May 1, 2019

Unrest 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 opposition leader Juan Guaido on Tuesday made his strongest call yet to the military to help him oust President Nicolas Maduro… Early on Tuesday, several dozen armed troops accompanying Guaido clashed with soldiers supporting Maduro at a rally in Caracas, and large anti-government protests in the streets turned violent.” Reuters

President Donald Trump tweeted, “If Cuban Troops and Militia do not immediately CEASE military and other operations for the purpose of causing death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela, a full and complete embargo, together with highest-level sanctions, will be placed on the island of Cuba.” Twitter


Both sides agree that this is not a coup:

“Tuesday’s uprising is not a ‘coup attempt,’ as the Maduro regime, echoed by too many people abroad, calls it. Rather, it is the latest in a series of legitimate and, for the most part, nonviolent efforts by Venezuelans, both civilian and military, to throw off an oppressive, toxic regime so that they can freely elect a legitimate government. Supporters of freedom and democracy should stand in solidarity with Mr. Guaidó and the many thousands of Venezuelans now bravely asserting their rights.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“Guaido and his supporters are… trying to save their country from Maduro’s misrule. If the military does indeed defect this week, forcing Maduro to leave, Guaido has pledged to quickly prepare Venezuela for real elections. That’s not an anti-democratic coup. It’s a democratic rescue mission.”
Eli Lake, Bloomberg

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports Guaidó but urges against US military intervention.

The Maduro regime has destroyed much of Venezuela. It didn't just crush its democratic institutions; it also devastated its economy and much of its social order. By now the problem is not about politics. It's about survival. For Venezuela's neighbors, the matter is also urgent. Conditions have become so desperate that Venezuelans are fleeing by the millions, straining other countries. The UN estimates there will be more than 5 million Venezuelan refugees by the end of this year, comparable to the exodus caused by the Syrian civil war…

“The United States should refrain from intervening militarily, but should continue providing decisive diplomatic, and even logistical, support. As for the public around the world, we should hope that the powerful in Venezuela will see the light, and either persuade Maduro to leave, or escort him out of office.”
Frida Ghitis, CNN

Many note that “while the Maduro government has arrested hundreds of opponents in recent weeks, it hasn’t touched Guaidó himself, recognizing the risks of detaining the man whom many world governments recognize as the legitimate president of Venezuela. Bolton has promised a ‘significant response’ if Guaidó is touched. Tuesday’s actions will raise pressure on the regime to take action to finally stop Guaidó, and raise pressure on his international backers to take action—peaceful or otherwise—on his behalf. Today may not be the final battle for control of Venezuela, but the odds just went up significantly that Guaidó will end up dead, in jail, or sitting in the presidential palace.”
Joshua Keating, Slate

“The key seems to be whether the military will abandon the regime, and the odds are against it because of the comparative risks of being on the losing side. Officers and soldiers who join the revolt will be as good as dead if the government prevails. But those who are loyal to Maduro can expect that if he falls, the new government will find it more urgent to bring them on board than to punish them…

The U.S. posturing is as likely to taint the opposition as it is to help it. Worse, the strong words may lead Guiado and his supporters to believe Washington will use force on their behalf. It’s dangerous to encourage that hope — because it may induce them to take unwise risks, and because it could lead us to plunge into another country where our interests, like our understanding, is minimal. Sometimes it’s helpful for the U.S. government to take a role when a foreign crisis erupts. This is one where the best course is to keep quiet and stay out.”
Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune

“The Venezuelan people have international moral support for their cause and the promise of aid to rebuild, but they’re on their own against a regime backed by Cuba, Russia, China and Iran… And while the balance of arms and power seems like a David vs. Goliah contest, that may be a good thing for Venezuelans in the long run. It will be their fight to win or lose. My bet, despite the gunfire and smoke, is that Venezuelans will win if they continue to show up against the odds. They’ve already proven their country is worth fighting for.”
Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

“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 urges support for Guaidó, including limited military support if necessary.

From the Right

The right urges support for Guaidó, including limited military support if necessary.

Trump’s “focus on Cuba is well-designed. The island nation's highly capable security forces are the primary mechanism by which Maduro has kept his power… By focusing pressure on Cuba with far greater purpose than previously shown, Trump offers a diplomatic off-ramp for Maduro and his cronies. Without Cuba, those officials cannot bribe their way into continued power. Similarly, if Cuba goes without Venezuelan oil, as Trump's threat of an ‘embargo’ suggests, its leaders will have to abandon Maduro… Cuba faces a moment of truth. Does it choose Maduro, or does it test American resolve?”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

Many note that “U.S. efforts to strangle the regime financially by cutting off the oil trade may be having their desired effect on the Caracas coffers. But Mr. Maduro still gets weapons from Moscow and Cuban intelligence helps him promote fear in the officer ranks. The American left that claims to fear U.S. intervention in the country needs to admit that Cuba is already the imperial power in Caracas… Mr. Bolton said Mr. Trump wants to see a peaceful transfer of power, and that would be the best outcome. But U.S. military assistance to the Guaidó forces can’t be ruled out. A victory for Cuba, backed by Russia in the Western hemisphere, would be a great strategic setback for U.S. interests and stability in the region. The U.S. needs to do whatever it can to help people power succeed in Venezuela.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Guaidó has asked us to cut off Maduro's oil supply to Cuba's communist government… We recognize that stopping oil cargo ships on the high seas is no small step. Deploying U.S. Navy warships to seize Maduro's oil ships is an act of force… But we believe it would serve a critical strategic purpose: ensuring that Maduro and his military supporters recognize the U.S. won't abandon Guaidó. That would persuade generals around Maduro that their best decision would be to throw support behind Guaidó. It would also suggest to Maduro that he might be best advised to depart Venezuela now.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

Others point out that “this week, military members loyal to Maduro were seen deliberately running over unarmed pro-Guaidó demonstrators in the streets with heavy, armored vehicles. Less than a decade ago, regular everyday Venezuelans were forced to turn in their weapons, leaving them defenseless against the very government that continues to oppress and attack them today.”
Katie Pavlich, The Hill

“People in the US scoff at this argument from gun-rights advocates, mainly because we’re not Venezuela and the threat here is entirely theoretical. And that’s a fair point… However, it’s also a chicken-egg argument: do we have a responsive government which poses no threat in spite of gun ownership, or because of gun ownership? Most days it may seem like the former. On days like today, with Venezuelans unable to resist tyranny despite having a First World government and economy a little over a decade ago, it looks a little more like the latter.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“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...

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.