Perhaps the most amusing and #headdesk inducing reaction to the situation in Venezuela is this sudden notion Juan Guaidó is some sort of tool of the “far right.” It’s a complaint uttered by Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and multiple columnists at The Nation – looking to somehow connect Guaidó’s rise in Venezuela with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The answer on whether Trump is heavily involved in Venezuela is rather complicated – as most world matters tend to become – but does appear to be true. The Wall Street Journal reported last week Vice President Mike Pence told Guaidó the U.S. would support him if he accepted the presidency.
The National Assembly publicly laid out a path Jan. 15 to oust Mr. Maduro by declaring him illegitimate, a step that could trigger a constitutional mechanism that would allow Mr. Guaidó to lead an interim government.
On that day, administration officials worked to coordinate a plan with allies and with Mr. Guaidó.
Mr. Pompeo discussed the developments in Venezuela in a call with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. On the Senate floor, Mr. Rubio again urged the administration to recognize Mr. Guaidó.
That day, Mr. Pence also called Mr. Guaidó to express the U.S.’s resolute support for the National Assembly of Venezuela as the only legitimate democratic body in the country.
However, one shouldn’t conflate Washington’s involvement in Venezuela as some notion Guaidó will suddenly show up in Caracas with a red “Make Venezuela Great Again” ballcap or start pushing Trump-like measures. After all, Guaidó’s Popular Will party is a full member of Socialist International (the wife of Popular Will founder Leopardo Lopez gave a speech before SI in 2014) meaning it’s not exactly pushing for some sort of free market paradise where pretty much anyone can start a business as long as they aren’t hurting anyone, taking their stuff, or their liberty.
Popular Will’s own manifesto shows its belief in socialism (via Google Translate):
From this Manifesto, we, the activists of Popular Will, summoned all Venezuelans to join us in the construction of the Best Venezuela, which is the Venezuela of La Paz, Bienestar y el Progreso, in a plural, prosperous framework, free and inclusive, where we can live in peace and democracy.
A Venezuela where freedom is exercised constructively and responsibly, in the framework of Human Rights.
A Venezuela where democracy is a system that effectively resolves the problems of citizens.
A Venezuela where everyone participates constructively in the satisfaction and solution of your individual and collective needs.
A Venezuela where everyone participates in the control of public management at the local level, State and national.
A Venezuela with citizens who value success through overcoming, work and personal and collective effort.
A Venezuela with a State that promotes social development, that contributes to raise day by day the quality of life of all Venezuelans through universal access to health, education and quality public services.
Popular Will also advocates, “guaranteed access to knowledge, health, food, housing, basic services and security,” plus “attention to sectors with greater difficulties to access the labor market (young people, seniors, people with disabilities).” There are also the rather vague edicts of “corporate social responsibility,” and “freedom and union autonomy.” It also wants the National Assembly to appoint PDVSA’s board – meaning there will still be state control over the oil company even if Popular Will vows this separates “it from the central government and the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, which is the body for policy design public.”
These ideas aren’t anything close to free market solutions, and essentially put Guaidó in the “socialist lite” category (promises of democracy through state control). The fact he’s anti-Nicolas Maduro is nice, but Guaidó isn’t exactly some tool of the right wing. After all, other organized opposition parties in Venezuela include A New Era, Movement for Socialism, Democratic Action which are all Socialist International members. Justice First is a mix of ideology but not exactly free market friendly.
This brings us back to America’s involvement in Venezuela – and the danger of playing world police. The U.S. wants Maduro gone, but it’s a mistake to think Guaidó will be better than the current dictator in chief. It’s akin to supporting a more non-violent version Leon Trotsky because he was opposed to Josef Stalin although Guaidó might support the rule of law a little bit more.
My fear is Trump’s support of Guaidó will eventually include American troops going into Venezuela because, “Hey…they have oil, let’s take it.” We’ve seen U.S. intervention in other nations go so well before (note sarcasm) and it’s foolish to think the results will be any different. Let’s also not forget American interference tends to be Maduro’s main line of attack against his opposition. There’s always the danger future Venezuelan leaders will keep using said interference (via sanctions or rhetoric in general) to promote more socialism by claiming America stands against “the will of the people.”
The U.S. needs to stop getting involved politically in Central America but encourage liberty through free trade, free speech, and individualism.