On Venezuela, what would Bernie do?

by | Mar 5, 2020

With Super Tuesday in the rearview mirror, all eyes now turn to the next biggest prize on the electoral map: Florida, and its 219 delegates. Bernie Sanders, once the frontrunner, finds himself squarely in an underdog role, trailing badly in the polls in Florida. A loss here could end his campaign.

Too bad for would-be-socialists everywhere, then, that their standard-bearer holds out Cuba as a socioeconomic model that should be replicated around the world. That sort of messaging isn’t playing well, for two reasons: the Cuban diaspora headquartered in Miami, and the large number of Venezuelan expatriates and refugees who are all too familiar with the destruction that modern-day socialism can inflict on a once-thriving society.

Florida hosts the largest population of fervent anti-socialists and anti-communists in the nation, which doesn’t bode well for Sanders. Voters here have a front-row seat to the socialist melt-down in Venezuela, where the brutal dictator Nicolas Maduro is working hand-in-glove with Cuba, Russia and others to create a communist super-state that is already working to undermine U.S. interests there.

Unlike Sanders, Florida’s Cuban and Venezuelan population know that the only way to deal with dictators like the Castros and the Maduros is to isolate them economically, not embrace them or highlight their so-called achievements.

In sharp contrast to Sanders’ coddling of the Castro regime, President Donald Trump has maintained a strategy to oust Maduro by imposing tough economic sanctions against Maduro’s government, as well as the Russian and Cuban businesses propping him up. Those sanctions are making an impact.

President Trump is playing it right by imposing tough, targeted sanctions on Maduro’s corrupt government. Some on the Trump team have suggested that American businesses operating in Venezuela should be forced to exit the troubled nation as a way to facilitate maduro’s ouster – but that would be a significant foreign policy blunder. Not only would it signal a departure from our existing strategy of maintaining America’s presence in Venezuela, it would cede massive oil fields and vital American energy infrastructure to Maduro’s government, which he would almost certainly turn over to Russia or China or Cuba, allowing a new Cuban “super state” to form in our own backyard.

We already have communist Cuba, we don’t need a stronger, energy-independent Super Cuba in the form of Venezuela.

A leader like Sanders would likely reduce America’s ability to influence Venezuela by ceding that existing energy infrastructure as a way of avoiding conflict with Maduro and appeasing progressive activists. Our nation has maintained a lengthy and fruitful relationship with Venezuela – 100 years of investment in that nation’s energy industry – and that existing infrastructure and investment means the U.S. is poised to help the troubled country recover once the Maduro regime eventually collapses. Venezuela sits on the world’s largest oil fields and it’s imperative that Russia, China and Cuba are not allowed to gain access to this vast global energy asset.

There may even be some in the Trump Administration who think that forcing American companies to exit Venezuela is the right move for similar reasons that Sanders might do it. Or they may believe it would further tighten the economic screws on Maduro. Such thinking is deeply flawed and weak. Russia, China and Cuba will immediately step in to fill the void we leave behind, while also degrading our ability to restore Venezuela when Maduro’s government finally does collapse.

Venezuelan voters in Florida are probably relieved that Sanders already shot himself in the foot here in Florida, making his path to the White House much narrower as a result. But even so, the Trump Administration can continue to contrast his consistent, strong foreign policy against that of Bernie Sanders and even Joe Biden and the Democrats by staying the course and not giving an inch to the Maduro regime.




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