Venezuelans will have to fight for their democracy. Trump can’t, and won’t, do it for them

American presidents — and all political leaders — inevitably face trade-offs between conflicting priorities. In Venezuela, President Trump is stuck between a policy rock and a preference hard place, caught between a democratic and humanitarian demand to side with the Venezuelan people and the tough reality that there is very little he can — or really wants — to do.

Trump’s declared “sovereignty doctrine” is now in direct conflict with his desired petro-policy and the reinvigoration of the Monroe Doctrine — and it is all playing out in the streets of Caracas.

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The losers? Invariably the good people of Venezuela. They are victims of “President” Nicholás Maduro and his regime’s continual and cynically systemic use of food and energy resources to keep political friends and allies happy while shunting and starving his opponents. Millions have chosen to leave and live in exile as refugees, while others head to the Venezuelan streets to topple Maduro. They bear the brunt of simmering tensions and escalating violence. READ MORE

The tension is high in Venezuela’s standoff, but no one can afford to shoot first

Venezuela’s Interim President Juan Guaidó and questionably-elected President Nicolás Maduro are gunning for each other, but with no intention to shoot. In Hollywood, this is called a “Mexican standoff.”

Guaidó is confronting the Maduro government with an army of motivated street protesters. Maduro has deployed a largely unmotivated Venezuelan army. Both leaders currently know that they need to refrain from using violence not only to save themselves, but also their country.

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If logic and reason rule, then they will keep their powder dry, come to an accommodation, and peacefully solve the current crisis. Logic and reason, however, rarely rule in such high-stakes gamesmanship. READ MORE

President Donald Trump, global peacemaker. Really.

War is the ultimate test for nations and their leaders. History is full of great leaders who fought and won military victories, from Revolutionary War hero George Washington to Abraham Lincoln’s civil war and World War II’s FDR.

Victory is the key to greatness.

President Trump is different. If George W. Bush went into his successful 2004 re-election campaign embracing his role as a “war president,” Trump may angle to win a 2020 re-election as the nation’s “peace president.” Remarkably, if things go well, he could be Donald Trump, peacemaker.

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Disquieting as it may be for those who see him as morally bankrupt, as well as a threat to democratic norms and human decency, there has to be a reckoning that he just might actually succeed in pursuing peace on multiple fronts. Trump’s campaign promises, unorthodox methods and his limitless ego are leading him to seek an end to American military engagements and — with a couple of notable exceptions — even lower the temperature elsewhere. READ MORE

With Juan Guaidó seizing the presidency, Venezuela’s ‘Latin Spring’ is heating up

Arab Spring, move aside. Latin Spring is now blossoming, and if all goes well, it will be less bloody and a lot more successful at ousting corrupt leaders and promoting homegrown democratically elected representatives than the Middle East revolutions.

The North African and the Middle East popular movements that began in late 2010 shook up the power balance, catalyzed civil wars and further destabilized the region. Venezuela just experienced a so-far relatively peaceful and planned constitutional coup.

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It’s way too early to predict if the effects of Wednesday’s dramatic event will devolve into chaos or breed new forms of violence, corruption, juntas or dictatorships, but as with the Arab Spring countries, what kicked Venezuelans into action is that daily life hit rock bottom. Living conditions have gotten so bad that people’s hope for a better life completely dissolved. Ninety percent of Venezuelans today are living in poverty and over the last year had lost an average of 24 pounds. Citizens were both on the path to real starvation while on a strictly enforced diet from democracy. READ MORE

Nicaragua’s ‘House of Cards’ stars another corrupt and powerful couple

Nicaragua is a political stage where a real-life “House of Cards” is now in its second season. President Daniel Ortega and his wife and partner in crime, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have together run the country as an increasingly violent family business for the last couple of years. Ortega has been continuously in power for the past decade and, all in all, for four long terms with no term limits. The next elections are scheduled for 2021.

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Ortega and Murillo make the Netflix series’ Frank and Claire Underwood seem like law-abiding, Constitution-respecting, selfless public servants. The Ortega family runs everything, owns the ruling Sandinista Party, dominates media, monopolizes power, skims profits and loots the nation. They are living proof of Lord Acton’s axiom that, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The United States has now decided to shut down parts of the Ortega-Murillo gang’s operation by freezing funds and flummoxing any financial transactions using American banks or brokers. READ HERE

Haley leaves the stage as America prepares to assert a harsher global vision

Nikki Haley is getting out just in time.

With Venezuela on the brink of collapse and renewed Iran sanctions kicking in on Nov. 5, Haley will be on her way out the U.N. door as the world comes knocking on it to call for greater American accountability and support.

Haley could handle it, of course — she gives as good as she gets. However, it might just be a good time for her to be sipping mint juleps on a South Carolina back porch as this administration executes a more-assertive foreign policy — one the United Nations will not look upon kindly.

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The Trump administration is actively advocating for and catalyzing regime change in several countries, but with no plans to participate in follow-on nation building.

The administration clearly is disregarding Colin Powell’s famous use of the Pottery Barn rule, “You break it, you own it.” There are plenty of plans to break Iran and Venezuela, for example, but no clear plans to take ownership for the nation building that needs to follow any traumatic or violent event in an already-struggling society. READ MORE