|Nicolas Maduro: Hapless leader |
or threat to Washington?
Give us a break. Venezuela is near being a failed state. It's economy's going down the tubes, its government's turning increasingly corrupt, authoritarian and repressive, and Venezuelans' lives are becoming tougher and tougher.
Venezuela is a threat...to Venezuelans and probably to Colombians and other neighbors. But an 'extraordinary threat' to the U.S.'s national security and foreign policy?
Venezuela was perhaps once a threat to U.S. foreign policy - back when Chavez was alive and admired, and when high oil prices gave Caracas a full wallet to buy and influence foreign heads of state. But today Venezuela is widely seen as the basket case it is and has been reduced to begging support from its few allies. Caracas is in no position to rally anybody against the U.S. Even Venezuela's long-time ally Cuba has pivoted toward Washington.
Venezuela's worst-case - and increasingly likely - scenario is a larger scale repeat of its its 1989 Caracazo social explosion, when riots led to thousands of deaths. The difference is that today the economy is even more distorted and the country even harder up than back then, so things might be even worse, and Venezuela could emerge from the crisis as a full-fledged dictatorship.
But that dictatorship scenario is a threat to Venezuelans rather than to the U.S. As many will recall, Washington got along just fine with dictators and strongmen in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru - not to mention China and Washington's blooming friendship with communist Cuba. Or maybe I missed Washington's crack-down on Saudi Arabia for being a dictatorship, not permitting free speech or religious practice, and furiously repressing women, dissidents and religious minorities.
And, the Washington officials who denounce Venezuela should keep in mind that they are financing the behavior of Caracas, which still sells most of its oil to the U.S.
The Caracas Chronicles blog speculates that Venezuela could emerge as a base for Islamic terrorism - which is an absurd, wild-eyed scenario for a highly-Catholic nation still dependent on U.S. Or turn into a narco-state. But the U.S. has long co-existed with state-tolerated drug trafficking, and will continue losing the War on Drugs until it abandons failed prohibitionist policies.
On the other hand, Obama's declaration plays right into Venezuelan Pres. Nicolas Maduro's rantings about the U.S. conspiring to invade and overthrow him. After all, declaring a nation an 'extraordinary threat' sounds like a great justification for invasion.
Venezuelan Pres. Maduro didn't hesitate to exploit the new diplomatic crisis, which he called "the most aggressive, unjust and harmful blow against Venezuela." Maduro announced that he would introduce an enabling law into the National Assembly giving himself additional powers to deal with the situation. Those familiar with Venezuelan politics tknow that means more quasi-dictatorial powers for Maduro.
Disturbingly, Venezuela's Ambassador to the Organization of American States said during a television interview that a sharpshooter's bullet makes a different noise when passing thru the skull of a government opponent, because "the sound is much less, like a crack, because the cranium is hollow and the bullet passes thru rapidly."
A comforting comment for opponents in a supposedly democratic nation.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours