When I received a notification for a Facebook event a month ago, I found myself feeling something that I never thought I would feel prompted by a student event: frustration and despair. The event in question was a “vigil” to protest against “war in Venezuela” hosted by the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA). When I saw this, I couldn’t help but feel angry, misunderstood, and disregarded. I thought the world was finally listening to the voice of the people of Venezuela, but I saw in that event a grave misconception that risks robbing Venezuela of the support that we need to attain freedom. Such support has to come in the form of foreign intervention.
I grew up in Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela. I saw the gradual decline brought upon by the pseudo-socialist government of Hugo Chávez and his cronies. Furthermore, I witnessed how the international community kept turning a blind eye with every corrupt action that he and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, orchestrated to consolidate their power. I saw how once-vibrant neighborhoods turned into poverty-ridden slums and how supermarkets and stores dwindled in supplies and closed as prices skyrocketed. I saw how people resorted to obtain water from contaminated sewers, and food from the garbage outside restaurants and wealthier homes.
Less than a year ago, I was living without the ability to go out to the streets whenever I wanted to, at risk of being murdered because of rampant crime. Water and electrical supply to my house weren’t guaranteed, inflation was going up, and people grew poorer and more conformist. All hope for change seemed to be lost, until now.
On Jan. 23 of this year, Juan Guaidó, the President of the National Assembly, assumed the office of Acting President of Venezuela in accordance with article 233 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which establishes that in case of a permanent vacancy of the executive, the President of the National Assembly will take charge for 30 days before new elections are organized. The move by Guaidó has been wrongly labeled as a “self-proclamation” by various media outlets, some have even compared the action to a coup, which is, invariably an incorrect interpretation.
Nicolás Maduro has effectively been an illegitimate president since his term expired on January 10th of this year, since the presidential elections held last year were fraudulent. I remember witnessing the lack of participation as I drove by polling sites on the day of the election and reading about the scandals of tampering made public by Smartmatic, the company who used to provide our electronic voting system. Election fraud had been a frequent card used by Maduro’s regime, but this was the most blatant and outrageous case ever seen by the people of Venezuela.
Venezuela now needs to shift to a transitional government and call for new elections, but Maduro, backed by a corrupt military, refuses to abide by the constitution and leave his post. The Venezuelan people and the opposition have tried every democratic way available to them to no avail, and now, more than ever, we need help. The popular sentiment is very clear on this subject: the majority of Venezuelans want direct intervention by the United States or any other foreign power to remove Maduro from office. I recognize this is a controversial idea, especially with the United States’s catastrophic history of regime change operations, particularly in the Middle East, but the case of Venezuela is completely different to those of Iraq and Iran.
Before elaborating any further, I feel the need to clarify that I have never supported Donald Trump’s administration nor the Republican Party. There’s a reason I didn’t write this for the Tory. But military intervention in Venezuela would not result in war. The Venezuelan army has absolutely no capacity to deal with a foreign invasion by a superior military power, let alone the United States.
I remember driving by army and air force bases and seeing the deteriorated facilities, crumbling fighter jets, and inexperienced recruits that populated them. However, the Venezuelan armed forces are well equipped and trained to repress their own people, which is why popular rebellion isn’t an option.
If the people of Venezuela decided to take it upon themselves and topple Maduro by force, it would result in a massive bloodbath. If the United States stationed a fleet upon Venezuelan waters, surrender would come before any man stepped foot on land. Many argue that many will die if the United States intervenes, but thousands have already died, and people will continue to perish while inaction reigns.
It was disheartening how some of the signs at the vigil called for the end of sanctions, as some students and local residents talked about a “diplomatic solution” to the issue. The fact is that without extreme pressure, a government of proven criminals, drug-traffickers, terrorists and mobsters such as the Maduro regime will not be toppled. How can protesters expect these foul and corrupt individuals to honor their word in a negotiation? How can they not see that this will only lead to another stalemate?
Indifference by the international community, that for years helped criminals rob Venezuela of its resources and livelihood, is finally coming to an end. The United States doesn’t seek to instate a puppet government or to exploit Venezuela’s oil since, to this day, it is already Venezuela’s biggest consumer; it intends to help a man designated by the only democratically elected body in the country to take the lead during our country’s most pressing crisis.
I believe in civil expression, peace, and liberal principles of non-intervention, but these are not absolute and should not be preached blindly, and that is what the protesters are doing. Just because Trump, a very polarizing figure, showed support for the measure, people instantly scrambled for reasons to oppose it. One Princeton resident said that the United States has no right to tell Venezuela what to do, but little does that person know that the will of the Venezuelan people and the declarations of the United States are aligned. Sovereignty can’t be used to mask the abuses of the people and sovereignty can’t be invoked by a government who doesn’t represent the people. In the words of Saint Augustine: “In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?” The people of Venezuela need freedom, and only an intervention will deliver it.
Juan José López Haddad is a first-year from Caracas, Venezuela. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.