let you, los Venezolanos, know that the American people are rooting for you. Mike Pompeo

The secretary pointed out that Maduro had invited Cuban security and intelligence forces into Venezuela. “Cuba has directly made matters worse, and the United States and our partners are the true friends of the Venezuelan people,” he said.

“The time is now to support the Venezuelan people, to recognize the new democratic government led by interim President Guaidó, and end this nightmare. No excuses,” Pompeo said.

In a January 25 video message, the secretary said: “I want to let you, los Venezolanos, know that the American people are rooting for you.”

A version of this story was previously published on January 28.


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