Hey guys. I wrote a column that will be published in my school newspaper in the next week. I would appreciate your feedback so I can make edits before the final deadline. :)
Freedom Must Ring In Venezuela
In 1998, Hugo Chavez won the Venezuelan Presidential election on the promise of fighting political corruption, abandoning the free-market model, and resisting what he saw as “western imperialism”. Upon assuming office, he tore up the constitution and replaced it with his own- greatly consolidating his power. He used his newfound authority to pack the Supreme Court with loyalists, abolish the existing Congress, and replace it with his own rubber-stamp legislature called the National Assembly. Chavez also implemented radical and destructive policies such as nationalizing literally thousands of companies, hyperinflating the currency, and forcing excessive price controls on businesses. He may have sought to transform Venezuela into a Socialist utopia, but instead led it down the road to serfdom and autocracy. The wicked reign of Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, are directly responsible for the abject poverty and strife Venezuelans face.
Things took a turn for the worst in 2010 as the economy collapsed under the burden of Chavez’s “populist” government. Because of bad monetary policy, the Venezuelan Bolivar has inflated by over 1,000,000 percent since the start of the economic crisis. Shelves remain empty as merchants are unwilling to sell goods below market value as the government mandates. According to the Brookings Institution, “Venezuela has really become the poster child for how the combination of corruption, economic mismanagement, and undemocratic governance can lead to widespread suffering, in a spreading humanitarian crisis”. People are starving, basic goods such as toilet paper are nowhere to be found, criminals run rampant in the city streets, and 3 million people have fled the country. In addition, the Maduro regime frequently bullies dissenters, cracks down on demonstrators, and forces the media to act as it’s propaganda outlet.
In light of the state of their country, Venezuelans overwhelmingly voted for the opposition party in the 2015 National Assembly election. In response, Maduro once again defied the rule of law and began to ignore the National Assembly. The Supreme Court then formally stripped it of all its power and allowed Maduro to convene a new legislature.
In May 2018, Maduro won re-election in a widely-boycotted contest. He disqualified any viable opposition candidate with bogus charges, forced the media to give him blanket coverage, and controlled votes by threatening to deny dissenters the food assistance they depend on. The National Assembly (which still existed ceremonially) declared the election fraudulent, and it’s leader, Juan Guaido, asserted himself as the interim President of Venezuela. Maduro’s theft of the election and Guaido’s defiance and promises of change inspired hundreds of thousands of people to march in the streets of Caracas, demanding an end to the regime.
In January, the United States recognized Guaido as the legitimate president. The Treasury Department seized the assets of high-ranking Maduro officials, and the State Department cut all remaining diplomatic ties with the regime. Our government standing in solidarity with the people of Venezuela was long overdue. It is America’s responsibility as a great beacon of hope to make the world safe for democracy. We have a humanitarian obligation to help those who yearn for freedom whenever and wherever feasible.
With that being said, America’s foreign policy is driven almost entirely by its strategic interest. It is very important to think carefully about whether or not intervention will actually benefit our country. Luckily, in addition to being the will of the Venezuelan people, regime change would also greatly benefit the United States.
Since the Bolivarian Revolution, America’s adversaries have heavily influenced Venezuela in an attempt to undermine our interests- a blatant violation of the Monroe Doctrine.
Cuba has a surprisingly powerful and sophisticated intelligence network that spans across the region. In Venezuela alone, there are an estimated 20,000 Cuban agents propping up the regime. They are also engaged in destabilizing other Latin countries in order to expand their influence. The Cuban government is also engaged in a massive drug trade, one that greatly affects the U.S. Weakening Cuba’s intelligence stronghold in the region would likely undermine its drug business as well.
Russia would also suffer from a democratic transition. Maduro has reportedly recently agreed to allow Russia to build a military base on La Orchila Island. Such a base would have been able to support strategic nuclear bombers. Marudo being out of power could spare us another Cuban Missile Crisis. In addition, Russia would no longer be able to influence oil prices for themselves and Iran.
On the other hand, the U.S. and its allies would once again be free to trade with and invest in Venezuela. Eastern Europe would also benefit because the absence of Russian leverage in the region could potentially open the door to NATO expansion.
We must note, however, that regime change should not be spearheaded by the United States. Ultimately, this is primarily a Venezuelan issue, and the transition process should occur as the Venezuelan people see fit. We should flex our diplomatic and economic muscles in their aid, but direct military intervention should be off the table barring an extreme escalation.