Thursday May 23, 2024

The wrong fight

By Leonardo Flores
April 09, 2020

On April 1, the Trump administration hijacked a Covid-19 press conference to announce the deployment of US Navy vessels and other military assets towards Venezuela. According to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, “included in this force package are Navy destroyers and littoral combat ships, Coast Guard Cutters, PA patrol aircraft, and elements of an Army security force assistance brigade”, while General Mark Milley added that there are “thousands of sailors, Coast Guardsman, soldiers, airmen, Marines involved in this operation.”

The pretext is a counter-narcotics operation to follow up on the Department of Justice’s March 26 indictment of President Nicolás Maduro and 13 others on narcoterrorism charges. This indictment is politically motivated and has been critiqued in depth.

In between the sticks of indictments and the deployment, the Trump administration seemingly offered a carrot: a proposed “democratic transition framework” that would progressively see the sanctions lifted after the resignations of Maduro and Juan Guaidó, the installation of a “Council of State” and elections in which neither Maduro nor Guaidó can participate. This proposal, which is more of a poison pill than a carrot, was immediately rejected by Venezuelan opposition politicians and the government. The plan is unconstitutional, it violates Venezuelan sovereignty, and it runs counter to the ongoing dialogue in Venezuela that is getting closer every day to establishing a new National Electoral Council and setting a date for legislative elections.

Henri Falcón – a former opposition presidential candidate – criticized the plan and said an agreement cannot be imposed, that a “solution in Venezuela is between Venezuelans.” It was also called into question by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel, who called the approach “an utterly incoherent policy”, as it came days after the Department of Justice said nothing would stop them from moving forward with the narcoterrorism case.

It seemed as though Venezuela was finally moving forward towards a negotiated solution to its political crisis, yet the naval deployment may sabotage the dialogue, as it was partially designed to do. The other purposes of the deployment were to distract from COVID-19 at home and to take advantage of the epidemic in order to increase the pressure on the Maduro government.

It was a bizarre scene that played out on April 1 during the press conference announcing the deployment. CNN was covering the conference live, believing it to be about the pandemic; this belief was reasonable.

Excerpted from: 'The US Should Fight COVID, Not Venezuela'.