Foreign policy is not a priority for the American average citizen. With some notable exceptions, constituencies do not contact Congressional offices on foreign affairs. But very often foreign affairs affect our security or our interests.
The crisis in Venezuela is not only a moral, human rights, and economic crisis that has destroyed a country that once was democratic, oil rich, with friendly relations towards the United States — Venezuela has become a geo-political threat of first magnitude. Venezuela is tied to drug cartels and terrorist groups creating a security challenge for the United States and the entire region.
The current Venezuelan regime is heavily involved in the drug trade. Venezuela has made its ports and airports available to drug cartels enabling the cartels' murderous operations. Likewise, the Venezuelan military and political elite is involved in the drug business. Many of these individuals are involved in the distribution of drugs to the U.S. and Europe, and in the laundering of drug money (often carried through the Venezuelan oil giant, PDVSA, now finally under U.S. sanctions).
These activities have an impact on Central America and certainly on Mexico where the violence and chaos they created has increased the flow of thousands of individuals and families that are escaping this state of anarchy. Drug cartels have corrupted government officials at all levels and have destroyed their ability and willingness to impose order. It goes without saying that most of the “merchandise” is destined for American consumption and drug addiction is one of the major, if not the major, social problem in our country.
In the U.S. we are having a big discussion about the wall and open borders. Focusing on events beyond our borders is extremely important. More so is to have a policy that addresses the root causes of the mass movement into our country.
Venezuela has made alliances with international terrorist groups and rogue states.
Hugo Chavez, the architect of the Venezuelan regime, has established relations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as a necessary force that could create subversion abroad and expand the so-called “Bolivarian Revolution.” The FARC took part in the rebellion that toppled the democratic government of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in Bolivia. Likewise, strengthened relations with the Shining Path guerrilla Maoist movement in Peru and other subversive groups in the region including the Paraguayan Popular Army (EPP). Chavez also developed strong ties the Basque ETA and most importantly, the Iranian backed paramilitary, Hezbollah.
The current Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and the Vice-President Tareq Al Aissami served as the main mediators between Venezuela and Hezbollah. Hezbollah, like the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), have also established a presence in the region, training “soldiers of the revolution” in Venezuelan camps, and even helping to design and build the ALBA school, a military training camp in Bolivia. The school’s main purpose is to indoctrinate soldiers and help strengthen the bonds between the armed forces and the new Latin American revolutions.
Hezbollah is heavily involved in drug and arms trafficking in the region. Hezbollah criminal operations are directed from Iran, a rogue state and an archenemy of the United States. The money made from drug trafficking is laundered and funneled to help the fight in Syria in support of the regime of Hafez Al Assad.
Venezuela has also strengthened relations with Russia and China.
Russia has armed the Venezuelan military with a large array of advanced weaponry, some which went to FARC guerillas with encouragement of the Venezuelan government.
Venezuela has become a strategic asset for these countries in their competition with the United States for global power. Russia was reported to have sent private military contractors to provide security to Nicolas Maduro. Both countries have a vested interest in supporting dictatorships and particularly anti-American ones.
The Trump Administration’s actions in support of the Venezuelan opposition display an important show of strength in the face of a world that is turning less free and more dangerous. If more of our neighbors in Latin America and our allies in Europe fall under the spell of dictatorship, the more we are increasing the power of Russia and China that view support for dictatorships as a way to expand their competitive power.
This is why foreign policies that propose retreat from the world can no longer be an option, not in Latin America and not in any other parts of the world. Failure to become internationally active can come back and haunt us in our own home here in the United States. Protecting the free world and those who fight against tyrannies is in our interest.
Luis Fleischman is a professor of Sociology at Palm Beach State College, the co-founder of the think-tank the Palm Beach Center for Democracy and Policy Research and an advisor on Latin America for the Center for Security Policy. He is also the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.