With ample evidence of Venezuela’s continuing descent into economic, political, social, and humanitarian turmoil which continues to test the depths of human despair, it’s a wonder how the nation got to this point. The Maduro government continues to perpetrate fraudulent elections, the state-owned oil business is hemorrhaging billions monthly – money that is crucial to deliver on the promises of a Socialist utopia – and Venezuelans are so desperate that they have resorted to abandoning their children at orphanages rather than spreading their own resources even thinner.
But it’s important to note that Venezuela could not have gotten to this point without assistance from outside actors. Enabling and tacit endorsement of the Socialist government, first under Hugo Chavez and then Nicolas Maduro, by several world powers that have both invested their money in the nation and worked directly with the Socialist government, has propped up a nation.
No four nations have a more complicit, direct role in overlooking the increasingly egregious crimes of Venezuela’s socialist dictatorships than Cuba, Russia, China, and Iran. As U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson concludes a trip to Latin America, his reiteration that America would consider a military option with respect to the Maduro government must be considered only in light of the three larger world powers with significant leverage in Venezuela.
The first player in this web of foreign interests that has entangled itself in Venezeula’s Socialist snafu is Cuba. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Venezuelan people have been done in, in large part, by the Communist Cuban government that Chavez received massive funding and military support from during his rise to power. Now, Havana has essentially come to rule nearly all aspects of Venezuelan power offices.
‘In a July 13 column, titled “Cubazuela” for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba website, Roberto Álvarez Quiñones reported that in Venezuela today there are almost 50 high-ranking Cuban military officers, 4,500 Cuban soldiers in nine battalions, and “34,000 doctors and health professionals with orders to defend the tyranny with arms.”’
“Thousands of other Cubans hold key positions of the State, Government, military and repressive Venezuelan forces, in particular intelligence and counterintelligence services.”
Cuba relies upon Venezuela’s geographical link to the United States through Central America and Mexico to run much of its Colombian-originated drugs, and the wholesale price of Venezuelan oil is a resource which Cuba is remiss to give up. That’s especially true because it doesn’t have to give it up. Their grip on Venezuela, at this point, is uncontested.
Meanwhile, Russia has come to serve as the top military supplier to the Venezuelan government, whose strongman tactics are predicated on overwhelming dissidents with abusive shows of force. The $11 billion in arms and military supplies that Venezuela has purchased from Russia, dating back to the Chavez government, accounts for approximately three quarters of Russia’s military sales in South America. Russia, too, sees Venezuela’s proximity to the United States as military leverage.
‘Russia has collaborated with Venezuela in a manner far more directly threatening to the United States, than has the P.R.C., arguably using exercises and other activities with Venezuela to send strategic messages to the United States that if the U.S. involves itself in Russia’s “near abroad,” then Russia is willing and able to project military force in the U.S. own “backyard.”’ (house.gov)
The favor that Russia has curried with the Maduro government, and the military presence it knows it would be afforded in the instance of military conflict with the United States help to explain why Russia has done its part in propping up the Maduro regime. Russia is one of the Venezuelan government’s most significant financiers, and has used unpaid debt to attain Venezuela’s precious oil resources.
China has also played the role of opportunistic debt holder with respect to the spendthrift Venezuelan government. China, in fact, is Venezuela’s single largest creditor, and currently holds over $23 billion in Venezuelan debt. China, like Russia, has used its status as, essentially, Venezuela’s bank to take over an increasing stake in Venezuela’s energy sector via oil fields. And, like Russia, China certainly takes comfort knowing that, if and when it hits the fan, it has a South American stronghold which owes it both tangible debts and great favor.
Which brings us to the curious case of Iran, the lesser-known actor in the maintenance of the notorious Socialist Venezuelan government. Iran, like Cuba, has a significant ethnic influence in Venezuela. And, like China, Russia and Cuba, Iran stands to utilize that ethnic arm of Iran in the case that conflict with the West arises. The Maduro government is happy to let this ethnic Iranian population, which hails from As-Suwayda in Syria and most of whom possess dual citizenry, to stay because they have assisted in pro-government demonstrations
‘During anti-Maduro demonstrations, the motorcycle-riding members of the Venezuelan civilian militias known as Collectivos were remarkable for being modeled and trained by Iran's paramilitary Basij militia. The role of the Basij in crushing Iran's Green Revolution in 2009 provided lesson for dealing with anti-regime protestors half a decade later in Venezuela.’ (Gatestone)
And thus, it becomes apparent that even though less overt, Iran’s influence in Venezuela is nearly, if not completely, as critical to the Maduro government avoiding a coup, which seems long overdue. Venezuela’s government may seem easy to mock as feeble, and in many ways they are. But the foreign debt which Venezuela has accumulated in spades mean that Venezuela is much more than a failing South American nation. It’s a satellite camp of sorts for three of America’s most feared counterparts.
These three world powers, which often choose not to address the realities of who they choose to partner with on the world stage, cannot escape a level of blame for their significant roles in the Maduro government’s persistence, and Venezuela’s startling demise.