Socialism: “Maduro must go,” Vice President Mike Pence said, following talks with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido about how to best get rid of that country’s socialist dictator who has presided over the collapse of a once-wealthy country. Pence is right of course. But it may be easier said than done.
President Trump supports Guaido “100%”, Pence said. And on this major diplomatic point, Trump’s not alone. Some 50 countries support Guaido as the legitimate leader of troubled Venezuela, given that the previous election of President Nicolas Maduro was clearly fraudulent and rigged.
And, indeed, Guaido is legitimate. He’s the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly. He became acting president after , sensationally declared himself acting president in January after the legislature declared Maduro’s election fraudulent. Under Venezuelan law, the National Assembly can name a new president.
But getting Maduro to go might be tough. The greatest concern is that, as with Italy during World War II, Maduro will be forced out and left to the tender mercies of an angry mob. Not the ideal way to start anew if you’re a hopeful, forward-looking nation.
That’s why the Trump-Pence plan to tighten sanctions — and to use diplomacy to get others to go along — is the best we can hope for, at least for now. Latin American nations, because of the U.S.’ reputation for both being powerful and willing to involve itself in others’ affairs, are wary about supporting the U.S. in taking more concrete action.
Maduro: A Cruel Regime
This is not really about politics, at least not at this point. Millions of Venezuelans are suffering horribly from Maduro’s insane rule. He’s murdered his own citizens, starved them, deprived them of medicine, destroyed much of the economy, and, worst of all, left them with no hope. He’s now attacking aid convoys, and destroying food and medicine. He has utterly destroyed any legitimacy that he might have claimed.
Worse, the impact of Maduro’s policies aren’t limited to Venezuela. They’re having a major impact on his neighbors and on the U.S., which have all had to bear the brunt of a massive exodus of Venezuelans citizens.
Many, if not most, of the professional class has left, according to various political reports. Over three million people, going on four million. Soon no one will be left to run the shambles of an economy that Maduro, and his socialist predecessor Hugo Chavez, created.
“We hope for a peaceful transition to democracy. But President Trump has made it clear: all options are on the table,” Pence said.
That remark echoed Guaido, who earlier vowed that “all measures” would be considered. That, along with Pence’s remarks, mean a military intervention might be in the cards. Maduro should take the hint.
Unfortunately, Venezuela’s neighbors, though plainly fed up with Maduro’s crazy and destructive rule, aren’t on board yet. The 14-nation Lima Group, formed in 2017 to help return Venezuela to democracy, has consistently pledged to pursue a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
But what if Maduro, who has shown a survivor’s instinct in maintaining his grip on power, doesn’t relent? How many of his own citizens will his neighbors allow him to kill? How many refugees from Venezuela will be too many? It’s not clear.
What is clear is this is a dangerous time. It’s complicated by the fact that both Cuba and its long-time patron, Russia, have suggested they might act in solidarity with their socialist brother, Maduro. And in Russia’s case, seeing the U.S. struggle is partial payback for the U.S.’ aid and military support for Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Poland, neighbors that have all sought closer ties to Europe and the U.S.
Lima Group’s Vital Role
“To leaders around the world: It’s time. There can be no bystanders in Venezuela’s struggle for freedom,” Pence told the Lima Group at a crisis meeting held in Bogota, Colombia.
There’s still time for diplomacy, but the time is running short. If things get worse, the U.S. may have to do the once unthinkable: military action. Knowing the region’s history and sensitivities, it’s unwise to act without the explicit approval of Venezuela’s neighbors.
If not, we will have to continue to encourage and support Venezuela’s opposition and its military to abandon Maduro before it’s too late. Because when this kind of suffering and chaos is taking place, it’s a far greater sin to do nothing than to take action.
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Author: TERRY JONES