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Is Trump Beating the Drums of War In Venezuela?

The Trump Administrations reaction to the crisis in Venezuela in walking a very dangerous line.


John Bolton, National Security Advisor to Donald Trump

Medellin, Colombia- 1/28/2019

At this point it is obvious that the Trump administration is considering military intervention in Venezuela. They are doubtlessly spurred on in part in this endeavor by John Bolton, who refuses to acknowledge that the 18-year and counting war in Iraq (which he helped plan and advocated strongly for) was a bad idea. He was a proponent of the wars in Libya and Syria as well as an advocate for toppling Iran and North Korea. In fact, it is unclear if Mr Bolton has ever encountered a war he didn't like. 

The administration has heightened its bellicose rhetoric in recent days, often using Mr Bolton as a mouthpiece. And has made public its plans to seize American oil-revenues from Venezuela and reroute them to the self-declared president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido. Multiple experts on Venezuela have made public their fears that this could lead to a civil-war in Venezuela. 

One of the main proposals floated by the administration has been to target Venezuelan imports of crude oil generally and to target Citgo, the American-based arm of the state-run Venezuelan oil-company PDVSA, specifically. The administration has already advised refineries on the Gulf and East Coast to start seeking alternative supplies to Venezuelan crude. These would be by-far the toughest sanctions on Venezuela yet, and would cripple oil-production in the short term, with some experts predicting a drop in the already plummeting Venezuelan GDP by 30% as well as exacerbating an already wildly out of control hyper-inflation in Venezuelan currency. The policy seems tailor-made to specifically foment further unrest in Venezuela. 

The administration has also stated publicly, through Mr Bolton, that "Any violence or intimidation against Mr Gauido....would represent a grave and illegal assault, and would be followed by a significant response."

It is unclear exactly what response he is talking about, but considering the ultra-hawkish views of Mr. Bolton as well as his life-long fanaticism for regime change, it is not difficult to imagine what advice he is giving the Administration. 

In fact, the situation is beginning to bear a striking resemblance to the run-up to the war in Libya. During the Arab Spring, the Obama administration placed crippling sanctions on Libya while they rallied international support to invade, (which resulted in a decrease in oil production of more than 80%) before bombing, and then finally toppling Ghadafi. This radically increased instability in the region and has widely been considered the biggest foreign policy mistakes of the administration. But Mr Bolton seems unable to draw a lesson from that or any of his other disastrous decisions. 

The US and 16 other countries have recognized Juan Guaido as the legitimate president after remarkably large demonstrations Jan 23rd rocked the country. The European Union has stated that if Mr Maduro does not hold new elections by Saturday, they will follow suit. 

As this publication has written before, Nicolas Maduro is an utterly corrupt Military Dictator known for repressing his people and political enemies violently. He runs a government that has transformed into something more resembling a kleptocracy than any other type of recognizable system, and his economic policies could best be described as "allowing the military to personally raid the national treasury.".

We are strong advocates of the idea that Nicolas Maduro is an illegitimate leader and is guilty of grave human rights violations. 

But the idea that the US government is suddenly so involved in Venezuela out of their love for Democracy is laughable. Especially after years of such close ties to Saudi Arabia, who seems immune to even a scolding from the Trump administration for their own human rights abuses as well the brutal murder of a journalist living in America. 

"The United States is likely not just interested in the arepas"

The US has already sent 20 million dollars to support Mr Guaido, presumably to buy allies in the Maduro government, with whom Mr Guaido has been meeting. This news was followed by the announcement from the administration that Elliot Abrams has been appointed to supervise the situation in Venezuela. Mr Abrams has been criticised for his parts in the interventions in El Salvador and Nicaragua by the Reagan administration, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and was censured for his part in the Iran-Contra scandal. 

And as Venezuelans and Colombians have been joking lately about the sudden US involvement in Venezuela, the US is most likely not just interested in the arepas.

As someone who has been reporting on the utterly tragic situation in Venezuela for months, I was initially heartened by the protests there. It seemed like the country had finally had enough of an utterly corrupt strongman president know for rigging elections and imprisoning journalists. 

But the Trump administrations' response has been troubling to say the least. And has been followed by hawkish editorials in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal that seem designed to stoke public outrage against the Maduro regime. It all seems a bit like deja-vu as the war drums begin to beat. 

Fortunately this time around, despite his erratic foreign policy and a hawkish cabinet and advisors, Trump faces considerable public skepticism about American Military Intervention abroad as well as very motivated Democratic and progressive candidates who have come out against the idea of further meddling in Latin America after our disastrous adventures in the Middle East. And Venezuela, unlike Libya has powerful allies like Russia and China likely to block resolutions from UN that the administration is already pushing for. But we should still keep in mind the lessons of the past.

The people of Venezuela have suffered greatly at the hands of a dictator, and they deserve our support. But that support should be predicated on the idea that the US should not be fomenting revolutions abroad, nor considering actions against a country that could plunge it into civil. Especially against a regime with considerable Russian military support. It may be too much to hope that Mr Bolton is capable of learning from his mistakes, but one hopes that the American public is. 

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