Here’s the most surprising – and most amusing – development after last week’s failed attempt to stoke a military uprising in Venezuela.
According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the U.S. and Cuba may actually sit down to negotiate a solution to the disastrous and dictatorial rule of socialist Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
That’s surprising because the right-wing Trump Administration and Cuba’s communist regime were supposedly playing a game of chicken. The former wouldn’t swerve until the tin-pot Maduro was flown out of Caracas, thus restoring Venezuela’s democracy and weakening Latin American leftism. The latter wouldn’t veer because it had to assure Maduro’s daily delivery of tens of thousands of barrels of cut-rate oil to Cuba. And, of course, it had to prop up Latin leftism.
But this is also amusing, because it signals the Trumpistas in Washington and los comunistas in Havana may have some doubts about their archaic political religions. That would be a good thing, because their respective ideologies have given us little more than misery here in the Americas.
To appreciate what a break this would be from the Trumpista faith, consider the Administration’s larger geopolitical aim in Venezuela.
It doesn’t just want to rid that oil-rich country of an authoritarian clown who’s responsible for the worst economic collapse and humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere’s modern history. It also hopes to engineer a reverse-domino effect – to bring down the Cuban regime, too, and the leftist dictatorship in Nicaragua, by cutting them off from their wheezing Venezuelan sugar daddy.
Slaying that “troika of tyranny,” as President Trump calls them, is in turn part of an even larger Trumpista crusade. As National Security Advisor John Bolton declared here in Miami last month, it’s about reviving the Monroe Doctrine. That’s the two-century-old principle of American hegemony in the Americas, the notion that the U.S. is responsible for guarding the New World from Old World tyranny.
That is, if the tyranny is left-wing – a Monroe double standard the U.S. has played for more than a century. Right-wing tyranny usually gets a pass – which is why we’re not seeing any similar U.S. censure of leaders in Honduras or Guatemala, who are responsible for the brutality and humanitarian crises sending thousands of Central American migrants to our border each day.
Left-wing strongmen certainly don’t deserve a pass. (Are you listening Bernie Sanders and Ilhan Omar?) But this highlights one of the dark flaws of the Monroe Doctrine, or what U.S. right-wingers like Trump, Bolton and Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have made of the Doctrine. That’s the fire-and-brimstone belief that Washington can solve any problem in our backyard if it’s just allowed to turn its might on the hemisphere’s (leftist) evil-doers.
It’s a big reason Trump keeps suggesting, to the chagrin of our Latin American allies, that U.S. military intervention in Venezuela is “on the table.” And just as big a reason he’s trashed his predecessor’s commonsense course of engagement with Cuba and reverted to the failed Cold War policy of isolating Cuba.
And yet, with the Monroe Doctrine approach faltering in Venezuela – with Russia’s pronounced role in keeping Maduro in power making a mockery of that doctrine, actually – here we are watching a perhaps chastened Trump Administration flirt with engaging Cuba on Venezuela. And flirt with a settlement that might fall short of Maduro’s immediate exit.
But that begs a question just as important: why would Cuba now be willing to sit down with los yanquis and risk a deal that might result in Maduro’s eventual ouster via new, democratic elections?
Could it be that for all their own dogmatic blindness – the socialism-or-death hysteria that analysts say keeps swarms of Havana security agents in Venezuela to ensure military leaders there don’t abandon Maduro – Cuba’s revolucionarios see in Maduro the shameful, radioactive meltdown of their own ideology?
Might they possibly feel a tinge of regret about having sponsored a guy (as a youth Maduro took part in Marxist indoctrination in Cuba as avidly as I attended summer camp in Indiana) who’s turned a once socially and economically robust republic into a scared, starving dystopia of Latin American leftism? Do they perhaps appreciate how uncomfortably Maduro’s catastrophe shifts the world’s attention to their own politically Orwellian and economically dysfunctional island?
I know it’s a longshot to expect that kind of introspection from either side of this ideological divide. But in the interest of a little less misery in the Americas, especially in Venezuela, it’s worth hoping for.