09 March 2015

Does Venezuela threaten you?

You may not have realized it, but the Bolivarian government of Venezuela under President Nicolas Maduro is a National Security Threat according to the U.S. government. That's the opinion of President Obama's State Department, as expressed in an executive order from the President himself. Declaring the country a Threat means the U.S. can apply sanctions against the government or specific officials, denying them entry into our country and the use of American financial services. So how is Venezuela, or Maduro specifically, threatening the colossus of the north? By undermining democracy in their own country, the administration alleges. By violating what Americans understand to be the human rights of the Venezuelan people, Venezuela threatens human rights everywhere, it seems. By "criminalizing dissent" and through "intimidation of its political opponents," they presumably seek to intimidate if not criminalize one of the Bolivarian regime's primary political opponents, the United States. In reality, the Maduro government has at worst threatened the jobs of dozens of U.S. embassy workers in Caracas by demanding a staff reduction. This bit of spite is part of what the Obama administration describes as a pattern of Bolivarism "distract[ing] from its own actions by blaming the United States ... for events inside Venezuela." In this case, as before, the Maduro administration sees the Yankee imperialists behind the "endless coup" in which the recently arrested mayor of Caracas was allegedly involved. But if Maduro's actions have been at least partly spiteful, Obama's seem more so. Worse, the President is more or less playing into Maduro's hands, for what better evidence can Maduro cite to show that the Yankees want to overthrow his government than our designation of his government as a National Security Threat? Of course I get the American argument that leaders like Maduro consciously and cynically lie about such things, and I also recognize the tendency as a regrettable if partially understandable pathology of revolutionary regimes. But my main point still stands: if you want to convince Venezuela, not to mention the rest of the world, that you're not seeking regime change, then why on earth would you declare the country an enemy? And if calling Venezuela a National Security Threat doesn't mean they're an enemy, then what's the point of the exercise? The point for us, regardless of whatever point Obama intended to make, is that for all the Republican caterwauling about the President's alleged softness on this or that threat to our nation, our interests, or our way of life, he only appears soft relative to the more rabidly ideological fanaticism of Republicans or the neocons within his own party. Authoritarian regimes, understood as those governments whose alleged bullying tendencies extend into the global economy, are threatening to almost all American politicians, excepting some leftists and libertarians. But if you still feel that they aren't threatening you, maybe you should ask why your representatives in the Executive and Legislative branches feel differently.

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