Americas Libres: Carapace of socialism cracking

Americas Libres: Carapace of socialism cracking
Humanitarian aid truck set on fire by Venezuelan troops on the Francisco de Paula Santander Bridge between Urena, Venezuela and Cucuta, Colombia. 23 Feb 2019. Via Twitter, @Breakingservice

Nicolas Maduro wants badly to cling to power in Venezuela, but I don’t think he’s going to. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday morning, said he’s confident that the Venezuelan people “will ensure Maduro’s days are numbered.”  That looks increasingly likely, as multiple nations in the region have backed the interim government proclaimed by National Assembly President Juan Guaido, and the world got a load this weekend of Maduro’s vicious determination to forcibly deny food and aid to his own desperate people.

Recall that the presidential election in May 2018 was plagued by widely acknowledged “irregularities,” and assessed by serious observers to have been heavily manipulated by Maduro.  There are good reasons to conclude he is not a validly elected national leader, and that he needs to step down and let Guaido and the National Assembly administer an interim process to reestablish the rule of law in Venezuela and chart a way forward.

Recall also that Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have maintained their rule by using Cuban-organized thugs against the people, a regime-backing armed force numbering in the thousands (including tens of thousands of Cubans).  When Pompeo spoke on CNN of the collectivos attacking Venezuelans along the border this weekend – unarmed people trying to bring in the aid convoys waiting in Colombia – he was referring to these Cuban-backed and organized thugs.

The national armed forces are a different story.  By various accounts, at least one or two dozen “defected” from their posts on Friday and Saturday (today brings a report of more), as the confrontations at the border crossings heated up.  Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has been on-scene in Colombia, spoke with some of them on Saturday.

There have been additional reports, over the last week, of whole units of the national police standing down before protesting civilians and refusing to repress them with tear gas, flash grenades, truncheons, and so forth.

The Venezuelan national guard did fire on civilians at the border with Colombia on Saturday, and four people have been reported killed in skirmishes there, along with many dozens injured (by some accounts as many as 300, with five dead).

A less violent confrontation developed at the border with Brazil as well, which carried over to Sunday morning.

The situation is out of balance at this point.

Facts on the ground in Venezuela do not yet favor the people and their hopes for Maduro’s removal.  But Maduro is on the ropes.  He closed the frontier with Colombia on Saturday and cut off state relations, ordering the Colombian ambassador to leave in 24 hours.  Reportedly, he also closed Venezuelan air space to commercial aircraft, and has ordered the navy to fire on at least one ship attempting to deliver aid.

The key thing we do not hear from Maduro is a counter-proposal to Guaido’s plan for national restoration (Wikipedia has an English translation here; scroll down).  Maduro has no apparent plan to make peace with the duly elected opposition in the National Assembly and incorporate it in a national government.  But neither does he propose a method of adjusting the opposition’s grievances, establishing its “illegitimacy” through a process, or otherwise taking leadership of a very real situation.

Maduro is simply hunkering down and trying to ride it out – without a plan, and without the support of the people.  At this point, the real question is whose support he will lose first: the Venezuelan armed forces’, the Cubans’, or the Russians’.  It’s not the Venezuelan people who are on the losing side here.

Vice President Pence will be meeting with Juan Guaido and the so-called “Lima Group” on Monday to discuss options for the regional nations backing the Guaido plan.  It remains uncertain what outside nations can or will do; I don’t think anyone wants to intervene militarily, nor is that a good idea, at least as things stand now.  As Pompeo says, it’s the Venezuelan people who will ensure that Maduro’s days are numbered.

The cracking of the carapace

If the national armed forces begin a mass defection from Maduro – the best path to a relatively peaceful transition – it is difficult to convey what a significant crack that will break open in the Western hemisphere.

For one thing (a supremely important one), it will mean the Cubans cannot remain in the role they have been playing.  Their scramble to get out of Dodge will be epic.

But it also means the model of the Cuban-backed socialist regime in Central America will be smoking and riddled with buckshot.  Venezuela has been the big prize for the model for nearly two decades, and blowing holes in it will rock the foundations of the Castro regime in Havana.

Indeed, as others have noted on Sunday, remarkable protests surged into Cuban streets this weekend as news of the confrontations in Venezuela flooded social media.

The U.S. gets little coverage of such events in Cuba, but seasoned observers think this is significant, and I would certainly agree.  There is a sense that a major fault is opening, one that could ultimately take down the Castro regime as well as Ortega in Nicaragua, and – perhaps most importantly for the long run – the reputation of Central America’s corrupt, bloodthirsty, repressive socialism itself.

The reputation and the ability to broker power are key.  Regional socialists, backed by Cuba and Russia, have clung to levers of power in Central America for decades, even when they did not formally head governments.  In Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, even Ecuador and Bolivia, they have prevented reformers from liberating the people’s servitude to cartels and gangs.  Like Maduro and Chavez, these radical factions have been in league with the narcotics cartels, foreign patrons like Russia and Iran, and Hezbollah in the Americas.

The timing is propitious for a break-out from the old, evil patterns.  In Brazil, to the south, Jair Bolsonaro is leading the country away from the corrupt socialist model.  Although Guaido and Lopez-Obrador (“AMLO”) of Mexico are both officially socialists, neither is embedded in the cronyist socialism of hostage-taking corruption so prevalent in the other nations.

AMLO is not unfriendly to Castroist Cuba or to Maduro, but Mexico is not in thrall either to rule by Cuban thugs.  Lopez-Obrador’s Mexico has no stake in Raul Castro retaining power in Cuba.  He will not send Mexican resources to shore up the regime in Havana.  There is breathing room on all sides to chart a new path.

Reverberations

Other conditions won’t withstand a crack-up in Central America that Dmitry Medvedev might call “tectonic.”

One such condition recalls the point made several times by Michael Ledeen: that the people of Iran (as well as the mullahs of the regime) will be watching events in Venezuela closely, in part because the Iranian revolutionary regime has invested so heavily in relations with the Chavistas.  A liberating surge in Venezuela is likely to give a rocket boost to the unrest of the sore-tried Iranian people, who persist in protesting and resisting their brutal regime in spite of many months of being largely dismissed and ignored by the West.

There are others we can think of; Russia probably won’t be untouched, for example, partly because Putin is also deeply invested in Maduro.

But there’s a particular one to interest Americans.  It has two facets to it.  First, if the grip of corrupt thug-crony socialism can be loosened on Central America, the key conditions for the migration phenomenon will fade.

The original conditions arose from the extremely bad social patterns locked in place by a cynical, thuggish political class hand-in-glove with cartels and local criminals.  But the cross-border links of regional socialist groups are also what have facilitated transnational activists in organizing migrant caravans, and mounting an assault on the U.S. border over the last year.

The short version is that releasing the clamp of crime and terror on Central America will relieve the pressure on America’s southern border.  It is always wise to emphasize that this won’t happen overnight.  But pessimism about how long it will take is just that: pessimism.  Pessimism is an attitude, not an independent governor of outcomes.

The other facet is a deeper and more fundamental one. Socialism in Central America has been an indispensable touchstone of North American socialists for more than 60 years.  On a number of occasions, it has gone beyond inspiring Hollywood and giving card-carrying party Socialists in El Norte a place for their summer vacations, to actually gain a foothold in Congress and even the White House – as when the new Obama administration backed socialists in Honduras in 2009, who were trying to do an end-run around the country’s constitution and install a Chavez-linked socialist president-for-life.

The deeply corrupt, heavily authoritarian socialism of Central America – including Cuba – has served as a model for socialists and socialism in the U.S.  It has been connected with, rejoiced with, pointed to as an example, vaunted in romantic visions of a socialist future.  This model has always been headed for the ash heap of history.  But as long it held on, socialists in the United States could point to it and claim that other peoples had “chosen” socialism and were gratified to be living under it.

Breaking the carapace off Venezuela, confounding the Cuban regime, setting up aftershocks throughout Central America, energizing the resistance in Iran – each of these things is more possible with each passing day.  It’s quite possible that within five years, the world of revolutionary socialist fable, which enlivened the dreams of the “generation of 1968,” will no longer even exist.  There will be nothing out there for the parlor socialists of North America to point to, other than – perhaps – the aging, anti-revolutionary, self-tending regimes of China and North Korea.

Mike Pompeo, in his CNN interview this morning, looked energized and optimistic about what I suspect is a possibility very like this one.  He raised the same analogy that occurred to me yesterday.

Yes, in Venezuela, as in East Germany – as in the larger Warsaw Pact, and the USSR – it may not look like the solidarity of the “regime” is about to crack.  Until it does.  And then the crack opens quickly and decisively.  If we are witnessing such a moment – and if we are wise and do nothing to delay or deter it – the whole world will be better off.

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J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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