OpEd: The Case Against Military Force In Venezuela
by joseph ramirez
Venezuela has been a nation that has grabbed the attention of international headlines ever since the late Hugo Chavez became President in the year 1999. Venezuela has particularly been grabbing international attention since violent protests have consumed that nation since 2014.
The crisis in Venezuela is indeed dire. The country’s economy is collapsing, murder rates only continue to increase especially in the capital city of Caracas, and the country is politically polarized. Not to mention that the country is running out of basic goods. The government of Venezuela has decided that in order to solve the problem they must do everything it takes to remain in power and has recently this year taken part in a new “Constituent Assembly” which has politically purged politicians opposed to the ruling party.
The United States has for many years been critical of the Venezuelan Government and has been placing economic sanctions against key members of that government including the President himself, Nicolas Maduro. But recently this year, U.S President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement that “All options are on the table, including a military one” when in concern with Venezuela. This threat has sparked outrage throughout the region of Latin America as none of those countries would support such an action. I believe that a U.S invasion of Venezuela would be a tremendous mistake that would be devastating for the Western Hemisphere and even the global economy and I would like to explain how that would play out.
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While many people would like to see regime change in Venezuela few people want to see it happen through military means. If the United States invades Venezuela to topple their Government, there will be a huge cost of human life. Many Venezuelans would be killed in the fighting including those who are opposed to President Nicolas Maduro. The cost of human life would be unacceptable and the Latin American region would be inflamed with anger at the United States for killing so many people on their Continent. And while the United States could easily topple the Government of Venezuela there would undoubtedly be an ensuing insurgency against U.S troops occupying Venezuela. This leads me to my next point.
The overthrow of the Venezuelan Government could lead to absolute destabilization in the country which could spread to neighboring Countries such as Colombia and Brazil. Colombia has just been seeking an end to their Civil War which has lasted for more than 50 years. The complicated peace process which took years to implement could be unraveled in an instant if there is a violent insurgency in Venezuela against U.S Troops. Colombia is ill-prepared to accept a flood of Venezuelan refugees and would also not be prepared to secure themselves against Venezuelan insurgents that might want to cross over into Colombia for safe haven. Drug trafficking groups from Brazil and Colombia may want to cash-in on the chaos in Venezuela as well as Colombian Paramilitary groups. These violent spillovers could also re-ignite dormant guerrilla groups such as the Shining Path in Peru. Such chaos would not be worth seeing the forceful overthrow of Nicolas Maduro.
We must also consider the economic damage that would result from a U.S Military invasion of Venezuela. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the Western Hemisphere. Oil was discovered in Venezuela in 1914 and since 1960 the country has been a founding member of OPEC. Many foreign countries buy oil from Venezuela and are financially entangled with the state oil company of Venezuela the PDVSA. Countries such as China, Russia, India, and not least to mention the United States buys a significant amount of Venezuelan oil. Venezuelan oil refineries would not remain undamaged by U.S bombs. Oil shipments would most definitely be halted in the ensuing fighting and would hurt the countries waiting to receive those imports. The global oil market would be damaged, and the United States will be the one to blame. Many countries would not be getting their Venezuelan oil and their economies will get damaged. Here at home in the United States, many Americans will suddenly find out how much we had also depended on oil from Venezuela when there may be potential gas shortages and very spiked gas pump prices. There is no telling how long it would take to rebuild Venezuela’s oil structure.
The one comparison that comes to my mind is that of the U.S invasion of Panama in December 1989. At the time, the United States was in a showdown with the military dictator of Panama, General Manuel Noriega. General Noriega was once an ally of the United States who slowly started becoming an enemy that the U.S could not control. The U.S tried at first to make Noriega step down from power diplomatically and when that didn’t work the U.S tried other measures. First, the United States started placing economic sanctions against Panama in 1987 and later indicted General Noriega on drug trafficking charges in 1988. Later internal resistance towards Noriega’s rule came in the form of violent street protests and two failed military coups. After these methods failed to remove General Noriega, the United States invaded and attacked Panama in a devastating assault. The Panama Defense Forces were defeated within weeks and Noriega was captured and arrested by the United States. The result was 400 or more Panamanians killed as well as U.S military troops killed. Latin American countries condemned the U.S invasion and it still to this day has left a resentment against the United States.
The crisis in Venezuela is a catastrophe. The Venezuelan Government has been using violent and authoritarian tactics to suppress the protestors and stamp out resistance within the Government. The Venezuelan people are running out of basic goods such as medicine and food. Many Venezuelans have left their country and moved to others to live a better life. But the best way to solve this is diplomatically. The United States has been working in close concert with its allies in Central and South America to condemn the actions occurring in Venezuela. Diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions are much safer and smarter options at solving this problem than forcefully removing Nicolas Maduro in a military invasion. I do not think the United States would ever be able to salvage its reputation after invading Venezuela and causing global damage to many of our allies.
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