January 30, 2019

PINERO | But What About Venezuela?

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In recent years, Venezuela has become a favorite talking point for socialism’s detractors, who typically invoke the nation when they find themselves without a more substantive defense of their views. “But what about Venezuela?” they ask in comment sections everywhere.

The question is rhetorical. Venezuela is just their trump card — present-day proof of the failed socialist experiment. But what if we truly wanted to know the answer to “what about Venezuela?” If the question was asked in good faith, what would the answer be? Are the people of Venezuela living a Marxist’s dream or Trump’s “shithole” nightmare?

In recent weeks, genuine curiosity about the answer to that question has grown as more people wonder whether it’s bad enough to justify regime change. But the answer doesn’t actually matter — because the only thing that’s ever “bad enough” is genocide, so we should mind our own damn business.

Some might reject the idea of turning a blind eye to a world in need. They’ll insist that it is, in fact, our business to know what’s happening in the rest of the world, and to step in and help where we can.

I have a couple of responses to that.

First off, why is it that we are only scandalized by human rights abuses and devastating poverty in countries with oil, land or strategic importance to U.S. power? Nobody cared when people started jumping out the windows of the iPhone factories. Forever 21 didn’t go out of business when we heard that it was four-year-old sweatshop slaves making our crop tops. We just made a mental note, kept scrolling and had the little slave girls print “feminism” on said crop tops.

Second, we’re in a mighty big glass house to be throwing stones like this. Our government is a sham; policy has nothing to do with voter preferences and is instead based almost entirely on the “collective interests of the economic elite.” One in six American children — yes, American — goes to bed hungry. Lack of access to medical care is one of the leading causes of death in this country — roughly 122 Americans die every day because of it. In 2008, 1.2 million people lost their homes largely due to the greed and corruption of our government.

But somehow we have the absolute audacity to go into somebody else’s country and tell them we know how to run it better?

Third, the U.S. is currently — and this is true — in the midst of roiling national turmoil because another country might have attempted to influence our elections. Some people think it didn’t happen, some think it did, but everyone agrees that foreign meddling in our elections would be devastating to our belief in democracy.

The majority of Americans don’t just disapprove of their President — they believe he is fundamentally unfit to hold office. It is widely believed that he is corrupt and that he poses a threat not only to his own people, but to the world. And, again, the legitimacy of his election is up for debate.

Yet if the countries of the global South got together and decided to install Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in his place, Americans of every political stripe would be up in arms. Realistically, we’d probably literally take up arms.

Why do we expect other nations to react differently? Is it because we operate according to the implicit belief that brown people need the benevolent paternalism of the global North because they are somehow less competent, less worthy political actors?

Fourth, we’ve done this song and dance before. Some combination of generating both conservative and liberal media outrage about a leftist dictator in the global South, enforcing sanctions on the dictator’s country to manufacture more evidence of socialism’s failure, cherry-picking a random bootlicker from the opposition to install, then quickly disappearing and conveniently forgetting about the country as chaos — or even civil war — unfolds.

It’s not our first imperialist rodeo.

I implore anyone who thinks we’re actually spreading “freedom and democracy” to check in on Afghanistan, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Greece, Grenada, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Syria, Vietnam, Yemen or Yugoslavia, and find out how grateful they are for our valiant rescue.

We’re clearly not cut out to be the world’s policeman.

Prominent supporters of the attempted coup, like Marco Rubio (R-F.L.) and John Bolton, are openly admitting that they care about Venezuela the same way the Bush administration cared about Iraq in 2003 — only insofar as it produces the glug-glug goodness that makes stuff go.

Our politicians aren’t really interested in improving the lives of Venezuelans; they’re not even interested in improving the lives of Americans. We are interested only in oil and in preserving U.S. hegemony, even though we know firsthand how foreign manipulation can cripple a country, having been both the puppeteer and the puppet.

Maduro’s Venezuela is clearly a dumpster fire, but it’s no Nazi Germany. It’s not even a Bolsonaro Brazil, a present-day fascist regime in which we seem to have no interest in intervening.

Until the most recent election, Venezuela’s voting system was widely recognized, even by hyper-capitalist outlets like Forbes, as super legit — they have biometric identification, while we’re still out here with paper ballots like it’s 1892. Pro-government protesters have been taking to the streets in huge numbers following the attempted coup, but are receiving zero coverage from mainstream Western media, unlike their anti-government counterparts. All signs point to Maduro being the legitimate, democratically elected leader of Venezuela. So, no, it really doesn’t matter what we think. Sovereign nations have the right to be left alone.

Sure, maybe they didn’t pick the greatest guy this time around. But hey, neither did we.

Jade Pinero is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Jaded and Confused runs every other Thursday this semester. She can be reached at jpinero@cornellsun.com.