¡Vete! Hands off Venezuela

As the situation in Venezuela deteriorates, our writers ask if foreign intervention is necessary, and consider what could be done

Sophie Hindhaugh
11th February 2019
Credit: Wikipedia

Venezuela is a sorry situation. Described as a ‘second cold war’, Mike Pompeo’s instructions at the UN Security Council for countries to ‘pick a side’ sees age-old adversaries face off, fighting proxy wars in countries best left alone. Have we learnt nothing?

Socialist President Nicolás Maduro won the 2018 May election, which has been widely denounced internally and internationally as a sham. As a result of this, far right populist politician Juan Guaidó has decided to throw a coup, and announce himself interim president. Prior to January 22nd, fewer than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó. And now he’s announced himself as President - one with substantial backing at that.

The US, sticking its nose where it shouldn’t be once again, is backing this man, because of course they are. He’s the antithesis of Maduro, who is backed by…you guessed it, Russia and China! Guaidó is the US’s puppet president, specially groomed to destabilise Venezuela’s socialist government. And that’s all he’s been groomed to do. America hasn’t placed him to lead Venezuela to democracy or even save the country, but to absolutely ruin a country that has for decades been resistant to US hegemony in Latin America.

Venezuela is sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves, so it really is no suprise to anyone that the US has its fingers dipped in to the Venezuelan pie

Decades ago, Venezuela was once Latin America’s richest economy, mainly down to the fact that they are sitting on the world’s biggest oil reserves (so it really is no surprise to anyone that the US has its fingers dipped in to the Venezuelan pie then), and was also one of the first countries to eliminate measles in 1961. Now, its people don’t have enough medicine, 6 out of 10 people are starving, and hyper-inflation is rampant. The country is a hot mess, where ideological squabbles between other countries take centre stage and the Venezuelans are being firmly booted off. It’s a situation where there are no ‘good guys’, just foreign intervention for the sake of foreign interests. The UK Foreign Secretary tweeted that ‘if there are not fresh & fair elections announced within 8 days, the UK will recognise him [referring to Guaidó] as interim President to take forward the political process towards democracy’. So the UK is just falling in line behind the US like a good little lapdog, as is Australia, Argentina and Brazil (who is tyrannised by far-right Bolsonaro).

There really are no winners, and it’ll be interesting to see what unfolds in Venezuela in the next few weeks to say the least. It will undoubtedly be harmful for Venezuelans either way. As always, it’s the same game and the same players, the only thing that changes is the setting.

Sophie Hindhaugh


Venezuela “has really become the poster child for how the combination of corruption, economic mismanagement, and undemocratic governance can lead to widespread suffering”. This was the damning assessment of the Brookings Institute on the Latin American country which is undergoing one of the worst economic crises ever seen in the Americas – a situation characterised by hyperinflation, increasing hunger, poverty, crime, and high disease rates.

The immediate reason for Venezuela’s troubles are political – related to the controversial outcome of the election which Nicolás Maduro supposedly won but was declared illegitimate by the National Assembly. Juan Guaidó was declared interim President and the country and world at large were divided between Maduro and Guaidó. The deeper roots of the issues started with previous president Hugo Chavez. His policies – economic, and otherwise, are part of the Bolivarian Revolution – a drastically leftist set of measures that include using state machinery to provide food, volunteers for teaching and more that resembled a modern country-specific iteration of Soviet leftist policy.

The crisis in Venezuela is a rather unique set of circumstances in that they are representative of the failures of a leftist government which form the basis for the rise of the right-wing alternative as opposed to any inherently developed affinity for the right – which has come to characterise other countries and other movements. Leftist policies in Venezuela have been well intentioned but poorly implemented, thanks to corruption amongst all levels of government. Another common feature among failed left states is the fact that the left has failed when associated with an autocratic setup. Many countries in the world have had leftist governments at some point and have managed to implement somewhat leftist policies but it has almost always been in the broader framework of a democratic institution.

Venezuela has all the components to turn into a proxy warzone between the US and Russia, which will ultimately benefit no one

While the right wing in Venezuela may be rising as an alternative to a dysfunctional left, in the broader world, right wing politics bases its platform on a sense of national identity that it deems has been lost in the swamp of globalisation. The right-wing gambles – somewhat successfully given President Trump’s election and how close Marine Le Pen had come to being at the helm of the French government – on trying to bring the sense of individuality that they deem has been lost through the last century through organisations like the European Union, for example.

Coming back to Venezuela though, the current crisis has prompted support from countries for both sides, with the United States, the UK and other Western allies recognising Juan Guaidó’s interim leadership whilst Russia, China and others throw their weight behind Nicolás Maduro. President Trump has even indicated that all options, including military intervention, are on the table. This, of course, has not been well received by Russia. I personally think that foreign involvement in Venezuela has been pre-existing in the form of sanctions.

The question now is if other states intervene directly to affect Venezuelan politics. My answer to this is a strong no, because Venezuela has all the components to turn into a proxy warzone between the US and Russia, which will ultimately benefit no one. It might be a long and bloody struggle but foreign countries cannot involve themselves directly unless it is through an agency such as the United Nations. This is Venezuela’s problem and has to be treated as such – allowing Venezuela to sort it out on their own without too much foreign involvement.

Sesha Subramanian

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