…though what isn’t known at this point is what that involvement is going to look like. What’s least likely, at least right now, is a full-scale American military adventure in that collapsing socialist hellhole – President Trump has been adamant about his desire not to involve us in what he calls “endless wars” and is in fact working to extricate the military from the 20-year mess in Afghanistan. A fresh project in Venezuela could well become a Vietnam for the Western Hemisphere, particularly given the disgusting sympathy so much of the Democrat Party has for the Maduro regime.
But there is without a doubt an American effort at providing humanitarian aid to the people of Venezuela, and over the weekend that began to pierce the veil of ignorance the mainstream media has done its best to cover the American people with where that country is concerned. Maduro’s thugs made it impossible to ignore.
As peaceful aid workers started up trucks that would carry humanitarian aid across Venezuela’s borders with Brazil and Colombia on Saturday, thousands of Venezuelans in need of food and medical supplies took to the streets to pressure the military to allow the much-needed aid into the country.
Eight trucks carrying aid tried to cross the border on Saturday, Colombian officials said. Three of them made it across the border with Colombia into Venezuela, where two were “incinerated,” according to the officials.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido asked the international community to keep “all options open” in the campaign to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“Today’s events have obliged me to take a decision: To propose in a formal manner to the international community that we keep all options open to liberate this country which struggles and will keep on struggling,” Guaido wrote in a tweet on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, he announced that he will meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday at an emergency meeting in Bogota, Colombia of foreign ministers from mostly Latin American nations to discuss the burgeoning crisis inside Venezuela, according to the Associated Press.
At a press conference on the Colombian side of the border with Venezuela, Guaido continued to urge members of the nation’s military to join the opposition.
“How many of you national guardsmen have a sick mother? How many have kids in school without food,” he said, at a warehouse where some 200 tons of mostly U.S.-supplied boxes of food and medicine has been stockpiled, the AP reported.
On Saturday evening, Colombian officials said that 285 people had been injured in the day’s border confrontations — 37 of them hospitalized. At least 60 members of the Venezuelan military defected on Saturday, seeking refuge in Colombia, the officials said.
The confrontations, most of which have occurred on the Venezuelan side of the borders, turned violent in many instances, threatening to further embroil the country in chaos.
On the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, which crosses into the country from Colombia, Venezuelan authorities unleashed tear gas to disperse crowds, who had begun forming human chains in an effort to move aid across the border on their own.
And on Venezuela’s border with Brazil there is also violence emanating from attempts to deliver humanitarian aid…
The political showdown over the delivery of aid to Venezuela turned deadly Friday when its security forces fired on protesters near the country’s Brazilian border, killing two and wounding a dozen in a confrontation that could signal a more violent and destabilizing struggle over who can claim to be the country’s legitimate leader.
A critical moment loomed on Saturday, when Venezuela’s opposition, led by Juan Guaidó, vowed to deliver tons of donated humanitarian aid from abroad, against the orders of President Nicolás Maduro.
The protesters killed on Friday, members of the Pemón indigenous group, opposed Mr. Maduro’s decision, saying the population needs the food and medication. They were shot after closing a road to prevent security forces from passing. Outraged fellow protesters were reported to have seized a Venezuela National Guard commander and his deputies in retaliation.
The bloodshed came as the presidents of Chile, Colombia and Paraguay flew to the Colombian border town of Cúcuta in a display of anti-Maduro resolve — and were joined by Mr. Guaidó, who defied a travel ban. Crowds converged in the town, where tons of aid have been stockpiled, cheering Latino pop stars in a pro-Guaidó show arranged by Richard Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur.
The stranglehold on the Venezuelan people and the attempt to deny them humanitarian aid is taking place at sea as well as land…
A Venezuelan Navy vessel threatened to “open fire” on a ship carrying humanitarian aid that was dispatched and financed by Puerto Rico’s government, according to the island’s governor.
In a statement Saturday night, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he instructed the ship, which departed the island Wednesday and had six American citizens on board, to leave the area where it was reportedly threatened by embattled President Nicolás Maduro’s navy to ensure the crew’s safety.
“This is a direct threat against a humanitarian mission being carried out by American citizens,” he said. “This is unacceptable and shameful.”
Rosselló said he had notified U.S. government official about the alleged incident.
A spokesperson for the Puerto Rican government told CBS News the ship was entering Venezuelan territorial waters when it was threatened. The ship, carrying more than 200 tons of humanitarian aid, was heading to the port city of Puerto Cabello, in Venezuela’s northwestern coast, the spokesperson added.
The Maduro regime’s refusal to allow humanitarian aid into the country, forcing it to be smuggled in, stems from the dictator’s castigation of aid as a “Trojan horse” to be used against his regime. In a sense he’s correct, seeing as the countries where that aid originates have all recognized Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of that country after Maduro’s extraconstitutional dismissal of its national assembly.
But what a monster you’ve got to be to burn trucks carrying food and medicine to keep your people from dying of disease and starvation. Just to hold on to power for a little longer in a regime which has clearly failed?
At some point the international effort to help those people is going to grow some teeth. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence is in Bogota today…
The United States is planning new ways to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to give up power and other means to provide assistance to the people of the economically devastated South American nation after a weekend effort failed to deliver aid.
Vice President Mike Pence arrived in the Colombian capital and headed immediately into a meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque. Pence will also meet with members of a regional coalition and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to discuss the next steps aimed at ousting Maduro.
A senior administration official said Pence is expected to announce “clear actions” as he speaks to members of the Lima Group, a coalition of more than a dozen nations organized to address the crisis in Venezuela.
Pence’s appearance before the Lima Group comes two days after a U.S.-backed effort to deliver humanitarian across the border from Colombia ended in violence, with forces loyal to Maduro firing tear gas and buckshot on activists accompanying the supplies and setting the material on fire. Two people were killed and at least 300 wounded.
For weeks, the U.S. and regional allies had been amassing emergency food and medical kits on Venezuela’s borders in anticipation of carrying out a “humanitarian avalanche” by land and sea to undermine Maduro’s rule.
Guaido, who has been recognized as interim president by the U.S. and 50 other governments who say Maduro’s re-election last year was illegitimate, has called on the international community to consider “all options” to resolve Venezuela’s crisis. A close ally, Julio Borges, the opposition ambassador to the Lima Group, was more explicit Sunday, urging the use of force against Maduro’s government. But U.S. officials have avoided talk of military action.
They’re talking about more economic sanctions against the regime, and one would imagine against specific individuals within that regime. And while yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a couple of the Sunday news shows that military force hasn’t been ruled out (there have been discussions within the administration about it for some time, but no real indication it’s in the offing) it’s clear that’s a last resort.
The AP piece above has something interesting, though, which indicates the political complications surrounding the Venezuela issue and why so much of America’s approach to the collapse of that regime might be driven by our internal politics…
But any additional sanctions will increase the suffering of the Venezuelan people and may lead to more political violence, said Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who advocates a negotiated end to the political crisis.
“The ‘humanitarian aid’ this weekend was a public relations stunt, since the aid was just a tiny fraction of the food and medicine that they are depriving Venezuelans of with the sanctions,” Weisbrot said. “As the Trump administration admitted, it was an attempt to get the Venezuelan military to disobey Maduro. It was a farce, and it failed.”
The Center for Economic and Policy Research is a Washington think-tank with a rather interesting history where Venezuela is concerned. From Discover the Networks…
CEPR consistently lauds the professed achievements of socialist regimes, most notably Venezuela. In 2003, the Hugo Chavezgovernment established a U.S.-based lobbying group, the Venezuela Information Office (VIO), in Washington, D.C. Working in concert with a bevy of radical leftist groups like Global Exchange, the VIO acts as a publicity arm for the Chavez regime, polishing Venezuela’s troubled image in America. Among those who took an immediate interest in the mission was CEPR. On the same day that VIO registered with the U.S. Justice Department, Mark Weisbrot co-signed a letter addressed “to the progressive funding community,” urging potential donors “to take an interest in this issue [democracy in Venezuela], and provide funding to groups [like VIO] that are working on it, before it is too late.” Weisbrot’s fellow signatories included, among others, Medea Benjamin (founder of Global Exchange), her husband Kevin Danaher, and Chuck Kaufman, National Coordinator of Nicaragua Network.
A longtime supporter of Chavez, Weisbrot, in a December 2002 article titled “U.S. Intervening Against Democracy in Venezuela,” impugned the U.S. for sponsoring democratic opposition groups in Venezuela, organizations he dismissed as “mostly managers and executives” who “are trying to cripple the economy in order to overthrow the government.”
A June 2005 CEPR research brief blamed Venezuela’s lagging economic growth on these allegedly meddlesome opposition groups, stating: “[I]t would not be fair to hold the government accountable for the loss of output due to opposition actions aimed at toppling the government. The oil strike of 2002-2003 caused enormous damage; one might also include the military coup and other de-stabilizing actions. If not for these efforts, economic growth would almost certainly have been substantially higher and well above the average for the region.” In a November 2005 column, CEPR claimed that the corruption-plagued Venezuelan system exemplified “the way democracy is supposed to work.”
In a January 2007 interview, Mark Weisbrot defended Hugo Chavez’s attempt to do away with private property in Venezuela, to silence all opposition media, and indefinitely to extend his political dominion over his nation. Since many of the enterprises seized by the state were previously state-owned, Weisbrot explained, there is nothing all that radical about returning them to state ownership. That private owners were unwilling to part with their companies did not impress Weisbrot, who admitted that he was not sure what the complaint is — and what it has to do with democracy. The bottom line, Weisbrot argued, was that Chavez ran on a program of 21st century socialism, and won 63 percent of the vote, the largest majority of 9 elections in Latin America last year. So it should not be cause for surprise, or alarm, that the government would attempt to deliver some of what Venezuelans voted for.
So Weisbrot is a long-standing shill for the socialist regime in Venezuela. He’s certainly not alone among the Democrats in DC – there are oodles of them, whose soft spot for Chavez and Maduro is now about to become a considerable political liability. Those millennials who tell pollsters how much they like socialism are doing so out of deep moral convictions about how people shouldn’t be left alone to suffer (there is a wealth of polling data on millennial attitudes which indicates that’s a generation more horrified by the idea of privation and human suffering, particularly as a result of “unfairness,” than any which preceded it) are going to struggle to make sense of support for a regime which burns trucks full of food and medicine. That’s going to be quite inconvenient for a Bernie Sanders, for example, who has openly touted Venezuelan socialism as a model for the U.S. Sanders, over the weekend, had no choice but to turn on Maduro…
Two leading Democratic presidential candidates weighed in Saturday on the escalating unrest in Venezuela. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris called on President Nicolás Maduro to refrain from violence against his own citizens.
Sanders said Venezuela was experiencing “a serious humanitarian crisis,” taking a tougher line against Maduro after previously drawing criticism from Florida Democrats for declining to call the South American strongman a dictator.
Harris, for her part, is now howling about the injustice of the Maduro regime’s denial of aid to its people and is demanding “free and fair” elections there (apparently unaware that it’s been 20 years since those have been possible in Venezuela) – but says she won’t “condone” American military involvement in Venezuela. She’s also calling on Trump to take in all the Venezuelan refugees who want to come, as though somehow we aren’t already doing a great deal to alleviate the migrant crisis there.
As a purely cynical political calculation, the frank truth is that it’s best for Trump’s re-election possibilities to nibble around the edges of the Venezuelan crisis for as long as possible and allow it to completely discredit the socialists in America. Harris, whose entire political career has been spent pushing every socialist policy plank possible, is now denying she is one – and while part of that positioning comes from her attempts at fundraising in Silicon Valley, some of it comes from a recognition that the Venezuela situation is a quagmire for the American Hard Left.
If you’re Trump, and your policy toward Venezuela is (1) that you want to help the Venezuelan people with as food and medicine as possible but (2) you don’t want to send in the Marines to topple the Maduro regime, there is nothing better – from a cynical, purely domestic political perspective – than allowing the Venezuelan government and its violent refusals of foreign aid for its people to define what socialism is for the impressionable young voters the Democrats are counting on to turn the country to the left. And the longer that goes on, the better.
Of course, it can’t go on forever. The worse things get in Venezuela, the more American public opinion will demand something more be done. Whether that’s arming Venezuelans to take the regime down by force, beginning to air-drop humanitarian aid – which would be more than a little provocative, if the Maduro regime is willing to try to shoot down C-130’s over its airspace – or even sending in the Marines, Trump is going to have to do something more if the regime doesn’t collapse.
And it isn’t likely to disintegrate without violence. What few in the mainstream media are willing to admit, though Trump in his seminal speech on Venezuela last week was very explicit in declaring, is that the Maduro regime, like the Chavez government which preceded it, is shot through with Cuban military and intelligence operatives – and those operatives know they have no future in a Venezuela where Maduro and his government are overthrown. They’re more or less an occupying force, and they have no compunction about practicing extreme violence in order to suppress the Venezuelan populace.
Trump’s quote, from his address in Miami last Monday…
Incredibly, there are members of the Venezuelan military still barely supporting this failed dictatorship. They are risking their future, they are risking their lives and Venezuela’s future, for a man controlled by the Cuban military and protected by a private army of Cuban soldiers. (Applause.) Maduro is not a Venezuelan patriot; he is a Cuban puppet. That’s what he is. (Applause.)
And remember that hundreds of millions of dollars used to be paid to Cuba — but no longer, because they no longer have that kind of wealth to be able to do it. So things are changing, and they’re changing fast. (Applause.)
And today I have a message for every official who is helping to keep Maduro in place:
The eyes of the entire world are upon you today, every day, and every day in the future. You cannot hide from the choice that now confronts you. You can choose to accept President Guaidó’s generous offer of amnesty, to live your life in peace with your families and your countrymen. President Guaidó does not seek retribution against you, and neither do we. But you must not follow Maduro’s orders to block humanitarian aid, and you must not threaten any form of violence against peaceful protestors — (applause) — opposition leaders, members of the National Assembly, or President Guaidó and his family.
We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open. (Applause.) We want to restore Venezuelan democracy, and we believe that the Venezuelan military and its leadership have a vital role to play in this process. If you choose this path, you have the opportunity to help forge a safe and prosperous future for all the people of Venezuela.
Or you can choose the second path: continuing to support Maduro.
For decades, the socialist dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela have propped each other up in a very corrupt bargain. Venezuela gave Cuba oil. In return, Cuba gave Venezuela a police state run directly from Havana. (Applause.)
But this is a much different day, and those days are over. (Applause.) The ugly alliance between the two dictatorships is coming to a rapid end. A new future is beginning. All of us in this arena, and thousands and thousands and thousands of people outside — you have to see it — are united because we know the truth about socialism in Venezuela, in Cuba, in Nicaragua, and all around the world. (Applause.)
Politically, the speech was a masterpiece. The time is coming when he’s going to have to act on it, though he’ll want to do so later rather than sooner. Venezuela isn’t going away as an issue which might well define Trump’s presidency and America’s attitude toward socialism.