The following speech by Sen. Tim Kaine, who has a great deal of expertise on Latin America and who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (including the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues), nails it when it comes to the situation in Venezuela. What should U.S. policy towards Venezuela be at this critical moment for that country, and for the entire region? According to Kaine:
- What’s happening in Venezuela right now exemplifies the “global battle between democracies and authoritarian nations,” as “authoritarian nations are supporting the regime of Maduro and the democracies of the world are supporting the interim of President Guaido.” Exactly right – it’s pretty much countries like Putin’s Russia, the theocracy of Iran, China, Cuba, Syria and a few others supporting Maduro. In stark contrast, the countries of Europe, most of Latin America, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States are all supporting Guaido.
- Venezuela used to be “the richest country in all of Latin America,” but now is “in full-fledged economic and political collapse, with nearly 80% of the country’s population living below the poverty line and more than half of the families unable to meet their basic food needs.” Disastrous, in other words, and basically 100% the fault of Maduro and his corrupt, incompetent, brutal, authoritarian regime.
- “Maduro is using the power of the state to subjugate and repress the Venezuelan people. His security forces use detention, torture and lethal force against demonstrators and political opposition, in what both the United Nations and the Organization for American States call possible crimes against humanity.” Exactly; the Maduro regime is truly horrible.
- “This is a man-made political crisis…In May 2018, Maduro declared victory for a second term in office in an election so flawed that the Organization for American States, the European Union and the United States refused to recognize it as legitimate…on January 23, the National Assembly [of Venezuela] determined that Maduro had usurped the office of the president, and in accordance..with the Venezuelan constitution’s provision for succession, the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, assumed the role of interim president of Venezuela.” Again, exactly right; the Maduro regime is illegitimate, and most democracies in the world agree (while, again, the countries supporting Maduro are a few authoritarian ones – Russia, Cuba, Syria, China, Nicaragua, etc.).
- “It’s about supporting the Venezuelan people, but it’s also about sending an important message globally, that the United states remains confident that democracy is the way for people to achieve their hopes and dreams, and when authoritarians try to crush the democratic desires of populations, the United States should be an ally.” Bingo.
- “The United States should never tell another nation who their leader should be. We have no business in regime change. We support free and fair elections…which Maduro has blocked repeatedly.” ad
- “A caution: as a missionary in Honduras in the 1970s, I lived in a military dictatorship. And I’m keenly aware of the history and the legacy of U.S. intervention in the Americas. That’s why I was very troubled and I remain troubled by the Trump administration’s military intervention in Venezuela – that would be a MASSIVE mistake. The rhetoric is reckless and counter-productive…In fact, the suggestion of U.S. military intevention actually strengthens the hand of the dictator, because the Maduro dictatorship would like to blame the economic challenges of Venezuela on Uncle Sam and the West rather than their own mismanagement of the economy. The United States should not be making military threats against Venezuela.” Again, strongly agreed. So what should we be doing?
- “There are many steps we can take that would be appropriate. I support the increase in direct U.S. humanitarian aid for the Venezuelan people…I support the long-needed aid package that will help international organizations provide assistance inside Venezuela…I support the United States playing a role in convincing other nations in the Organization for American States to also stand for the people of Venezuela…We should amplify the pressure we’ve applied by recognizing the interim government and deploying humanitarian assistance to the border…I think the crisis would warrant the extension of Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans already in the United States…” This is exactly the right course of action, and really shows Sen. Kaine’s expertise in this area. Thank goodness we have Kaine in the U.S. Senate; Virginians should be proud of that.
- “I call on this body and our colleagues in the international community to support the people of Venezuela in their quest for both bread and justice.” Exactly.