Several events have happened in the last several weeks that are worrisome for hemispheric security.
The first is the victory of Alberto Fernandez and his candidate for vice-president, the former president Cristina Kirchner, in the Argentinean primaries. The second is the ouster of National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Most recently, Mr. Fernandez stated that the regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela is not a dictatorship because it is an elected government. This is a worrisome remark given the fact that Maduro’s victories were the result of fraud and the violent repression of protests, and the extrajudicial killing of opponents is a matter of routine. To add outrage to his remarks Mr. Fernandez claimed that in Venezuela institutions are working well, although he did not elaborate.
In fact, no social, political or legal institution is functioning in Venezuela except the repressive apparatus of the state. The economy is in ruins. The law, the courts and the oil industry have been subordinated to serve the perpetuation of the regime and the enrichment of its leaders and cronies. Illegal crime and drug trafficking is encouraged by the state; criminals are being used as para-military forces against protestors and opponents. Terrorist organizations and the Cuban espionage apparatus are used to protect an illegitimate regime and oppress anybody that dares to resist. There is absolutely no institution that functions in Venezuela except against the well-being of society. Democracy should be about government of the people, by the people and for the people. In Venezuela it is exactly the opposite.
Fernandez’ ridiculous remarks were an excuse to justify passivity and even support for the regime in sharp contrast with the current Argentinean president Mauricio Macri.
Fernandez has tried to dissipate the notion that he is nothing but a puppet of his candidate for vice president Cristina Kirchner. However, his justification of the Maduro regime is clearly the reflection of Kirchner’s views. Ms. Kirchner believed in Hugo Chavez’ idea of socialism and Latin American unity and defended the repressive Venezuelan regime honoring Chavez even post-mortem. She also made a deal with Iran where Iran was supposed to investigate itself over its role in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires (AMIA). When Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman was about to denounce the president and her foreign minister accusing them of covering up for Iran, the prosecutor died in an apparent suicide that very few believed to be suicide. Nisman’s death was followed by defamation, often encouraged by the government.
Most recently Alberto Fernandez spoke against President Mauricio Macri’s decision to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Fernandez justified his view by resorting to a speculative theory that has no proof whatsoever. According to Fernandez, the attack on AMIA took place because the government of Argentina choose a policy that upset elements in the Middle East. The theory is that former president Carlos Menem failed to fulfill his promises to Syrian president Hafez Assad and became closer to Israel and the United States. Menem was later accused of covering up the “Syrian track” and trying to hide the relationship between his business with Syria. However, Menem was tried and found innocent of charges.
Still Fernandez claims that if Argentina upsets Hezbollah it may endanger Argentineans. In fact, he defined the subject of Hezbollah as a geopolitical problem that has nothing to do with Argentina. He said in total denial of the facts that Hezbollah’s presence in the region, including in Argentina, has exponentially increased with the encouragement of the Venezuelan government.
Furthermore, in July President Macri joined the United States, Brazil and Paraguay in signing an agreement that established a joint security mechanism to fight terrorism. The goal of the agreement was precisely to establish strong cooperation between these countries to monitor terrorist activities in the tri-border area between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The tri-border is known as a place where Hezbollah raises money to finance its terrorist activities. Hezbollah also works together with drug cartels and benefits from drug money.
Argentina played an important role in this agreement and now Fernandez dismisses it altogether. It looks like Kirchner’s policies of covering up for Iran and Hezbollah are likely to continue. This development is dangerous.
Another worrisome event is the departure of John Bolton as National Security Advisor. Bolton was one of the main pushers for regime change in Venezuela. Heavy sanctions and isolation of Venezuela were major successes of this administration and Bolton played an important role. It is true that Bolton’s pledges of regime change have not yet been fulfilled. Furthermore, Bolton created false expectations not only for Trump but also for the Venezuelan opposition and the Venezuelan people. However, Bolton was very assertive in making every possible effort to get rid of the Maduro regime and these efforts are worth continuing. Bolton’s departure has raised concerns in Venezuela. Venezuelan media has contacted me for interviews on the subject-matter more than ever before in the past in the aftermath of Bolton‘s departure. The main question asked is, “what will be the future of U.S policy towards Venezuela?”
The probable election of Alberto Fernandez as president of Argentina in October and the departure of John Bolton may give a dangerous boost to the Maduro regime and increase its hope that pressure may decrease.
Whoever takes the position of National Security Advisor must maintain the policy that seeks regime change in Venezuela. Recent events must not give comfort to the murderous and terrorist Venezuelan regime.
Published by Center for Security Policy Thursday, September 12th, 2019
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