/ 25 January 2019

Editorial: United States puts the global order at risk

Editorial: United States Puts The Global Order At Risk
Editorial: United States puts the global order at risk (Photo Archive)

There was a time, not so long ago, when the United States regularly made and unmade political leaders in Latin America, an area of the world that Washington has long considered to be well within its “sphere of influence”.

Examples include the ousting of Jacobo Árbenz, Guatemala’s president, in 1954; material support for the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic, in 1961; support for the military coup in Brazil in 1964; and funding of multiple attempts to overthrow the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in the 1970s.

These interventions inevitably had disastrous repercussions for citizens. But, in the context of the Cold War, their wellbeing was rarely the primary motivation for superpower action.

With this history in mind, the decision by the US to recognise opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela can only be viewed with suspicion. Guaidó, a member of the opposition-led National Assembly, declared himself president on Wednesday, with American endorsement following mere minutes later.

US Vice-President Mike Pence said his country would use the “full weight” of diplomatic and economic pressure to support Guaidó, and that it would look at transferring Venezuelan state assets into his control.

Guaidó has also been recognised by major regional players including Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina.

There is no doubt that there is a pressing need for some kind of international intervention in Venezuela. Under President Nicolás Maduro — who angrily denounced Guaidó’s “inauguration” — the country’s economy has collapsed entirely, precipitating a humanitarian disaster and an exodus of more than two million Venezuelans.

The great Bolivarian experiment that Hugo Chavez initiated has failed.

But it is unlikely that US-sponsored regime change is the kind of intervention that will fix things — especially when it comes from the Donald Trump administration, which has made no effort to hide the fact that its foreign policy is motivated primarily by self-interest.

Instead, the move risks further destabilising a volatile situation, both in Venezuela and within the broader international community. Russia has already announced that it backs Maduro, creating another potential flashpoint between the superpowers.

Perhaps more concerning still, in the long run, is the sidelining of the United Nations. This would not be the first time, of course: when the US intervened militarily in Iraq in 2003, it did so over the objections of the international body. And look how that turned out.

When the UN was created, in the wake of World War II, it was a deliberate effort to prevent another global conflagration, premised on the values of maintaining peace between nations and enhancing international co-operation.

The international body has a far from perfect record. Nonetheless, it should terrify all of us that we are moving into an era in which the world’s foremost military and economic power no longer feels the need even to pay lip service to those values.

Maybe Guaidó really is the man to lead Venezuela out of its doldrums; maybe not. But the danger is broader: in throwing its weight behind an unelected opposition leader, the US is setting a precedent that may be repeated in other parts of the world, and hammering another nail into the coffin of the international order.