Why the push for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela?

National Security Adviser John Bolton explains U.S. Venezuela policy.

I think I’ve seen this script before.  The unpopular ruler of an oil-rich country cracks down on the opposition.  The U.S. government sees an opportunity and tries to bring about a change in regime.

What can go wrong?  In Iraq, this led to an inconclusive quagmire war in which thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives.  In Libya, it led to the collapse of civil order, leaving Libyans worse off than before.  In Syria, it led to another inconclusive war, benefitting no one.   The chief result of these wars was the European refugee crisis.

Now the U.S. seems to be playing out the same script in Venezuela—doing the same as before and expecting a different result.

The Trump administration has recognized Juan Guaido, the leader of the National Assembly, as the legitimate president of Venezuela, and called for the overthrow of President Nicolas Maduro.  Guaido is indeed the leader, but that’s because the leadership is rotated among the parties, and the Trump administration’s decision happened on his watch.

To support Guaido, the administration has blocked Venezuela’s oil company from collecting revenue from its oil exports.  Instead the money goes into a blocked account until Guaido takes power.

And if he doesn’t?  “All options are on the table.”

As far as I’m concerned, this is a pass-fail test of political leadership.  Only those who oppose intervention are lovers of peace.  So far Bernie Sanders passes this test, as do Democratic Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Ro Khanna, Ilhan Omar and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

I admit criticisms of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro have some basis.  But what business is that of us Americans?

Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez had good intentions in using the profits of Venezuela’s oil wealth for the benefit of the poor, dark-skinned majority.  For a time they did much to improve the lives of their people.

But critics say they failed to reinvest Venezuela’s government-owned oil company or to plan for a time when oil prices might fall.  Maduro was unprepared for the fall in oil prices.  His policies failed to stop rampant inflation and scarcities of basic monopolies

More than 2 million Venezuelans have left their country.  The United States now gets more requests for political asylum for Venezuelans than from any other nationality.

But Venezuela’s troubles are not entirely of Chavez’s and Maduro’s making.  U.S. intelligence agencies have long been trying to destabilize Venezuela’s government, plotting an unsuccessful coup in 2002 and working with opposition parties to sabotage the economy.

In 2015, President Obama declared Venezuela a threat to the national security of the United States.  The U.S. government imposed economic sanctions on many of Venezuela’s top leaders, on the grounds on corruption or violation of human rights.  The Maduro administration is in fact corrupt and it does violate the rights of its opponents.

You may say: What’s wrong with sanctioning individuals who violate human rights?  But if human rights is the issue, why not sanction officials of Colombia or Honduras?  Venezuela is special because it sits on the world’s largest known reserves of crude oil,

The Trump administration continued and expanded these policies.  Venezuela has been cut off from the U.S. financial system.  Venezuelan companies can’t sell stocks or bonds; the Venezuelan government can’t sell its bonds, either.

Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s government oil company, can’t send its profits to the parent company.  Now Venezuela’s state oil company is blocked from collecting on its oil exports.

All this means more suffering for the people of Venezuela—people who have never harmed Americans and do no threaten us.  It is their right—not President Trump’s or any other American’s—to decide how Venezuela should be governed.

LINKS

U.S. sanctions Venezuela state oil firm, escalating pressure on Maduro by Mike Spetalnik and Brian Ellsworth for Reuters.

The Five Dumbest Arguments Defending Trump’s Venezuela Interventionism by Caitlin Johnstone.

Where Are the Democratic 2020 Hopefuls on the Trump-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela? by Marco Cartolano for In These Times.

Venezuela’s slow coup continues by George Ciccariello for Al Jazeera.

Why More Sanctions Won’t Help Venezuela by Francisco Rodriguez for Foreign Policy.

Why the military is backing Maduro by BBC News.

The Cruelty of Venezuela Sanctions by Daniel Larison for The American Conservative.

A review of Hugo Chavez’s autobiography by Greg Grandin for the London Review of Books (2017).

Illustrations: The Telegraph, Venezuelablog, Statista

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One Response to “Why the push for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela?”

  1. maryplumbago Says:

    Good assessment

    Like

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