Venezuela crisis: A starving country is fed up with Maduro and the miserable failure of socialism

If any head of state is facing a political choice between the noose and the firing squad, it is Nicolas Maduro, the brutal, bumbling president of Venezuela who has led his country down the path to chaos and misery. For him, the end is near.

Maduro was never more than a pale imitation of Hugo Chavez, the Marxist Svengali who ran the country until his death in 2013. Lacking the charisma and bravado of the former general, Maduro nonetheless tried to expand Chavez’s loony vision of “Bolivarian revolution,” marked by nationalization of private companies, alliances with rogues like Iran and North Korea, and a steady theft of the individual rights of Venezuelans.

This weekend, Maduro will attempt his most audacious power grab: a nationwide election to form a so-called National Constituent Assembly, which Maduro has ensured will be comprised of supporters of his rotting regime. The assembly’s chore: rewrite the constitution to give Maduro unlimited authority forever.

The country’s growing and increasingly determined opposition has warned Maduro to cancel the vote, yet he appears determined to follow through on his plan. But here’s the rub: if he carries out the vote, the opposition has promised to shut down the country with protests, which of late have become lethal events, further enraging the population. If he caves and cancels, he looks weak, which for desperate dictators can be fatal. Either way, Maduro loses.

Venezuela is the 21st century’s freshest example of the failure of socialist cant…

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