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Things that matter



I don't often quote biblical texts, but this one in particular strikes home as I watch the news:

"Rescue those being led away to death;
Hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, but we knew nothing about this;
Does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?"

—Proverbs 24:11-12

Venezuela's military fired on unarmed protesters over the weekend, using deadly force to block international humanitarian food/medicine aid from being brought into the country.

Venezuela's people are literally starving to death and dying in hospitals for lack of medicine, both of which were abundantly available before the socialist government of first Hugo Chavez and then his successor Nicolás Maduro took over 20 years ago. The most prosperous country in South America has been reduced to a basket case by socialist policies.

Backing the Maduro government are Russia, China, Iran, and especially Cuba, which has at least 20,000 "advisors," who are really internal security forces employed to protect the ruling political class's hold on power in Venzuela. No fewer than 50 countries have joined the U.S. in condemning Maduro's heartless policies and refusal to peacefully surrender power or accept international humanitarian aid for his people.

Russian "contractors" are now in Venezuela. They are really Spetsnaz (Russian special forces), hardened killers who, along with Cuban internal security forces, are directing and controlling Venezuelan military operations against the legitimate political opposition. Rumors are that Venezuela placed the Russian-supplied S-300VM anti-aircraft system along their border with Brazil, a hostile act that can be considered a military act of aggression against Brazil. Vladimir Putin's Russia landed a pair of nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela in December and is reputed to be negotiating to put a Russian military aircraft base on a Venezuelan island north of the mainland. This is a potential redux of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that nearly led to nuclear war when Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) attempted to introduce medium-range nuclear missiles into Cuba that were aimed at the United States. Other foreign actors are making their presence felt in Central and South America. China operates the Panama Canal (how did that happen?) and now has a larger navy than ours, building multiple aircraft carriers, increasing military spending by 10 percent year over year for a decade. Their military increasingly challenges the U.S. Navy in the western Pacific while making belligerent noises toward America in China's military and civilian publications.

All this aside, the Venezuelan people are starving to death. About 3 million have fled the country and 30,000 per day were crossing the border into Colombia in a desperate search for food before the military sealed the borders. The Maduro government used military force against humanitarian aid convoys, burned aid trucks, and fired on civilians. Maduro's policy is cruel and heartless. The first victims of famine are always children on whom the loss of daily calories has long-term growth and health effects. The people are desperate.

Maduro made a fiery speech over the weekend denouncing the international humanitarian effort as an American "Trojan horse" and a precursor to an invasion of their country.

A brief look at a map with notional positions of American aircraft carriers shows only one carrier at sea in the Atlantic and nowhere near Venezuelan territorial waters. No Marine Expeditionary Brigades have been alerted, the 82nd Airborne is not on alert, and no American military intervention is apparent. The taste for foreign military interventions is bitter for most Americans, and besides, we're busy.

We have important issues at home, like 24/7 coverage of an attention-seeking "actor/victim" who apparently couldn't get a raise, not to mention other important stuff, like a bunch of narcissistic actors giving themselves awards for movies nobody watched.

It's disheartening to hear national commentators review all the facts about what's happening in Venezuela, essentially in our backyard, and still demand that America adopt an isolationist foreign policy: What happens down south is "none of our concern," and those who advocate otherwise are just a bunch of neocon warmongers.

Perhaps it's unwise to consider military intervention on behalf of Venezuela's people, as our tired and broken military is only a third the size it was when we first intervened in Iraq in 1990-91. If I were advising Trump, I'd suggest a naval and air blockade of Venezuela's ports, no oil in or out; sea mines just silently sitting there, waiting. It's hard to get people to react to something they can't see, but their effect might forestall a need for further intervention. If coupled with international criminal indictments against Maduro for crimes against humanity, it might work. We should also demand the removal of the entire Cuban and Russian presence in Venezuela.

Failure to act decisively will lead to extraordinary suffering in Venezuela, perhaps a long-term bloody civil war that will spill over into adjacent countries, creating millions of refugees fleeing their country. The worst case is that international pressure fails, the above scenario plays out, Russia and Cuba have a new military outpost on America's southern doorstep, and the people continue to suffer.

Sometimes decisive military action coupled with political resolve is the most humane course of action. Δ

Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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