'Operation Boot Maduro' for Venezuela is back on track

How's the prospect of regime change going in Venezuela?

Up until now, quite a few of us have been wondering.  The U.S. aid-on-the-bridge gambit was blocked and apparently went nowhere.  Gargantuan protests also went nowhere.  A thousand Venezuelan troops have fled to Colombia at acting president Juan Guaidó's urging, but the drug lords of the Venezuelan military leadership, linked to the Nicolás Maduro socialist dictatorship, seen as key to keeping Maduro in power, are remaining in place.  There are seemingly credible arguments that Guaidó has lost critical momentum, based on his visits abroad, such as this one from the Daily Beast.  There are also indicators — nasty ones — that Russia means to play for keeps in Venezuela.  Its threats to Colombia are just the latest instance of the depth of its will to keep its Maduro pawn in place, never mind the starving and suffering.

It's been bleak.

But the U.S. does seem to be regrouping for another battle with its democratic Venezuelan allies.  Here's a CBS report:

Washington — A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Wednesday to authorize $400 million in humanitarian aid to crisis-stricken Venezuela and intensify the U.S. campaign to isolate the increasingly authoritarian government of Nicolás Maduro, who has held on to power despite international pressure for him to step down. 

The bill, spearheaded by Senate Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez, also directs the State Department to work with European governments to replicate U.S. efforts and issue their own sanctions.  The New Jersey Democrat, a longtime leader of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, said "internationalizing" sanctions would increase pressure on the Maduro regime and its chief allies around the world. 

"That is something that would be incredibly powerful, knowing that the sanctions that would levied are not just by the United States against the Maduro regime, but internationally," Menendez told CBS News during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.  "That's something that could significantly change the dynamics."

Europe's kind of a worthless bird on these matters, Menendez's excitement aside, harboring a closet affection for socialism and the romance of leftist revolution in Latin America, but if they can help (resisting what will probably be high pressure from Russia), it will be a good thing.

What I like about it is that Menendez, a top Democrat, is involved.  This ain't no Ocasio-Cortez Congress we are seeing now; this is genuine bipartisanship and a standing rebuke to the socialist media air–suckers in Congress, including socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, who's up till now held the Democrat "narrative."  Menendez is taking the lead here, bringing his Democrats with him, making this a Democrat issue, too, and Republicans rightly are not going to say no.

It's a marshaling of the liberals to accept facts about Venezuela, which is also powerfully seen in this persuasive video that ran two days ago in the New York Times from lefty comedian Joanna Hausmann, addressing her fellow leftists.

Menendez may know that the Latino vote is at stake here, but his motive is unimportant.  What he's doing is getting the gears turning for regime change to happen on a bipartisan basis, the strongest kind.

The Trump administration has not been idle, either.  Two things stand out in the past 24 hours.  First, this announcement from USAID:

Today, the United States is pre-positioning humanitarian relief supplies in Curaçao, a constituent country of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, to help people affected by the political and economic crisis in Venezuela.

The collapse of health care in Venezuela has left nearly all hospitals in the country in desperate need of basic medicines and supplies, and prompted outbreaks of diseases that were thought to be under control.  Today's commercial delivery to Curaçao contains four emergency health kits manufactured in The Netherlands, which contain medicines and medical supplies — including bandages, gauze, examination gloves, thermometers, and syringes — designed to fill immediate medical gaps for people affected by emergencies.  The kits can cover the priority health needs of 40,000 people for three months.

That aid positioning, and the aid itself, involved some helpful collaboration with the Netherlands, which is good news.  The Dutch are coming through.

Second, White House chief economist Larry Kudlow — a man usually associated with domestic free-market economics — has been busy on the matter of a post-Maduro Venezuela.  Here's the most detailed report on his statements at a conference from F.T. (subscription, but it can be opened by the first three readers since I am a subscriber).  It begins:

Larry Kudlow, the director of the White House National Economic Council, said the US was exploring ways to pump dollars into Venezuela through mobile phones if the Maduro regime is toppled as part of a sweeping economic rescue package.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr Kudlow said that the Trump administration, including the treasury department, the commerce department, and the White House, were involved in extensive contingency planning to offer economic assistance to Venezuela, confirming a recent report in the FT.

“We are developing a very well rounded, what I think will be an extremely effective plan,” Mr Kudlow said. “It’s a rescue plan, it’s a restructuring plan, a plan that would put cash in the country,” he said, adding that work was being done by the International Monetary Fund as well.

The report says the U.S. will focus on cell phone transfers and electronic means (assuming the electricity will be up, I suppose) to get a program in place right away to help Venezuelans out of the morass, which is going to be a big one.
Joanna Hausmann's father, Ricardo Hausmann, a respected Harvard economist who is serving as Guaido's top economic negotiator, according to the FT, believes that upwards of $100 billion in grants and loans are going to be required to get the country back on its feet. So yes, it will be a monster.
But two things stand out. The planning for a Maduro-free, socialism-free Venezuela is going on at breakneck speed behind the scenes.
And even more important, that news is getting out. The fact that it is getting out - that the competent authorities of the multilateral institutions (let's face it, compared to Maduro, they most certainly are professional and competent), the U.S. and perhaps the Europeans are all coordinating to set up a safety net for the disastrously crashed country, quite possibly preventing a Lord of the Flies or Mad Max situation in the wake of a Maduro exit. The drug dealers, the FARC terrorists, the Chavista motorcycle goons, the Cuban mercenaries, and the Russians, are not going to be taking over if Maduro is booted. A plan is in place. Venezuela can fall into a safety net even as Maduro is thrown out.
That's something that could motivate more military men in Venezuela to make that happen. The military men are key, and now that word is getting out about a safety net, the incentive to force Maduro out gets that much stronger.
Operation Boot Maduro is back.
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