It is still hard to believe such a half assed attempt was made to overthrow Venezuela’s awful, wretched government. But, one was made not long ago.
It has been compared, naturally, with the ill fated Bay of Pigs operation. But, I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. The Bay of Pigs operation was designed under Ike and carried out by CIA backing under JFK. It had over 1,400 Cuban exiles accompanied by a handful of American agents with the purpose of overthrowing Castro’s regime. It had dreadful consequences for those involved and later.
But, this recent effort had nowhere near that kind of numbers and support from the U.S. It did have the signed backing of Juan Guaido, who has had Trump’s support as the legitimate head of state of Venezuela. Trump’s backing has not worked for multiple reasons.
What we can say is that it is unlikely that the Trump administration agreed to this effort. However, the Trump administration created the kind of atmosphere that encouraged it to carry out “Operation Gideon” which maybe had around 60 armed supporters. Maybe the Trump administration knew something about it and did nothing to stop it.
But, it miserably failed. Dictator Maduro, who reportedly gets instructions in part from his very dead predecessor and from the long ago dead Simon Bolivar—there has been a Bolivar Cult there, had infiltrated it, knew about it, and his admin easily put it down. It was more farce than a serious effort to get rid of Maduro.
But, even if this had had U.S. support, it was unlikely to have succeeded contrary to Pompeo’s claims. Why? Maduro has support from Cuba (whose secret police has trained his and have a significant presence in Venezuela), Russia, Iran, and China. Those are formidable obstacles to an overthrow being successful. Their support has been perhaps decisive in helping Maduro’s Venezuela with dealing with Covid. They have advisors present in multiple capacities.
An American invasion, as threatened by Trump, could kill some of those advisors. That could lead to direct conflicts we do not want or need. Iran has been sending oil tankers to help Maduro out as well as a way to get around the Trump administration sanctions on the Maduro regime. Indeed, Iran and Venezuela have developed a strategic partnership.
With all of this there is a long history of American interventions in Latin America that have harmed our relations. Against this background, this latest attempt bears resemblance to the “filibustering” expeditions pre-Civil War in Central America and the Caribbean. As a reminder for the readers, these were private military attempts to subvert and hopefully rule a Central American nation without U.S. government support.
Narcisso Lopez, starting in 1849, led three efforts to boot the Spanish out of Cuba. None worked; the Spanish captured the perps in the last one and had them executed. This all led to the Ostend Manifesto as a circular written effort by American diplomats in Europe to encourage the U.S. government to buy Cuba and if that didn’t work perhaps to take it. That died still born.
The most successful, for a time, was William Walker’s efforts to take and rule Nicaragua. He succeeded and his rule was recognized officially by President William Pierce in 1856. His rule ran afoul of Cornelius Vanderbilt who had his rule destroyed. Walker tried two more times and on the coast of Honduras the Brits captured him and executed him by firing squad.
The Civil War brought an end to these escapades. But, this latest effort in Venezuela reminds me of them. All in all, this history has not led to a good U.S. reputation in Latin America.
What now? Maduro’s regime is in serious trouble. Mismanagement, corruption including collusion with the drug cartels, have all led Russia to reconsider its support. If Russia backs out, his regime becomes vulnerable. But, does the opposition have “the right stuff” to take advantage of these issues and lead to a successful domestic (U.S. aided) coup? Maybe, but they didn’t do well at it before and there’s no guarantee they will.
An American “invasion” would be unwise to say the least. It would almost certainly lead many who don’t like the regime at all, to resist the American led invasion. It is unlikely to get Congressional and American public approval. Better to bet on a domestic takeover. It might succeed, but don’t count on it. A Bay of Piglets was not the way to get it done. What would you recommend?