Is Venezuela truly a threat to the United States?

By Roberta Maggi, Italian born, French raised near Geneva, Switzerland – studying International Relations at the War Studies Department of King’s College London. Active Model United Nations delegate, including representing King’s UNA in Seoul this year. 

This might be ‘old news’ to most, but on the 9th of March, President Obama declared Venezuela a ‘National Security Threat’, which is generally the first step towards imposing sanctions on members of the Venezuelan Government of President Nicolas Maduro (which did in fact happen), with allegations of threatening human rights when repressing manifestations in early 2014, which seems to be making Venezuela a threat to the national security of the United States of America. The sanctions consist of the assets of targeted officials being blocked or frozen in the US, and them not being able to travel there any longer. This comes from the idea that, I quote : “Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here (in the United States), and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of US financial systems” (Earnest).

Now, I have to admit I am rather uncomfortable/skeptical by the idea of Venezuela being as much of a threat to the US as Syria, Iran or Myanmar. I was personally quite content with US-Cuba relations improving, and thus feel quite disappointed by this diplomatic incident (or however you may want to call it), especially seeing that Venezuela called its highest-ranking diplomats in Washington back to Caracas, as a form of what could turn into a form of retaliation against the US  in order to “fight imperialism”. In regards to these suddenly heated allegations on both sides, I decided to look more into it and evaluate if Venezuela is in fact a National Security threat to the US, and let you all decide for yourself to what extent this situation makes sense.

  1. An escalating tension since 2010?

I have read across many articles on this subject (and this is open to interpretation) that tensions have in fact been escalating since the Chavez years, and with a couple ‘golden moments’ to be noted :

– 2010: Caracas refused the nomination of an American Ambassador, which led to the US government firing the Venezuelan ambassador;

– 28 of February 2015 : Maduro announces that Americans wishing to travel to Venezuela would be requiring a visa and undertakes a drastic reduction of the Venezuelan diplomatic personnel in Washington (from 100 to 17).

  1. National manifestations in 2014 : a threat to others than the Venezuelan government?

The manifestations against the government in early 2014 seems to have been determined as the cause of this whole situation, or at least what was told publicly by the media (and I will leave my inner thoughts to your imagination and possible conspiracy-theory inclinations). The manifestations against the Maduro government were first initiated due to the growing discontent amongst the nation regarding the deepening slump in oil prices, which is Venezuela’s main earner, combined with a severe inflation, near 70% in 2014. The problem emerged when these manifestations were violently repressed by the accused government officials, causing the death of 43 Venezuelans and the arrest of 3,000 civilians, most of whom are still behind bars.

Seeing the clear human rights violation that has happened, I understand and agree with the decision of the White House to call upon the Venezuelan government to release the prisoners, a lot of which are students. However, I still struggle to see how freezing the assets of some government officials helps the situation of the Venezuelan population, and still can’t answer the question ‘why the US ever got involved in this foreign matter?’. This creates (at least on my side) a more comprehensive understanding of Maduro’s statement : “President Barack Obama, representing the US imperialist elite, has personally decided to take on the task of defeating my government, intervening in Venezuela, and controlling it from the US”, although I disapprove of such inflammatory assumptions, especially seeing that Maduro then claimed that the US was plotting a coup-d’état against his government with the Venezuelan opposition leaders. I’d say some paranoia might be going on there, don’t you think ?

Now I’ll let you decide for yourselves what the real US intentions could be (in case you are not quite sure about the aforementioned), and what will happen next for US-Venezuela diplomatic relations. Although John Magdaleno, a Venezuelan political analyst, argues that diplomatic relations are going to be very tense in the future, seeing how Maduro seems to have turned to the old ruse of the ‘foreign enemy’ to regain the support of his people, which makes sense as a theory to me, seeing how the government is constantly using the sanctions to generate an anti-US sentiment in Venezuela. Another concern of mine would be Maduro pushing for unilateral powers, and eventually obtaining them: could it lead to quash dissent and promulgate dozens of laws for a full state control over the economy?

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