eyes on the U.S.

With Venezuela, Washington Is Back To Old Tricks In Latin America

Obama's executive order slapping sanctions on Venezuelan officials is ostensibly in defense of liberty. But it could just as well be another of a long line of aggressive American interventions.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro U.S. President Barack Obama in 2012
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro U.S. President Barack Obama in 2012
Óscar Guardiola-Rivera

-OpEd-

BOGOTA — I remember the United States' invasion of Panama in 1989. I was barely out of my teens when very early on Dec. 20, American troops bombed Panama's airports and army bases. I felt real, visceral pain.

"Smartbombing" civilian buildings, 26,000 troops of the 82nd Airborne Division of the world's most powerful military faced 12,000 badly equipped defensive forces of that little republic, which long ago had been Colombian territory.

The impoverished district of El Chorrillo suffered the worst of the violence. Is this more acceptable than forcing the rich to part with their wealth? I listened to live radio broadcasts of the progression of Operation "Just Cause," dubbed as such in a bid to confound with two words the basic evidence of facts.

Just Cause? Antonio Noriega, Panama's ruler, was indefensible as a dictator and drug trafficker. As President George H. W. Bush said at the time, the operation was about defending democracy and human rights.

The only problem was that the same Noriega had been a close collaborator of the intelligence agency Mr. Bush used to run. There is a picture on the Internet, showing a very jovial-looking Noriega seated on a sofa with a friendly Vice President Bush, during the Reagan years.

Don't trust the people

Until February 1988, Noriega had been on the CIA payroll. What could the two chums have been talking about when that photo was taken? Perhaps about the time when Noriega allowed the U.S. to use drug money of the Medellín cartel to buy weapons for the Contras in Nicaragua. That, of course, was when President Reagan was defending another "just cause," i.e. toppling the leftist Sandinistas.

Before Reagan, there were Kissinger and Nixon, who could not look the other way and let an "irresponsible" people vote in a communist country. Nixon begat Reagan, who begat the first Bush — who sired the second Bush. His administration backed the attempted coup in 2002 against Hugo Chávez.

And now, President Barack Obama follows their trail as he declares Venezuela's socialist government to be a threat to U.S. national security. This is as senseless as banning the term "global warming" in Florida, which the third Bush (former governor of the Sunshine State, and future presidential candidate, Jeb) and his successors appear to have done.

Like them, Obama has invoked democracy and human rights. And as in the past, our most progressive intellectuals will say that talking of coups is an exaggeration. That the Venezuelan government was asking for it by jailing opponents, violating property rights and attacking free speech, even financing Spain's leftist Podemos party.

All of it taken together justifies the executive order — though at the end of the day, the irresponsible Venezuelans are to blame, for having voted in a communist!

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