Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders issued a short statement about the diplomatic crisis in Venezuela, condemning human rights abuses by the Maduro government while cautioning against American intervention that would seek to select a leader for Venezuelans:
Some on the anti-imperialist left — not a very strong faction in the United States at all, but one which could conceivably influence the furthest-left lawmakers including Sanders — seemed to imply that the United States is the country responsible for Venezuela’s economy, not Maduro. Boots Riley, the talented director of the very funny union organizing film Sorry to Bother You offered this case:
I’m far from an expert on Venezuela, I have never been to the country and if you want an expert you should read elsewhere. But you can read about the sanctions the United States has on Venezuela in this Congressional Research Service report. As you can see, it was not until the Trump administration that the U.S. imposed broader sanctions on the Venezuelan economy. Those sanctions may very well be causing unnecessary suffering. But they aren’t the cause of Venezuela’s woes.
As you can see from the graphic from the Economist below, Venezuela made great strides in poverty reduction prior to Maduro (oil prices were also much higher then). But it has seem large spikes in both poverty and extreme poverty even under the tail end of the Obama administration, which only imposed sanctions aimed at Venezuelan elites.
There is a tendency on the political left to avoid placing blame on a party seen as weaker. Thus in a dispute between the United States and Venezuela, the bias is to blame Venezuela’s woes on outside actors. But at most, the United States is playing a small role. Venezuelan government policy is largely of its own making, and the country’s economy was imploding a long time before the U.S. imposed broader sanctions under the Trump administration.
Thanks to the November elections, Sanders now has Members of Congress who are to his left on some issues. One of those, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, referred to the opposition as “far right,” which some Twitter users quickly rebutted by pointing out the opposition is actually part of the moderate Socialist International
None of this is to argue that the U.S. would be right to intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs and try to sort out a messy political situation. Not only is that unethical because it would violate Venezuelan sovereignty, but it just doesn’t have a very good track record because Washington isn’t as smart as it likes to think it is.
But at the very least, rationalizing the behavior of a corrupt, abusive, and mismanaged government because it happens to affiliate with the left would have spoken poorly of Sanders’s judgement as a Commander in Chief, and the course he took is likely to be more politically advantageous as well.