On August 11, US President Donald Trump threatened a military intervention in Venezuela. «I’m not going to rule out a military option», Trump declared to reporters in Bedminster, N.J. «This is our neighbor. We’re all over the world, and we have troops all over the world, in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are suffering, and they’re dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary», he explained. This is an unexpected dramatic escalation of Washington's response to Venezuela's internal political crisis.
Venezuela is sliding into turmoil, riven by widespread hunger, skyrocketing inflation, and street violence. The situation aggravated even more after opposition forces looted weapons from a military base after the authority went from the opposition-controlled congress to a new legislative body. 17 countries denounced the inauguration of an all-powerful new constituent assembly loyal to President Maduro but many Latin American countries, such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Bolivia, support Maduro’s government and recognize the legislative body elected on August 4. Despite the differences of opinion, no Latin American state has ever mentioned the use of force as an option.
Since taking office, the Trump administration has been ramping up pressure on Venezuela. The officials have previously said that «all options are on the table» to penalize Maduro and his government, including import or export bans on Venezuelan oil or sanctions on the state-run oil company, PDVSA. The administration has been critical of Maduro's moves to consolidate power, calling the recent election of a new constituent assembly as «illegitimate» and describing the Venezuelan president as a «dictator». After the vote on establishing a constituent assembly in Venezuela, the US Treasury Department sanctioned 30 Venezuelans, including President Maduro, freezing their US assets, banning US travel and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.
President Trump has refused to talk on the phone with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro till «democracy was restored». Media contributes into instigating sentiments against the Venezuelan government. The Boston Globe’s editorial titled Don’t Let Democracy Die in Venezuela says, «Sanctions imposed so far are not working. The United States, and the rest of the world, must send Maduro the message that they will not allow him to hijack his own country».
Marine Corps expeditionary force is the only one who could send such as message. The Pentagon said the military was ready to support efforts to protect US citizens and America's national interests. The United States has a long history of regime toppling in Latin America, with the military and the CIA operating behind the scenes. Vice President Mike Pence is visiting Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama on August 13–18, 2017. The trip is a chance to announce further steps on Venezuela and ramp up support for future actions.
Why Venezuela? After all, Latin America does not seem appear to top the administration’s priorities’ list. In June, State Secretary Rex Tillerson skipped a crucial Organization of American States’ meeting devoted to the situation in Venezuela. Instead, the Secretary focused on the mission to ease tensions in the Persian Gulf.
Venezuela is not Syria, there is no civil war going on and no refugees rush en masse to leave the country. It’s not North Korea or Iran. There are no plans to develop a nuclear potential. President Maduro still enjoys substantial support. The nation is divided, not all Venezuelans are ready to greet US servicemen as liberators. What is important – the Latin American governments that criticize President Maduro will not be able to join or openly support a US military operation for political reasons.
But President Trump’s job approval ratings are slipping and he needs to take some action to turn the tide. According to the Quinnipiac University Poll, just 33 percent of American voters said they approved of Trump's job in office, while 61 percent said they disapproved. It’s down 7 percentage points from the 40 percent rating he received in a similar survey in late June. In June, 84 percent of Republicans polled said they approved of Trump's job in office. However, according to the latest survey, support among the same group has dipped to 76 percent.
Other polls also show the job approval ratings are going down. Just one other newly-elected president has held an approval rating below 50% at this point in his presidency since modern polling began: Bill Clinton, whose approval rating stood at 44% at this point in 1993.
The US president is under assault on many fronts. Now and then, calls for impeachment are made public. Conservatives begin to whisper: President Pence.
Short and successful military interventions abroad are the way to improve the ratings. There was a rise in Trump’s popularity after the cruise missiles strike in Syria he ordered on April 7. The same thing happened when the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, dubbed the «mother of all bombs», was used on April 13 against Islamic State militants in Afghanistan.
After the election President-elect Trump said he would avoid interventions in foreign conflicts. Instead of investing in wars, he would spend money to build up America's aging infrastructure: roads, bridges and airports. But bombing one’s way to popularity is a temptation hard to resist. So, Venezuela joins the list of countries, such as North Korea and Iran, which could be attacked by the United States anytime.