By Patrick T. Hiller
Have we not learned a thing? As the crisis in Venezuela continues to unfold, we are witnessing yet another blatant US regime-change operation “for the Venezuelan people.”
Of course, it would make sense to dissuade the main operators–Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Senator Marco Rubio, or the recently appointed Special Envoy to Venezuela Elliot Abrams, who was convicted in 1991 for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal. Unfortunately, they’ve proven they will not change.
Instead, we should focus on those who can be moved, so that the interventionists lose their stranglehold on U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. citizenry should support a path in Venezuela which is created by the Venezuelan people without U.S. coercion. Supported by peace research, the case for non-intervention becomes clear.
First, we need to explore the interests of the U.S. regime-change operators. For Trump, whose ignorance suggests that he is oblivious to the history of U.S. interventions in Latin America, a diversionary “Wag the dog” war might just be the needed distraction from his disaster presidency. When it comes to oil and US invasions, however, he has made it clear that he believes in naked imperialism, “to the victor belong the spoils.”
For the other operators of the regime-change, the motives are rather clear. The notion that it is for the freedom of the Venezuelan people is laughable. We only have to listen to Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton’s own words: “I think we’re trying to get to the same end result here. Venezuela is one of the three countries what I call the troika of tyranny. It will make a big difference economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela. It would be good for the people in Venezuela, it would be good for the people of the United States.” Mr. Bolton should not get to decide what is good for the Venezuelan people.
The U.S. public needs to demand from their elected officials—skip the regime-change operators—that our regime cease intervening in Venezuelan affairs. US mainstream media is not helping when they portray Venezuelans as incapable of managing their own affairs. The Venezuelan people certainly understand the failures of Maduro. The country is indeed in a crisis. The people should be the only ones deciding their future and the conditions under which it is built. The U.S. has a long history of involvement in Latin America, resulting in human suffering, instability and violence, including overthrowing democratically elected leaders in Guatemala and Chile and installing military dictators.
To be sure, the solution to the political crisis is not obvious and there is an uncertain path. Human rights violations are real, and violence is taking place on all sides during this crisis. The attempt here is not to predict the future or decide which leader Venezuelans should choose. The attempt is to introduce some elements that are not highlighted enough in the narratives that look at a good vs. bad context, where one must choose a side.
Despite the complexity of the crises, there are some obvious elements. First, there is the immediate danger of a US-led military intervention. Second, there is the risk of a civil war in a highly armed nation. Both of these unacceptable options would be bloody, brutal, and horribly harmful.
Necessary U.S. steps are: The U.S. must stop the sanctions which are hurting the Venezuelan people. The U.S. must not entertain the idea of a military intervention. Congress alone has the legal authority to decide this. Lastly, no matter how often pundits, policy-makers and appointed officials talk about Latin America as “our backyard,” all countries are sovereign and must be treated as such. While many constructive pathways exist, five stand out:
First, Venezuelans get to decide their own future.
Second, dialog and diplomatic processes on a national and regional level should be supported. Credible mediators, perhaps the Lima Group, not “mediators with muscle” (hint: the U.S. should not mediate), can assist the Venezuelans in working toward their desired future.
Third, support for genuine domestic nonviolent protest movements (e.g. the past mainly women-driven protests against food shortages) while maintaining the current ban on arms transfers to Venezuela.
Fourth, support for initiatives that challenge widespread corruption. Corruption, according to research, “undermines conditions that favor peace.” The conditions for peace, according to researchers David Cortright, Conor Seyle and Kristen Wall are economic development, stable governing institutions, and social trust.
Fifth, support for meaningful women participation and gender perspectives. Research is clear that including gender perspectives and women positively affects outcomes in areas such as health, livelihoods, and social welfare, all factors contributing to the current crisis in Venezuela.
Regime-change operators won’t support those pathways. They don’t serve their interests. Most others on the broad social spectrum, however, probably can get behind the more constructive paths and recognize that Venezuelans can indeed create their own future and seek outside support and advice on their own terms. This is what we call constructive conflict transformation. These are what we call viable alternatives to military intervention.