If Venezuela burns, the United States will feel the heat. Like a nearby brush fire, the Venezuelan civil war threatens to erupt in a conflagration that will disrupt life throughout the hemisphere. Americans are accustomed to watching tinderboxes from half a world away, but this one is too close for comfort.
Venezuela has become emblematic of the fundamental failures of socialism. When power is centralized and dedicated to economic redistribution, everyone shares equally in misery and want. With Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution in 1999, Venezuela began a devolution at breathtaking pace, transforming itself from a modern, oil-rich nation to a miserable basket case. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has destroyed free markets, resulting in food shortages (and toilet paper), inflation and rampant crime as the people struggle to survive meager government handouts.
The nation has been brought to a standstill but for the starving millions, facing government troops, demanding the ouster of the president. Nearly 40 demonstrators have been slain in the streets. About 1,300 others have been arrested and 250 of them have been put before military tribunals for trial. Venezuela is nothing less now than a police state.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo raised a red flag over the Venezuela crisis last week before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. He warned of the possibility that should that nation fall, its large stock of armaments could fall into the hands of terrorists. “It is a real threat, as we have all seen the situation in Venezuela continue to deteriorate [and] Maduro gets more desperate by the hour.”
David Grantham, a national security analyst, writes in Townhall that Venezuela could easily become a Syria. “Maduro would rather dismantle government and assassinate opponents than keep the country viable,” he says. “History tells us that such despotism and subsequent international inaction can lead to Assad-like levels of oppression.” Like Syrians, Venezuelans are bedeviled by the virulent presence of Hezbollah, the radical Islamic terrorist organization. Vice President Tareck El Aissami’s father, in fact, immigrated from Syria. If Hezbollah and its benefactors Iran and Russia prop up the failing Maduro regime, as they have with Syria’s Bashar Assad, the Western Hemisphere could face the same sort of metastasizing terrorist presence that has ravaged the Middle East. Though South America is a long way from the sites of these extremists, Venezuela is awash in a familiar geopolitical resource, oil.
Access for infiltration of the U.S. southern border is the likely goal of Hezbollah. The U.S. Southern Command estimates that 30,000 illegals from Middle Eastern nations crossed the border in 2015 alone. Where there is human trafficking, there is money to be made. A task force of the Arizona Attorney General reported in 2015 a spike in money transfers from the Middle East and persons with Middle Eastern names to destinations in Mexican border towns.
The United States can no longer rely on a buffer of geography. With more people walking, some with bad intent and others not, it’s clear that American security requires unwavering vigilance, and a wall.