The Trump administration made contact with would-be coup plotters in Venezuela:
The Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, according to American officials and a former Venezuelan military commander who participated in the talks.
Fortunately, the administration didn’t provide any support for an attempted coup, but it is troubling that they were even willing to consider it. Venezuela is suffering from the misrule and abuses of its government, but supporting a coup is not a remedy to the country’s problems and the U.S. has no right to make the attempt in any case. A coup would in all likelihood lead to another authoritarian regime, and encouraging a foreign military to topple an elected government is a throwback to the worst policies of the Cold War. It would set a terrible example for the rest of the region. There are many reasons why the U.S. shouldn’t support a coup in Venezuela, not least of which is that it would be a blatant violation of U.S. obligations under the charter of the Organization of American States. Chapter IV, Article 19 of the charter states, “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements [bold mine-DL].” The U.S. has to learn that neither our military intervention nor intervention by the another country’s military in their politics is the right answer to other states’ internal political crises.
Unfortunately, far too many in our foreign policy establishment refuse to accept this. Consider this response from Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations:
For those here and the region who will be quick to criticize the administration for this, i ask what is your policy other than watching Venezuela become a failed state that is starving and crushing its people and creating hundreds of thousands of refugees? https://t.co/ynG6foQvSD
— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) September 8, 2018
Note that Haass immediately rushes to counter criticism of a policy that even the Trump administration considered to be too risky, as if the flaw in our foreign policy debates is our excessive reluctance to support violent and illegal solutions to difficult political problems. A coup would not make Venezuela any less of a failed state, nor would it end the country’s humanitarian crisis. It would be much more likely to exacerbate all of the country’s existing problems by adding civil war to the mix. Support for a coup comes from a combination of the desire to “do something” about Venezuela’s crisis and the belief that there is a relatively easy fix that can be achieved through the use of force, but both of these are misguided. The U.S. should be assisting Venezuela’s neighbors in meeting the needs of Venezuelan refugees and supporting a unified regional diplomatic front to isolate Maduro’s government. That won’t deliver quick results, and it isn’t going to solve Venezuela’s problems, but it isn’t going to contribute to them, either. We should all know by now that regime change is not a solution to a country’s political woes.