Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro is determined to hold on to power, even as large parts of the world are recognizing Juan Guiado as the rightful president of Venezuela. While the notion of intervention and regime change is drawing some skepticism across the political spectrum, Venezuela is one place where it is probably a very good idea.
It is fair to acknowledge that the decision to carry out regime change in Iraq has had some mixed results. Saddam Hussein is gone, and good riddance, but the plans for after the removal didn’t exactly work out. Furthermore, public support was hurt by the failure to find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction; They were not the only reason Saddam had to go, but they became the centerpiece of the phony “Bush lied” themes.
Obama’s intervention in Libya was a disaster. Qaddafi’s removal, despite a record of supporting terrorism, made things worse, not just because of slavery’s return, but because Qaddafi had given up his WMD programs less than a decade before his ouster and resulting death. You want to know why getting Kim Jong Un to give up his nukes is even harder now than it was in the past? Libya is Exhibit A.
Venezuela is a bit different, though. There are compelling cases for regime change, ideally through a mostly peaceful, relatively bloodless revolution akin to the ones in Eastern Europe, on the grounds of national interest, long-standing principles, and human rights.
The national interest grounds center around Venezuela’s oil and the Maduro regime’s close ties with Russia, Cuba, and China. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, and the current regime’s corruption has impoverished Venezuela despite those resources. Two-thirds of Venezuela’s exports to China consist of oil, according to the International Business Times. In return, Venezuela is buying Chinese weapons. Given how China has acted towards Professor Anne-Marie Brady, it may be worth replacing Maduro with a new regime that might decide to alter that deal.
Furthermore, those large oil reserves could help put a further crimp in Putin’s best hard currency source: oil and natural gas sales. Finally, it would also help put pressure on the Cuban regime, which is suspected of being behind sonic attacks on American diplomats, among others.
Then, there is the long-standing principle behind the Monroe Doctrine. It pretty much told European and other powers to keep out of the Western Hemisphere. Maduro’s regime has also used Chinese military equipment, like the VN-4 wheeled armored personnel carrier, against those protesting his regime.
This takes us into the human rights reasons that warrant regime change. For starters, the most recent election was nowhere near free or fair. The May 2018 election was rejected by the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Australia, as well as the European Union, but Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey all recognized the sham election. But even before that, Maduro had a track record of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, that were outlined by the Organization of American States. We don’t need to also mention that two of his nephews were convicted for their parts in a drug trafficking conspiracy intended to help fund Maduro’s 2013 presidential campaign.
It would be good for both America and Venezuela for Maduro’s regime to fall. Ideally, this can be accomplished via the people in a relatively nonviolent manner with little more than moral support. But should that approach fail, especially as Maduro uses force against his domestic opposition, it may be time for the U.S. to step in with force of its own, in conjunction with allies in the region like Brazil and Colombia in a coalition of the willing.
One option could be to arm the opposition with systems like the M136 anti-tank rocket to counter the VN-4 armored vehicles the Maduro regime has been buying. Another could be to deploy special operations units to take Maduro out. The other option would be a military intervention akin to that in Panama or Grenada, but that would require substantial forces that would tax a military that is already stretched too thin.
Regime change in Venezuela is long overdue. The failed 2002 coup that nearly toppled Hugo Chavez was a missed opportunity to have dealt with the Chavez-Maduro regime. It’s time to not make that mistake again in 2019. This time, the U.S. should be ready to assist and give a repressive regime that extra push over the edge.