I think we’ve spent enough time demonstrating the failure and tragedy of the socialist Chavez/Maduro regime in Venezuela. All that’s left now is for American socialists like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Barack Obama to insist their agenda for America is somehow different.
(Spoiler alert: It isn’t.)
The problem in Venezuela is that Nicolas Maduro has defied every democratic norm that would hold him accountable to the public and provide a real opportunity to remove him from office.
No one believes his recent “re-election” was legitimate. The National Assembly wants him gone. The public wants him gone. Neighboring countries want him gone because they’re the ones being forced to absorb the avalanche of refugees.
Aside from Vladimir Putin and Raul Castro, there’s not another world leader who sees any benefit to propping up Maduro’s corrupt, inept, malevolent regime. Yet no one seems to know a way to separate Maduro from his power, apart from a bloody rebellion or coup.
Now I do seem to recall, about 16 years ago, there was another very troublesome despot that everyone seemed to agree had to go, but his people similarly had no way to make it happen. I seem to recall that the United States saw his removal as essential, and went to work laying out the case for this action.
And Mike Pence’s op-ed in this morning’s Wall Street Journal harkens back to that event in some interesting ways:
This is a humanitarian crisis and also a matter of regional security. Vulnerable families often fall prey to human traffickers and criminal organizations. Venezuela’s growing black market has attracted criminal syndicates from across the world to launder money and export drugs, weapons and terrorism across the region. In these respects Venezuela is a failed state, and failed states know no borders.
For the sake of our vital interests, and for the sake of the Venezuelan people, the U.S. will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles.
The U.S. has already devoted nearly $100 million to support Venezuelan refugees. We have also targeted corruption and imposed strict financial sanctions on illicit business and more than 54 current or former senior officials, including core members of Mr. Maduro’s inner circle. We have rallied free nations in the region and beyond to isolate the regime, resulting in official condemnations from more than 50 countries as well as the Organization of American States, the Lima Group and the European Union.
Venezuela’s crisis will worsen until democracy is restored. That is why under President Trump, the U.S. strongly supports the National Assembly and Mr. Guaidó. Nicolás Maduro has no legitimate claim to power. Nicolás Maduro must go.
Sixty-one years after the Venezuelan people rose up for freedom, they are once again crying out for libertad. America stands with the Venezuelan people as they stand up to the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. “A people that loves freedom will in the end be free,” said Simón Bolívar. We believe that day is coming soon.
Notice a few important characteristics of Pence’s piece:
He makes the case that it’s a humanitarian crisis and a matter of concern that extends beyond Venezuela’s borders.
He connects Venezuela with the spread of the drug trade and of terrorism across the globe.
He flat-out declares Venezuela a failed state.
He makes the case that there’s international support for action on the matter.
He essentially offers U.S. recognition to Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, setting up the pretext that any outside action would merely to be to ensure the survival of the legitimate government Venezuelans selected themselves.
He makes the assertion that the Venezuelan people are already committed to ousting Maduro, which is another way of saying any U.S. action would not be for the purpose of installing a U.S.-friendly regime.
This sounds an awful lot to me like Pence making the case that the U.S. would be justified in taking action to ensure Maduro’s removal and Guaido’s assumption of Venezuela’s presidency. These are exactly the points you’d have to make to establish your case.
Now, assuming that’s what’s going on here, what form would that intervention take? I’m sure many Americans are skittish about anything that bears similarity to our intervention in Iraq, even though the history of that chapter has been re-written very inaccurately to make it look much worse than it really was.
If there are ways we can cause Maduro’s regime to fall without invading the country, that would obviously be preferable, which is not to say it would be easy. Economic sanctions are complicated because Maduro doesn’t care at all about the suffering of the people, so they would have to be very targeted to make sure it’s Maduro himself that’s suffering, not the public. Support for an internal uprising sounds promising, but it’s also rife with danger because anyone caught plotting against Maduro will be in jeopardy of execution.
Starving the regime of resources is complicated because Russia has been glad to step in and provide capital in exchange for a regional presence Maduro is only too happy to accommodate.
There are really no good options, but the worst option of all is letting Maduro remain in power.
Maybe, inside the White House, they know of opportunities I don’t. I surely hope so. Venezuela is actually a wonderful country with wonderful people. Yes, those people made a very big mistake when they elected Hugo Chavez, but America’s voters have made mistakes too. We’ve had regular opportunities to correct our mistakes. Venezuela’s people won’t get any such opportunity until someone figures out a way to get rid of Nicolas Maduro.
It sounds like the United States has decided, one way or another, it needs to be part of that process.