With the mass demonstrations in Caracas and across Venezuela persisting against the Maduro regime, Washington and Western capitals are shifting gears to support a change of government in the embattled country. A major anti-American regime in the Western Hemisphere is facing an existential crisis from within. What should the United States and its allies do now?
The ongoing crisis is a direct consequence of years of oppression, first by the Chavez regime and then continued by Maduro. The far-left faction that seized power and allied itself with authoritarian regimes across the region failed to meet the basic economic needs of Venezuelans, despite the fact that the country has one of the largest reserves of oil in the world. Shortages of food and supplies led to demonstrations under Chavez—and when hyperinflation and economic collapse intensified under Maduro, so did the demonstrations.
The Chavista/Maduro regime built strong bridges to the radicals in Latin America, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Lula in Brazil. The latter backed the “Caracas’ Stalinists” and blocked international efforts to save democracy in Venezuela.
Moreover, for more than a decade, another radical regime established roots in the country: Iran and its ally Hezbollah. Maduro’s bureaucracy recruited elements allied to Tehran while Hezbollah established its regional headquarters in the country.
The current wave of confrontation between the opposition and the regime is different. The elected speaker of the National Assembly, liberal politician Juan Guaido, found a process to impeach Maduro after his reelection in the highly corrupted voting process last May. The Parliament removed Maduro and installed Guaido as interim President, but the armed forces and militias of the regime are still backing the communist dictator despite the widespread demonstrations across the country.
As the number of citizens killed and wounded by the regime rose, Washington moved against Maduro. The Trump administration recognized the interim President, followed by the Organization of American States and by a growing number of governments worldwide. The swift U.S. decision left little choice to other countries: they were either with an oppressive regime or with the Venezuelan people. The EU announced they will give Maduro eight days to accept a new free election, monitored by the United Nations — otherwise they will deal with Guaido as president.
At the United Nations, Russia, Iran and Cuba blasted the US for “meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs,” while the West and a large alliance of Latin American and Arab countries continued to isolate Maduro. What can and should the Trump administration do from here on out?
Frame the battle in Venezuela as one between the people and this oppressive, illegitimate regime, with immense ramifications on the health, security and freedom of millions of Venezuelans; and explain that those meddling in Venezuela are Iran, Hezbollah, Cuba and Russia. We must expose those who are siding with Maduro while pocketing U.S. aid and ensure that the coalition led by the US includes all possible countries from around the world, including Latin America, Africa and Asia. Crucially, provide direct support to Guaido’s government, on all levels and channel humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan refugees on Colombian and Brazilian borders under the supervision of the OAS and the UN.
We need to ask the Maduro regime to evacuate the Venezuelan embassy in Washington and ask the Guaido government to take over and at the same time call on the armed forces to cease its operations against demonstrators, side with President Guaido, and sever all ties to Iran and Hezbollah assets in the country. We must bring prosecution against the Maduro regime for crimes against humanity and be ready to respond to a call from the legitimate President to intervene if Maduro forces engage in mass bloodshed or a coup against the Parliament.
If the Trump administration holds firm on these points, the Maduro regime will fall and a democratically elected new government in Venezuela will emerge, bringing peace and security to the country and the region.
Dr. Walid Phares is a former foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump and the co-secretary general of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism (TAG).
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.