January 29, 2019

Sanctions on 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!

“The Trump administration on Monday sanctioned Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, ratcheting up pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the U.S.-backed opposition in the oil-rich nation in South America.” AP News

“More than 700 opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have been arrested during the latest push by Venezuela’s opposition to oust the socialist leader.” AP News

Last week, the US recognized Juan Guaido, Venezuela’s opposition leader, as the country’s interim President. The Flip Side


Both sides oppose Maduro, with many calling on the US to provide further non-military assistance to Guaido.

Look at who supports whom. Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Canada, Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras back Guaidó. Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba, China, Turkey, and Russia are for Maduro. Also Hezbollah. When Hezbollah is on your side, you’ve hit bottom.” National Review

“The choices in Venezuela shouldn’t be between inaction and intervention… Venezuela is a greater threat to the stability of Colombia and Brazil, two conservative governments allied with the United States, both with a stable economy and strong militaries. The United States should encourage them to balance Venezuela and depend on them to provide the ground troops, if ever there is an intervention, and provide its diplomatic muscle.” The Federalist

“Building an off-ramp for the Maduro regime will be difficult. But a combination of rising costs on Maduro’s inner circle through targeted sanctions and prosecutions, reassurance to the military’s rank and file that they will benefit from a transition to democracy and positive incentives of economic assistance by entities willing to negotiate with the new interim government (such as the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank) will make legitimate democratic change, in accordance with Venezuela’s constitution, more likely.” The Hill

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports eliminating the electoral college, arguing that all votes should count equally regardless of which state they're from.

The decision to recognize Guaido “was a well-oiled diplomatic campaign, closely coordinated with allies and rigorously on message. It was, in a word, un-Trumpian… Here was a president who preaches America First, who rarely invokes democracy and human rights in his unscripted remarks… sticking his neck out to restore democracy in a country that doesn’t usually figure among the top challenges to U.S. interests.”
The Atlantic

Does hypocrisy disqualify Trump’s policy? Or is there a principled basis for selective concern about Venezuela?...

“Though perhaps no more repressive than numerous others, the Venezuelan dictatorship is differentiated from, say, Saudi Arabia’s, in that it sits atop the ruins of what was once a multiparty democracy, which a large portion of its domestic population remembers and wants to renew… [Moreover] Guaidó’s transition plan, based on amnesty for military leaders and free elections, offers genuine hope for a peaceful solution… In this one instance, the Trump administration has chosen a worthy foreign policy goal.”
Washington Post

Regarding the sanctions, some worry that they might backfire. “Maduro needs a good scapegoat… If the economy tanks even further than it already has, the Venezuelan leader can blame the US sanctions and perhaps regain some favor among elites — particularly the military leadership — whose support he needs in order to remain in power.”
Vox

Former secretary of state John Kerry states, “The need for leadership has never been more urgent; certainly the destruction from Hurricane Dorian and the fires in the Amazon should have refocused everyone’s minds on the fragility of our global carbon sinks. Most wars start with a bomb dropped, a leader killed or a line crossed. But today we stand on the precipice of the greatest battle humanity has ever faced, precisely because no one has done enough… In the temporary absence of U.S. leadership, we need other major emitters to step up… now is the time for China, India and other countries to prove just what we are missing.”
John Kerry, Washington Post

“The summary, released this morning, is a wild look into the president’s mind-set and approach to his job. It shows a commander in chief consumed by conspiracy theories, strong-arming a foreign government to help him politically, and marshaling the federal government in his schemes… The call is bizarre on several levels. First, the United States has legitimate interests in Ukraine, but Trump is using his conversation with that country’s president to pursue his pet, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. Second, Trump appears—as has been alleged—to be engaging in a quid pro quo, asking Zelensky to assist him in pursuing those conspiracy theories, in exchange for help to Ukraine. Trump never puts it in plain terms—he’s too smart, and too experienced in shady business, to do that—but it requires willful blindness to miss what Trump is asking… Third, the call shows how Trump enlists the might of the U.S. government in his weird, personal, political schemes.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

“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

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right criticizes Sanders and Warren for adopting far-left policies, and praises Marianne Williamson’s performance.

From the Right

“Few Americans will likely be interested in what’s going on in this small country the size of New York state, and yet it offers major political lessons for our country...

“First, it demonstrates that both of our major political parties need to beware of gridlock and failure to solve the people’s problems... Second, it shows how our policy toward Latin America needs fundamental rethinking... And third, it underscores that socialism is not the way forward for us or for Latin America, especially when accompanied by the politics of self-perpetuating strongmen."
Fox News

Many are criticizing the socialist left. “Americans deserve to know why four [Democratic Socialist] members of Congress have decided to stand with a cruel tyrant over U.S. interests. Not only are they undermining U.S. foreign policy and hurting the cause of Venezuelan democracy, their advocacy bolsters Putin’s regional objectives—all at the expense of a young, democratically-elected leader who, if he were an American, would be caucusing alongside them.”
The Federalist

Regarding the sanctions, it’s worth noting that “Maduro's power is almost entirely sustained by his oil sales. Without that revenue, Chavez's ludicrous successor will struggle to pay off senior military officers he relies upon for protection… This sanctions decision, then, represents a calibrated step towards increasing pressure on Maduro in a way that attempts to peacefully drive him out of power.”
Washington Examiner

“If the situation were reversed, and if a corrupt Republican ex-vice president were running for president, no Democrat would ever hesitate to ask every foreign government in the world for help in investigating that person. Nor do Democrats hesitate to ask for foreign help in investigating sitting Republican presidents. The 2018 letter to Ukraine (!) by Senate Democrats asking for an investigation of Trump is illustrative… This is not about substance. This is about Pelosi losing control of her caucus should she continue to resist impeachment, and Pelosi sensing a looming electoral disaster of monumental proportions should impeachment be launched outside the parameters she defines.”
George S. Bardmesser, The Federalist

Regarding her candidacy as a whole, “Warren seems to have concluded that if a rule-breaking candidate like Donald Trump can be elected president, then the old political rules don’t apply any more. So she has endorsed Medicare for All and backs eliminating private health insurance; she has said she’d ban fracking for oil and natural gas; she supports decriminalizing illegal border crossing, health care for illegal immigrants who get across, and paying reparations to the descendants of slaves…

“Warren obviously hopes that her calls for federal oversight of large corporations and her call for a 2% wealth tax on multimillionaires will resonate with non-affluent Trump voters. But those voters seem more concerned with elites’ political correctness than convinced that Warren’s proposal will send their way any money somehow mulcted from corporations…

"This is not to say that Warren is a sure loser. Any Democratic nominee has a serious chance of beating Donald Trump. But it says something interesting about the Democratic Party that its current top three are in their 70's and all from overwhelmingly Democratic states.”
Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

“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

“Why did Modi pick this moment to do something so radical? Violence in Kashmir had been trending downwards for the last year, after all. The main reason, besides President Donald Trump's alarming offer to mediate a settlement, is that he wanted a distraction from India's mounting economic woes. India's GDP growth dropped from over 8 percent to 5.8 percent over the last year, and it is widely expected to dip further. Just as ominous has been the crash in consumer demand. India's usual problem has been an insufficient supply to meet its voracious appetite for vehicles, cell phones, and other similar goods. But sales figures for all consumer goods have posted a precipitous decline, slamming businesses that are dramatically scaling back investments.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

On the bright side...

Canadians play an impromptu hockey game in the middle of the highway while stuck in traffic.
Narcity

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