The biggest question in international politics
Image Courtesy of Eneas De Troya, Flickr
by Cormac McLaggen
It would perhaps be a bit of an understatement to say that Venezuela is in crisis. After questionable elections, President Maduro was re-elected to office despite having overseen thirteen thousand percent inflation in 2018 and refusing humanitarian aid whilst three-quarters of the population lost an average of twenty pounds. The leader of the opposition – Juan Guaido – used a constitutional clause to declare himself as the interim president. In a country where political activists can be imprisoned or killed, this took some balls.
Shortly after Guaido made his declaration, countries around the world began to recognise him as the official president of Venezuela, including France, Germany, the UK and the US. This was a move so seamless and swift it was almost certainly orchestrated via back channels.
Now, despite its history of backing rebels and dictators alike, America is not actually to blame for this particular crisis.
Although, the Trump administration should make sure it stays that way.
America and the West, in general, has a complicated relationship with intervening in other countries. We intervened in Iraq, which very few would argue was a good idea and we have yet to intervene in Syria, where many argue we should be doing more to protect dying civilians. Knowing when to and when not to intervene is like predicting the weather at times – everyone gets it wrong sometimes, but we seem to be getting it wrong more often than not at the moment.
It is quite understandable, therefore, that there was some alarm when Vice President Mike Pence announced the US government’s backing of Guaido. There is a fear of military intervention or a costly (both financially and in terms of lives) conflict. That is not to say that we should sit back and let a population slowly starve to death. Although, thinking about it, we are already doing that in Yemen.
Not only would an intervention be draining, but it would also be counterproductive. Maduro has been insisting for years that the US is plotting the downfall of Venezuela because of its pseudo-socialist government.
By implementing sanctions and threatening military action the US is just playing into Maduro’s narrative and encouraging people to support him.
He can now argue that his opponents are part of a treasonous plot funded by a foreign power and silence the protest with patriotism.
But it’s hard. Having to sit on your hands and do nothing in the face of this crisis is hard. There is an urge to swoop in and fix things which is entirely understandable. This is a rare case whereby doing nothing is the best course of action, because doing something very rarely helps. Venezuela needs to find a government system that works for them. If there is to be a popular uprising it needs to actually be popular with the people.