Upon hearing the verdict that condemned its leader Leopoldo Lopez, to 14 years in prison, the Venezuelan opposition was posed in a dilemma. What do we do? Shall we vote in the upcoming December 6th parliamentary elections, or shall we protest?

The main accusation against Leopoldo Lopez is that he incited mass protests on February 12, 2014 that resulted in deaths, damage to property, and other losses. Of course, the protests were caused by the Government’s failed and repressive policies. The resulting casualties were not caused by Lopez but by government supported goon squads. Lopez, as an opposition leader, rightly supported these protests.

But let us not argue with the Venezuelan government so much. It is not interested in justice; it is simply interested in criminalizing the opposition or any type of dissent, which is what it has been doing for a long time.

Yet, surprisingly, the opposition still believes in the electoral process. Even Leopoldo Lopez, himself, called for a mass demonstration this coming September 19th with the sole purpose of “initiating the road towards election.” The leader of the unified opposition (Mesa de Unidad Democratica), Jesus Torrealba added, “The only possible rebellion for us, is the electoral rebellion.”

The opposition believes, according to a statement made by one of its spokesmen, that Lopez’s sentence will further unify the opposition and may secure a victory in the Parliamentary elections.

However, the multiple intimidation’s, incarceration, violence, manipulation of foreign observers, suspected cybernetic fraud, gerrymandering and other means applied by the Venezuelan government throughout the years of Bolivarian government have taught us that the electoral road is highly questionable. The opposition seems to be encouraged by the 20 percent lead it currently has in the polls. However, how many times was the opposition encouraged by poll results to eventually find itself on the losing side as soon as the final tally was known?

How exactly, the opposition envisions a situation where the Electoral National Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral) announces a victory for the opposition and president Nicolas Maduro congratulates the opposition?

This is not going to happen. In fact, what we are seeing is precisely acts such as the conviction of Mr. Lopez, the disqualification of candidates by the government, justifying all kinds of reasons, none of them having any merit.

Human Rights Watch pointed out “this is farce and an open violation of the rule of law”. Venezuelan political analyst, Pedro Bureli, rightly asked, “How can a government that does this kind of things be expected to conduct democratic elections?”

As if this were not enough, Venezuela found a new scapegoat; the poor Colombian refugees. This episode, which we covered in our last article, also brought about tensions with Colombia that included some dangerous military maneuvers. Indeed, two Venezuelan warplanes flew two miles into Colombian airspace in violation of international law.

Let us not be mistaken. These actions against Colombia are meant to send a message to the opposition as to how far the Venezuelan government is willing to go to hold onto its power.

The silence displayed by Latin American leaders to the unjust sentence of Lopez and their lack of outrage with regard to Venezuela’s fascist-like discrimination and expulsion of Colombian refugees, can only reinforce Maduro’s inflexible confrontation with civil and political society.

This brings us to U.S. policy. A few days ago, on September 9, the Venezuelan foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez announced via twitter that the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, phoned her in order to begin the process of normalizing relations. Although, Ms Rodriguez did not reject the call, she complained about United States interference in Venezuelan affairs. Ms. Rodriguez was referring to Mr. Kerry’s comments that international observers should be involved in Venezuela’s upcoming National Assembly elections and that all political prisoners should be freed.

Well, the response by the Venezuelan government was loud and clear: Five days after Kerry’s call Mr. Lopez was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The Administration expressed deep concern about the imprisonment of Lopez, directly accusing the Venezuelan government of imposing a politically motivated verdict. The statement also included a call to the Venezuelan government to respect basic liberties.

The White House statement was shy and certainly less meaningful than the call made by Kerry to his Venezuelan counterpart or the happy photos we saw of senior American diplomat, Thomas Shannon with the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and chief drug trafficker, Diosdado Cabello.

It is clear that the Obama Administration is embarked on a quixotic journey to normalize relations with dubious regimes with the expectation of rehabilitating them by means of generosity and friendship. Cuba came first, Iran second and Venezuela may be third.

As we all know, the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. If the White House policy on Venezuela is not actively monitored and timely questioned by Congress, it could have catastrophic consequences, as Venezuela is a narco-terrorist, totalitarian state living amongst us. Congress will also need to help the White House to face the challenges of the post-parliamentary elections fiasco that is coming in December.

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