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Old 02-02-2019, 09:05 PM
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Default Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

Juan Guaidó of the Opposition is challenging Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela over the presidency of the country, and a number of nations have taken sides; the US government explicitly backing Guaidó. The nation of Venezuela itself has been enduring an ongoing economic crisis. I'm going to outline what I see as key points on each of these subjects, and make the argument that the US should allow the Venezuelan people to exercise their sovereignty and resolve political disputes without interference by the US government.

Nicolás Maduro. Maduro took the reigns of the Venezuelan government after Chavez' death in 2013, winning a special election. His attempts since, to manage the troubled economy and to hold power, have had increasingly negative results, and his popularity has dropped significantly.
A 2017 constitutional crisis has raised the stakes- Maduro wants to rewrite the 1999 Constitution, and raised very legitimate fears that the Constitution would be rewritten only by his allies, further consolidating his power. The National Assembly that was elected in 2000- the Venezuelan legislature- had its law-making power stripped by the newly elected Constituent National Assembly (composed for the purpose of rewriting the constitution) in a 2017 election- one boycotted by the Opposition and condemned by international observers.
The timing of these moves appears entirely tied to gains by the Opposition to actually challenge the power of Maduro; packing the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) with Chavistas at the point when the Opposition was about to take the majority in the National Assembly and Maduro recall referendums were springing up; the TSJ also stripping the National Assembly of power, and packing the CNE with Chavistas, destroying their legitimacy as independent overseers of elections.
The 2018 election was marred again by questionable decisions by Maduro and his allies in power that reduced the previous standards of transparency.

Juan Guaidó of the Opposition was named President of the (essentially powerless) National Assembly January fifth, and then named himself Interim President of Venezuela on January 23rd, arguing that the Presidential election in 2018 was illegitimate, therefore the office of President is unfilled.

Economic crisis. Venezuela's economy is entirely tied to petrochemicals- Venezuela has one of the largest reserves in the world of some of the dirtiest, lowest grade oil to be found. The price of oil has to be above $28 a barrel minimum to cover refining and extraction costs in Venezuela, compared to Saudi Arabia's light sweet crude costing about $10 a barrel. The end of 2014 saw the global price per barrel drop from a ten-year trend of $80-100 per barrel, down to half of that, closer to $40-50 per barrel. That change cut Venezuela's revenues significantly.
I recommend this opinion piece as a decent overview of economic mismanagement by Chavez and Maduro.
The Opposition party is dominated by the economic elites in control of the rest of the economy, the media, and owning most of the land, who were upset by Chavez' win and their loss in 1998; they made every effort internally to undermine Chavez' policies. Venezuelan businesses began to move their capital away from the Bolivar and out of Venezuela (either as protest or fear); Chavez moved to control foreign exchanges to prevent this; then initiated price controls, which resulted in black markets springing up in currency arbitrage, hoarding, smuggling, and profiteering. Chavez began restricting the pro-opposition, anti-Chavista media, increased government propaganda, and currency devaluations.
Maduro inherited a system barely held together by high global oil prices and Chavez' tweaks, and then made decisions that further exacerbated the issues, especially the inflation-depreciation spiral, but without Chavez' charisma or the oil revenues. Venezuela still imports significantly more food than it produces, and the poverty rate in Venezuela is in the 80% range. Shortages of medicine and food, as well as economic uncertainty has led to an estimated 3 million people fleeing Venezuela, and a regional refugee crisis. The Maduro regime blames an oligopoly of large businesses using hoarding and speculation to create log jams and shortages of key goods, in an attempt to profiteer and sow political chaos. The Opposition party blames Maduro's policies.

The Opposition. They are composed of a number of internal factions; brought together for their hatred of Chavez and Chavismo. They lost power to Chavez as a result of the economy flailing in the years after the oil industry collapse in the 1980's. This article references an interesting point:
Given Maduro’s deep unpopularity and the widespread chaos, hunger, violence, and scarcity of basic goods under his rule, an obvious question arises: After three years of determined, ceaseless efforts, why has the opposition failed to unseat him? Partly because, a recent poll shows, a slight majority of the electorate remains either neutral (37 percent) or on his side (17.7 percent); he owes much to the Chavista government’s comprehensive welfare programs, which for more than a decade helped reduce extreme poverty and illiteracy in the country. The 42.9 percent opposing Maduro and turning out for the demonstrations are a vocal, and highly visible, minority.

The reason for the opposition’s minority status lies, then, in an incontrovertible, self-perpetuating fact: its high-profile failures have generated a pessimism among the public about its chances for success.
The elites that rally and control the Opposition party struggle to connect with the poor that make up the majority of the people in Venezuela.

US history in the region, in Venezuela, and now backing Guaidó.
The US has intervened in the Americas through coups, coup support, or support of dictators in the following countries: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Haiti, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Grenada, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Results nearly entirely have been disastrous for the nations where we intervened; for example we overthrew the democratically elected government of Guatemala, trained death squads, and propelled Guatemala into a 30-year civil war.
The US, despite all our flustered hand-wringing at Russian interference in our elections, routinely interferes in foreign elections, including in Venezuela:
These Washington agencies have also filtered more than $14 million to opposition groups in Venezuela between 2013 and 2014, including funding for their political campaigns in 2013 and for the current anti-government protests in 2014. This continues the pattern of financing from the US government to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela since 2001, when millions of dollars were given to organizations from so-called “civil society” to execute a coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002. After their failure days later, USAID opened an Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in Caracas to, together with the NED, inject more than $100 million in efforts to undermine the Chavez government and reinforce the opposition during the following 8 years.
The CIA backed the short-lived 2002 coup, and the strike by oil-industry administrators in 2002-2003.
The sanctions imposed against the Maduro regime by the Obama Administration in 2015, and additional sanctions are being put into place by the Trump Administration. The current set of sanctions additionally attempts to prevent the Venezuelan government from accessing accounts and reserves overseas that it might use to maintain the government.Here's comments from a UN Special Rapporteur:
“Economic sanctions are effectively compounding the grave crisis affecting the Venezuelan economy, adding to the damage caused by hyperinflation and the fall in oil prices. This is a time when compassion should be expressed for the long-suffering people of Venezuela by promoting, not curtailing, access to food and medicine,” Mr. Jazairy said.
Additionally the compromised media in the US as a rule supports unquestioningly the US-government propaganda regarding interventions in the sovereign nations of the Americas:
Your Complete Guide to the N.Y. Times’ Support of U.S.-Backed Coups in Latin America Spoiler alert: support was 10 times out of 12. The most relevant quote:
The reason the CIA and U.S. military and its corporate partisans historically target governments in Latin America is because those governments are hostile to U.S. capital and strategic interests, not because they are undemocratic.

US support for Guaidó. They support him because they clearly believe he will give corporations access to oil.
John Bolton, neocon war criminal, speaking on FOX News:
It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we can have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela; it will be good for the people of Venezuela, it will be good for the people of the United States. We both have a lot at stake here making this come out the right way.

Additionally, Elliot Abrams has been hand-picked to lead the US approach to Venezuela. Here's an article covering some of his war criminal background:
As a member of George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff, Abrams encouraged, according to credible reports, a (briefly successful) military coup against the democratically elected government of Venezuela in 2002, poisoning the US relationship with that government once it returned to power. He also worked to subvert the results of the 2006 elections in the Palestinian territories, a move that ended up strengthening the most radical elements of Hamas and undermining—perhaps forever—the possibility of a democratic peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

But these are still relative misdemeanors in the Abrams dossier, paling in comparison with the role he played in the Reagan administration. As assistant secretary of state for human rights, Abrams sought to ensure that General Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala’s then-dictator, could carry out “acts of genocide”—those are the legally binding words of Guatemala’s United Nations–backed Commission for Historical Clarification—against the indigenous people in the Ixil region of the department of Quiché, without any pesky interference from human-rights organizations, much less the US government.

As the mass killings were taking place, Abrams fought in Congress for military aid to Ríos Montt’s bloody regime. He credited the murderous dictator with having “brought considerable progress” on human-rights issues. Abrams even went so far as to insist that “the amount of killing of innocent civilians is being reduced step by step” before demanding that Congress provide the regime with advanced arms because its alleged “progress need[ed] to be rewarded and encouraged.”

Promoted to assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, Abrams repeatedly denounced the continued protests by organizations seeking to call attention to the mass murders of both Ríos Montt and the no less bloodthirsty President Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo, who came to power fewer than three years later.
Conclusion. Venezuela's in a rough place economically and politically; US intervention would most likely make it worse for the people of Venezuela and only better for global capital, specifically the oil industry. The US should stop funding Opposition groups in Venezuela, should stop supporting regime change, and end sanctions; let the people of Venezuela determine their own course forward.
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