BOGOTÁ — As the Venezuelan crisis unfolds, one can hear the clash of disagreements. The United States has no business meddling in the affairs of other nations. The enlightened concept of national sovereignty is not yet dead: People must resolve their internal conflicts without foreign interference. Why promote a coup? Does Washington, and especially President Trump's little "gang" (to paraphrase Philip Roth's description of Richard Nixon), even care about seeing a legal or democratic resolution of Venezuela's internal conflict?

There are multiple interests at play here, all to do with natural resources, which the United States has long believed to be its property. This is the stick-wielding country of Manifest Destiny, with its lengthy history of interventions in Latin America. Its first little steps, after helping detach Panama from Colombia, were in Cuba (1906-9), invading the Dominican Republic (1916-24) and in Haiti's military occupation (1915-34) after a presidential assassination.

These followed the interventionist guidelines set by President Theodore Roosevelt in his 1905 Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. If a nation, he stated, could act "with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters" and keep "order and pay its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States." On the back of those words, the United States proceeded to impose its authority southward, from Mexico to Patagonia.

Whenever they wanted, they invaded, or concocted some fight or commotion to suit their needs. They deposed awkward rulers, and paved the way for the arrival of their big corporations. Many of these carved out enclaves for themselves in their effective colonies, like the United Fruit Company in Central America and Colombia. The firm helped orchestrate, with the CIA, the 1954 coup that toppled Guatemala's democratic president, Jacobo Árbenz.

It has again pressed the intervention button in Venezuela.

After World War II, the creation of the U.S. Army School of the Americas was hardly a philanthropic act. It is where they bred their "creole" criminals, like Argentina's Leopoldo Galtieri or Panama's Manuel Noriega. In 1959, the U.S. backed Cuban exiles in a failed bid to invade their communist-ruled island, in one of the many, harsh and anti-democratic interventions that marked the Cold War. The 40-year standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union would turn the continent into a low-intensity battlefield.

Today it has again pressed the intervention button in Venezuela, even as more and more people are demanding a peaceful resolution there, without violation of sovereignty, international law or regional relations. A group of intellectuals and civic leaders including the academic Noam Chomsky, have accused the Trump administration and "allies" — like the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States and Brazil's new, right-wing president — of pushing Venezuela "to the precipice." They have publicly urged them to back dialogue inside Venezuela, instead of fomenting "chaos."

If the Venezuelan situation does not resolve itself by the civilized means of communication (which seems far from likely today), then it can degenerate into a regional fire with unpredictable consequences.


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