The last time Venezuelans attempted to free themselves from the communist yoke in 2014, the effort failed. The deaths of dozens and the arrests of hundreds failed to budge the dictator who took over from Hugo Chavez at his death in March 2013: Nicolas Maduro. According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, there were 9,286 protests in 2014, resulting in little change. Food rationing continued, shortages mounted, inflation accelerated along with unemployment, and large swaths of civilians were reduced to subsisting on two meals a day.
Last week’s protests involving hundreds of thousands of citizens in Caracas have resulted in more than 20 deaths and hundreds of arrests, with more protests scheduled in Caracas, the nation’s capital, for Monday. Monday’s protests have the goal of shutting the city down altogether, with other protests scheduled to stop traffic on the country’s main roads.
Two analysts from the Eurasia Group, the world’s largest political risk consultancy, warned that the country, and Maduro’s autocratic regime, may be reaching a tipping point:
A more unified opposition, high social discontent, mounting international pressure, and fissures within chavismo [the socialist/Marxist ideology that is ravaging the country] suggest that Venezuelan politics are entering a more fluid phase and that Maduro’s grip on power is weakening.
The final breaths of dictators such as Maduro have often been drawn just before being executed either by crowds of protestors or military courts assembled just for the purpose. Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania serves as an example. A Romanian communist politician, he served as the general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989. His regime reminds one of the suffering being currently imposed on Venezuelans: Shortages of food, fuel, energy, medicines, and other basic necessities drastically reduced the standard of living of Romanians.
At a mass meeting on December 21, Ceausescu spoke to the protestors about the glorious socialist revolution that was taking place in the country, and condemned the rioters, calling them “fascist agitators who want to destroy socialism.” In less than 10 minutes, the crowd had heard enough and began to heckle him. History records that his facial expressions that reflected his surprise at the crowd’s ugly mood “were among the most widely broadcast” in the history of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.
Ceausescu barely escaped with his life, taking cover inside the building that housed the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party.
The next day Ceausescu tried again to placate the crowd, but this time their angry reaction resulted in him being pelted with stones. Again he retreated into the communist headquarters. The rioters entered the building, meeting little resistance as his personal bodyguards fled. Ceausescu and his wife entered an elevator to take them to the roof where a helicopter was waiting, escaping the rioters by mere seconds.
They intended to fly to their hideout but were ordered by the army, which had turned on him, to land. On December 25, they were hastily tried and convicted by a special military tribunal on charges of genocide and sabotage of the Romanian economy. The trial lasted barely an hour, after which they were convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad. Their hands were tied behind their backs and placed up against a wall.
A member of the execution team, Dorin-Marian Cirian, described what happened next: “[Ceausescu] looked into my eyes and realized that he was going to die right then, not sometime in the future, and then started to cry.”
A television crew showed up too late to record the executions but in time to catch the dust surrounding the bodies now riddled with bullets. That video is posted on YouTube.
Not every Marxist dictator dies this way, but enough do to conclude that, as Venezuela reaches that “tipping point,” it’s safe to say that Maduro is not likely to die of old age.