Monday, February 18, 2019

Will US Intervene in Venezuela?

The Risk of War in Venezuela Begins on February 23d

An explicit part of the strategy for regime change in Venezuela has been the creation of a confrontation on February 23d when the opposition to the Maduro government will try to bring humanitarian aid across the border from Colombia.  It could not be clearer than in this article in New York Times

Gaby Arellano, an opposition lawmaker in charge of the shipment in Colombia, said one of the goals was to force the military, which has remained loyal to the government, to choose between Mr. Maduro and feeding the Venezuelan people. "Popular pressure to break the military -- this is what we're working toward," she said....

Omar Lares, a former opposition mayor in exile in Cucuta, said organizers want people to surround an aid truck on the Colombian side and accompany it to the bridge. A crowd of thousands would be gathered on the other side to push through a security cordon, move the containers blocking the bridge, and accompany the aid into Venezuela.

CNN on Sunday morning was uncritically playing the theme of humanitarian aid being brought to the border and denied to Venezuelans in desperate need for political reasons.  We should expect a lot more stories along these lines in the lead up to the 23d.  The Maduro government is said to justify blocking assistance because "we are not beggars".  From a humanitarian, political and public relations perspective this is a losing argument when combined with credible articles about shortages in the country.  (When Venezuela sent aid to tornado victims in Cuba, did that make the Cubans beggars?)  I hope Maduro's advisers figure out a way to be more creative and flexible. 

Perhaps they could offer to give permission to a credible intermediary agency (PAHO, ICRC, Caritas, UNICEF) to collect the aid in Colombia and securely transport and distribute aid in a non-political fashion.  If the Guaido forces refuse, their real goal of undermining state authority and provoking a confrontation becomes obvious.  Some of these same international humanitarian agencies have rejected collaboration with the Guiado project just because it is obviously intended for political purposes as noted in the same Times story.

using a food shipment to challenge Mr. Maduro has concerned the same nongovernmental groups that would normally assist in such an effort. Caritas, the charitable arm of the Catholic Church, and the International Committee of the Red Cross have declined to participate, saying they must remain politically neutral.
Regardless of how Venezuela decides to handle the aid problem, we need to be clear to the public and to Congress that there should be no military intervention in Venezuela by the US unilaterally or in combination with Colombia, Brazil or other countries.  Absent authorization from the United Nations, such an action would be regime change hiding behind high minded slogans of "humanitarian intervention" and "responsibility to protect". 

From my viewpoint, opposing totally military intervention does not require uncritical support for the Maduro government.  The sidelining of the National Assembly, the effective exclusion of the opposition from the last Presidential elections, and the collapse of the economy resulting in massive refugee flows into neighboring countries have created legitimate international concern that the neocons in the Trump Administration have manipulated for their own extreme purposes.  Even some European and Latin American countries that have accepted the dubious legal argument that Guaido is the legitimate President do not believe that he should be brought to power through external force.

My assumption is that the army will not go over to Guaido no matter what they think of Maduro because of the obvious foreign role of the US and of the Colombians.  Bolton, et. al. had presumably fantasized that the overwhelming diplomatic and political onslaught they adroitly engineered would lead the military to change sides.  Currently they may really have convinced themselves that the aid gambit will divide the military.  But if that looks like it is also failing, to avoid a loss to face they may need to create an incident that can be used to justify outside forces to bring peace.   Their presumption would have become that the Venezuelan army and militias will collapse when facing US troops.  Given the size of the country and the impact Chavismo still has on sectors of the population, that could be as bad a misjudgement as the invasion of Iraq.

Cuba's Foreign Ministry has charged that the US is positioning troops to take action in Venezuela, including creation of a humanitarian corridor.   Assuming the accuracy of this report, troop movements could be intended for actual use, or they could be intended for psychological effect as is suspected when John Bolton was seen at a press conference carrying under his arm a yellow note pad with words about sending 5,000 US troops to Colombia.  Bolton may anticipate Venezuela and Cuba will over-react and do something that can be spun to justify US military action.

Three factors should be considered as we think about how to most effectively mount opposition to US military action against Venezuela.

1)  I believe explicit support for or solidarity with Maduro is likely to be counterproductive and discredit the rest of our message.  We should emphasize that this is a Venezuelan problem for Venezuelans to resolve without foreign interference.  Direct or indirect US military intervention to impose a government that it deems more legitimate will be widely seen as renewal of the Monroe doctrine, damage America's reputation long term, especially in Latin America and Africa, and discredit the nationalist credentials of the opposition.  Most importantly it will result in the loss of an unpredictable number of lives of Venezuelan defenders and civilians and American interveners as well as wide scale economic destruction.

2)  We should emphasize the need for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, including negotiations led by Mexico and Uruguay (The Montevideo  Mechanism)  and by the Contact Group.  We should accept and support that a likely path forward is likely to include new elections of the President, National Assembly and Governors.  In such elections more than one party could embody Chavismo and the long divided opposition.  Conceivably a new governing condition will emerge that does not include Maduro or Guaido and that seeks a balanced relationship with Cuba, the US, Russia, China and other countries.

3)  A critical question is who will conduct elections with UN assistance.   Conceivably the military will  take direct control, rejecting both Maduro and Guaido. Alternatively the executive under Maduro and a National Assembly under Guaido will negotiate resumption of their normal functions and international standing as coequal arms of the Venezuelan government, sharing oversight of the elections.  As that happens, oil and other national resources must be restored to the functioning government and other economic sanctions must be suspended.

Finally, there is good reason to believe that Cuba is the ultimate target for Rubio, Bolton, Claver-Carone and Abrams as reported originally in the Wall Street Journal.

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.
Although several leading Democrats have appeared to support President Trump's strategy for regime change, our colleagues in Washington report important resistance to military intervention.  When Senator Rubio and Rep. Diaz Balart sought bipartisan sponsorship of a resolution supporting Trump's policy,  Democrats responded, 'only if there is a sentence against use of US military forces.'  Significantly, the request for a joint resolution was withdrawn.

What can we do?  All the normal things: letters to Congress and the media, vigils and demonstrations.  We have only a few days to become visible!

I have begun a petition on Move-on that you are welcome to sign and circulate.

My earlier comments and links to resources are here (2/14) and here (2/2).

--John McAuliff

Unpublished letter to the New York Times

To the Editor,

International humanitarian aid to the poor in Venezuela or any country is a good thing.

However, making aid a political weapon to provoke military disloyalty and achieve regime change is the publicly announced goal of President Trump, Senator Rubio and National Security Advisor Bolton. 

They cynically exploit the people who are their proclaimed beneficiary while seeking an excuse for military intervention.

Caritas of the Catholic Church, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and the United Nations will not be part of the US sponsored attempt to violate Venezuela's borders on Saturday.

Richard Branson and other prospective donors who sincerely want to help those in need should seek the assistance of Mexico and the International Contact Group to negotiate with the functioning government of Venezuela a peaceful legal means to transfer aid. 

The US and a minority of countries may recognize the self-proclaimed authority of Juan Guaido to be a symbolic acting President, but the majority of nations and the UN itself does not.

John McAuliff

Unpublished comment on FAIR site

A story and pharmacy pictures from 2016 does not directly address the issue of shortages today.   The number of people fleeing the country suggests there are serious problems, presumably from both internal and external causes.

The bottom line, however, is that the US media has been extremely one sided, neither offering a balanced account of the situation in Venezuela, nor the reasons a sector of the population and the military are still Chavistas.

The aid invasion today seems to have failed, but the opposition won the optics and pressure will continue.   Shooting and gassing civilians, albeit including rock throwers, to block humanitarian aid, regardless of its motives, is not persuasive, note statements by Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders.

The Maduro government needs to move beyond pride and aggressively express willingness to receive aid from anyone as long as the means of delivery is not a political weapon, e.g. through the UN, ICRC and Caritas.  Control of national economic resources should be pushed as a way to help the population, but not as a precondition.

New UN supervised elections for both the executive and the legislative branches nationwide are a reasonable political solution given the discredited process of the past couple of years.    Maduro's position as president of the functioning government and the role of the original National Assembly led currently by Guaido should be accepted domestically and internationally during that process.

That will not satisfy the hard liners on either side (including in Washington), but it is the only way to avoid long violent civil conflict.


Analysis: Cubazuela and the failed-state strategy; Phil Peters, Cuba Resarch Center, in Cuba Standard

Meeting the Needs of Suffering Venezuelans Will Require Expertise and Commitment to Humanitarian Principles; a Statement by Venezuelan and international NGOs

MSNBC’s ‘Resistance’ to Trump’s Venezuela Coup Ranges from Silence to SupportAction Alert from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

Regime Change “Made in the U.S.A.”  Steve Ellner, NACLA, retired professor from Venezuela’s University of the East

Venezuela Coverage Takes Us Back to Golden Age of Lying About Latin America  Mark Cook FAIR, a pro-Maduro perspective on life inside Venezuela

Posts prior to this one

February 2
February 3  Wall Street Journal article
February 14

Post subsequent to this one

February 26

No comments:

Post a Comment