Learn Your Lesson, America. Leave Venezuela Alone.
Written by Joe Ponzillo
Published 26 January 2019
As of January 23, the Venezuelan government is in the middle of foreign-supported attempts at regime change. Juan Guaido, a Federal Deputy (the functional equivalent of a congressman) with Voluntard Popular (Popular Will Party) for the northern state of Vargas in Venezuela, declared himself president amidst protests. The Party in 2018 boycotted the election, in which President Maduro secured 67% of the popular vote with a turnout of 46% of the population. For context, this was higher than voter turnout in both the 2014 and 2010 US midterm elections, and in the case of 2014, Venezuelan turnout was higher by almost 10%.
Additionally, unlike the American two-party system – which has not had a non-Democrat or Republican President since 1853 – three parties were running in the Venezuelan election. This election was decided by popular vote, unlike two of the past American presidential elections in the past 20 years.. This election was overseen by hundreds of independent foreign observers who did not observe systematic signs of fraud.
In terms of the raw vote tally, 2 million votes could be given to the nearest runner up (an amount that would more than double the votes that the runner up secured), and Maduro would still win the popular vote by a wider percent margin than Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016.
Consider also that the United States that, millions of people lack the right to vote right now thanks to felon disenfranchisement laws, or that US states have used laws to “Target African American voters with Surgical precision”, or that in an election in Georgia that was won on razor-thin margins that the state “purged 500,000 voters in what may represent the largest mass disenfranchisement in US history” in the past few years alone.
And this is just talking about the bare ability to vote. It says nothing about the insidious ways in which private industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars to misinform the public about green energy, or how financial lobbyists spent tens of millions of dollars against efforts to legislate housing in California in the most expensive ballot proposition in California history.
This article is about Venezuela, so why the points about the United States Simply put: because the argument for when regime change is accepted, and when it is not, is entirely inconsistent and immoral.
There are many rightful concerns about the integrity of our own elections, and yet it is on this basis that a bipartisan coalition of our own leaders (ranging from the Vice President to progressive gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum of Florida) have called for regime change in Venezuela. If suspicions about election integrity were justifiable enough to suggest that war should be waged, then our own country would be a valid military target for countries across the planet for various coups and interference abroad, as well as for the behavior of our country to many voters here at home.
Further still, look at the leader which the United States is recognizing as the legitimate president of Venezuela; a man whose party boycotted the election that it contests. Imagine if parties that intentionally boycotted the US presidential election contested the legitimacy of that election, and then declared themselves the rightful ruler of the country.
Then imagine if the parties had members burn pro government supporters alive after killing dozens. Imagine if during food shortages, this party burned food aid, and if said party was supported by foreign governments openly plotting a coup. What if that group had tried to assassinate the president with a drone, or had attacked the Supreme Court with grenades thrown from helicopters?
Nobody would expect Americans to recognize this group that they had not voted for as legitimate leaders, and brutal reprisals against that group would be inevitable. We need look only at how we renditioned thousands of foreign citizens to understand how the United States would behave in a situation like this to its own citizens. Yet the expectation that Venezuelans should accept this effort with open arms is not only normalized, it receives bipartisan support. And of Venezuelans? The main hashtags on Venezuelan twitter were #MeDeclaro and #YankeeGoHome, the former being a spanish for “I declare” to mock Guaido for declaring himself president after boycotting an election, and the latter being a specific condemnation of efforts at regime change.
Further still, look at the surface-level rhetoric of demand for human rights, coming from countries that are openly supporting wars that are leaving millions starving. Look at the hypocrisy and immorality of keeping hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Venezuelan property while the country is in crisis, or how nakedly cynical a president who has openly said that the United States should have plundered Iraqi oil leading calls for regime change in a country with the one of the world’s largest proven supplies of crude oil. Look at the immorality of calling for regime change on the basis of human rights while openly aiding a government lead by a man openly calling for military dictatorship next door.
Let us now consider this situation from a more practical point of view. Regime change is a costly, bloody , and destabilizing venture. It leads to refugee crises that have shaken the world to this day. We have seen how people react to refugee caravans coming from Honduras (a country which has been destabilized by a drug war); what would it look like if a full-out war were to come to Venezuela? In the wake of increasing sectarian violence that cannot be ruled out as a possibility, imagine what would happen if the 31 million people in Venezuela were in a war zone. Surrounding countries would be flooded with refugees, and given the proximity to the US, many would inevitably wind up here. Drug cartels in the region would see an unstable Venezuela as a gold mine for new revenue and operations plants. Given that half the cocaine in the world comes from neighboring Columbia, we might end up seeing a rise in narcotics-related violence to a level worse than that during the era of Pablo Escobar.
And who would benefit from an inevitable quagmire that would arise as a result of a protracted jungle war in a country with 18 million hectares of Amazon Rainforest? Does nobody remember the result of the Vietnam War? What of the environmental damage of potentially starting a war in such a jungle rich-area, and the costs that potentially destroying millions of acres of trees might have for an increasingly warming planet?
The fact of the matter is that such a war, or active calls for increasing destabilization is not the solution and does not serve the interests of the people. We have already seen the horrors of war in oil rich countries. These ventures are nakedly imperialistic, and to fight a war on a fake concern for human rights while plundering countries for resources and to continue funneling more money into the already bloated military that throws tens of billions of dollars into the hands of private contractors is immoral.
Regardless of how one feels about the state of Venezuela, destabilizing the country further and sowing the seeds of regime change, both covert and overt, will be a disaster.