I was out of the country for several weeks so I only observed from a far much of the sprint Florida Democrats took in the last month toward a neoliberal/neoconservative position on Venezuela and Nicolas Maduro.
Donald Trump’s Presidents Day “pep rally” at FIU which was built around the case for American intervention of some manner in Venezuela. It’s odd that a President who earlier this month in his State of the Union called for an end to American wars presumably in the Middle East and Central Asia ( an impossibility given the military industrial complex and the cheerleading done in much of the “liberal” American media for any US military intervention in those regions) was continuing this parallel and contradictory path when it comes to Latin America.
Let me preface this piece by stating it is not meant as a defense in any of Maduro or the late Hugo Chavez before him. While many on the Anglosphere left including Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone adore Chavez, it’s not smart for American Democrats to align with the type of socialism in practice he and Maduro represent. Two decades of Chavez-styled socialism in Venezuela has left the nation crime ridden and politically isolated. However, similarly a return to the glory days when the nation was a puppet state for US economic interests is not acceptable either.
It is not a good idea for Democrats in Florida and nationally to tacitly align themselves with the history of CIA backed junta and coups in Latin America and the war-mongering interventionist Marco Rubio, among others on the right in the US who have long called for action in Venezuela (it might be forgotten but many on the right have been calling for some sort heavy-handed behavior in Venezuela since 2003).
Democratic opposition to Trump has in many cases meant the party’s allies and even some of its elected officials now consistently back most military and diplomatic efforts at pressure abroad especially if the word Russia comes up. Vladimir Putin along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, continue to back Maduro publicly and diplomatically during the US-driven crisis in Venezuela. While Putin and Erdoğan’s backing of Maduro should give us pause, it should not mean progressives of any stripe reflexively back the opposition.
But it is meant to remind us the US almost never has pure or humanitarian intentions when intervening in Latin America, and it would have been wise for Florida Democrats to just shut up rather than back the idea of an arguably unlawful transfer of power in a nation like many of its neighbors that has historically been plundered by American interests.
Now on to Florida’s Democrats. I was stunned by the number of otherwise outstanding progressives who choose to jump on a bandwagon in alliance with Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham and probably the CIA as well.
I understand the pressure from the community of Venezuelan exiles in Florida and the personal stories legislators have probably heard. That should give concern, but what is missing from this entire discussion is that American behavior over many decades is what led to the creation of Hugo Chavez in the first place, and for two decades corporate and conservative elements in the United States have been agitating for a return to pre-1999 Venezuela.
I was struck by the statement by the FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo speaking out on a foreign policy matter which should not concern the state party.
I was also struck by the action of legislators, who again are great champions for Florida’s citizens but probably could have been more nuanced and balanced, respecting the exile community in Florida but also making a comment about the need to negotiate an agreement and curtailing the imperial overreach of the United States.
Alas, Democrats in Florida and many nationally have wanted to appear tough on Maduro and tacitly move in lock-step with the most conservative and reactionary positions held by this nation’s military and intelligence communities. I get the constituent angle and also the desire of some in the Democratic Party to oppose anything they associate with Trump (ie Putin and Erdoğan) but something are better left untouched and unsaid. And if they must be said, say it with a softer and more nuanced voice.