Lead Republican McCaul: Congress must stand with the people of Venezuela

By: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX)

The Hill / Opinion

February 11, 2019

When Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro took the reins of power in 2013, it was clear that he would follow the socialist footsteps of Hugo Chavez. In the years that followed, Maduro’s policies, along with rampant corruption, economic incompetence, and violent crackdowns on political dissent have turned Venezuela into a failed mafia state.

Hyperinflation has skyrocketed and basic goods like food and medicine are scarce. Fearing for their lives, up to 3 million people have fled the country since 2014 according to the UN International Organization for Migration. The future of Venezuela was bleak. However, over the last several weeks a light has begun to shine in the darkness.

Inspired by Juan Guaidó, the leader of the National Assembly and interim president, millions of people have taken to the streets across the country to protest the regime. These protests include individuals from lower-income and working-class neighborhoods once loyal to Maduro. With Maduro’s long track record of threatening, jailing, torturing, and even killing those who speak out against him, the Venezuelans are showing incredible courage. They are also telegraphing several important and universal truths.

First, a dictatorship can only suppress freedom and democracy for a finite amount of time. A person’s thirst to control his or her own destiny will never be quenched by an angry tyrant or the secret police. In 2017 large public demonstrations were held throughout the country. In response, Maduro unleashed security forces and armed civilian mobs known as “colectivos,” to use violent force and crush the peaceful opposition. Over 100 people were killed and many more were seriously wounded. Today, the story is different. The people are no longer afraid.

Second, socialism leads to political and economic failure. Those who continue to preach or show sympathy for it, even in our own country, are devoid of its history and naïve to its future. Socialism is a one-way ticket to economic collapse, tyrannical government, and immense human suffering. Its victims can only be rescued by democratic governance, independent institutions, and free market capitalism. The Maduro regime is just the most recent case study and the people of Venezuela have finally had enough.

Lastly, many countries in the Western Hemisphere and around the world are standing with interim President Guaidó. Venezuelans have already succeeded in obtaining the support from an unprecedented number of Latin American countries including Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador. Many of our European allies are also supportive. History will remember those who stood with the people versus those who stood in their way.

I commend President Trump and his team for recognizing Juan Guaidó as the current leader and for supporting his efforts to call for free and fair elections. Now it’s time for Congress to do the same.

That is why I am drafting a resolution in the House of Representatives that condemns the criminal actions of Nicolas Maduro and the support of countries like Cuba, Russia, China and Iran. It also recognizes Juan Guaidó as interim president and urges the international community to support humanitarian and economic assistance for Venezuela.

This is not an attempt to meddle with the internal affairs of a sovereign state. We do not want to choose the next leader of Venezuela. We simply want the people to choose for themselves. They cannot do that until democracy is restored. Fortunately, we have started to see some cracks in Maduro’s dam.

In January, Col. José Luis Silva, the Venezuela Defense Attaché to the United States publicly broke with Maduro. More recently Venezuela’s Ambassador to Iraq, Jonathan Velasco Ramirez, and air force Gen. Francisco Yanez also recognized Guaidó as interim leader. I am hopeful more military and diplomatic officials follow their lead.

I have met with Carlos Alfredo Vecchio, designated by Juan Guaidó to be Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United States. He is fully committed to working with the U.S. towards the restoration of democracy and rebuilding Venezuela’s economic prosperity.

For those demanding that the U.S. withhold hold our support, I would ask that they consider the governments backing Maduro. China, Russia, Cuba and Iran are also despotic regimes that fear the will of their own people. They do not want their citizens to witness a successful transition to democracy.

America is right to support the Venezuelan people because a brighter future is now possible for them. I am hopeful that my resolution will win the support of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. This unified display of bipartisanship will send a powerful message to the rest of the world.

The people of Venezuela have started the courageous effort to take their country back and we should be proud to support their noble cause.

Michael McCaul is the lead Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the former Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives.

The op-ed originally appeared in The Hill Opinion, here