US President Donald Trump’s threat that a military solution is “on the table” in the ongoing political and economic crises in Venezuela is a throwback to the olden days of imperialist manipulation of events in sovereign nations that do not toe a favoured ideological line. The US and several Western European countries have said they recognise Popular Will party leader Juan Guaidó, President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as interim president even though President Nicolas Maduro is firmly in his seat. Some right-wing Latin American regimes also followed suit and recognised Guaido.
The US-led effort to drive out Venezuela’s socialist regime has been on since 1999, when President Hugo Chavez was first elected into office. Chavez’s foreign policy was distinctly anti-imperialist and he became a close friend of Cuba. At home too, he began to shift national resources towards the poor through a policy of subsidies, price and foreign currency controls. The country’s huge oil wealth supported these policies but after some years, the productive sector of the economy began to decline, due to what businessmen said were lack of profits.
Hugo Chavez died in 2013 but his political movement continued under Nicolas Maduro. Since then, the country’s socio-economic situation grew steadily worse, in part due to Western economic pressure. The country is experiencing one of the world’s highest inflation rates, which made it difficult for most citizens to buy essential commodities and food. At one point Maduro’s regime changed the national currency through redenomination that was once contemplated in Nigeria. While that move reduced the amount of money that citizens must carry, it did not contain hyperinflation.
The crises made up to three million citizens to leave the country, according to the UN. They went to Venezuela’s neighbours Columbia, Ecuador and Peru but also Panama, Brazil, Spain, Chile and the US. Events leading up to the political crises started last year when Maduro was re-elected to a second term in office. His opponents boycotted the election and said it was illegitimate. Maduro waited until January 10, this year, when his first term ended, to take his second term oath. The opposition controlled National Assembly refused to recognise him. Instead, its president, Guaido, declared himself Interim President on January 23 and was recognised by the Western powers.
In all these sordid events, it is the hapless poor people of Venezuela that are paying a heavy price for an ideological war. Although Venezuela is suffering badly, it is not in any way a threat to international peace and security of the kind that will warrant foreign military intervention. In any case, it is the duty of the UN Security Council to make such a determination, not for individual countries to take it upon themselves to do so for imperialistic reasons.
The lesson of Iraq in 2003, when some countries took it upon themselves to launch an invasion without UN Security Council approval on grounds that later turned out to be spurious, is too fresh in the minds of citizens of the world. Just like the false allegation that the regime of Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, the current build up to the invasion of Venezuela is purely ideological and strategic and has nothing to do with any threat to international peace.
The socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro might have made many costly socio-economic policy mistakes, but that is for it and its citizens to sort out. The country needs international help to get back on its feet, beginning with stemming the outward migration of its citizens to neighbouring countries and feeding those who chose to remain behind or are unable to flee. It is in this light that we criticise Maduro’s government for blocking roads and bridges in order to stop the delivery of humanitarian food supplies. Even though it could be right that the “aid” effort is another Western machination against it, we believe that children and their parents must not starve to death while this senseless ideological war is being fought.