Editorials: Varela blundered about Venezuela; and Dems should hold the line

“Our recognition of the President of the Assembly, [Juan Guaidó], as the Acting President of Venezuela is in search of a peaceful and democratic solution to the economic, social and political crisis in which our brother country and its people live.”

Bad move, President Varela

Two heads of state are meeting and celebrating in Panama. The local Venezuelan community, strongly anti-Chavista, cheers one and is annoyed by the other. President Juan Carlos Varela joins with Donald Trump, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Argentina’s Mauricio Macri to call for the overthrow of the Venezuelan government. Pope Francis, elected monarch of a tiny physical realm in the Vatican but commanding vast property holdings and a huge loyal following around the world, declines to intervene.

Panama has its interests and imperatives, and so does the Holy See. What we see is the pope more effectively defending what is Catholic than the president defending what is Panamanian.

Vladimir Putin is warning against foreign military intervention in Venezuela. Mostly it’s a bluff. In the short run there is little he could do. He could, however, in the wake of an invasion send money and guns to insurgents in Venezuela and all around the region, causing a lasting series of headaches and heartaches.

So do we hear, from the USA, neoconservatives cheering for an intervention and a Cold War II? Those people urged a prolonged war and “nation building” remake in Afghanistan, which the United States has effectively lost. They were architects of the invasion of Iraq, which the United States lost. They cheered on the invasion of Libya, which has resulted not in a stable government there but jihad across much of Africa and a terrible refugee crisis. They were for the Syria intervention, which the United States has lost. They were among the instigators of the Ukrainian coup, which led to Ukraine’s dismemberment.

Through its long history, the Catholic Church has also dealt with comparable fanatic factions. In its more recent history it teamed up with conservative politicians, the CIA and gangsters to organize a network of Christian Democratic parties, originally for the purpose of keeping communists from winning elections in Italy in the aftermath of World War II. It eventually morphed into many a scandal in many a nation that featured misbehaving center-right politicians hiding behind religious labels and symbols. The Vatican now pronounces on many moral issues with political angles, but stays out of partisan politics. The Catholic Church still holds to the doctrine that sometimes war is justified, but it has been a long time since it has pronounced that some armed conflict is one of these.

Who else is staying out of the Venezuelan dispute? China is. Although it has large investments there and President Xi has shown cordial relations with President Maduro, you don’t hear belligerent warnings from the Forbidden City, like you do from the Kremlin. China is in the region to do business, not to impose political solutions. They will deal with whoever is in control of a government with few moral or ideological constraints. But Beijing, not Moscow, is the predominant Old World power in the Americas now. In the economic sphere they have already eclipsed the United States.

It’s not a matter of a few powers bullying Venezuela while another power rants and most others stand by. Juan Guaidó’s claim the presidency of Venezuela gets scant international recognition. If Varela is siding with Brazil and Argentina on this question, he’s also siding against Mexico and Uruguay. The Panamanian position is controversial right across the region, both among heads of state and in the internal politics of Latin American nations.

So is Panama gambling, betting that Maduro will fall? Perhaps it may even be a winning bet. Perhaps, even before any foreign mobilization, the Venezuelan military will take over.

But Panama’s neutrality is once again compromised by Varela. That nobody should have a reason to attack the Panama Canal, or shut off commerce with or through Panama, is one of the cornerstones of Panamanian national security. Whether it’s backing this intervention or hobnobbing with oil sheikhs who are waging a genocidal Sunni jihad against Yemen, Varela’s aligning foreign policy moves are unwise.


He picks a fight with Nancy Pelosi? That’s not smart. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

A time to fight, not cave

No money for a wall. No approval for a distracting war. No free pass for criminal activity, past or ongoing. Democrats in Congress should stand together and hold out.

Yes, there are limitations to the power of a House of Representative as lined up against the Senate and the White House. But the House does hold the purse strings.

Are figures of the past, Democrat and Republican, talking about both parties bickering and urging one party to capitulate? With a foreign-backed grifter in the White House, this is not the time to cave.

To fight does not mean to punch away all energy in the first round. Hold on until the government reopens without wall funding, then dig into all the data, question all witnesses, explore all angles in an impeachment process that may take two years before any vote. 

A worthy impeachment investigation would involve so much more than inviting foreign meddling, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, fraud, money laundering and racketeering. To deal with the full enormity, whether to impeach or to form a record from which to legislate, representatives should look at many hues and shades of conflict of interest, some involving the foreign emoluments clause and some not. Whether the deployment of bots under faked or stolen identities for the purpose of social media campaigns amounts to a high misdemeanor under the Constitution needs to examined by legal, technical and communications experts. Whether the delegation of power to send US forces to war in any African country to a military officer is an impeachable infringement of the reservation of war powers to the Congress is one matter, but it also may be a proper subject of legislation.

This tawdry hustler has done so many improper things in so short a time, and back over many decades. There would be a temptation to match his pace. It would be better to take the time to fully document the things that he has done and expose them before the American people.

It’s a time to fight, yes. But to fight smart.


Bear in mind…

It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.

Muhammad Ali


In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.

John Kenneth Galbraith


We, as human beings, must be willing to accept people who are different from ourselves.

Barbara Jordan

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