When it comes to Trump’s rhetoric about the turmoil in Venezuela, it seems like we have been here before.
There is something unshakably familiar about intervening in an oil-rich third world nation with an unfriendly government where we would supposedly be greeted as “liberators” and would install “democracy” in the form of a ready-made unelected shadow government that just so happens to be far friendlier to the US.
According to the Wall Street Journal Trump has “a lot of fans in Venezuela.” According to Trump, he wants “democracy” in Venezuela through the removal of a popularly elected “dictator.” Surprisingly this is one issue where Trump has found a lot of bipartisan support, as both leading Democrats and Republicans have echoed this sentiment.
We seem to be walking straight into another Iraq. Or rather, this seems to be the next step in a long and bloody history of American interventions. One that has the nasty habit of leaving more American business hegemony in its wake than “democracy.”
This is not to say, of course, that Maduro’s leadership should go uncriticized. However, it is always risky and generally ill-advised to take a single political figure in isolation, away from the context that surrounds them. So, what is the context that made Maduro?
It would seem that Maduro himself is a product of the very same imperialism and intervention that seeks to depose him. Maduro’s entire political career has been defined by opposition to American meddling in Venezuela. Indeed, his strongest condemnation of the shadow government that opposes him is that they are merely a means to “govern Venezuela from Washington.”
This shadow government does not seem to disagree. The shadow president, Juan Guaido, has called their opposition movement an “international effort” and signaled heavily that his government would be very friendly to U.S. interests. In return, he has gotten millions of dollars in funding from the U.S. government in the form of “humanitarian aid.”
Given this overt intrusion into internal Venezuelan politics Maduro has had little choice but to restrict democratic institutions that have been manipulated by the U.S., leading to the democratic crisis we see today.
There is another aspect to the crisis in Venezuela — a humanitarian one. There is widespread hunger and poverty in Venezuela and many American sources are quick to blame mismanagement by Maduro’s government. There is another massive factor that they fail to recognize, however.
The U.S. has put in place massive sanctions on Venezuelan oil, which is the central aspect of the Venezuelan economy. Simply put, these sanctions make selling oil with most of the world nearly impossible, which in turn makes importing essential commodities like food or medicine impossible as well. These sanctions go as far as to freeze financial accounts held by the Venezuelan government, further hindering their capacity to import outside goods.
This makes the political nature of “humanitarian aid” from the U.S. that much more apparent. Anyone familiar with the story of the Trojan War would know better than to accept the gifts or charity of the very people besieging you.
On both sides of this crisis, intervention is the root of the problem. Politically, American interference with the Venezuelan democratic process has led to an erosion of that process. Economically, American sanctions have crippled the Venezuelan economy and have led to the same humanitarian crisis that we condemn. The solution, therefore, is not more intervention.
The solution to the crisis present in Venezuela is as simple as just leaving the country alone. Stop the sanctions, stop funding the opposition, even stop the politically motivated “aid” packages. Give the democratic and economic institutions present in the country room to breathe and we will find them far stronger than they are with our hands around their necks.