Tensions escalate as a soldier is fatally shot in the head during a clash with protesters. Government forces seize a hotly contested public square long occupied by demonstrators, only to see opponents of the regime return in reconstituted form. The country's economy teeters on the edge of collapse under the weight of deep corruption and profoundly intrusive state policies. And the nation's posturing, yet elected, leader points to a powerful foreign government as the source of his regime's problems of legitimacy and basic competence.
Welcome to…Ukraine? No, this is closer to home: Venezuela under the rule of President Nicolas Maduro, a leader every bit as thuggish as his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, but with even less charm. With Venezuela in our own hemisphere, asks J.D. Tuccille, why venture to the fringes of Europe to find a heartbreakingly divided and failing nation that defies easy solutions by Americans?