Now That Maduro’s Been Indicted, What’s Next For Venezuela?

By Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/Assistant Opinion Director

On Wednesday April 1, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would deploy its Navy near Venezuela to stop the country’s drug trade and increase pressure against Venezuelan autocrat Nicolás Maduro. 

The news came a week after the U.S. Justice Department indicted Maduro and other Venezuelan government officials with charges of narco-terrorism and drug and arms trafficking. The decades-long investigation accumulated evidence of his collaboration with the FARC—a marxist Colombian guerrilla group known for exporting cocaine into the United States. 

FIU is home to many Venezuelan students who know the horrors of Maduro’s administration, and those of us who haven’t lived it personally still have the misfortune of watching our parents’ homeland deteriorate as our extended relatives continue to experience hardships. 

Many feel that these decisions mark the beginning of an end to a brutal dictatorship with countless human rights violations. But while that may not be in the cards just yet, I believe that this is a step in the right direction.

Since his induction in 2013, Maduro’s administration has exercised hideous abuses of power resulting in the mass-exodus of millions of Venezuelans to different parts of the world.

For context, the administration’s human rights violations include running fraudulent elections, persecuting political opponents and organizing local paramilitary terrorist groups called “colectivos” to operate in poor neighborhoods, attacking, extorting and kidnapping anyone who opposes Venezuela’s United Socialist Party. Thanks to his corruption and general mismanagement of the economy, inflation reached 10-million percent last year, turning the oil-rich country into one of the poorest in the world. Food and medical shortages have the most disadvantaged citizens dropping like flies and anyone who publicly expresses dissent is jailed or killed.

Maduro’s collaboration with the FARC, which extends back to the mid-2000s and turned Venezuela into a port for narcotic shipments, is particularly valuable to the cartel because of the country’s geographic access to land, air and sea routes that make it ideal for trafficking coke to Central American and Caribbean countries. Also valuable are the country’s state-owned oil companies-turned-money-laundering-operations. These assets have helped make the FARC the most powerful drug cartel in the world.

Many have compared Maduro’s indictment to that of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who, after the United States’ invasion of Panama in 1989, was flown to Miami and charged with racketeering, money-laundering and drug smuggling by federal grand juries. It was the first time our country had ever indicted a head of state. This is the second.

However, there’s no guarantee that Maduro’s indictment will result in political intervention from the U.S. the way that Noriega’s did. 

According to the Miami Herald, there seems to be far less interest at a national level to remove Maduro from office. Former U.S. diplomat and Colombian international consultant Lawrence Gumbiner has called this a “chest-pumping exercise by the Trump administration” meant to appeal to Latino voters in Florida instead of “generating meaningful change in Venezuela.”

Margi Rentis/FIU Flickr

Critics like Gumbiner have valid reasons to be wary of the slow movement on Trump’s end. It’s been over a year since Trump visited FIU to address the crisis in Venezuela and express his support for Juan Guaidó, the country’s interim president.

“We seek a peaceful transition of power but all options are open,” the President said at our Ocean Bank Convocation Center. 

Since then, he has broken diplomatic relations with Venezuela and increased sanctions—the reasoning being that Maduro would eventually back down. But of course, Maduro refuses to budge, and the Venezuelans who depended on foreign imports to feed themselves continue to starve.

Other critics point towards Guaidó’s incompetence, arguing that the Interim President has neglected to call for any meaningful change, opting to buy Maduro more time by not asking the U.S. for military intervention—something he has the right to do under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance.

Trump’s most recent decision is a positive one in that it mounts more pressure on Maduro, whose government continues to be opposed by a majority of countries around the world. Still, I can’t help but worry that it won’t lead to anything concrete, as similar tensions with Cuba never escalated into a defeat of the Castro regime.

Only time will tell what happens with the South American country. But for now, Venezuelans living in the U.S. stay watching.

Featured image by Eneas De Troya on Flickr.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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