At a time when President Nicolas Maduro is facing rising opposition (even among his traditional supporters), there is one thing that would materially help him rally supporters: a threat of U.S. military intervention. Now other Latin American countries critical of Maduro in the past have denounced Trump’s comments. It is for that reason that many people were shocked by President Trump’s statement on Friday that he is considering military options in his decision how to respond to Maduro authoritarian policies. For those of us who deeply opposed both Hugo Chavez and his successor Maduro, the statement could not be more disheartening. As noted by the Wall Street Journal, experts believe that Trump gave Maduro exactly what he needed to fulfill his long unsupported narrative of a war with the U.S. As was the case with North Korean comments and the State Department, no one appears more surprised on these comments than the Defense Department.
On Friday, after renewing threats against North Korea, Trump publicly stated that “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.” He then added “We have troops all over the world in places that are very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and they’re dying.”
The fact that this comment comes after news that Russia is trying to gain control over Venezuela’s oil will only fuel anti-American sentiments in the country — and support Maduro’s arguments that the U.S. wants to gain control over its oil for itself. It is also a highly implausible threat since there is no compelling justification at the moment for a U.S. intervention. Moreover, the effort of the State Department to send a high-ranking diplomat to speak with Venezuela is now expected to severely undermined given the implied threat of military intervention.
Ironically, Trump has been hammering his generals on losing in Afghanistan and suggested an interest in a total pullout. Yet, he then said that he was considering an intervention in Venezuela — a move that could unite the country behind Maduro and hand him the very victory that has eluded him. Maduro’s son is already rallying people against the threatened U.S. intervention.
Maduro can now take that statement to Venezuela’s new Constituent Assembly as he demands unchecked powers.
For the many people who want to see an end to the Maduro regime, Trump’s statement is a serious blow. There are thousands of people risking their very lives in the streets of Venezuela. This gives Maduro more justification to ramp up military operations and to blame the United States for the disaster by Chavez and Maduro created in the one prosperous country.