Last week, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration had held a series of meetings with elements of the Venezuelan military who are considering an attempt to depose President Nicolas Maduro. These revelations have intensified the debate over whether the United States should intervene militarily in Venezuela. Most analysts covering the country have come out strongly against a U.S.-backed coup, arguing that an American intervention would be unpopular in the region, undermine U.S. interests, violate international law, and exacerbate Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis
The second reason to favor a coup is humanitarian. The Venezuelan people have suffered tremendously due to the astonishing absurdity of their rulers’ economic policies. Here is the Times’ concise description of their plight:
[Venezuela’s] health care system is in such dire straits that malaria, once almost wiped out, is soaring; about three quarters of the population has involuntarily lost nearly 20 pounds of weight and people scrounging for food in garbage has become the new normal. What little food available is very expensive.
Overthrowing an unpopular and irresponsible government might allow an opening for proper economic management.
The final reason to consider a coup is strategic. A million Venezuelans have fled their rapidly deteriorating nation, mainly to Colombia. Massive refugee flows could well threaten regional stability. And given that the Venezuelan kleptocracy controls the world’s largest oil reserves, has abetted terrorist and drug-trafficking activity, and espouses a rabid form of anti-Americanism, the case for overthrowing it starts to sound rather appealing after all.
To begin with, most regional governments have stated that they would be vehemently opposed to an American-backed coup. South American governments that have been fiercely critical of Maduro have said unequivocally that the Venezuelan crisis must be resolved without bloodshed. Even if there is good reason to believe that overthrowing Maduro would require violence, these governments are opposed to American meddling and will not cooperate if a coup is instigated by the United States. Attempting to impose the will of the United States on Venezuela in the absence of Brazilian and Colombian collaboration would be folly.
Eleven of the 14 governments that are part of the Lima Group have rejected the possibility of military intervention against Venezuela‘s government and defended a peaceful outcome of the migration crisis.
However, Colombian and Guyanan officials refused to sign on the the accord which opposed military action.
The statement was in response to a press conference on Friday, where the head of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, refused to rule out military action, adding that only restoring democracy in Venezuela would solve the crisis the country is in
.”As for military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option, because definitively, the Nicolas Maduro regime is perpetrating crimes against humanity towards its population, and violations of human rights,” said Almagro.
Despite the undeniably wretched nature of the government in Caracas, then, there are still persuasive reasons to oppose what would be a unilateral U.S. intervention. If Maduro launches widespread massacres of the opposition, or if regional governments decide to change their posture, then the scales might be tipped in favor of intervention; currently they are not quite there…YET!