U.S. should keep its hands off Venezuela

Photo Courtesy of Kayla O'Mahony

Venezuelan citizens should choose their own leader

Kevin Leon

keleon@ursinus.edu

With the federal government shutdown and Trump’s border wall ideas taking the national center stage, the United States’ involvement in Venezuela is increasing without much prominent news coverage. Venezuela has been in crisis for years now due to corruption and a plummeting economy. On January 23, 2019, Juan Guaido, the president of the national assembly of Venezuela, declared himself the new interim president. The U.S. instantly recognized this move as legitimate. Considering the U.S.’s past history of intervening in South America, this move might foretell further problematic meddling.

Guaido’s position grants him the power to declare himself interim president if there is a vacancy in the presidency. Nicolas Maduro was reelected in 2018, but to Guaido and other Venezuelans, that election was illegitimate. This interim presidency
is supposed to last until a new election is held within 30 days.

America has a history of meddling with democratically elected governments in Latin America, most notoriously in their involvement with the Argentinean Diry Wars of the 1970s and 80s. The repercussions of U.S. interference can be seen today with the constant turmoil in Central America.

The U.S. is positioning Guaido as a democratic figure who is trying to liberate Venezuelans. He is a part of the opposition
that has challenged Maduro for years. That same opposition has exercised anti-democratic actions against Maduro, which includes a drone assassination attempt on Maduro last summer.

Through these actions, Washington has clarified that it isn’t interested in establishing “democracy.” They’re not trying to liberate the people of Venezuela. The U.S. placed sanctions on the oil sector of Venezuela which further crippled their economy. But within these sanctions, oil companies Chevron and Halliburton were given exceptions to continue working in Venezuela. Senator Marco Rubio essentially called for oil companies to support a coup by tweeting “for the sake of these U.S. workers, I hope [U.S. oil companies] will begin working with the administration of President Guaidó and cut off [the] illegitimate Maduro regime.” American oil interests are a prominent force in determining how the United States handles the current Venezuelan situation.

On January 28, John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, appeared at a White House briefing with the words “5000 troops to Colombia” written on a note pad, which showed the real possibility of military intervention
in the region. Jair Bolsonaro, the newly elected far-right nationalist president of Brazil, has already welcomed U.S. military presence within Brazilian borders.

The ideal outcome for the U.S. government is Maduro stepping down, but that doesn’t seem like it will happen. Maduro has thus far refused to budge, and with the backing of the Venezuelan military, he doesn’t have much of a reason to. With America’s unwillingness to rule out military intervention, this situation could escalate. On February 4, Maduro went on television to send Trump a message. “Let’s respect each other, or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?”

Now, it’s clear that there are those in Venezuela who wish to see a change in their government. That pressure should culminate in political action and possibly a new election. But whatever the outcome is, it should be up to the people of that country to decide. The United States should not intervene. Acknowledging Guaido as president sets a bad precedent that the U.S. can determine the legitimate leader of sovereign governments. America shouldn’t decide who is the president of another nation via tweet.

The government of Maduro should be criticized. But it’s not America’s place to intervene
and decide what the future of
the country should look like. Washington’s track record of backing Latin American regime changes should be a good enough deterrent.