When Hugo Chavez died in 2013, a who's who of Western anti-capitalists lined up to mourn the populist Venezuelan president and glorify his Bolivarian Revolution on behalf of the poor.
There was Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour MP who would go on to take the helm of his party in 2015 by repudiating the centrist politics of former leader and prime minister Tony Blair. "Thanks Hugo Chavez for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world," Mr. Corbyn tweeted then.
There was Pablo Iglesias, a onetime adviser to Mr. Chavez who went to found Spain's insurgent far-left party, Podemos, which is now poised to take second place in that country's general election on Sunday. "I feel moved when I listen to the commander," Mr. Iglesias said of Mr. Chavez in 2013. "Latin America has shown Europe that sovereignty can be recovered."
There was Kennedy scion and former U.S. congressman Joe Kennedy II, whose non-profit scored a propaganda victory for Mr. Chavez by distributing free heating oil from Venezuela to poor Americans. Mr. Chavez championed the poor, Mr. Kennedy said, when "some of the wealthiest people on our planet have more money than they can ever reasonably expect to spend."
And there was actor Sean Penn, the ever-reliable best friend of left-wing demagogues everywhere, who declared: "Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of Vice President Maduro."
Now Venezuela's embattled president, Nicolas Maduro, is reaping what Mr. Chavez sowed. The destruction of the economy through the nationalization of entire industries, hostility toward foreign investors and massive borrowing against the country's vast oil reserves have left Venezuela on the brink of collapse. The very poor on whose behalf Mr. Chavez and Mr. Maduro claimed to be fighting their revolution are much worse off than they were before this pair took over.
Collapsing oil prices have only accelerated the inevitable. Mismanagement of nationalized industries has sapped the country's productive capacity, forcing it to import most food and medicines. But the government's dwindling oil revenues have forced it to curb such imports, creating endless lines to buy limited subsidized items or sky-high prices on the black market.
Food riots have turned increasingly violent in a country that already has the world's second-highest murder rate. Teachers no longer show up to teach. They instead spend their days lined up to procure their rations, unless supplies run out before their turn. Hospitals have run out of everything, imperilling the lives of those with easily curable conditions.
Viva la revolución, indeed.
Mr. Maduro's response to this crisis is reminiscent of Mr. Chavez's bluster, without the charisma of his late mentor. He blames the unrest on the "economic war" being waged on his country by foreign capitalist interests, led by the United States. Like so many left-wing populists, Mr. Maduro began a descent into authoritarianism soon after his 2013 election and now governs by decree under emergency powers. A Supreme Court stacked with Chavista appointees has enabled him to stymie the legislature, which is now controlled by opponents of the government.
Members of the Organization of American States, including Canada, will meet in Washington on Thursday to discuss whether to suspend Venezuela for violating the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The OAS is pressuring Mr. Maduro, whose term does not officially end until 2019, to stop blocking opposition attempts to force a recall election. It is also calling on Mr. Maduro to release political prisoners and allow humanitarian food and medical aid into the country.
The effort is led by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, whom Mr. Maduro calls a "long-time traitor" and CIA agent. Mr. Almagro warns that Mr. Maduro's stonewalling on a recall vote "would make [him] just any other petty dictator, like so many the hemisphere has had."
A spokesperson for the Department of Global Affairs did not respond directly when asked whether Ottawa favours Venezuela's suspension from the OAS. "We stand ready to provide constructive help," Austin Jean said. "Our desire is to see an end to the suffering of the Venezuelan people. We call on Venezuela's government to act in the best interest of its citizens and to seek the support of neighbours, particularly through the OAS, to improve the situation."
The Chavistas are unlikely to be moved by such gentle urgings. Mr. Maduro, who controls the Venezuelan army (for now), appears set to dig in until the bitter, potentially bloody, end.