BY: CLAUDIA A. GONZALEZ
On September 8th, the New York Times released a piece titled “Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans With Rebel Venezuelan Officers”, opening a new chapter in the longstanding debate of American intervention in South America. In doing so, a lot of questions and arguments have been raised about the impact that such influence could have on the country, currently immersed in mounting poverty and appalling conditions.
Before arguing whether a move like this could be a negative or positive impact, or if this has any potential of being true, it is important to note the history of the intervention that the United States of America has had in the South American continent and its history with Venezuela during the Chavez era.
Just a few days ago, Chile commemorated the 45th year of the coup d’état to Salvador Allende, a coup that led to a ferocious dictatorship under the leadership of Augusto Pinochet taking the lives of thousands of citizens who had been a part of Allende’s government.. This coup, and the years in power of Augusto Pinochet, was in many ways possible thanks to the support the United States provided to its government. Chile’s experience is not unique, in the region. Countless have been the times where the United States has meddled in one way or another, Cuba, Brazil and El Salvador are some other notable cases, thus creating an anti-American sentiment in some cases.
Given this context, throughout his years in office, Hugo Chavez, former president of Venezuela, this dark history of the United Stated in the region fueled much of his rhetoric- the fight against American imperialism. For Chavez, one of the most important transformations that we should all aim for, was returning to Latin American roots, and separating the central and south American continents from the so-called “yankees”.
Yet, throughout his years in office, Chavez never stopped selling oil to the United States, although he did have episodes where he publicly insulted American officials on national television. And so, even though the relationship between the United Stated and Venezuela did not disappear, it certainly deteriorated. Under Chavez’s rule, Venezuela increased international collaboration with Russia and China and implemented policies that made most American corporations operating in Venezuela stop producing, or for that matter investing in businesses, in the country. At the same time, the chavista officials used the unwillingness of American companies and investors to invest in Venezuela as a reason to boycott or remove the United States’ interest in Venezuela.
So it is safe to say, that during the years Chavez was in office, little was done byt the United States to intervene in anyway imaginable. The latter is important, because Chavez maintained his rhetoric, even if the United States did not engage in that rhetoric.
A different case for intervention could be made through the participation International Organizations have had in finding a viable political solution to Venezuela. International Organizations such Organization of American States, United Nations, among others, have also meddled in the affairs of Venezuela, trying to negotiate and find middle ground for Venezuelans on the verge of its current crisis, actions which Chavez, and consequently Maduro, view as an arm of the United States imperialism.
Nonetheless, it is important to note, that the former has recently changed as the United States has mounted its concern for Venezuela’s situation and this has been accompanied by economic sanctions, which might be considered as the ultimate form and most egregious form of intervention, second only to a military intervention. But it is important to remember that these sanctions started only in the last years of the Obama era, and have recently intensified under the Trump administration, and these sanctions have been specifically targeted at individuals and not the Venezuelan country, people or its economy.
This is particularly relevant, then, when analyzing the content of the New York Times article, which seems to be intended to either harm the Trump administration or fuel this antiimperialist rhetoric from the chavismo. Given the United States’ complicated history in the region, the possibility of the US attempting to even so much as discuss a coup, has grave implications. For a regime that is untrustworthy to begin with, it puts more people associated with the United States at risk of imprisonment.
The last year only, hundreds of military officials have already been imprisoned for potentially plotting a coup against Maduro and his regime. To put this into context, we must recall the outcome of both the uprising that occurred earlier this year, and the attempt against Maduro’s life a month ago. In both situations as Maduro escaped unscathed, many did not. Dissenters, activists and proponents of human rights alike were thrown into jails en masse. With news of possible American interference, these efforts are likely to be redoubled by the Maduro regime putting many more at risk, especially those with any connections to the United States.
The crisis in Venezuela is not unbeknownst to the governments worldwide. While the regime may be a problem, the country is suffering from a massive humanitarian crisis, which will simply not end with a regime change. In order for any successful transition of power, there must be safeguards in place that guarantee economic recovery, with or without international military assistance. If the Middle East is any indication of regime change, none have faced an easy path to recovery. At this point in time, any discussions of regime change, through coups or otherwise, will only draw away attention from a worsening socio-economic situation within the country. The problem, now, in Venezuela is deeper than just the regime, which may be the ultimate cause of the problem, but simply removing Maduro will not rid the nation of its most pressing woes. In an ideal world, a regime change fueled by international intervention would be accompanied by millions in humanitarian aid and a comprehensive reconstruction plan. However, the reality is much more bleak. A regime change through a coup would result in some loose form of military powers taking charge with sporadic monetary interventions from the international community, relegating the future of Venezuela to the likes of Libya and Iraq.
Claudia A. Gonzalez is a Political Analyst with a background in economics. She is currently an Account Manager at Atheneum and holds a Master’s degree in Political Science. She has attended Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Universidad Catolica Andres Bello and the London School of Economics and Political Science.
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