(Note: The writer is answering the question: “Is the U.S. push to unseat Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro the right course?”)
WASHINGTON — If Russia, China and North Korea decided to recognize Nancy Pelosi as the president of the United States, would Americans go along with that?
I mean, the ones who don’t like Trump, think he is a real threat to the country, and even not a legitimately elected president? I don’t think so. But Trump, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton all think that the United States should be able to choose a new president for Venezuela.
So does “ouster in chief” — as the New York Times recently described him — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). And this sordid bunch has just recruited Elliot Abrams, who many believe should have been convicted as a war criminal in the 1980s, to help make their dream come true.
How could this go wrong? Well we do have some 21st century experience with U.S.-sponsored “regime change” and it has ranged from murderous to horrific.
Iraq, Syria, Libya, Honduras — all have led to a lot of killing and suffering, mostly of civilians including children.
Many of the migrants fleeing Honduras in the caravans that Trump has recently demonized and manipulated politically were escaping from misery caused by the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup in that country.
Not to mention the much larger wave of migrants upending European politics, most of them escaping from the mess that the U.S. government created with its regime change wars in the Middle East.
We can put aside the fanciful notion that the Trump regime change operation in Venezuela has something to do with promoting democracy.
Trump is still good buddies with MBS in Saudi Arabia — that’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman or Mister Bone Saw, as he was called after his underlings killed and chopped up a Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident.
And the murderous Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, who has killed thousands in his own country; or Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras, who stole his re-election last year in broad daylight. And so on.
But President Nicolas Maduro has to go, they say. So Juan Guaido, a little-known Venezuelan congressman, anointed himself after a phone call from Mike Pence the night before.
What do the Trump administration and its allies want in Venezuela, besides the world’s largest oil reserves for American oil companies?
Mostly they want power in the region, where just a few years ago left governments who were quite friendly with Venezuela presided over the majority of the region.
The U.S. “national security state” lost a lot of influence in Latin America during the first decade or so of the 21st century, and now they are taking it back.
To be sure, a large majority of Venezuelans want a new government, and there are good reasons that they would.
The economy has shrunk by a record 50 percent in the last five years, and inflation is over a million percent annually. It’s a record-breaking depression combined with hyperinflation, and it’s mostly the fault of the current government.
But the U.S. has imposed harsh sanctions to make that depression worse and make it nearly impossible to fix the hyperinflation. These sanctions, which are illegal under international and probably U.S. law, have killed many Venezuelans by worsening the scarcities of life-saving medicines.
New sanctions announced this week will take more billions of dollars of revenue and assets from the government, severely deepening the depression. More Venezuelans will die and others will flee the country, exacerbating the Venezuelan refugee crisis.
A worse scenario may unfold if the regime change operation pushes Venezuela, which is still a politically polarized country, into civil war.
Isn’t it time we stopped trying to choose other people’s governments and focused on trying to clean up our own mess at home?
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the president of Just Foreign Policy. A native of Chicago, he earned a Ph.D in economics from the University of Michigan. He is the author of “Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy” (2015, Oxford University Press). Readers may write him at CEPR, 1611 Connecticut Ave, NW, # 400, Washington, DC 20009.