by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
This weekend’s news that protesters were gunned down at Venezuela’s border while pro-regime thugs burned trucks filled with food and medicine demonstrated just how vicious Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship is. But those who wonder how long he can hold on to power while his nation slowly starves might want to visit Zimbabwe, as I did last month, for a sobering lesson.
Robert Mugabe became the president of Zimbabwe in April 1980, back when Jimmy Carter was still president. Within two years he had deployed his infamous North Korea–trained Fifth Brigade against minority tribes in Matabeleland in a campaign of deliberate killing and starvation. The organization Genocide Watch estimated that 20,000 people were ultimately killed. …
… Last week, even Mugabe attacked his old protégé for violently suppressing protests over a doubling of fuel prices in January. At least 17 people were killed and dozens of women were raped by marauding troops. “God has his own way of punishing rogues and cruel people,” Mugabe thundered. “People should love their army, they should not fear the army.”
Ordinary Zimbabweans have every reason to fear not only the military but every part of their government. Last week the government ended the practice of pegging the value of Zimbabwe’s dollar to that of the U.S. dollar, a 2009 reform that had finally ended the nation’s hyperinflation. Fears of a new round of hyperinflation has helped reduce food reserves such that the nation’s grain-millers’ association says there is now only a week’s worth of wheat in reserve. Zimbabwe now produces less than half of its annual wheat consumption, even while having some of the most fertile farmland and one of the most temperate climates in the world.