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Foreign Intervention in Venezuela is a Bad Idea

Once the richest country in Latin America, Venezuela is suffering its worst ever economic crisis. Inflation is sky high, products of necessity like food aren’t available, and there are shortages of most medicines and medical supplies. Poverty is crushing large parts of the population, there is high malnutrition, and infant mortality is rising at dangerous rates. Given these conditions, it is not a surprise that Venezuela has become a common feature in international news.

Venezuela presence in the media started after the massive protests in different cities around the country that began in March of this year, since the Supreme Court of Venezuela released a decree to take the functions of the National Assembly of opposition majority which was considered a coup d’etat by the opposition. The death toll of the protests is 61 and, while there have deaths of protesters and security forces, the majority of the deaths come from those who’ve been victimized by state oppression. Many wonder how they can help Venezuelans: the crisis in Venezuela has created an immigration wave, with many people considering moving to other countries in Latin America, as well as the United States. There are a lot of Venezuelans from previous immigration waves who are helping their compatriots settle, but a large number of them don’t think they can return to their native country for a while. However, in a recent op-ed in The New York Times there is an offer of a strange kind of help: regime change. The article argues that the Venezuelan crisis is so severe the international community must take action first with humanitarian aid and, if needed, with action by the UN Security Council.

Since the Times is a liberal publication, unlike conservative and libertarian publications the author doesn’t mention the left-wing ideology of the Venezuelan government––perhaps to not explicitly label their critique as an anti-communist attack or to alienate progressive support. When the author starts talking about humanitarian aid it progresses to a confrontational take––the real goals of the author seems to be a foreign military intervention in Venezuela under the guise of humanitarian intervention. The author, Jared Genser, is a member of several human rights NGOs around the world. He may have good intentions, but when he mentions the UN Security Council he is not being honest. It is unlikely, given his background which includes law degree from Harvard, that he would be naive enough to think Russia and China are going to support crushing an ally like Venezuela. In reality, Genser is calling for an American military intervention.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, given the fact that neoconservatives and liberal interventionists often talk about the benefits of humanitarian intervention despite its inhumane consequences. There are three ideological groups in the US that have been against humanitarian intervention: libertarians argue against it, justifying their beliefs with the non-aggression principle. Paleoconservatives signal that true limited government should also include foreign policy, and radical leftists often ascribe to the idea that humanitarian interventions is just an excuse for American imperialism.

But not all the arguments are theoretical. In the 2008 book The Thin Blue Line, Conor Foley, a journalist and humanitarian aid worker, make the case against humanitarian intervention from his perspective as someone on the ground during several crises. In his experience, when humanitarian interventions take place, the consequences are very rarely anticipated––and in some cases, the problems become even worst. Plus he mentions that humanitarian interventions make more the labor of aid workers because a large part of the population identifies them as part of the occupying force. The worst thing about humanitarian intervention is that it invariably causes mass civilians casualties and harms the most vulnerable populations, such as women and children.

Even if a military intervention were successful in removing Maduro from office, that wouldn’t change the fact that now even civilians are armed in what are called Bolivarian militias. Maduro and Chávez warned Venezuelans for years that American imperialism wanted to plot a coup against them––if this became true, and the US invaded, the Bolivarian militias who are loyalists to Maduro would start a civil war.

Many people don’t see an end to Venezuela’s problems, but there are still some hope for change. The protests are  having an effect in the Venezuelan government. Luisa Ortega, the chief prosecutor of Venezuela, has becoming increasingly critical of the government to the point of speaking out against state repression at the protests. The convocation of Maduro for a National Constituent Assembly is a show of weakness and an attempt of legitimize his government. Even back in March, before the protests, the security firm Stratfor warned about a possible rebellion inside the military––and now, under public pressure, the same security firm points to a likely split between the military’s allegiances and Maduro.

If Maduro knows that he has lost the support of the military, he is going to end up calling for an election, which he would probably be unable to win––finally there would be a change. But this possibility would disappear if the US attempts to cause a military coup. In the short term, Maduro would be able to appeal to the patriotism among both the Venezuelan army and the population at large against a foreign enemy. Venezuela can have a transition if we trust the Venezuelan people. If America decides to intervene, though, the situation would become much worse.

More articles by:

Camilo Gómez is a political writer at The Mitrailleuse. Twitter: @camilomgn.

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