One Flew Over the Coup-Coup Nest
By Nathan Richendollar ‘19
Alternate universes are fun, and these days, no psychedelic drugs are necessary to experience them. Case in point: online reporting and social media reactions to the current leadership struggle in Venezuela, where little-known politician Juan Guaido is trying to wrest control from Nicolas Maduro, a brutal dictator befitting a Three Amigos remake with machine guns. Just like the “infamous El Guapo” from the classic Steve Martin film, Maduro rules Venezuela with an iron fist, reportedly killing and disappearing hundreds of citizens in this week’s protests alone. Maduro and his gaudy goons live high on the hog while simultaneously brutalizing starving citizens and subverting the constitutional order. As in Animal Farm, they do this while claiming to be the “people’s defender.” Maduro has so far obtained enough cash to through drug-smuggling, gun-running, and oil revenue-siphoning operations to stay afloat, but the dire conditions among Venezuela’s average and middling classes are sinking him nonetheless.
With the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela has still found its way to bankruptcy under the tubby tropical totalitarian’s thumb. If Maduro coached basketball like he runs Venezuela, he could lose every regular season game with LeBron, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant all on his team. Inflation rates exceeded one million percent this past year. If the institutional collapse and monetary madness continues, inflation may top ten million percent this year. Several news sources report that a simple basket of daily food now costs the equivalent of $200. Those statistics are truly staggering.
Denied any legitimate means of voting, Venezuelans are voting with their feet and flooding the border regions of Columbia, Brazil, and Guyana by the millions. Three million have left in the past few years. If an equal share of US citizens emigrated, we’d lose the populations of Texas and Louisiana. But out of the darkness, Juan Guaido, a little-known politician who seems intent merely on restoring constitutional order, holding free elections, and then stepping down, has emerged. President Trump recognized him as the republic’s legitimate leader almost immediately last week, and Canada, much of Latin America, and Europe have followed suit. Heavily invested in Maduro and desperately desiring a Western hemispheric beachhead, Moscow has joined Maduro in calling Juan Guaido’s actions a “US-led coup d’état.” The only thing more laughable than Putin’s claim is that some left-wing journalists and alt-right social media whackos in the West agree. Seriously?
By definition, a coup d’état involves the overthrow of a government, usually democratically elected, by a faction of that nation’s military forces, sometimes with the assistance of a foreign government’s secret agents, like the CIA or KGB. At last check, neither Guaido nor the US have forcibly removed Maduro, and Guaido is offering amnesty to army officers who switch sides. None of the top brass, fattened up with bribes and eyeball-deep in international crimes, is on Guaido’s side. Maduro is not democratically elected unless the standard is Boss Tweed. The opposition boycotted Maduro’s May 2018 election, where he supposedly won 66% of the vote (despite a million percent inflation, 40% unemployment, and food shortages? Even FDR couldn’t pull that off.), because he banned the strongest opposition candidates from running and intimidated voters with physical and economic coercion. Guaido, on the other hand, while not elected as president, was elected to Venezuela’s constitutionally-ordained National Assembly, which Maduro unlawfully stripped of nearly all its powers. Guaido is the highest-ranking member of the opposition party, which holds a majority in the National Assembly. If anyone can claim legitimacy to challenge Maduro, Guaido can. Furthermore, the only nation with special forces on the ground right now is Russia, which has reportedly sent in hundreds of mercenaries. Evidently, they missed the conspicuous “Beware of Dog” sign when they decided to play in our backyard, first tacked to the fence by James Monroe. The fact that we haven’t responded is a testament to America’s restraint in the wake of our disastrous Middle East adventures, not our “imperialism.” A democratically-elected leader with the support of the people but not the military is seeking to peacefully unseat a dictator with military loyalists and foreign mercenaries by his side, the latter vowing to fight to the death rather than relinquish his tyrannical hold on the country. An unusual coup d’état indeed!
The fact that anyone on the alt-Right or the Marxist left in the US sides with Maduro is stunning. The US has a dog in the fight. This is not Iraq. America’s main geopolitical enemies, China and Russia, both have significant investments in Venezuela. China seethes over possible loss of oil investments, and we have a rare opportunity to use the belt in China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” to give our Asian adversaries a good financial whipping. Venezuela has a strong history of democracy, civil society, and relative prosperity. Iraq did not. Venezuela has a viable democratically-elected leader who respects his citizens’ constitutional rights. Iraq did not. Most obviously, Venezuela sits barely 1,000 miles from US territorial waters. Iraq doesn’t. The Venezuelan people, now schooled in the traditional traits of socialism (starvation, tyranny, and unending misery), are ready to handle their own governance, with only some foreign aid from the West required. Iraq wasn’t. No years-long occupation, new embassy, cultural conversions, or military contractors necessary.
The consequences of inaction are also high. A failed Venezuela will precipitate a refugee crisis the likes of which the Western Hemisphere has never seen, straining public resources like healthcare, schooling, and housing from America’s South land to Lima and Buenos Aires. A continued Venezuelan spiral will also hurt the American economy indirectly, as Venezuela is the third-largest source of American oil imports. As the nation collapses, so does its oil production, now barely a million bpd.
God willing this crisis will end with a new, constitutionally-elected president in Venezuela, Russian and Chinese lost investments, increased Venezuelan oil production, a re-invigorated Venezuelan society that is free and thriving, and a return to normal relations with the US. But until then, those who demonize starving protesters chanting “libertad” and the brave man leading them, who root instead for a murderous thug in tacky military regalia, only prove they’ve flown over the coup-coup nest with their conspiracy theories of American imperialism.