By Carlos Alberto Montaner
The Lima Group has dismissed the use of force to save Venezuelans from the regime’s barbarism. Maduro is happy. That statement diminishes the Group’s credibility. It consists of thirteen countries, almost all of them very important. There were fourteen, but in practice there was a notable casualty after the election of AMLO in Mexico.
Why has the Lima Group taken this debilitating step? First, for fear of the reaction of local pro-communist groups. Second, to expand diplomatic and economic pressures. There are some European and Asian countries that would join, but with the commitment not to resort to violence. And third, because of the resistance of local bureaucracies. Bolsonaro, for example, has encountered the muted reticence of Itamaraty.
The United States supports the Lima Group, but does not belong to it. That has allowed Washington to insist that “all options are on the table.” That phrase, reiterated by Mike Pence, means that the White House does not dismiss the use of its unbeatable military force. The United States can pulverize 99% of the Venezuelan armed forces’ offensive units in the first six hours of attack. All of Maduro’s aviation and military bases would be erased from the map. Probably most of the Chavista leaders would be exterminated.
However, the use of this military force is unlikely unless interim president Juan Guaidó is killed or arrested when he returns to Venezuela. That’s the “red line” drawn by Donald Trump's Administration in the Venezuelan conflict. A spokesman for the U.S. government said it clearly: “If they touch Guaidó that would be the last decision Maduro would make.”
As journalist Andrés Oppenheimer rightly pointed out, Nicolás Maduro faces a dilemma in which he cannot win. If he kills or arrests Guaidó, he will face the immediate demolition of his regime. If he doesn’t order to kill him or arrest him, he will lose the authority and control over the country in the medium or long term.
The second scenario is already happening. While I’m writing this chronicle, more than 600 people in uniform have defected in Colombia. At that increasing rate, they will soon be thousands. Potentially, that would be the military occupation force in the event of a war.
Maduro, who is a proconsul appointed by Havana, plays by the rules dictated by Cuba. Raúl Castro is convinced that whoever resists ends up winning the game. That’s his experience. He estimates that the calendar favors him. He believes that after a certain time the relation of forces will change. He fails to solve any of the problems of Cuba reported by himself (the rationed milk, the two currencies) but he remains entrenched in his position.
Maduro’s opponents think otherwise.
They think that in this occasion, time harms him. The situation will be more critical every day. They will sell what is left of the gold reserves. The financial siege will strangle him. The local lack of fuel will finish him off. The bunker to generate electricity will be missing. Chavistas, accustomed to stealing, will have no way of doing it. Hyperinflation will continue and will increase. It is easier to print bills than to ask for loans that no one would grant or to float bonds that only insane people would acquire. This would precipitate the final crisis, with people from the impoverished hills invading the streets of Caracas and the irregular community organizations known as colectivos (collectives) looting and confronting a demoralized and disbanded army.
That’s why it was a mistake for the Lima Group to dismiss the use of force. It’s not that Chavismo and Maduro are communists. That would be the least of it. On one side of Venezuela, Guyana, during the times of Cheddi Jagan, a Marxist-Leninist according to Winston Churchill’s infallible sense of smell, was also communist. But Jagan did not turn his country into a narco-dictatorship nor did he commit himself to crime, so that nobody thought to invade Guyana. With time they forgot collectivism.
The problem is that Chavismo has constituted a dictatorship dedicated to drug trafficking and to expand Islamist terrorism. Hence, Humberto Belli, Nicaragua’s former Minister of Education, has pointed out the need to end the Maduro regime through collective weapons.
His arguments are impeccable; if there is “revolutionary internationalism”, and if the left applauds “the divine presence of Commander Che Guevara,” no one can oppose the existence of “democratic internationalism,” especially when it would be acting in favor of Venezuelan sovereignty and by invitation of a legitimate government presided by Juan Guaidó. His text ends with a salutation to “The Caribbean Legion”, created by José Figueres to fight against the tyrannies of the time. It was a magnificent initiative.Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.