Don’t Read Too Much into Trump’s Venezuela Policy

The Trump administration’s actions against the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela have been met with praise. Maduro is illegitimate. Not only was his latest election to the presidency stolen, he’s presiding over a failed state that is harming its own citizens and causing South America’s own gigantic refugee crisis. Through actual statecraftand only looping in the president after moves were in motion–administration officials secured an international diplomatic coalition declaring Maduro illegitimate and Juan Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, as the country’s rightful interim president.

Finally, commentators are saying, America is back to sticking up for human rights and democracy. An administration official, when asked why Trump has taken a sudden interest in those things enough to upend Venezuela’s politics, cited the Inter-American Democratic Charter, signed by Western Hemisphere countries that are members of the Organization of American States (OAS) in 2001, which “affirmed their shared commitment to democracy.”

That, of course, is baloney for two reasons. The first one is obvious: Trump has never read an international agreement or treaty, and he’s never heard of one that he doesn’t want to denigrate or outright violate. Second: The United States is historically hostile to democracy in the Western Hemisphere.

If the Trump administration now says it has a policy of enforcing human rights and democratic norms, then I look forward to its declaration that Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (who was elected with the help of generals who committed mass atrocities -with the aid of the United States -during the country’s civil war) no longer enjoys the support of the government. Last August, the Washington Post reported, he declared he was abolishing an internationally-backed corruption watchdog and, as he spoke, “a column of three dozen jeeps–some with roof-mounted machine guns–that had been supplied by the United States for anti-narcotics operations rolled through Guatemala City, pausing at the commission’s offices and the homes of human rights activists.”

I also look forward to Trump’s tweet saying his administration was wrong to recognize Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez since he almost certainly stole the election. In fact, the OAS itself, abiding by the treaty that the Trump administration now says it is upholding, said at the time there should be a new election, which was promptly ignored by the administration. Additionally, Hernandez should not have even run for election, since the Honduran constitution explicitly says presidents cannot serve more than one term–language that was muddled by the Honduran Supreme Court that is stacked with Hernandez cronies.

If that doesn’t inspire Trump, then maybe this would: is it any wonder that these are the countries from which migrant caravans are originating?  

Joshua Alvarez

Joshua Alvarez is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal. He edits syndicated opinion columns at the Washington Post, and can be reached at joshuaalvarezmail@gmail.com.