Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Why Calling For A Venezuelan Coup Is A Bad Idea

Calls in the U.S., both within and outside the government, for a coup in Venezuela are increasing and pretty much mainstream. The most recent is Roger Noriega in The New York Times. I've written before that this is a bad idea. Brian Fonseca writes in Foreign Policy about why it would be damage U.S. security interests:

The U.S. officials praising the prospect of a military takeover seem to disregard the fact that U.S.-Venezuelan military relations are virtually nonexistent today. U.S. defense contacts with Venezuela declined sharply in the years following the rise of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 1999. Meanwhile, the Russians, Chinese, and Cubans have replaced the United States as the primary sources of financial, technical, and material support to the Venezuelan military. The mere threat of a coup in Venezuela could be enough to rally the military around hard-liners and compel U.S. rivals to consider their preferred alternatives to the Maduro regime as collapse becomes imminent. Rivals with economic, political, and geostrategic interests in Venezuela, such as Russia and China, are far better positioned than the United States to influence the Venezuelan military during any transition.

This is a point no one has been making. The United States has no influence over the Venezuelan military and can only guess about what its leadership thinks (Noriega talks vaguely of talking to "regime insiders," which we should dismiss along with all other anonymous claims). Russians and Cubans in particular have been there for years (whereas China's influence is financial rather than military).

Venezuela is suffering but doing dumb things can make the situation worse than the status quo. As President Obama said several years ago with regard to foreign policy, "Don't do stupid shit." In Latin America, the U.S. government seems almost addicted to doing so.

BTW, Brian is going to be on a roundtable on security I organized for the Latin American Studies Association conference next week if you are interested in joining us.


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