A child stands next to houses that government officials demolished during a special security operation called "Operation to Free the People" (OLP) in Valencia, September 2015.
Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Olga Meza sat down at the table in the office of a local human rights organization in Venezuela and said she wanted justice for her 16-year-old son. She broke down in tears as she spoke of the night that members of Venezuela’s investigative police force broke into her home, beat her and other members of her family, and forced her to watch as a security agent stormed into her son’s bedroom and shot him dead.

Washington, along with a handful of Latin American capitals and several former heads of state, has criticized the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro for using excessive force against antigovernment protesters, prosecuting its critics, and jailing political opposition leaders.

Maduro’s crackdown, though, is worse than even his critics realize. His broad and aggressive exercise of unchecked executive power has also been directed at residents of low-income and immigrant communities, where there

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