On Friday, August 11th, President Trump threatened military intervention in the South American country Venezuela, which would be a shocking escalation of our response to their political crisis if shocking escalation wasn't our status quo under the Trump administration. Trump told reporters at his golf club in New Jersey (where he's taking a 17-day working vacation):
The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.
Venezuela has been going through an extremely dangerous period of political upheaval. When the countries famously socialist leader, Hugo Chavez, died in 2013, President Nicolas Maduro was elected to continue his policies by supporters called "Chavistas." However, as oil prices fall (oil accounts for 95% of the countries export revenues), the government has been forced to cut its social programs, eroding the lower-class support which accounted for much of Maduro's support.
By complete "coincidence," this falling power coincides with blatant power-grabs by the Chavistas in the government. On March 29th, the Venezuelan Supreme Court announced it was "taking over the powers" of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, claiming that the political body had disobeyed judicial rulings in the past and was being held "in contempt." Though the ruling was reversed three days later, distrust for the branch of the government has remained. Angered by what they see as clear steps towards a dictatorship under Medrano, Venezuela's opposition party demands removal of the judges responsible of the ruling, as well as early elections in 2017 for a new President.
Medrano, claiming he's under "economic attack" from the opposition party, has not given into any of their demands. Instead, he held an election to choose a Constituent Assembly - a collective of people given the power to draft a new constitution. The assembly would supercede all other legislative bodies, and over-represents groups who are loyal to Medrano. Anti-Medrano protests marred by violence have become a daily occurrence, with over 100 deaths since April. The night after the election, several opposition party leaders were taken prisoner from their homes by military forces.
The Pentagon claims it has received no directives concerning Venezuela. Trump has commented:
We don’t talk about it but a military operation - a military option - is certainly something that we could pursue.
Despite these fighting words, however, The United States sanctioned Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and other Venezuelan officials on July 31 after Maduro established a constituent assembly. We have also placed no sanctions on the country's oil, which accounts for 740,000 of our barrels per day.
Our government's reticence to denounce the regime's action in a palpable way could have something to do with Venezuela's 5,000 Russian-made MANPADS surface-to-air weapons, or the various ways we profit from the OPEC-member. Regardless, everyone seems to agree that making idle threats of invading serve nobody but Medrano, still looking to gain more power in the government through his constituent assembly. Perhaps somebody should have told this to President Trump a couple days ago.
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