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Venezuela

The Brutal Truths Of Maduro's 'Last Stand' In Venezuela

Venezuela's authoritarian leader is tightening the screws on his armed forces, the former regime bulwark now suspected as a seedbed of sedition, in a national setting of economic desperation and political despair.

Anti-Maduro protest in Caracas, Venezuela on July 5
Anti-Maduro protest in Caracas, Venezuela on July 5

-Editorial-

BOGOTÁ — The bad news continues arriving from Venezuela. A recent article in The New York Times described how the socialist regime of President Nicolás Maduro is using brutal new practices to keep the 160,000-member armed forces under control. Paradoxically, the dismal economic management and vast bureaucratization that have brought the country to this point are now forcing Maduro to betray the soldiers on whose back the regime's founder, the late Hugo Chávez, built his vision of a new Venezuela. The ultimate lesson is that hunger is unyielding, and has made the need for a power transition in our neighbor even more urgent. Yet the government's talks with parliamentary opponents appear to have stagnated nor can one see an immediate way out of the tragedy.

One case mentioned in the Times article is that of Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo, previously cited by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Acosta was buried on July 10, three weeks after his death, against the wishes of his spouse and amid tight state security. The five relatives allowed to attend the burial could not see him, the U.S. daily stated, as the body was wrapped in plastic. Leaked information from an autopsy indicated that Acosta had been subject to beatings and electrocution.

The regime is paranoid, and with good reason.

The Maduro government"s official response on this and similar cases has been to admit to abuses being committed by members of the military, but insist there is no systematic program of torture for opponents and rebel soldiers. Yet signs suggest that Maduro has in fact allowed the use of such methods to prevent any potential uprising from within the military.

Maduro, not going anywhere — Photo: OEA - OAS

Weeks ago we discussed in this space Bachelet's report to the UN and reached a similar conclusion to that of The New York Times. The High Commissioner had concluded that electrocution, beatings, suffocation and even sexual violence were tactics being used against prisoners who are deprived of due process and, in many cases, face baseless charges.

The regime is paranoid, and with good reason. The government has thwarted several plans to kill Maduro, even if the regime has always said it would not resort to inhumane or shameful treatments. That promise, we can see, has been broken.

This is one more reason why Maduro should step down.

At the end of the day, it is about the economy. U.S. sanctions are exacerbating a financial crisis that has had the worst effects on Venezuelans. And while Maduro has sought to keep soldiers close through his bureaucratic apparatus, the state seems to have run out of manna for so many people, and relatives of the military rank-and-file have joined the ranks of the suffering masses.

This is one more reason why Maduro should step down. With no immediate solution in sight, Colombia has been insisting on the diplomatic blockade, internal talks and the regime's own collapse. We too think this is the only viable strategy, even as the agonizing dictatorship keeps taking a toll. Until then, Venezuela will remain in a dismal state.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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