Why Military Intervention in Venezuela Is Not a Realistic Option


EspañolThere has been talk recently of a possible international invasion of Venezuela, which would serve as a last resort to ending President Nicolás Maduro’s nefarious regime. The strategy, while extreme, should not be ruled out.

Venezuela is on the verge of collapse and the situation is becoming increasingly worse as the days go by. There are shortages of both food and medicine, as well as four-digit inflation. There is no freedom and the population is desperate. Street protests may increase in the coming weeks, but now, the country is virtually paralyzed. People are afraid to go out and production has sharply declined. Nobody is investing, of course, and crime is out of control.

Though a large majority opposes the current regime, there is no hope for peaceful political change. This dictatorship will not step down by way of elections. It controls every step of the country’s electoral process and has committed shameless acts of fraud to keep itself in power. A coup d’etat looks unlikely, as the regime has the support of the military.

A different solution to Venezuela’s crisis could involve international military intervention. Such a solution may not be very realistic for now, as it would create a host of new and very serious problems, but it is still worth considering.

The first problem, and perhaps the mildest, is the armed resistance to the invasion. Venezuela’s military doesn’t have much power to stop an invasion, considering its lack of organization, logistical and tactical weaknesses, and the low morale of its youngest troops. But the government could use any intervention from abroad as a justification to further escalate its authoritarian behavior. Appealing to the characteristic nationalism of the country, Maduro would announce that he has always been right about his anti-imperialist and socialist beliefs. The left, all over the world, would be outraged, and there would be an international crusade against “the Yankee aggressor.” It would be a golden opportunity for Maduro to gain the prestige and legitimacy the regime currently lacks.

But supposing that an international military intervention succeeds — what would happen next? Who would be willing to assume command of a country so impoverished and torn apart by conflict?

For these reasons, I think an invasion would only be successful if it met two requirements, which seem, for now, quite remote: a broad international consensus, and adequate leadership. History shows that the first condition is indispensable, because only with broad support from the Organization or American States or the United Nations and the firm support of a dozen Latin American countries can there be any possibility of rebutting a dictatorship. But adequate leadership is also absolutely necessary.

Only an invasion led by a Venezuelan, or by a recognized and respected group of Venezuelans, can allow for a fruitful transition to begin. This is the fundamental condition for getting most of the population to support a foreign intervention, and to overcome its reluctance and misgivings.

Both conditions are far from being met. But in any case it’s important that, from now on, the true opponents of the dictatorship are aware of the possible solutions to the situation, and of the problems that may arise in the near future.

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