The Real Donald Trump posted the picture below to Twitter on Thursday, and it has sent Venezuela watchers into a frenzy.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
So you recognize the white-nationalist president and his white-haired VP. On the right is Florida (conservative Latino voters) Senator Marco Rubio, the leading Venezuela hawk in Congress who would probably support a ground-troop invasion if it were up for a vote.
The woman is Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, the highest-profile political prisoner Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro’s regime has locked up. Lopez has been jailed since February 2014 for inciting violence by calling for protests in 2014, which led to a violent state repression which resulted in 43 dead.
The National Disgrace taking a picture with Tintori is a marked departure from Obama’s policy of basically leaving Venezuela alone to its own misery, opting for regional pressure instead of gringo leadership. Obama saw how Hugo Chavez used the Bush administration’s recognition of the 2002 coup as propaganda for years that the yanquis were meddling or even plotting a coup themselves.
Obama’s logic was to avoid giving the dictator any propagandistic ammunition. I agreed with that approach given Obama’s starkly different geopolitical terrain. In 2006, Chavez gave his Bush devil speech on the floor of the UN, and that same year the Bush donkey rant on his national TV show. Those turned Chavez into the darling of socialists the world over. The Olympics and World Cup both selected Lula’s Brazil as the pink tide peaked somewhere between 2008 and 2012.
Don-Job is inheriting a polar opposite in Latin America. The pink tide has faded away in favor of a neoliberal, capitalist renaissance. Venezuela has lost allies across the region including the most important two in Brazil and Argentina. A lukewarm ally in Peru was replaced by the president who is now leading the region in pressuring Maduro. Maduro may even lose freaking Ecuador.
Meanwhile at home, the National Disgrace’s first month has been the worst of all U.S. presidents except William Henry Harrison, who caught pneumonia at his inauguration and died within one month. I opposed Trump’s candidacy, but like many independent voters I was open-minded after he won. I opted for hope, to see what good he could do as long as he backed off the most reckless promises.
Trump’s first few weeks erased all the precious little political capital he had, while getting almost nothing done. I really couldn’t have imagined it being worse. I went from the FB post above to my current belief that civil disobedience is justified to block some of the initiatives he’s trying to force. Opinion polls reflect a similar trajectory as mine, where Don-Job briefly flirted with a majority of the country after the election and promptly fell back down to the 40% range.
Trump’s missteps and the Russia revelations are threatening to derail his entire agenda, which was ambitious to begin with. Everything from the border wall to infrastructure to repealing Obamacare is getting pushed back into what may be Neverneverland.
To salvage any hope of getting something done in his first 100 days or even his first year, the National Disgrace needs a WIN. Of all the qualities that don’t apply to Trump, you can’t say he’s not an opportunist. And given the geopolitical terrain, the opportunity for a move on Venezuela is NOW.
Hence the timing of that picture.
What did Don-Job and Pence talk about with Rubio and Tintori? More sanctions? Sanctions with teeth, sanctions going after the military or oil or something else the entire country can’t ignore? Something that would precipitate a collapse or force Maduro to lead an indefensible crackdown?
Increased diplomatic pressure in the region? Bonafide “meddling”?
Orchestrating the fall of Maduro’s regime would be greeted with cheers within the United States and across Latin America, because Venezuela has jumped the shark (Jamie Foxx aside).
The only people would be alienated by a move on Venezuela right now are the U.S. adversaries who Trump needs to prove he’s not a lackey for, and the Kool-Aid-drinking left who nobody takes seriously anyway.
Trump could bring nonpartisan Americans like me back into the Approve category to pass some of his initiatives. His tax reform and infrastructure plans, for example, are not completely without merit nor morally objectionable, despite what deficit hawks may say.
I know I’m writing a lot about Venezuela lately, because I’m convinced something big is going to happen soon. As much as I thought it would happen in 2016, it’s really poised to explode in 2017.
For those who are indifferent about Venezuela’s fate, here’s the question for you. Did the Donald grab her by the pussy?
Photo from a yoga session Tintori led in Caracas. Watch it on YouTube.