There is one simple answer to the humanitarian disaster in Venezuela. The dictator Nicolás Maduro and his corrupt, violent, repressive regime must go.

It is vital that the U.S. government understands that when it embraced the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, it set the full prestige of America behind the new reform effort and against the Maduro dictatorship backed by Cuba, Russia, China and Iran.

Venezuela is part of the immediate American neighborhood. If our commitment to change is not effective in our own backyard, the impact on our prestige and leadership worldwide will be substantial.


However, we should not underestimate how difficult getting rid of the Maduro dictatorship is going to be.

The Cubans have a huge investment in Maduro’s survival. They have received subsidized oil from both former dictator Hugo Chávez and Maduro. They send their secret police to train and help the Venezuelan secret police. They provide doctors for the Venezuelan health system.

The sooner the dictatorship can be replaced, the pain impacting everyday Venezuelans will be relieved. A post-Maduro Venezuela has the resources and the potential to improve lives for all its citizens once the rule of law is re-established.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sees Venezuela as a place to balance the United States meddling in Ukraine and Crimea. From his perspective, if the Americans are going to be in Russia’s backyard, then he wants Russia to be in America’s backyard.

That’s why a few Russian strategic bombers visited Venezuela as a sign of “solidarity.” Meanwhile, a few hundred Russian soldiers and police also provide additional security for Maduro.

The Chinese actually have the largest investment in Venezuela among the dictatorships. There are some estimates that China has invested more than $60 billion into propping up the Maduro regime. As usual with the Chinese, they want their money back and will be quite unhappy if Maduro is ousted before they get repaid.

It was no surprise that the Chinese announced they would be happy to help Maduro restore electricity in Venezuela. The collapse of 80 percent of the country’s electricity system had created enormous and growing hardships for the Venezuelan people. Maduro’s response was to falsely claim an American covert cyberattack brought electricity production and distribution to a halt for four days.

Long before the collapse of the electricity system, the Venezuelan people were suffering from the economic hardships created by the Maduro regime. The lack of food and medicine was already a humanitarian crisis before the most recent shattering period of darkness.

This isolation and collapse of the dictatorship have been a long time in the making. From the time Chávez took power in 1999, the middle class has been in open resistance to the dictatorship. The resistance kept growing until the dictator’s death in 2013. Throughout his regime, every effort to reform the system was met with violence and repression.

Maduro simply continued down the brutal path Chávez had pioneered. Maduro lacks Chávez’s charisma, and he has a weaker power base than Chávez had.

However, most of the military is still loyal to Maduro. The neighborhood militias (which see themselves as winners against the middle class) also remain loyal to him. Dictatorships can endure a long time if they can protect their allies from the pain the general population is enduring.

The sooner the dictatorship can be replaced, the pain impacting everyday Venezuelans will be relieved. A post-Maduro Venezuela has the resources and the potential to improve lives for all its citizens once the rule of law is re-established.

The Trump administration should make clear to the Cuban, Chinese, and Russian governments that Maduro is going to leave, and the United States will not tolerate their interference in returning freedom to the Venezuelan people.

All the financial assets of every member of the Maduro system (including relatives, girlfriends, etc.) should be frozen. They should be told that failing to switch sides might make their personal funds available to compensate the people of Venezuela for the damage the dictatorship has caused.

Members of the Venezuelan military should be told they will lose if the United States and its allies have to intervene militarily.

A very short, decisive campaign should be planned – starting with a one- to two-hour elimination of what is left of the Venezuelan air force. American forces should be loaded on ships. Aircraft should be moved to potential pickup points for paratroopers. The news media should be briefed and given a clear sense of American determination and capability.

Military intervention should be the last resort.


However, a decisive military intervention similar to what was done in 1989 in Panama is better than allowing the dictatorship to win.

In the very near future, we will learn whether freedom or tyranny prevails. For the sake of our values – and for the future of the Venezuelan people – we must ensure freedom wins.


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