Picking Up the Pieces of a Broken Venezuela
Nicholas Casey has lived in Caracas for three years, but the stories are still jarring. The Andes bureau chief for the New York Times, Casey has had a front-row seat for the unraveling of Venezuela — but even he probably wasn’t prepared for the desperation he’s seen these past several months. Men and women of what was once Latin America’s richest country eating rotten food to survive. Mothers so poor and malnourished that they’re giving birth to stillborn babies — or miscarrying them altogether. Millions of people leaving what’s left of their homes to set out on foot over the mountains for a chance to survive.
“The walking,” Casey writes, “will begin before dawn — before the clouds broke against the mountaintops, before the trucks took over the highway, even before anyone in the town woke up to check the vacant lot where scores of Venezuelan refugees had been huddling through the night… Rolling suitcases behind them, some trudge along highways their salaries so obliterated by Venezuela’s hyperinflation that bus tickets are out of reach. Others try to hitchhike for thousands of miles until they reach Ecuador or Peru.”
Driven by fear, hunger, violence, the Venezuelans are fleeing by the tens of thousands every day in one of the worst refugee crises of the modern century. The 125-mile journey over the two-mile-high Andes Mountain pass is treacherous and cold — but to many, their only chance. Columbia, if they can make it, is where they can start over — far away from the political unrest so many years in the making.
Once the home of oil reserves as large as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela has become a nightmare of corruption and mismanagement coming to an ugly head under President Nicolás Maduro. Inflation, now at a jaw-dropping 833,997 percent, sent the country spiraling. “Customers are standing in hours-long lines at banks to take out a daily limit, set so low that it barely covers the price of a cup of coffee.” The wave of poverty is sweeping Venezuelan children under, killing them at a shocking rate as store shelves sit empty, and food scarcely exists. Even as early as 2017, the country’s people were losing weight at a frightening rate, an average of 24 pounds when things were much better than they are today.
Now, the people who remain are spilling into the streets of Caracas, demanding that Maduro let the shipping containers of U.S. and foreign aid into the country — a decision he refuses to make. In a sick show of force, Maduro refuses to ease his people’s suffering, ordering the military to turn away thousands of pounds of food, medicine, hygiene kits, and humanitarian aid at the border. Trucks, filled with life-saving supplies, are being blocked on bridges, while boxes — piled sky-high — sit unopened on the Columbian side. With his country on the brink, opposition leader Juan Guaido continues to plead with world leaders for help. President Trump has helped lead that charge, building the international pressure for Maduro to step down.
“I ask every member of the Maduro regime: End this nightmare of poverty, hunger and death. LET YOUR PEOPLE GO. Set your country free! Now is the time for all Venezuelan Patriots to act together, as one united people. Nothing could be better for the future of Venezuela!” the president tweeted. “We are here to proclaim that a new day is coming in Latin America. In Venezuela and across the Western Hemisphere, Socialism is DYING — and liberty, prosperity, and democracy are being REBORN…”
Across the border in Columbia, impromptu refugee camps are popping up everywhere, as locals rally to do what they can. “I put myself in their situation, and as a mother of two children, I have to do something,” one woman said in a parking lot where Columbians offer the travelers showers, oatmeal, and jackets. “People came arriving with their shoes totally broken and destroyed,” Martha Duque told Casey. “But the hardest wasn’t seeing their shoes, it was seeing their feet: the lacerations, the blisters that were filled with blood.” She, too, has heard the heartbreaking stories. Mothers leaving their children behind. Wives offering their bodies to other men so their families can eat. “He would give her 20,000 pesos,” one explained — the equivalent of $6.
This is the legacy of a broken Venezuela, where there is no freedom, no hope, and no future for the people without help. President Trump is doing everything he can, while others call the church to urgent prayer. Pray, Vice President Mike Pence has asked Americans, for a spiritual and physical breakthrough. Pray for the military to let the supplies through to the starving. Pray for the suffering of the Venezuelan people to end. In a country of boundless opportunity and blessing like ours, very few of us have an inkling of the pain and hurt outside these borders. May it drive us to our knees in gratitude — and compassion for those who go without.
Originally published here.
The Born Ultimatum
In three days, the U.S. Senate will take one of the most defining votes in its 230-year history. One hundred men and women, from different backgrounds and different parties, will decide where America stands: with the innocent or with infanticide.
It’s not complicated. Or at least it didn’t used to be. But now that the Democratic party has chained its wagon to the darkest recesses of the abortion lobby, nothing is off the table. Including the legalized killing of a perfectly healthy newborn. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and company have tried to justify it — insisting a fully-born child is not a baby, it’s a “personal decision.” And leaving it to die — or helping death along — is just a subset of “women’s rights & health.”
We’ll never know how many children have been sent to hospital utility rooms, snipped in the neck, or beaten on the side of the head by abortionists. What we do know is that this evil happens. And anyone who stands on the side of it will have to answer for it one day. “Defending newborns shouldn’t have anything to do with whether or not there’s an (R) or a (D) after your name,” Senator Ben Sasse (R) wrote from Nebraska. “As a Democrat in an older mode, former Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, used to say: This isn’t ‘Right v. Left, but right versus wrong.’ …Every Nebraskan, every member of Congress and every American, should be able to affirm that all of us are created equal — even the tiniest.”
While senators spend their last few days at home, the abortion debate that hangs over the country is playing out there too. From one coast to the other, states are shoving other issues to the backburner so they can register where they stand on the greatest human rights crisis since 1973. In some states, like Vermont, the response has been a stubborn defense of a gruesome practice 77 percent of the country opposes. While voters pack out hearing rooms and hold rallies, the Green Mountain State is plowing ahead with a New York-style law that legitimizes killing a perfectly healthy baby seconds from away birth.
“This is legal, that we trust women with their choices, and those decisions are very personal and need to be made in concert with their health care provider,” said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D) during a press event Wednesday. Republicans fiercely disagreed, fighting with amendment after amendment to stop the Left from hurting its most vulnerable. For hours, conservatives fought back, trying to introduce language on anything pro-life — parental notification, pain-capable bans, abortion clinic safety standards and state inspections, and mandatory ultrasounds — all to no avail. By nightfall, the Vermont House voted 104-40 to follow down New York’s dark path. Now, Rep. Carl Rosenquist (R) said somberly, “the most unrepresented person or thing in the world, or here in Vermont anyway, is a viable [baby] that has not yet been born.”
Out in Arizona, the mood — once abject shock at the Democrats’ agenda — turned joyous, as one woman’s horrible attempt to erase the state’s resuscitation law for abortion survivors lost. Days earlier, State Rep. Raquel Terán (D) had taken Democrats to a place no state had gone when she tried to repeal the infanticide ban on the books. Across the country, people were appalled at how tone-deaf Arizona could be in the aftermath of New York.
“Babies surviving an abortion deserve an Arizona law that protects their freedom to live,” said our friend Cathi Herrod, president of the conservative Center for Arizona Policy. Outraged at the idea that their state would intentionally undo the life-saving measures they’d put in place, “more than 300 opponents filled the hearing and watched from two overflow rooms and the House gallery.”
Terán’s bill, HB 2696, would have wiped away the 1975 law that orders doctors to use all “available means and medical skills” to save the baby. But in the middle of the proceedings, Terán said she made a mistake filing the bill. “She said she intended only to repeal a 2017 law that broadened the 1975 measure and blamed a drafting error for the situation. As debate on the bill began, Terán repeatedly pleaded with the committee’s chairman, Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, to withdraw it from debate,” reported Arizona Central.
He didn’t, insisting that this was a teachable moment. “Allen said he forced debate on Terán’s bill, knowing she made a drafting error, to show what lawmakers passed in 2017 was ‘good law.’” In the end, legislators agreed, sending Terán’s bill down in flames — without a single vote in favor. “The responsibility for this mistake is mine & I have apologized to all involved for not reading it closer to ensure that my intent was clear,” she tweeted. Unfortunately, her intent was clear enough as it was. Let’s hope, Cathi wrote, “[L]awmakers who thought it was a good idea to repeal lifesaving measure for babies who survive abortions got a lesson in Arizona values.”
Originally published here.
Human Rights Are Human Rights
On February 1, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, wrote in an opinion piece in the German newspaper Bild that “government officials must … demand that U.N. members decriminalize homosexuality.” The piece got little attention until this week, when an “exclusive report” from NBC News said, “The Trump administration is launching a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality.” There’s just one problem — besides the ambassador, it doesn’t seem that President Trump — or anyone else in the administration — authorized this “campaign.”
Our own criminal laws against homosexual conduct were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 in the case of Lawrence v. Texas. Despite what some on the Left claim, we are not advocating for their return. But that does not mean we should engage in “cultural imperialism” by imposing policies that were imposed upon us by our Court on other countries with different cultures, traditions, and values.
For the last eight years, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bludgeoned foreign capitals with “diplomacy” designed to advance an LGBT agenda around the world and in the United Nations — doing damage to our relations with many countries as a result. The Trump administration should be ending such efforts, not making them a priority.
Now the tide has turned. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo articulated the proper way to think about all this at his confirmation hearing last year. When asked by Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) whether he thinks “LGBTQ rights are human rights,” Pompeo responded: “I deeply believe LGBTQ persons have every right that every other person has.”
As our own Travis Weber points out, some may try to argue that protecting LGBT rights is a way of protecting human rights. Yet this misleadingly implies “that same-sex-attracted and transgendered persons do not currently enjoy human rights protections…” As Travis observes, “The [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] and [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] protect every individual from arbitrary arrest, torture, and extrajudicial killing by the State, because all humans have human dignity, regardless of their sexual attraction or gender preference.”
Family Research Council vigorously opposes acts of violence against anyone because of their sexuality. According to NBC, there are eight countries which permit the death penalty for homosexuality — most of them also known as abusers of religious freedom and other rights, and supporters of terrorism. An end to those laws, and other physical punishments such as flogging, is a legitimate goal.
Let’s find common ground in calling for an end to all forms of physical violence against homosexuals — but refrain from imposing the values of the sexual revolution on the rest of the world.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.