May 1, 2019

Unrest in Venezuela

“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

The political calendar and Trump's approach could give grounds for optimism. Kim, who has presided over a limited form of economic development inside North Korea, is under pressure to deliver improvements in the lives of his people… So he has an incentive to try to seek economic benefits or aid from the United States and wants punishing economic sanctions lifted — a potential opening for US negotiators… Kim must realize that his chances of basking in this kind of legitimacy with a US President other than Trump are slim. So if he fears Trump could lose in 2020, he may reason the time may be ripe for a deal. And Trump wants nothing more than a big diplomatic breakthrough months before the election.”
Stephen Collinson, CNN

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

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 Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

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

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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