Saturday, February 2, 2019

My Perspective: Venezuela Crisis and Cuba

My Perspective on the Venezuela Crisis

"The goal, the administration’s thinking goes, is to sever ties that bind Venezuela to Cuba and sink regimes in both countries.

The emerging U.S. assertiveness stems from the desire of the White House to reverse a partial rapprochement with Havana by the Obama administration through the easing of sanctions and the island’s opening to U.S. investment."

    Wall Street Journal, 'Trump Sees Maduro Move As First Shot in Wider Battle.', 1/30/19

One of the more disturbing aspects of what is going on with Venezuela is how easily some Democrats let themselves be steam rolled by the Pompeo-Bolton-Claver Carone-Abrams neocon assault that has Cuba as its ultimate target. Maduro and his government have serious problems that are both internally and externally caused but that does not legitimate foreign sponsored regime change. 

Adam Schiff may have ended any prospect to be the Democratic candidate for President based on his support of the Trump Administration on Venezuela.  Other prominent liberal Democrats such as Senator Dick Durbin will be held responsible for years if they do not challenge Pompeo, et. al. before the US launches or assists military action in Venezuela, just as were supporters of the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq.

Regardless of the undeniable failings of the Maduro government, including its maneuvers to sideline the elected National Assembly, the world, and certainly Latin Americans, cannot but notice that the US has played a behind the scenes role in creating a fictional new regime. The logic that the powerless assembly had the authority to void national elections and therefore to declare Mr. Guaidó as acting President is opportunistic and specious.  It may work politically with governments that do not like Maduro ideologically, but will not stand the test of legal scrutiny over time.

It also does not change the reality that Guaidó only recently received his symbolic status as leader of the Assembly and has minimal qualifications to be a national leader.   As Fulton Armstrong of American University has written,

[Guaidó’s] party’s splits with opposition moderates remain deep, however. Henrique Capriles (Primero Justicia) issued a scathing critique of Guaidó’s strategy.  He accused VP [Voluntad Popular] of sponsoring violence that will use ‘the people of Venezuela as cannon fodder’”.

External instigation of an alternative partisan government to conduct elections is objectively an attempted coup.   President Trump is returning the US to a Monroe Doctrine role in the Hemisphere that will haunt us for decades.

If corruption, repression, and compromised elections are a legitimate basis for intervention in domestic affairs, some close US allies and other countries are as bad or worse than Venezuela.  Will we apply the same standard to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China and Honduras? 

Perhaps most cynically, the delivery of humanitarian aid has been proposed as a way of escalating the conflict, as described by long time opponent of Cuba Jorge G. Castañeda in the New York Times

Military officers and members of the army troops who are in exile would move these supplies to Venezuela, where, if all goes well, the army personnel who are still loyal to Maduro will not stop their journey or shoot them. If they do, the governments of Brazil and Colombia may be willing to back the anti-Maduro soldiers. The threat of a confrontation with its neighbors could be the incentive that the Venezuelan military needs to abandon Maduro, which would make the combat unnecessary.

The US is wishfully thinking that the Venezuelan military will change sides or break apart and if it does that there will not be armed resistance to a regime we engineered to power.   Economic sanctions and violent civil conflict leading to foreign military intervention will increase the suffering of the Venezuelan people.  It will produce decades of damage to US interests in Latin America from which only China and Russia will benefit.

An alternative to deadly internal confrontation and foreign intervention may be offered by President Maduro's suggestion to move elections for the National Assembly forward to 2019.  They should include the President and governors and be guaranteed with UN supervision  to include free participation of all parties and candidates.

Part of the deal must include not only suspension of US efforts to transfer control of Venezuelan national resources to Guaido's putative regime but also the Maduro government's acceptance of international humanitarian assistance.

A more drastic way out of disaster is for the mainstream of the Venezuelan military to reject the legitimacy of both Maduro and Guaidó.  It could create a non-partisan transitional administration to conduct UN assisted elections and to receive international humanitarian aid and investment.  It will need to provide political space for both the Chavistas and the opposition while preserving reasonable relations with Cuba, Russia, China and the US.

Cuba's support is important for any compromise and might be attainable if accompanied by renewed engagement with Havana, a total anathema to the neocons dominating the National Security Council.

A well connected but independent friend in Cuba wrote me:

"The future can be very tragic for that country and a blood bath will most likely take place. If the victims are mostly the revolutionaries, news will be brief and very soon ignored.  If it is general, then we can even have a foreign military intervention and the fighting spilling to other countries. At the same time, be ready for new and more severe steps against Cuba. The goal is to look for an excuse to end traveling and remittances from Miami."

John McAuliff

Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Unpublished letter on February 5 to the New York Times

To the Editor,

The New York Times played a vital role in encouraging and enabling President Obama to take the historic step of normalizing relations with Cuba.

It is puzzling why its news stories uncritically support a narrative about Venezuela created by key figures in the Trump Administration who were and are strongly opposed to the opening with Cuba (John Bolton, Mauricio Claver-Carone, Elliot Abrams).

In fact their diplomatic and potential military assault on Venezuela was credibly reported by the Wall Street Journal as part of a strategy against Cuba.

"The goal, the administration’s thinking goes, is to sever ties that bind Venezuela to Cuba and sink regimes in both countries.  The emerging U.S. assertiveness stems from the desire of the White House to reverse a partial rapprochement with Havana by the Obama administration through the easing of sanctions and the island’s opening to U.S. investment."   (1/30/19)

The Maduro government deserves substantial criticism of its competence, repression of opponents and electoral legitimacy, but US orchestrated regime change is not legal or wise.

The Times should consider whether its heavily tilted coverage against Maduro is creating an atmosphere for war, similar to its role during the run up to the US invasion of Iraq.

John McAuliff

Unpublished letter on February 6 to the New York Times in response to editorial

To the Editor,

The failures of Nicolas Maduro are manifest, due both to internal and external factors, not least years of hostile pressure from the US. 

The  2017 election was internationally discredited in large part because serious opposition parties were barred.  It attracted a record low of 47% of voters.  Nevertheless Maduro was supported by 68%, i.e. 6,245,862  people.  It is a mistake to minimize and dismiss them as "die-hard leftists".

Juan Guaidó does not offer a reasonable alternative based on his experience, political history or legal argument.  Foreign countries and US publications have no authority to decide Venezuela's constitutional law. 

Does a legally marginalized National Assembly have the power to void an election and then substitute its leader as President? No international authority, including the Organization of American States and the United Nations, has made that judgement.

Nationalism in the Venezuelan military makes it unlikely to accept as legitimate a government fostered and imposed by hard-liners in the Trump Administration. 

The only peaceful scenario is either a direct military takeover or a negotiated compromise between the competing claimants to power.  Internationally supported and supervised elections could be conducted by the existing government and a National Assembly that regains its powers. 

All levels of office should be freely contested, including the President, Governors and the National Assembly.  Economic resources such as the oil company must be restored to the existing state and international humanitarian aid should be distributed through non-partisan channels.

The only way a Guaidó government can conduct elections is through armed conflict, external military intervention and bloody Chilean style repression of Chauvistas.  That would be tragic for the Venezuelan people and destructive of US standing in the Hemisphere to the benefit of Russia and China.

John McAuliff

Additional resources:

Interview with Guillaume Long, former foreign minister and United Nations representative of Ecuador

Fulton Armstrong

Eric Hershberg

William Boardman

Peter Kornbluh " For Trump’s Regime Changers, Venezuela Is Just the First Step"

Alejandro Velasco  "A Geopolitical Showdown in Venezuela Will Only Make Things Worse"

Chris Murphy and Ben Rhodes  "Democrats should stand for democracy in Venezuela — and democratic values in America"

Alternatives to war from Uruguay and Mexico
Pepe Mujica former President of Uruguay, friend of Cuba, calls for elections
The Montevideo Mechanism  suggests a process for negotiations
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador supports dialogue, non-intervention
Discussed on Al Jazeera  by Guillaume Long, Phil Gunson, Charles Shapiro

Adam Johnson FAIR analysis of phony bridge picture, misleading media

Fareed Zakaria urges left support for regime change

Steve Ellner warns of damage to the opposition from regime change made in the USA

Klobuchar-Enzi-Leahy bill to end the embargo.  Would this balance  loss or downgrading of Cuba's special relationship with Venezuela?  Would Trump support it to peacefully solve the Maduro problem?

David Smilde and Geoff Ramsey "International Contact Group Represents Best Opportunity for all Sides in the Venezuela Crisis"

Greg Grandin on sovereignty and Latin America What’s at Stake in Venezuela?

No comments:

Post a Comment