Venezuela’s descent from prosperity to abject poverty under two socialist leaders demonstrates that socialism is a sure path to economic ruin and political oppression.

UN Offers Bromides While Venezuela Teeters on the Brink of Collapse

By —— Bio and Archives--January 25, 2019

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UN Offers Bromides While Venezuela Teeters on the Brink of CollapseVenezuela, an oil-rich country that was once amongst the most prosperous countries in the Latin American region, is now in a state of economic and political chaos. Venezuela’s socialist leaders – first, Hugo Chávez and then his successor, Nicolas Maduro - have turned the country into an economic basket case because of their gross mismanagement, corruption and destructive economic policies. The inflation rate could reach an unheard of 10 million percent in 2019. There is a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions, with the country’s population suffering from severe hunger and an urgent health crisis. Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country. Amidst all this chaos, Maduro was sworn in as president for a second term two weeks ago following an “election” last year that many inside and outside of the country believe was rigged.


Many Venezuelans have had enough of Maduro’s dictatorship. As a result, he is now being forced to square off with a potentially formidable opposition leader who is popular with the Venezuelan people and is gaining international support. Juan Guaido, the new leader of the democratically elected opposition-controlled National Assembly, has declared himself to be the interim president until new national elections can be held.

Mr. Guaido claims that he is acting under the authority of the country’s constitution. Tens of thousands of protesters have rallied in the streets on his behalf.  The Trump administration officially recognized Mr. Guaido as the legitimate interim president. President Trump tweeted on Wednesday the following expression of support: “The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime. Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.” The Trump administration made it clear that all options remain on the table if Maduro clamps down too hard on the opposition.

So far, there has not been widespread use of lethal weapons against the protesters resulting in mass fatalities. However, according to the United Nations’ human rights office, “At least 20 people are reported by credible local sources to have died after allegedly being shot by security forces or members of pro-government armed groups during demonstrations on Tuesday and Wednesday, with many others reported injured by bullets, buckshot and rubber bullets.”

In response to President Trump’s action, Maduro ordered the expulsion of U.S. diplomats from Venezuela and defiantly declared that “I am the only president of Venezuela.” He added, “We do not want to return to the 20th century of gringo interventions and coups d’état.” Venezuela’s military and security forces have shown no signs yet of defecting to the opposition. Indeed, the military’s top brass declared the military’s firm backing for Maduro on Thursday. They have too much at stake in Maduro’s criminal enterprises such as drug running and money laundering, as well as in Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. As historian Tomas Straka, a professor at Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas, said regarding Venezuela’s military leaders, “Their economic interests and vision are completely fused with Maduro’s.” There are also pervasive intelligence units embedded in the military, overseen by Cuban intelligence advisers, to detect any potential rebellions lower down in the ranks before they can spin out of control. One such attempt was put down on Monday.

The United States is not alone in recognizing Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. Canada has also done so. To date, within the Latin American region, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras have also supported Mr. Guaido as interim president. Organization of American States president Luis Almagro tweeted Wednesday his support for Mr. Guaido. The European Union and major Western European countries have condemned Maduro and called for free and credible elections. The United Kingdom’s foreign secretary went so far as to call Mr. Guaido the “the right person” to take the country forward and to say that Maduro is not the “legitimate” leader of Venezuela. Germany is backing Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly that was purportedly dissolved by the Maduro regime last year but has not gone away. The Republic of Georgia has outright declared its support for Mr. Guaido’s interim presidency.

While Maduro is becoming increasingly isolated diplomatically, he does still have some friends in Latin America. The governments of Cuba, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Nicaragua and El Salvador remain unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of any change in Venezuela’s presidency. Cuba’s government issued a declaration on Thursday expressing its “unwavering solidarity with the government of Constitutional President Nicolás Maduro Moros.” Mexico was much more lukewarm, saying that it would stick to its “constitutional principles of non-intervention.”

Mr. Maduro has also received support from the dictators running Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Iran’s leadership, for example, described Mr. Guaido’s move as a “coup.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as telling Maduro: “My brother Maduro! Stay strong, we are by your side.” Syria’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement denouncing U.S. backing of Mr. Guaido as interim president as a “violation of international laws and norms.” A regime that massacres its own people, including with chemical weapons, is in no position to lecture anyone about “international laws and norms.”

Russia’s dictatorship is also backing Maduro. A Russian government spokesperson claimed that Maduro remained Venezuela’s legitimate leader and dismissed Mr. Guaido’s announcement as an “attempt to usurp power.” Russia is a major trading partner with the Maduro regime and is looking to establish a military presence there. Indeed, Russia flexed its military muscles last year when it sent two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela. In the last couple of days, it warned the Trump administration against any military intervention in Venezuela’s affairs. China too remains supportive of Maduro, wary of endangering its economic stake in the country.

The United States has requested a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Saturday morning to discuss the Venezuelan crisis. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is planning to participate. Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has already expressed his belief that no such meeting is necessary. On Friday, Russia pulled out one of its diplomatic tricks that it has used in Syria – offering to act as a mediator while still holding fast to its strong support of the country’s dictator.

Relying on Russia to mediate between Maduro’s regime and the opposition should be a non-starter. Even though the UN Security Council will not be able to do anything meaningful in the face of likely vetoes by Russia and China, it still provides a forum for the United States and its allies to galvanize more international economic and diplomatic pressure on Maduro to leave office. At some point, the number of UN member states deciding to officially recognize Mr. Guaido as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela in lieu of Maduro could reach a tipping point. If Mr. Guaido decides that there is enough momentum in his direction, he may take the bold step of naming his own UN Ambassador to represent Venezuela. This could put the UN establishment on the spot and set in motion a credentials fight. As for now, however, the UN bureaucracy is sticking with the status quo. “Different countries have credentials, and, of course, there is a credentialed representative of Venezuela at the present moment,” said Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday.

For his part, Secretary General Guterres has taken no sides. He stated blandly: “It is absolutely essential to have dialogue, to avoid violence and to avoid escalation.” A further statement issued in his name contained an equally bland call “for all relevant actors to commit to inclusive and credible political dialogue to address the protracted crisis in the country, with full respect for the rule of law and human rights.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday condemned, and called for effective investigations into, the violence that has led to a number of deaths and injuries during this week’s protests in Venezuela. She urged all sides to conduct immediate talks to defuse the increasingly incendiary atmosphere and urged that the country’s security forces “exercise restraint.” Like Secretary General Guterres, she did not question the legitimacy of Maduro’s ruthless regime.

Secretary General Guterres has often spoken about the UN’s central role in fostering multilateral solutions to difficult problems. No doubt, the United Nations is the largest multilateral institution in the world since its membership spans the globe.  However, statements like the ones the Secretary General made regarding the current crisis in Venezuela illustrate the UN’s significant limitations when addressing the misdeeds of dictators who have the backing of strategically important countries. In too many instances, the UN’s large number of autocratic member states hobble the world organization from doing or saying anything with moral clarity. Dictators have each other’s back as they manipulate the processes of the UN to protect themselves from any real action against their gross human rights abuses. Just look at the membership of the UN Human Rights Council. One of its members is the Maduro regime’s chief supporter – Cuba.

Maduro will not engage in any “inclusive and credible political dialogue” with the opposition as Secretary General Guterres has urged. Maduro certainly does not care about what comes out of the UN, knowing that Russia will block any serious Security Council actions against his regime. China could also join Russia in vetoes as it had done in the past with Security Council resolutions on Syria. Maduro has already endured economic sanctions and can probably weather even more stringent sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies as long as Russia and China continue providing him with economic lifelines. He could care less about popular opinion or street protests so long as his military and security forces continue to stand by him and contain the protests. For Maduro, it is all about holding onto his power at any cost.

President Trump has not ruled out the military option, which could be triggered by mass casualties amongst the civilian population or, more likely, any harm inflicted by Maduro’s thugs on American personnel who remain behind in Venezuela. Extreme caution is necessary, however, as direct military intervention could have potentially disastrous unintended consequences.

As if we needed any reminding, Venezuela’s descent from prosperity to abject poverty under two socialist leaders demonstrates that socialism is a sure path to economic ruin and political oppression. We can only hope that the Venezuelan people are finally able to escape their long nightmare. So far, the United Nations has offered them only platitudes.


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Joseph A. Klein, CFP United Nations Columnist -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Joseph A. Klein is the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom.

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