By Michael Rowan
Those opposing the regime that has ruled Venezuela for 7,850 days without interruption – except for the ignominious 48 hours of the wannabe boss Pedro the Short in 2002 – have until December 2020 to implement a strategy to govern Venezuela.
Are they up to it or have they already surrendered?
If the opposition fails this last and final test of courage, Venezuela’s Cuban masters will rejoice in having established Castro’s Communist model firmly on the South American mainland, a great accomplishment for them and a stunning failure for western civilization, for 30 million Venezuelans, for the legacy of Simon Bolivar, and for 40 years of democracy.
Russian Communism provided the Castro brothers a grand opportunity to implement record-breaking poverty, misery, corruption and suppression for 60 years and counting. This was accomplished as if it was saving Cuba from the evils of capitalism and corruption, which actually were secret assets of the Communist party elite.
It looks like the Cubans have produced even worse results in Venezuela, South America’s first democracy and its richest nation. The Venezuelans suffering poverty in 1998 – about 45% of the population then -- were promised a big share of the oil income that would make them comfortable, but it never happened.
Twenty-two years later, over 90% of the population is suffering from poverty and over $300 billion has been clandestinely siphoned off by political bosses, cronies, arms and cocaine traders. Billions more were handed to Cuban health, military and intelligence advisors, to thank them for helping suppress free speech, assembly, voting, property and life, as they did in Cuba.
Over the years, many Venezuelans initially opposed but later accepted and collaborated with the Chavez-Maduro regime, which meant working in tandem with Cuba’s military secret police to isolate, suppress, and condition Venezuela as Cuba, Russia and Chinese fellow travelers had done back home.
Tragically, many foreign democrats – even presidents -- applauded Cuba and Venezuela for building democracy and reducing poverty for which there was no evidence. Skilled propaganda by Chavez and Castro plus U.S. ignorance about Latin America kept idiocy alive.
After the events of 2002 and 2004 there was little doubt about where Cuba (and then Russia, Iran and China) were heading Venezuela. The US was asleep at the wheel, functionally careless and historically ignorant about Latin America from the time of President Monroe, and didn’t notice what was happening in Venezuela as decades and even centuries rolled by.
But when 5 million refugees fled the country, oil cratered and a humanitarian crisis that had simmered for a decade produced health and nutrition facts that could no longer be ignored by the world, 58 nations representing most of the world’s GDP refused to recognize Venezuela’s rigged election machinery, and following the constitution of Venezuela, recognized the president of the duly elected National Assembly, an opposition legislator, as the legitimate interim-president of Venezuela. That was in February, 2019.
So, here was an historic opportunity for Venezuela to right itself, to normalize relations with the world, and to conduct an emergency humanitarian campaign to stop the bleeding, disease, famine and death that lurks in every corner of the land. But no. Here we are, 17 months later, and the opportunity is all but totally squandered. This is an atrocity of profound consequence.
Instead of dealing directly with Venezuela’s humanitarian crises, the legitimate government launched a legal and political effort to attach the foreign gold, oil and assets of the regime. A series of legal cases yielded close to $3 billion in gold, Citgo and other foreign accounts of the regime, which is fine. But meanwhile, five million Venezuelans fled to foreign lands creating social crises there, and the 30 million Venezuelans back home were devastated by everything from famine to poverty, homelessness, desperation and then the coronavirus. What good have you done for them?
As we write, an entire generation of young people is being crippled forever while their legitimate government is fighting for money that Venezuelans never see. Why didn’t the legitimate government set up offices where its 5 million refugees have settled and launch humanitarian programs which smuggled food, medicines, and money raised from the 58 friendly nations to Venezuelan residents and refugees? That would have worked way better than a concert on the Colombia border that Maduro effectively squelched.
Why did the legitimate government depend on the Maduro regime to let the humanitarian aid come across the border? Venezuela’s borders are a sieve. Tons of international aid could have been smuggled across porous borders everywhere, truly helping people while also building credibility for the legitimate government to govern for all.
For the last 17 months, why did the legitimate government stay under the thumb of the Maduro regime (and the Cubans) who knew every movement they made? What were they thinking?
Why does the legitimate government act as if a 22-year dictatorship will eventually obey the law when they became powerful billionaires by disobeying it?
Instead of surreptitiously organizing a rebel force to invade Venezuela, which was a major blunder, a legitimate government can transparently build a military capacity for defense with the agreement of the 58 nations. This was the best way to use Trump, who will be saying “We’re going to do something in Venezuela” until election day – he’s only looking for Florida votes.
Who still believes that the December election is going to do anything but destroy the legitimate government of Venezuela? Stop dreaming, and get a strategy. You’ve got 4 months max to get it done, or Venezuela belongs to Fidel and Hugo for the foreseeable future.Michael Rowan is an author and political consultant who has advised presidential candidates throughout Latin America, including Governor Manuel Rosales in Venezuela, President Jaime Paz Zamora of Bolivia and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. In the U.S., he has advised winning candidates in 26 states. He has been an award winning columnist for El Universal, The Daily Journal -- predecessor to LAHT -- and the Latin American Herald Tribune since the 1990s. He is the author, with Douglas Schoen, of The Threat Closer to Home - Hugo Chavez and the War Against America and the just released How to Prevent Trump from Doing to America What Chavez Did to Venezuela, published by Amazon Books.