The ordeal of Venezuela is forcing its way into the 2020 presidential campaign.
The sputtering uprising led by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. has Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro gloating about a “failed coup,” while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton are demanding U.S. military options to ward the perception of defeat.
In Washington, the standoff at the Venezuelan embassy between supporters of Guaidó and Maduro continues after the arrest of three people yesterday.
The Democratic response to Venezuela defines a fundamental distinctions between the candidates: do you favor a policy of “regime change” or not? And more generally, what do you think of U.S. interventions to change foreign governments?
Vice President Joe Biden was quick to endorse the Trump approach with a tweet on Tuesday, while Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Mayor Pete Buttigieg forcefully rejected, in different ways, the Pompeo/Bolton approach of threatening U.S. intervention.
The Trump White House sees political advantages in confronting Maduro, especially in Florida. Dovish Democrats see a public that is sick and tired of the “endless wars” generated by costly and failed post-9/11 interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.
Hawkish Democrats, while they all oppose Trump on domestic issues, do not break with him on Venezuela. They do not see power struggle and social collapse in Venezuela as another endless war in the making. While they say they don’t support U.S. military intervention, they do not criticize the Trump/Pompeo/Bolton policy short of war.
The hawks include Biden, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressmen Seth Moulton and John Delaney.
The doves, while critical of the Maduro government, denounce the Trump approach. They are sometimes vague or contradictory on whether they oppose sanctions, but they all question the need for demanding a change in government in Caracas. The doves include include Gabbard, Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang.
The ducks duck the issue with silence, meaningless statements or “no comment.” So far the ducks include Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris.
The most outspoken dove is Gabbard, who says “the United States needs to stay out of Venezuela.” The Hawaii congresswoman and Iraq war veteran, makes anti-interventionism a central message of her presidential bid.
The South Bend Mayor is getting more forthright about denouncing Trump’s policy, citing his own experience as a military officer.
In an interview with New Yorker, last month, Sanders sounded dovish but he was not as strong as Gabbard and Buttigieg.
I asked Sanders whether he saw Maduro as part of the axis of corrupt authoritarianism. “Yeah,” he said. “It is a failed regime. From all of the recent evidence, it appears that the election was fraudulent. And, despite his ideology, what we need to see is democracy established in Venezuela. That does not mean deciding that some politician is the new President, who never won any election.” I asked whether, given the depth of Venezuela’s suffering, he had considered calling for a more muscular and immediate response than the monitoring of future elections. Sanders thought for a moment, said that military intervention was off the table for him, and added, “The world community has got to be mindful of the humanitarian suffering and the hunger that’s going on in Venezuela right now. But, at the end of the day, I think what you want in one of the largest countries in Latin America is free and fair elections, and we want to do everything we can to establish democracy there.”
Warren opposes the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and rejects the idea that the United States should attempt to install a leader.
“The Venezuelan people deserve free and fair elections, an economy that works, and the ability to live without fear of violence from their own government,” she said. “Instead of reckless threats of military action or sanctions that hurt those in need, we should be taking real steps to support the Venezuelan people.” Where Democratic Presidential Contenders Stand On The Venezuelan Crisis — Huffington Post
The Silicon Valley social entrepreneur renounces “regime change” as a U.S. goal.
My goal as president would be to help assist the Venezuelan people in any way we can — any sort of humanitarian intervention that would help ease the suffering.
I do not think it’s the US’s place to engage in regime change. Our track record on making decisions for other countries is very, very uneven at best. So certainly if there’s anything we can do to support on a humanitarian level, I’d be eager to do it, but I don’t think we should be choosing other nations’ leaders. …
Yes, I’d recognize [Guaidó]. I just wouldn’t militarily intervene to depose Nicolás Maduro and insert him.
On Monday Biden pinned his tweet in support regime change and voiced no criticism of Trump’s approach.
In March Klobuchar told NBC that military intervention should always be “on the table.” As she put it to the Huffington Post,
“I support the people of Venezuela standing up against Maduro, installing a new leader, and restoring democracy in Venezuela,” Klobuchar said in an email. Where Democratic Presidential Contenders Stand On The Venezuelan Crisis — Huffington Post
Klobuchar didn’t explicitly address the crucial issue of sanctions but her support for Trump policy seems clear.
Gillibrand supports Guaidó and sanctions.
“Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) supports working with our allies to recognize Juan Guaidó – who was legitimately elected – as the interim president under the Constitution until Venezuela can hold new elections,” said Meredith Kelly, communications director for Sen. Gillibrand’s presidential exploratory committee. “And while she believes economic sanctions are the appropriate response to achieve this, she does not support sending troops to Venezuela.” Where Democratic Presidential Contenders Stand On The Venezuelan Crisis — Huffington Post
I support Venezuela’s interim president, Juan Guaidó … Press Release — 2.8.2019
It is clear: Nicolás Maduro must go …
Here at home, we must also be cognizant of America’s mixed history of intervention in the region. President Trump does not have the required Congressional authorization to use force in Venezuela. Intervening militarily in Venezuela today would give credence to Maduro’s history of fear-mongering that the U.S. will do just that. As a separate and co-equal branch of government, it is Congress’s constitutional responsibility to prohibit the use of funds for any unauthorized military campaign.
Delaney supports sanctions and opposes U.S. military intervention.
“I’m not in favor of us intervening to change the regime, although I am in favor of the fact that we don’t recognize Maduro as the leader of the country. I’m in favor of sanctions … I think the United States needs to be working with all the other interested countries … What I worry most about the situation is because of the relationship the country has with its neighbors, something like 15% almost 20% of the population has already left the country. So we may actually be watching a dying country … But I don’t favor a military intervention in part because why would we go to war with the group, or people, or the military who are going to be needed to actually save the country.” Source: SiriusXM — The Big Picture With Olivier Knox: Mob Hits; Middle East Policy .(4/3/2019)
When the Huffington Post asked Castro’s campaign for comment on the situation in Venezuela, the campaign did not respond.
When the Huffington Post reached out to Harris’s campaign for a comment on Venezuela, the campaign did not respond.
When In These Times asked O’Rourke’s campaign to comment, the email bounced.
In a brief interview on Capitol Hill, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told HuffPost that Maduro “is alarming to me on many levels” but did not elaborate beyond that. His office did not respond to further requests for comment. Where Democratic Presidential Contenders Stand On The Venezuelan Crisis — Huffington Post