What Republicans and Democrats get wrong about Venezuela

Politicizing a humanitarian crisis isn’t new, however this time it’s personal

Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

In this day and age, a tweet from @realDonaldTrump can alter history. I for one was very hopeful when I saw the President starting to care about Venezuela. After months of upheaval, National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó had announced that he was stepping in as interim President. Back in the United States, President Trump announced a wholehearted endorsement of the move and recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader — with dozens of other countries following suit. Senator Bob Menendez, the Democratic ranking member on the Senate Relations Committee has similarly expressed his support for interim President Guaidó, a rare bipartisan moment in an increasingly polarized environment. Since then we’ve seen how important voices in the American political class are failing a country in desperate need.

What has become increasingly clear is that Venezuela has become convenient symbolism for both sides of the political aisle. President Trump, and many other elected officials and conservative leaders, often use Venezuela as a baseless way of attacking some Democrats domestically. Rising stars in the Democratic Party on the other hand are choosing to ignore the ongoing humanitarian crisis in order to critique American foreign policy. I’d take their concerns to heart if it weren’t for the fact that they are so blatantly uniformed about what happened in Venezuela that led to the situation we are experiencing today.

There is perhaps no better way to symbolize the toxic mindset on Venezuela from the right than Fox & Friends, President Trump’s seemingly favorite tv show. The show has called Venezuela’s society “socialist”; it has repeated claims from the President that Democratic policies could lead to the United States could become Venezuela. Both are remarkably untrue, and yet are constantly repeated.

Venezuela’s society is not socialist. The rise of the current illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro has been a long time coming. Socialism explains some of the factors in the horrific meltdown we see today — but it certainly does not explain all. Unseen levels of gross mismanagement and unbelievable ineptitude are incredibly important in understanding what happened in Venezuela. Socialism was just the way Maduro and his cronies justified their actions. Even if socialism was the only factor at play here, the sociopolitical, economic, historic and cultural make-up of the United States are profoundly different. Different to the point where no, the United States won’t turn into Venezuela. However, this is a fact that is constantly ignored simply because it does not fit the narrative that America should be afraid of socialism because of the situation in Venezuela. In the process, the debate on Venezuela becomes more about the United States than helping Venezuela.

Let me make something perfectly clear, I do not believe in socialism and I also don’t believe that a complete implementation of socialism in the United States would be effective or helpful. However, if we’re going to use Venezuela as an example of failed socialism, why don’t we use Denmark as an example of how socialism could work? The Danes tax their citizens quite a bit, why isn’t the President calling out Denmark?

On the other side of the political aisle, we have elected officials making the case for the United States to stay out of Venezuela and let the situation resolve itself. Sounds pretty logical doesn’t it? Except that leaders like Congresswoman Ilhan Omar preach about inequality and injustice at home and yet are perfectly fine with profound inequality and barbaric injustice taking place in Venezuela. Ignoring the reality in Venezuela and using it as a way to attack American foreign policy is a slap in the face for the many Venezuelans seeking a more equal and just country — something Congresswoman Omar supposedly wants.

Code Pink, a “woman-led grassroots organization” invaded the Venezuelan embassy in Washington D.C. and set up camp inside when the United States ceased to recognize the illegitimate government of Maduro and asked his personnel there to leave. It was incredible to see a group of people who have absolutely no idea what Venezuela is about, take over a building that belongs to the Venezuelan people in the name of an illegitimate dictator. Since then, American security forces have expelled them from the building — good riddance. However, the group has continued to use Venezuela as a way to attack the President on multiple other areas. Reading the reasoning behind their actions defies any logic. Once again, through this process, the debate on Venezuela becomes more about the United States than helping Venezuela.

Venezuela is not a political football. Venezuela is a real place where people are dying of hunger, dying due to lack of access to medication, dying because of the cruel actions of a despotic tyrant by the name of Nicolas Maduro. Look to the example of those that truly value Venezuela like Senators Marco Rubio and Dick Durbin. Cherish the fact that the United States is a place where debate can happen openly — something we lost in Venezuela years ago and leave Venezuela out of political games. Venezuela needs honest help.

Just a permanent traveler seeking his place in the world.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store