The volcano that is Venezuela is rumbling and appears on the brink of explosion. Trying to stay ahead of the crisis in Venezuela is not easy. While matters appear to be coming to a head, even the issues post-Maduro must also be faced. First, it’s important to review what went wrong with a country awash in oil revenue. Hugo Chavez died in March 2013 before he could complete his ambition of remaining until 2025 as Venezuela’s leader. Nicholas Maduro won a special election the following month and took over Chavez’s authoritarian government. The well-rewarded military leadership fell in line despite a seriously falling economy.
Maduro won reelection in May 2018 by a mere 1.6% of the vote reflecting the discontent with the security-controlled system originally established by Chavez and continued under his successor. The reelection was immediately declared “unfair” by opposition forces led by National Assembly head, Juan Guaidó. The latter declared himself President of Venezuela on January 23, 2019 – less than two weeks after Maduro’s inauguration. In an obvious anti-Maduro action, the United States recognized Guaidó on the same day.
Guaidó’s position has been countered legally on the basis of the procedures of the newly-created (2017) National Constitutional Assembly made up of Maduro regime loyalists. Effectively, Maduro has ruled through his hand-picked instrument backed by security forces and extravagantly paid military leaders. An effort by Maduro to buy off (or rent) the military rank and file was only moderately successful when various units charged with controlling protests edged themselves aside.
The key to the future can be found in the U.S. decision to evacuate its diplomatic staff and close its embassy in Caracas. The principal in this action was actually stated by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo when he said, “….the presence of the U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy.” This was far less a statement of diplomatic policy than it was a clear warning of the possibility of some form of military or paramilitary action.
Maduro of course was aware of this possibility and already charged Washington with sabotaging the Venezuelan economy and infrastructure. In this, dictator Maduro was not exactly wrong – except that it has not yet been put into effect. The internal breakdown was already in process for strictly economic and political reasons in Venezuela due to his own government’s ineptness and structural inability to serve its own civilian population. The problem that exists for the forces of democracy is that the politically loyal Venezuelan security forces aided by certain privileged military units still maintain control of the country. To counter this, there must be a concerted effort to undermine the existing totalitarian dominance.
The latter effort has been a significant part of the President-in-waiting Juan Guaidó’s trips around Latin America – explaining his position and hopefully lining up support for what most everyone sees coming down the pike. The question remains, however, what Cuba and Russia will do if the “balloon goes up” in Venezuela. China is not a real problem as far as Washington is concerned. The Administration thinks it knows what Beijing wants. It’s just the price that needs to be discussed and agreed upon. In truth, that may also be the case with Havana and Moscow. It’s amazing how international politics is influenced by ancillary considerations.
In the final analysis, Washington is facing a serious test of its support for democracy in Venezuela and elsewhere in the world. The question must be asked, however, whether the radical political elements in the United States are willing and able to support the idea of full-scale commitment to democracy if it includes overt and/or covert action. Or is the New Left, seeking to direct U.S. politics, so involved with their rather self-serving interpretation of socialism that they will follow the Cuba/Russia line? It will be an interesting test of all involved and may also affect the 2020 Presidential election.
One imagines that there is a great deal of angst being generated around the world as shown by the recently declared non-interventionist stance of the European Union (EU). Wasn’t that a lesson the members should have learned and remembered from their own experiences pre-WWII? Oh yes, the Russians and their lackeys always conveniently sought to have us forget that experience so long as it suited their interests. It’s odd how that ploy sometimes still seems to work with those who don’t appear to remember history. What is that line about those who forget history and are therefore condemned to repeat it?