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Dear Editor: The trouble with the neighbours; why we should be concerned about Venezuela

“This sudden outpouring of concern in our neighbours’ well-being is nothing to do with a desire to defend democracy, socialism or any other political theory. It is about the age old practice of colonialism, in whatever acceptable form it takes in the 21st century.

“But because of that controlling desire in this particular matter, the Venezuelan crisis will have a definitive outcome, with repercussions across the region—particularly for a certain twin-island republic that is mere miles away and that is already in the throes of societal transformation due to the initial influx of migrants from said crisis.”

The following Letter to the Editor on the developing crisis in Venezuela was submitted to Wired868 by Sheldon Waithe:

Photo: A civilian protest in Venezuela.
(Copyright NBC News)

Is Venezuela on the cusp of its version of the ‘Arab Spring? Or will the mass protests seen this week merely subside—a surge born of desperation that is quelled by a lack of consistency and durability of the dissent, to return the nation to its fraught status quo?

Observations would suggest that the former is the most likely outcome. When over two million people flee a state, things are bad enough for the bubble to soon burst and this week’s actions are the spark to ignite serious battle against President Nicolás Maduro.

Most importantly, there is now a figurehead for the objectors to rally behind. Do not underestimate the significance of Juan Guaidó’s mock declaration as Acting President, for it represents the democratic alternative with the irony that his declaration was not done in a democratic fashion.

But desperate times call for desperate measures and the timing of Wednesday’s rallies, in conjunction with Guaidó’s stance, is a strategic masterstroke that hints at it being part of a wider plan to oust the incumbent.

Part one has already worked; the world has taken serious notice and confirmed support, on one side or the other. In addition, battle lines are now being drawn amongst the three superpowers who are using events in Venezuela as the platform to assert their might, gain economic ground and protect interests.

Photo: (From left) Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro, Russia president Vladimir Putin and US president Donald Trump.

This sudden outpouring of concern in our neighbours’ well-being is nothing to do with a desire to defend democracy, socialism or any other political theory. It is about the age old practice of colonialism, in whatever acceptable form it takes in the 21st century.

But because of that controlling desire in this particular matter, the Venezuelan crisis will have a definitive outcome, with repercussions across the region—particularly for a certain twin-island republic that is mere miles away and that is already in the throes of societal transformation due to the initial influx of migrants from said crisis.

Amidst the smoke of confusion, there are clear outcomes. Maduro, whose regime may be close to tipping point, could order an attack on the protestors or even upon Guaidó. This could force retaliation from the USA given their strong support voiced this week.

But would Donald Trump dare to undertake military intervention with his good buddy Putin’s bombers already present? Doubtful.

To quote from the book of T&T diplomacy ‘monkey know which tree to climb’; and, as seen with the rhetoric, bluster and subsequent calm in US relations with North Korea, Trump knows the ultimate consequences of taking on any nuclear power, which is what Venezuela is by extension.

Photo: Venezuela soldiers conduct a military drill.
(Copyright Army Recognition)

China, the third superpower in this global game being played out next to T&T, has the most to lose in any regime change and will be forced to take a stance to protect Maduro’s reign, as that protects their significant investment in Venezuela.

Consider this—because China will have—with over US$40 billion in loans recently, the Chinese are Venezuela’s biggest creditor and thus stand the risk of a write off if regime change takes place and all those Maduro deals are suddenly dishonoured.

Is it any wonder that China’s statement is a stereotypical script, quietly advising and warning about interference from outside nations, which can only complicate a situation? In other words, we need to get paid back—either in funds or seizure of assets—so we prefer Mr Maduro to stay in power if you please, thanks for your cooperation.

If sending two nuclear capable bombers to a country is not support for its regime, then nothing else qualifies. In doing so in December 2018, Russia displayed its allegiance a full month before the eruption of protest.

Bombers protect interests and with major funds given to Maduro as payment for future oil shipments, Russia too has significant economic reasons to protect the status quo—with the handy bonus of expanding its foothold in the Western Hemisphere; a signature Putin policy.

With China and Russia calling the White House hotline to decree their preferences for our long suffering Latin neighbours, Trump can do little by way of intervention to force regime change.

Photo: Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro (left) and Russia president Vladimir Putin.
(Copyright Sputnik News)

That leaves the option of ramping up sanctions on a country that already has an inflation rate of 10 million percent—that’s correct, not a typo.

And we thought people were already leaving in droves! It would mean a huge expansion of an already burgeoning migrant crisis of our own, together with our inability to cope with the influx.

Thus far, T&T’s focus has been solely economic tunnel vision, or rather looking down the pipeline of gas that is the cross-border Dragon field deal. Also a Maduro-signed deal, a financially wobbly T&T would be seriously impacted if regime change meant Venezuela not honouring the Dragon arrangement undertaken by the current President.

However, T&T has to look further afield (pun), to the all encompassing social, economical and even criminal aspects of the Venezuelan crisis. Our workforce is morphing before our eyes with barely a hint of recognition by any incarnation of government, far less an action plan being laid before us to deal with the change.

As an example, all the much vaunted talk of tax collection is for naught if a large illegal work force exists. T&T can scarcely provide the necessary infrastructure for its assumed 1.3 million population, what happens when that swells by a couple hundred thousand? Does the current government have a clear stance on migrants?

This is not a question to be asked in the eventuality of an incursion, because it is already occurring with a blasé attitude undertaken by T&T.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (second from left) and Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro (right) dance to calypso after a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on 5 December 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Federico Parra)

In an already racially torn society, it is not impossible to envisage the evolvement of a backlash against migrants, as witnessed in Europe and the US. It is developing in front our faces at pace, yet we refuse to be proactive.

Yes, there are human beings suffering, our neighbours are suffering. Our neighbours from whom we have gained and with whom we share so much culturally.

Mere single figure miles away, they now stand on the brink of capitulation or radical change. Either way T&T cannot remain nonchalant to their crisis, for the twin reasons of humanitarianism and minimising its impact upon us.

About Sheldon Waithe

Sheldon Waithe
Sheldon Waithe is an avid freelance writer who divides his articles between sport, politics and tourism. Using the other side of his brain, he is also the owner and Director of Communique Debt Recovery Ltd aiming to redefine corporate debt collection in T&T.

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One comment

  1. CARICOM calls for the removal of sanctions against the people of Venezuela.