With the current political crisis in Venezuela, the Trump administration has an opportunity to score a huge foreign relations win and avert a humanitarian crisis simultaneously.
First, a little background. The economic and political crisis in Venezuela began in 2010 under anti-American socialist President Hugo Chavez and has continued under his heir- current President Nicolas Maduro.
It is among the worst crises experienced in the Americas, with hyperinflation, soaring hunger, disease, crime and death rates, and massive emigration from the country. According to The Brookings Institution, "Venezuela has really become the poster child for how the combination of corruption, economic mismanagement, and undemocratic governance can lead to widespread suffering."
Today nearly 75 percent of the population had lost an average of over 19 pounds in weight, almost 90percent of the population is living in poverty, and more than half do not have enough income to meet their basic food needs.
According to the head of waste collection in the city of Maracaibo, Ricardo Boscan, six out of every 10 garbage bags or trash cans are being looted by hungry people. Other signs of hunger in Venezuela include the killing of dogs, cats, donkeys, horses and pigeons—whose dismembered remains are found in city garbage dumps—and of protected wildlife such as flamingos and giant anteaters.
Due to the current lack of available food in Venezuela, not only are zoo animals starving but the citizens, beneficiaries of Bolivarian socialism, are also breaking into zoos looking for their next meal.
Most salaries are worthless, with inflation exploding to an incredible 10 million percent.
The United States continues to squeeze and isolate the Maduro regime with even more sanctions and support for opposition leader Juan Guaido. But more than a week after protests erupted through the streets of the embattled nation, Maduro remains steadfast – with the hand of Russia and China working in and out of the shadows, complicating U.S. efforts to foster change.
The Trump administration has decided that now is the opportune moment to depose the leftist Maduro dictatorship of Venezuela and is breaking out all of America’s tools to make sure he doesn’t stay in power.
Resolving the political crisis in Venezuela and restoring order and economic security won’t just avert a humanitarian crisis, it's an opportunity for the U.S. to flip Venezuela from being an adversary to an ally.
That could be a significant blow to Cuba, Russia, Iran, and China, who have close relationships with the Venezuelan dictatorship. Golden opportunities for a diplomatic coup like this are rare.
For some, however, particularly among America’s leftists, the reaction was a categorical rejection of Trump’s support for the Venezuelan opposition.
Many American leftists misread this crisis as a cold war left-right struggle.
First, American leftists clearly see Venezuela as a Cold War-style, left vs. right struggle in which they must support the left. But this is very much a 21st-century contest between populist authoritarianism and liberal democracy—and Maduro’s the authoritarian. Sure, he leads a "socialist" party, but his regime has obliterated Venezuela’s democracy since he came to power in 2013.
The geopolitical consequences of the Presidential sweepstakes are obvious. Just look at who’s supporting Maduro: China, Russia, Turkey, Cuba, Syria, and Nicaragua—a rogue’s gallery of dictators and autocrats across the ideological spectrum. They don’t want to see democratic uprisings succeed, and in the case of China and Russia, they don’t want to lose the billions Venezuela owes them. The Kremlin also aims to preserve its strong ties with Venezuela, which may allow Russia to set up military bases on its territory, barely 1,200 miles from U.S. shores.
Or look at who is supporting the opposition: Venezuela’s neighbors, Australia, Canada, Israel, the European Union and others. Spain’s socialist prime minister, Germany, France and the U.K., all support the opposition.
Transitioning to lessons learned for America’s future:
At the State of the Union address, President Donald Trump offered a stinging critique of Maduro, as well as a warning to those wanting socialism in the United States, saying, "Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country."
Wanting to know if the people who support socialism had ever heard from people who’ve suffered under it, Campus Reform's Cabot Phillips headed to a Venezuelan Freedom rally in Washington, D.C.
It soon became abundantly clear that the Venezuelans in attendance were horrified by the idea of bringing socialism to the United States.
Asking them, "What is your message to those who want socialism here," the attendees were in agreement: don’t do it.
"You do not ever want anything close to socialism," one attendee said, while another added, "people are eating from trash cans in the streets, so how has socialism helped?"