FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

What Venezuela Needs: Negotiation Not Regime Change

This column was written for Tribune News Services, in a forum responding to the question, “Should the United States support regime change in Venezuela?”

The question of what role Washington should play in Venezuela’s crisis is a simple one, given its recent history. The answer is the same as it would be with regard to the role we would want the Russian government to play in US politics and elections: none at all.

Unfortunately the involvement of the United States in Venezuelan internal affairs in the 21st century has dwarfed anything that anyone has even accused Vladimir Putin of doing here. According to the US State Department, Washington “provided training, institution building, and other support to individuals and organizations understood to be actively involved” in the 2002 military coup. Since the coup, Washington has provided tens of millions of dollars to the Venezuelan opposition.

In 2013, when the opposition initiated violent protests to overturn the results of a democratic election, Washington supported the protesters. The same was true in 2014.

Today, Florida Senator Marco Rubio openly threatens governments including the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Haiti with punishment if they do not cooperate with Washington’s abuse of the Organization of American States to delegitimize the government of Venezuela. And the Trump administration is threatening more severe economic sanctions against Venezuela, which will only worsen shortages of food and medicine there.

Overall, Washington has pretty consistently played a role that has increased political polarization in Venezuela and continues to do so. For most of the past 15 years, Venezuela has been one of Washington’s top two (along with Iran and Iraq) targets for regime change.

It is reasonable to assume that the Trump administration ― which takes counsel from extremist elements like Marco Rubio ― is likely to be even more reckless.

This is particularly dangerous because Venezuela remains a polarized country. President Nicolás Maduro’s approval rating has been about 21 percent over the past year, but other numbers show much more division. A recent poll from the most-cited pro-opposition pollster, Datanalisis, shows 51 percent supporting the protests, with 44 percent against. Some 55 percent continue to approve of the late president Hugo Chávez, which reflects the decade of economic and social progress that the country had before it fell into recession in 2014, and slid into its current state of depression and economic crisis.

Despite the current crisis, there are millions of Venezuelans, especially those associated with the government or governing party, who have reason to fear an opposition takeover. After the 2002 coup, government officials were detained and dozens of people were killed within the first 36 hours of the short-lived opposition government. Opposition leaders today have almost never denounced violence by their supporters, which has taken many lives during the current wave of protests.

Because of this political polarization, Venezuela needs a negotiated solution that provides credible, constitutional guarantees that whichever side loses the next election will not be politically persecuted by a party that controls all three branches of government.

International mediation can help, as was shown by the release of opposition leader Leopoldo López from prison to house arrest last week; former Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero played a constructive role. But the mediators must be nonpartisan, which rules out the OAS so long as it is dominated by the Trump administration.

There is a real risk that Venezuela’s current political polarization and violence could escalate into civil war. Those who are familiar with the tragedies of the Washington-fueled civil wars of the 1980s in Central America, which took hundreds of thousands of mostly innocent lives, must take this threat seriously ― especially since the Trump administration could possibly block or sabotage a negotiated solution if it appears within reach.

This originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

More articles by:

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail