February 25, 2019

Crisis in Venezuela

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro faced growing regional pressure on Sunday after his troops repelled foreign aid convoys… Violent clashes with security forces over the opposition’s U.S.-backed attempt on Saturday to bring aid into the economically devastated country left almost 300 wounded and at least three protesters dead near the Brazilian border.” Reuters

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN, “I am confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro’s days are numbered.” CNN

Meanwhile Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL), tweeted “before” and “after” pictures of Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan dictator who was deposed and subsequently murdered following US intervention. Twitter

See past issues

From the Left

The left urges the Trump administration to exercise caution.

“Trump has framed U.S. interests in surprisingly ideological terms that evoke the Cold War struggle for influence against the Soviet Union… Having leaned so heavily into the conflict, Trump risks looking weak or ineffective at home and abroad if the Maduro regime survives in the face of U.S. opposition.”
Anne Gearan and Carol Morello, Washington Post

Yet military intervention “would be a highly risky measure. Many Venezuelans might view as liberators foreign soldiers bearing aid and the promise of a restored democracy. But many others would surely regard their arrival as confirmation of Mr Maduro’s claim that the offer of help is cover for an ‘imperialist’ plot against the country. Venezuela’s crisis is far from over.”
The Economist

“In some respects, the world’s most powerful country showing up at Venezuela’s border with truckloads of food and medicine is much better than what it has done in the past… [But] international aid organizations including the United Nations have quietly been delivering assistance throughout Venezuela, with the tacit approval of Maduro’s regime…

“One director of a humanitarian-assistance team told me that using what was apparently an aid mission to challenge a president stood against the principles of humanitarianism, while another said the effort was little more than an attempted overthrow of the government.” And while not addressing this specific situation, the director of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Colombia similarly stated that “there were ‘dangers of associating political objectives with humanitarian aid.’”
Dylan Baddour, The Atlantic

Meanwhile, many also worry that “Rubio [handed] Venezuela’s Maduro a propaganda victory with [the] graphic tweet of Qaddafi’s murder… Characterizing the Venezuelan president as the next in a line of leaders that the United States wants to depose is precisely the message that Maduro is spouting to Venezuelans as he rejects much-needed international aid.”
Daniel Politi, Slate

Dated but relevant: In a speech about Venezuela last Monday, “Trump proceeded to say the word ‘socialist’ nine times, ‘socialism’ 20 times, and ‘Maduro’ only 10 times during the entire address… Trump’s campaign [also] put out a statement attacking [Bernie] Sanders’s left-leaning ideology and comparing it to Maduro’s… Trump is exploiting the Venezuela crisis in order to win the 2020 presidential election.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) “insisted the president couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong because, in the end, Ukraine got its money without committing to any investigations. This point of view has radical implications for America’s system of justice and overcrowded prisons, if Mr. Jordan in fact truly believes that all inmates convicted of attempted crimes are innocent of wrongdoing… Perhaps the most telling remark was offered by a Republican staff lawyer, Stephen Castor, who suggested that while the president’s behavior may have been highly irregular, ‘it’s not as outlandish as it could be.’ Here’s a tip: When ‘not as outlandish as itcould be’ is your strongest defense, it’s time to rethink your position.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

From the Right

The right condemns Maduro’s violence and believes his days are indeed numbered.

From the Right

The right condemns Maduro’s violence and believes his days are indeed numbered.

“As the smoke cleared Sunday, Mr. Maduro and his Cuban handlers still had the upper hand. Yet something big has changed. With so many regime atrocities now recorded and circulated on social media and the privation triggering a mass exodus, Venezuelan suffering under Havana control is no longer ignored… only Cuba, Iran, Russia, China and their allies still support [Maduro].”
Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal

“Maduro cannot hold on for much longer, with the economy of Venezuela ruined and the people, and most of the international community, calling for him to leave office. Even China and Russia appear to be making contingency plans for Venezuela post-Maduro. Russia has frozen the accounts of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company and China has been rumored to be in talks with Guaidó’s party concerning economic issues.”
Aaron Simms, The Resurgent

“Top military brass haven’t broken with Mr. Maduro, despite pleas and offers of amnesty from Mr. Guaidó. But there’s no doubt that soldiers and mid-level officers are tired of seeing the Venezuelan people suffer. Many have deserted and fled to neighboring countries… The aid showdown puts in stark relief the choice in Venezuela between a dictator who wants to block aid for the people, and the Guaidó government that wants to deliver it.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“The question now is whether Juan Guaidó can get [the aid] across the border or if Maduro’s troops will succeed in forcing people to continue starving for the good of the Bolivarian Revolution. At some point soon, the rank and file police and soldiers are going to have to say enough is enough and defy their commanders.”
John Sexton, Hot Air

Many argue that “socialism has crippled Venezuela’s once-thriving economy, impoverishing the populace to the point that people are literally starving in the streets. As recently as 2001, Venezuela was the richest country in South America. It sits on an ocean of oil, the world’s largest proven reserves. Yet today, its people are eating their pets and feeding their children from garbage bins, all as Maduro blocks humanitarian aid shipments intended to alleviate his people’s suffering…

“President Trump deserves more credit than he is getting for taking this stance against an economic system that throughout its history has created nothing but poverty, despair and want.”
Andy Puzder, Fox News

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Taco Bell is opening their first ever "Slide-Thru" in Canada.
Delish

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