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Venezuela Is a Tragedy of Corruption, but Not a Threat

April 11, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Two centuries ago, President James Monroe insisted that the
European powers stay out of the Western Hemisphere. Only the U.S.,
he explained, had the right to attack its neighbors.

Over the years, America has repeatedly asserted its authority in
Latin America. Washington’s motivations have ranged from the
arguably humanitarian to the angrily nationalistic to the frankly
commercial. As a result, America’s reputation for Yanqui
Imperialism is well earned.

Washington took an interest in Venezuela in the late 19th
century, announcing that a border dispute between that nation and
Great Britain (involving the latter’s colony of British
Guiana) fell within America’s sphere of interest. The U.S.
asserted the Monroe Doctrine, demanding that London accept
international, meaning American, arbitration. President Grover
Cleveland threatened to enforce his decision “by any
means.” Britain rejected the Monroe Doctrine as having no
standing in international law, but nonetheless decided that a good
relationship with Washington was more important than a little extra
real estate.

Now, Donald Trump is again threatening to apply American
military might to Venezuela. It is a very bad idea.

Given the deep divisions
among Venezuelans, American military action could trigger a civil
war.

Venezuela illustrates the consequences of despotic, incompetent,
corrupt collectivism. As long as oil revenues were flowing
prodigiously, there was enough for most everyone: Chavista elites,
military commanders, and foreign allies, with a little left over
for Venezuela’s traditionally impoverished masses. Indeed,
the plight of the latter gave Hugo Chavez, the one-time coup master
who was elected president, a patina of righteousness. The
traditional ruling parties had looted the country with little
concern for those outside the halls of power. There was rampant
injustice. Unfortunately, Chavez only compounded the
unfairness.

The country’s collapse, which predates the Trump
administration’s imposition of stifling sanctions, was almost
total. Economic activity crashed. Hyperinflation raged—this
year it could hit as much as 10 million percent.
Businesses folded. Even the national petroleum company ran aground.
Food disappeared from supermarket shelves. Hospitals essentially
ceased to function. Nine in 10 people fell below the poverty line.
A tenth of the population fled. The New York Times’
Andes bureau chief, Nicholas Casey, called the current situation
“almost unimaginable.”

At least Chavez, who died six years ago, had a raw,
undisciplined charisma. His successor, Nicolás Maduro, is a dour
dictator who survives politically by rigging elections, arresting
opponents, and circling regime wagons. At least four out of every
five Venezuelans want him gone.

Enter the Trump administration. So far its routine policy of
maximum pressure has been a bust, failing to force regime or even
policy change in North Korea, Iran, Russia, and Cuba. But that
didn’t stop President Trump from taking the same approach in
Venezuela.

He imposed new …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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