In the past week, Venezuela has erupted into violent protests led by university students against their government. Eight protestors have been killed, and neither the Venezuelan government nor the opposition is willing to back down to peacefully resolve the issue.
With no peaceful end in sight, many people are calling on the United States to intervene and are frustrated with our complacence. But our tumultuous relationship with Venezuela shows that any form of intervention is not a good idea.
Venezuela, an oil-rich country with a population of around 30 million, has been economically unstable since the death of their beloved leader, Hugo Chávez. Their current president, Nicolas Maduro, is largely blamed for the social and economic problems that Venezuelans are currently facing.
In their frustration, demonstrators led by Leopoldo Lopez have taken to the streets in protest. Last week, Lopez was captured and detained by Maduro’s police force and is facing charges of terrorism and conspiracy. His supporters continue protesting in the streets and have not shown signs of backing down.
Social media has been trending with pleas from Venezuelans to President Obama, begging him to intervene and stop the violence. Last week, Maduro reached out to the White House and asked Obama to send foreign ministers to an “open dialogue” about the violence and possibly request aid.
The situation in Venezuela is heartbreaking, and there is no doubt that something needs to be done, but it doesn’t need to be done by the U.S. Historically, we have a troubled relationship with Venezuela, and if we were to intervene, they most likely will not be receptive to our presence.
Ever since the election of socialist leader Chávez in 1999, relations between the U.S. and Venezuela have been tense. Venezuela has claimed many times that the U.S. supports anti-government groups in the country and for that reason broke off diplomatic relations 2008–2009.
Although relations were re-established under the Obama administration, they remain tense. Amid the current protests, Maduro has ordered the expulsion of three American diplomats on charges of promoting violence. He has also accused Obama of failing to live up to his commitment to stay out of Venezuelan affairs. But as the violence continues to increase, Maduro has become desperate and has asked Obama to engage in dialogue with him.
On Friday, Maduro appeared on a broadcasted news conference and said, “I call for a dialogue with you, Obama. You can designate [U.S. Secretary of State] Kerry or whoever you want to come to this dialogue, and I will send my foreign minister for this high-level meeting.”
The call for U.S. intervention is not one that should be answered. Say Obama decided to send troops to Venezuela, what side of the protests should they support? If the U.S. supports the current government, then it is sending a message that we are willing to come to the aid of corrupt regimes.
If we support the protesters in their fight to overthrow the current government, then we are encroaching on Maduro’s sovereignty. This would only further escalate violence and cause trouble for U.S.-Venezuelan relations.
The best thing the U.S. can do to help Venezuela right now would be to open dialogue with Maduro, send aid in the form of food and medical supplies, but keep our troops at home.
Natalie Pimblett is a junior political science major.