Venezuela’s government has run afoul of the Trump Administration as it did the Obama Administration and the George. W. Bush Administration. President Donald Trump has adopted sanctions that limit the ability of Venezuela to sell bonds and raise capital. It is his response to President Nicolás Maduro’s push to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution amid widespread political upheaval, a state of economic emergency, and a power grab, which includes the dismissal of the National Assembly. Recognizing global investors already deem a Venezuela a risky proposition and Venezuela can continue to participate in the global oil market, the actions taken by the Trump Administration will likely not have much of a practical impact.
Proponents of the Maduro government and critics of the US, however, still denounce the moves as unfair, undemocratic, and an abuse of American imperial power. The Trump Administration’s efforts to curtail the support the Venezuelan governments receives from the US financial system is proper. The US is a democratic society and the Maduro government is dismantling democratic rule in order to suppress dissent that threatens the power of his party. The US government is not supposed to support governments that crush dissent, dismiss the representatives of it People, and corrupt civil institutions for their own benefit. Unfortunately, The US continues to hypocritically support other governments and nations more favorable to the US.
US friend, traditional Russian adversary, and EU member Poland, for example, is ripe with corruption. The Polish government is also attempting to rewrite the national Constitution in order to disarm the Judiciary and free the corrupt to do as they please. The US has largely been mute on the subject. To boot, no real meaningful action is likely to be taken by EU members. The US and NATO need Poland to confront Russia over the Ukraine Crisis, but the main reason the Polish government receives little international commendation is that the US is on friendly terms with the Polish government. When the US was on friendly terms with Russia under the George W. Bush Administration, Putin was also able to freely dismantle democracy. The same double-standard is seen in many of authoritarian nations in the Middle East.
With that in mind, the US is actually holding back on punishing the Venezuelan government, because the US needs, or at least wants, Venezuela’s oil. If Venezuela did not have a beneficial economic relationship with the US, it would feel the full weight of US soft power. If not for the benefits of Venezuelan oil, the US would be far more willing to target Venezuelan individuals and businesses. Citgo, which is owned by the state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, would likely be bankrupt. The fact that Citgo, which is one of the largest fuel suppliers in the US, is owned by the state of Venezuela demonstrates the perils of a globalized economy as well as the reason why Venezuela enjoys a degree of wealth-based impunity.
Venezuela’s pivot toward Russia and China also demonstrates how a globalized economy both disempowers powerful nations like the US and allows abusive governments to circumvent punitive measures. It is part of the reason the US does not, and cannot, fully crackdown on governments that oppress their population. It forces governments and their peoples to financially support corrupt governments. Doing the right thing has always come at a cost, but taking punitive measures against abusive nations has far become too expensive due to global economic interdependence and global unwillingness to stand for the rights of all.
Some prefer to see the US-Venezuela power clash as an example of defiant nations defying US imperialism while others prefer to frame the decades-long feud as an example of the US standing up for its ideals when practical to do so. In order to address the abuse of government institution for personal gain and the dismantling of representative, responsive governance, there needs to be greater consistency. Individual leaders and affluence individuals who abuse civil institutions for their own gain need to be chastised by world leaders instead of supported. The US needs to help hold corrupt leaders accountable in Venezuela and Russia as well as Poland and elsewhere.
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