North Korea has nukes and Iran either has them or is working diligently to get them. That’s easier now that sanctions have been diminished and Iran is “open for business.” China is becoming more aggressive and so is Russia. Yet Climate Change is said to be the greatest threat we face. Should we care about places, people and what they do closer to home?
An article by Michael Ledeen at PJ Media titled It’s the War, You Dolt observes,
For those who actually want to see the world plain, the global network is luminously clear, from North Korea and China to Russia, Iran and Syria, to Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Those are the nations aligned against us. They support a variety of terror groups, from al-Qaeda to Islamic Jihad to the various Latin American guerrillas, and they work in cahoots with the narcotics mafiosi. [Emphasis added.]
There are two keystones in this global network: Iran and Venezuela, with Russia manipulating them both as best Putin can. If we see the world plain, the current revolutionary turmoil in Venezuela is enormously important, arguably the most important hot spot on earth today. For if the Castroite tyranny in Caracas were to fall, it would be a devastating blow to the Axis of Evil. The bad guys know it; that’s why, in addition to Cuban intel officers and special forces, Hezbollah is moving from Damascus to Caracas. Khamenei knows there’s an intimate connection between what happens in Venezuela and what happens in Syria. [Emphasis added.]
What to do? The savants, most of whom are pidgin Marxists, are talking about sanctions of various sorts. But the big weapons in this war are political, not economic. If we had the sort of government we need, we’d be supporting the democratic revolutionaries within our enemies’ home states. We’d be doing it openly and enthusiastically. We’d encourage Iranian, Venezuelan, Ukrainian and Russian democrats; we’d denounce the tyrants in Beijing, Moscow, Pyongyang, Havana, Damascus and Caracas. We’d be talking to the revolutionaries, asking them what they need, and then trying to get it for them. [Note: the internal link was screwed up so I fixed it.] [Emphasis added.]
According to the internal link about Hezbollah, the Venezuelan regime
knows that it is in fight for survival and prepared to use violence. Already thuggish paramilitary have been videotaped beating and shooting pistols indiscriminately into crowds of student demonstrators. It is remarkablethat a Hezbollah operative of Nassereddine’s prominence would be part of that repressive campaign.
In recent years, numerous policymakers and experts in the region have documented the presence of Iran’s terrorist proxy in the Hemisphere – although the State Department continues to minimize this threat. That Hezbollah operatives could be among those committing acts of terror and violence against Venezuelan demonstrators would be a dramatic demonstration of that group’s operational capability and brazenness in the Americas.
The State Department is reportedly “considering” what measures to take in response to the acts of violence and the expulsion this week of three US diplomats from Caracas. Beyond whatever diplomatic action it might be mulling over while violence rages in Venezuela, US national security agencies should direct additional resources to verify and counter the involvement of Hezbollah terrorists committing acts of violence on the streets of Venezuela.
According to the Tehran Times,
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has highlighted the importance of relations between Tehran and Caracas and called for increased bilateral cooperation.
Zarif made the remarks during a meeting with visiting Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Xoan Noya Alarcon in Tehran on Sunday.
He also said that a new round of Iran-Venezuela joint economic committee meetings, scheduled to be held over the next few months, will pave the way for increased economic, commercial, and industrial.
The Venezuelan official, for his part, thanked the Islamic Republic for its policy toward recent developments in the South American country.
Venezuela has been the scene of anti-government protests over the past few weeks.
Well, yes. But aside from those problems about which we have done little, beyond making our borders as porous as possible and giving Iran increased diplomatic respectability by yielding to her demands on nuclear armaments throughout the continuing P5+1 discussions, why be concerned? What does it matter now, when even the Editorial Board of the Washington Post has opined, as a matter of that newspaper’s policy, that President Obama’s foreign policy is “based on fantasy?”
FOR FIVE YEARS, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which “the tide of war is receding” and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision, would behave rationally and in the interest of their people and the world. Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances — these were things of the past. Secretary of State John F. Kerry displayed this mindset on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday when he said, of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, “It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century.”
Fantasy can be far more comforting that what passes for reality, so why not relax and enjoy it — for as long as we can? Sure, some of our
former friends and allies may not like it, but our enemies do and that’s more important. Isn’t it?
Venezuela, which has Cuban as well as her own thugs and shows no sign of relenting, probably has little need for those from Hezbollah. Still, Venezuela has helped them to garner funds for “liberation” of the Middle East and they are nice to have around just in case they might be needed.
Venezuela does not present a clear and present danger to the United States and neither do other pro-Communist or other leftist regimes in Latin America — yet.
True, the United States once stood for human rights. Now, although Israel is more respectful of what we consider human rights than is any other nation in the Middle East, that seems irrelevant to the Obama Administration except as a tool to use against her while pushing the “peace process” along to force her to yield to every demand made by the Palestinians and then, having done so, to yield to more. That is a good way to encourage the spread of unfree, undemocratic governments but doing so should not be a goal of the United States.
The human rights we generally consider important have been diminishing in Venezuela and are now largely absent.
As noted by Otto Reich at National Review Online,
Venezuelan democracy is being murdered in the streets of that country as most of the world watches, blind and mute. In a tragic play we have seen many times in the past few years — from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean to Central Asia to Latin America — an authoritarian cabal that claims the title of democracy because it may have once been elected stomps both literally and figuratively on the heads of its citizens as it destroys the very institutions that differentiate democracy from dictatorship. As in many Arab countries, a promising Venezuelan Spring threatens to turn into an autumn. [Emphasis added.]
In Venezuela the uprising came after 15 years of continuous economic decline, rising poverty, increasing political abuse, press censorship, rising crime rates, and unprecedented corruption that led to the enrichment of a privileged few, a “new class” of opulent oppressors and oligarchs. After 15 years of seeing their freedoms and opportunities shrink, the people of Venezuela have taken to the streets, the last platform available to them from which to build a free society.
. . . .
The insurrection in Venezuela is not unlike the contemporary one in Ukraine: a group of corrupt authoritarians holed up in the presidential palace giving orders to uniformed or plainclothes thugs to pummel and shoot unarmed civilians. The Ukrainian play got a lot more attention in the West because it was seen as part of the battle for the soul of post–Cold War Europe, a struggle for freedom and prosperity based on free enterprise and individual initiative, and because Ukraine is a strategic country that must not fall into the hands of the Kremlin or other enemies of democracy.
All the above statements are true. But they are equally true in the case of Venezuela. We should care just as much about a strategic nation in our own neighborhood where unarmed citizens are fighting for their self-determination against native despots and a foreign occupier — there are an estimated 50,000 Cubans in Venezuela, including doctors and teachers, but also intelligence agents, combat troops, and secret police. [Emphasis added.]
. . . .
While alive, Chávez used Venezuela’s vast wealth to finance the electoral campaigns of fellow socialist revolutionaries in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua, Uruguay, El Salvador, and many other hemispheric nations. Some of Chávez’s allies won and some lost; Chávez’s money was instrumental in some elections but insufficient in others.
. . . .
[The Venezuelan] government, like many others in the world today, is an organized-crime enterprise, the most recent example of which is Ukraine’s, where the people were shocked as they toured the extravagant mansion of the now-fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, immediately after his flight. The obscene lavishness of the ostentatious estate was evidence of the massive theft of Ukraine’s treasury by the ruling elite. The same is happening in other countries whose “leaders” hide behind a mask of populist rhetoric and leftist ideology while living in a style reminiscent of 18th-century European royalty.
. . . .
How should the U.S. deal with this new version of rogue nations? First by recognizing that they are organized-crime states and dealing with them as such. For purposes of international protocol, we may have to, for a while, continue the pretense that they are equals: sovereign, democratic, and independent regimes.
. . . .
But at the same time that our diplomats politely sit at the conference tables with their representatives, other agencies of our government must investigate and document their violations of human rights, their theft of national treasure, their complicity with terrorists or international drug traffickers, and their other delinquencies.
In the case of Venezuela, for example, those links with terrorism and drug trafficking have been amply documented, but our government seems to have a short memory. The government of Colombia has made public hundreds of documents captured from the FARC, Colombia’s Marxist-Leninist guerrilla army. The documents clearly proved the links between Venezuela’s government and the FARC, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union. The FARC has financed itself in large part thorough drug trafficking and other racketeering. According to U.S. drug-enforcement and intelligence officials, the FARC is responsible for over half of cocaine exports from Colombia to the U.S. Even with the links documented, Venezuela did not pay any price for its collaboration with a designated terrorist organization involved in narcotics trafficking.
One reason Chávez did not pay any price was the inexplicable reluctance by our government to impose sanctions (see: Iran, North Korea, Syria . . . ). If there is little appetite for embargoes or other bans that affect entire national economies while their government officials live in comfort, there are ample punishments in the U.S. quiver that could be directed at individual offenders. Many U.S. laws have long been on the books enabling the revocation of visas and the seizure of ill-gotten financial assets. [Emphasis added.]
At this writing, the U.S. Congress is considering imposing exactly those sanctions on Venezuelan officials responsible for the violent repression and massive corruption in that country. That our Congress appears ready to act is a telling commentary on the inaction of our executive branch. Administration officials will surely cry: “Micromanagement of foreign policy by the legislative branch is not good!” All administrations say that (including, I will confess, the ones for which I worked) when the Congress forces a certain action on the executive.
But when the stakes involve our national security, the spread of a hostile ideology, the destruction of regional economies once closely tied to the U.S., and the potential control of a nearby country’s government by terrorists (the Castro government) and drug traffickers (Venezuelan cabinet ministers and general officers were designated as “drug kingpins” in 2008), then Congress must act if the executive does not. [Emphasis added.]
I agree that sanctions narrowly tailored to damage the lifestyles of the thugs in control of Venezuela could have the greatest likelihood of improving, rather than worsening, the situations of Venezuelans in general. Sanctions imposed on North Korea’s Kim regime to limit the importation of luxury goods enjoyed almost exclusively by members and supporters of the Kim regime could have been more effective had China not assisted in their evasion. Nations friendly to the Venezuelan Chavistas are likely to emulate China if we impose similar sanctions there.
Forfeitures of Chavista assets in the United States and revocation of visas might help, at least marginally. Venezuelan President Maduro claims that the United States are providing financial and other support to protesters. If we aren’t we should be and if we are we should do more. Chavistas and their supporters will complain, but they do that regardless of what we do. As Mr. Reich points out, Venezuela has long provided funding to opponents of Latin American countries that do not support her as well as to supportive Latin American countries to encourage them to provide even more support.
If we had a strong and otherwise competent President, rather than one whose policies are based on ideological fantasies, we could have made the climate for oligarchs who control Iran, Russia, China, North Korea and Venezuela less comfortable than has been the case. That’s too much to hope for now. Perhaps sanctions, forfeitures and support for protesters who demand the human rights that we also claim to support are possible until we find ways to have a strong and competent President.
Caracas Gringo has posted a YouTube video of an interview on the Colombian channel NTN24 with Alvaro Uribe (President of Colombia, 2002–2010). NTN24 (along with other news media) was banned in Venezuela for its protest coverage there.
Uribe condemns the general acceptance by governments of most Latin American nations of the persistent and violent repression of protesters by the Chavista regime.
(In Venezuela), little by little, (the Maduro regime) is erecting another Cuba, not one with 11 million inhabitants but with 28 million, with petroleum, in alliance with nuclear powers from the East, with 2,216 kilometers of frontier with (Colombia), which is eliminating the independence between institutions, which is eliminating private enterprise, and creativity, and which is confident that it won’t fail like the old communism (failed) because petroleum makes the difference.
But it is condemned to fail, even if it has petroleum.
. . . .
[I]n good measure the failure of Cuba…what is owed to? To the Latin American permissiveness towards the Cuban dictatorship… and I fear greatly that the Latin American permissiveness towards the dictatorship of Venezuela is doing great harm to the people of Venezuela.
. . . .
This is very grave, that the silence of the Latin American leadership that helped to consolidate the dictatorship of Cuba is now opening up and clearing the way, indeed rolling out the red carpet for the new dictatorship in Venezuela…
Has the United States Government done significantly more in Venezuela to support freedom and other human rights — which it claims to cherish — than have the Latin American Governments that support the Chavista regime? I don’t think so.