Non-intervention in Venezuela is an option, but should it be the only option?
Alexander G. Markovsky wrote an article for American Thinker titled "Allow Venezuela to Fail," suggesting that Venezuela be left to implode and implying that the U.S. should not intervene. His basic assumption is that Venezuelans elected Chávez, so let them reap what they sowed.
What would you do if the government seized your property and paid you pennies on the dollar? In 2007, President Hugo Chávez nationalized international oil industry assets in Venezuela, waiting until oil prices rebounded and four upgraders were in full production. U.S. oil companies had major stakes in three of four international consortia who built these upgraders.
When Chávez ran for president in 1998, he was projecting himself as the savior against the endemic corruption of the elites. He left his daughter Gabriela $4.2 billion when he died in 2013. His doorway to power was based on the opportunity to convince voters that he was the anti-corruption candidate; but he secretly had plans to fuel his revolution through petrodollars. The price of oil was below $15 a barrel when he was elected in December 1998. The poor and disenfranchised middle class came out to vote and put Chávez in power in February 1999.
He visited heads of state from all OPEC countries that control oil flow to prop up the low price of oil. Chávez's initiative pushed oil to over $100 a barrel. He recommended changing the constitution: unicameral legislature vs. bicameral; restructuring the Supreme Court; and changing the presidency from a single five-year term to up to two consecutive six-year terms. In return, he suggested allowing a midterm referendum vote by securing signatures from 20% of the past electorate for authorization. The voters thought the idea was okay and a tepid turnout in December 1999 allowed him to change the constitution. That meant that a new vote was required for president, so elections were held in July 2000. Chávez was re-elected, restarting the clock.
In early 2002, Venezuelans awakened to what Chávez was doing. Nearly 85% of Venezuela's revenue came from oil. About 19,000 (half) national oil industry workers struck and nearly toppled Chávez. His generals saved him. Afterward, Chávez fired the strikers. The oil industry went downhill. Venezuelans would have to wait until mid-term in August 2003 to seek a referendum vote. More than 20% of the electorate's signatures were compiled for the referendum. It was a party-like atmosphere in downtown Caracas like Times Square on New Year's Eve. The next day, archive boxes of signatures were brought to the National Electoral Council's office to apply for a referendum vote. Chávez said the signatures had been obtained illegally and therefore nullified the process. Voters protested through the Supreme Court. After fighting for more than a year, a vote was sanctioned.
The vice president under Maduro, Delcy Rodríguez, presides over the illegally adopted National Constituent Assembly that would replace the legally voted for National Assembly led by Juan Guaidó. Delcy Rodríguez's brother Jorge was head of the National Electoral Council before, during, and after the referendum vote on Chávez. A contract for $128 million was awarded to Smartmatic, a Venezuelan company that was formed by three entrepreneurs with seed money from the Chávez government, to retrofit computerized gambling machines into computerized voting machines. A company that had been partially owned by Verizon with majority Venezuelan government telecommunications partner CANTV was also part of Smartmatic. Delcy Rodríguez's boyfriend, Alfredo José Anzola, was co-founder of Smartmatic and was the director of finance. Smartmatic had operations in Caracas; Boca Raton, Florida; and Sunnyvale, California at the time. Once all was set up for the first use of computerized voting, the green light for the recall vote was given. Jimmy Carter played the "mark" from the international community to confirm that there were no voting irregularities.
Penn, Schoen, and Berland was hired to do exit polling. The company employed an NGO, Sumate, to help with the 20,000 voters surveyed. The normal sampling for exit polling is 1,000 voters. They projected Chávez to lose by a margin of 58% to oust vs. 42% to retain. Published results were the polar opposite: 42% to oust. None of the monitors had access to the information from or surrounding the main server that collected the votes from statewide precincts. A voter received a stub from a local printer that confirmed how he voted. However, the main server flipped "1" to a "0" in Boolean algebra, or from Y/N to N/Y. The odd death of Alfredo José Anzola on 28 April '08, from injuries sustained in a plane crash as he was en route to Curaçao to confront shareholders about Chávez's involvement in voting irregularities, is another story. Chávez's strongman, Diosdado Cabello, purportedly the biggest drug-trafficker in Venezuela, and Jorge Rodríguez were at Anzola's bedside in the hospital when he died. Autopsy?
Why is this all-important? Venezuelans recognized what Chávez and Maduro were doing to their country. They tried to stop it in 2002 and have been suffering ever since.
So why should the US intervene? Look at the nationalization of petroleum assets held by international companies. Luis Giusti was president of PDVSA in 1994. He had two key visions: consolidate the PDVSA sister companies into one PDVSA and to develop the extra heavy oil Venezuela has in abundance that makes them the largest holder of oil reserves in the world. Giusti created "La Apertura", or the opening, to invite international companies, each to secure a field with known extra heavy oil with rights to remove as much as they wanted within a period of 35 years. Then all assets would revert to PDVSA. There were other provisions such as PDVSA must have a minority ownership in a consortium to develop the resource. Production of oil needed to occur within five years of granting the lease. He wanted innovation from the international community to excel over the short-term lease for Venezuela to benefit decades later.
Millions have marched against Maduro (photo credit: VOA).
For example, one consortium invested over $3 billion to produce and export 195,000 barrels per day of light sweet crude oil from this molasses-like crude oil. The "go" price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil needed to be at least $14.50 per barrel for the partners to break even. If the price of WTI were $54.50 a barrel, the margin would be $40 a barrel. If the system operated 350 days a year for 25 years, the return to the partners would be about $70 billion less other operating expenses. There were four of these operations when Chávez nationalized them. Exxon got about $1 billion returned on their investment.
Chávez not only seized oil assets but also steelmaking, aluminum, gold mining, cement manufacturing, banking, health care products, agriculture and food processing facilities, petrochemical plants, etc. This is in the hundreds of billions of dollars, much of which was legally developed by US companies and seized by Chávez. Mr. Markovsky, besides the human suffering of Venezuelans reported by the international media, out-migration into neighboring countries of 3 million people +, and the loss of legal assets mostly seized from US companies, are these not reasons enough to support US intervention? Juan Guaidó, Venezuela's legitimate interim president, has requested military intervention from the US.