There was an important essay published at The Hill yesterday by Venezuelan-American attorney Antonio Mora which carries some vital information and dire warnings concerning the unfolding crisis in his home country. What he’s warning of is the possibility that the already failing socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro could wind up collapsing, but not disappearing, leaving us with a new version of Cuba under the Castro family. This is the crux of his argument:
Maduro is trying to cement his power by holding a rigged constituent assembly election. The assembly’s mission would be to adopt a new constitution that would eliminate the opposition-controlled National Assembly, perpetuate Maduro’s hold on power, eliminate any vestiges of democracy and establish a Cuba-style, one-party communist dictatorship.
With the constituent assembly “election” scheduled for July 30, no time is left for waffling from the international community. Anarchy in Venezuela, a possible civil war, or the consolidation of a “new Cuba” pose serious risks for the national security of the Unites States and the whole hemisphere.
In order to understand the threat you need to know the players involved. Mora provides the following list of factoids about the ruling party and Maduro’s family which may prove shocking to even those who have been following the story closely. He describes the situation as being like a storyline from the TV series “Narcos,” but actually much worse in some ways.
- The country’s Supreme Court president is a convicted murderer.
- A U.S. federal court indicted its minister of the interior for drug trafficking.
- The U.S. Treasury Department named its vice president a drug kingpin.
- Two nephews of the nation’s first lady are behind bars, convicted of attempting to transport 800 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S.
- The country’s president faces a lawsuit before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, filed by 100 Latin American politicians, which accuses him of committing human rights abuses.
If Maduro succeeds in destroying the constitution and dismissing the legislature without losing control of the nation, Mora argues that Venezuela will complete the transition from socialist tyranny to full on communist dictatorship, in much the same style as Cuba under Fidel Castro in the early years. It will also, the author argues, trigger a massive exodus of refugees, many of whom will wish to come to the United States. We could be talking numbers upwards of five million or more.
Mora’s advice is for the United States to lead the way with other western partners in decisive action. Rather than a unilateral set of sanctions which could further endanger the starving populace, he suggests we freeze the assets of Maduro government officials and family members. We should also cancel their visas and expel their family members and associates from the U.S. and our allied nations. (We could simultaneously promulgate the information about how rich those people are, living high on the hog, to the starving Venezuelan citizens.) That might finally force Maduro to schedule free, open elections and leave the place quietly.
I don’t disagree with Mora’s solutions, nor really much of his analysis. The Maduro regime is a crime syndicate to be sure and the people of that nation are in desperate need of relief. But I’m not so sure that the complete collapse of the current socialist government would see Maduro still in charge. At this point it seems as if the people are so unified against him (including some of the former Chavistas) that he’s more likely to wind up hanging from a meat hook in the center of Caracas in the manner of ll Duce in Italy, circa 1945.
But that’s not a sure thing and I agree we should be taking action. I’ve argued here before that military intervention would be a foolish invitation to disaster (not to mention our having plenty of other irons in the fire at the moment) but normal sanctions probably aren’t enough. I like Mora’s suggestions I listed above, as they take a much firmer hand in the situation without starting an actual war. Hopefully the Trump administration will consider some of these tactics.