- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Trump, showing unhesitant leadership, has recognized Juan Guaido as interim, though not-really-legal president.

That’s an extraordinary — wait, make that unprecedented — slap in face of an elected president, in this case Nicolas Maduro, of another country, in this instance Venezuela.

Other governments regard Mr. Maduro, who is the late unlamented Hugo Chavez’s successor, as yet another ignoramus and murdering socialist dictator who stole elections and further managed to bury Venezuela’s 32 million people in hyperinflation.

Note this: The country has the world’s largest oil reserves.

But then, generally speaking, Latin-America’s 33 countries enjoy all the natural-resource advantages anyone could want but have managed to remain third-world social-economic development craters for most of their citizens from the moment in 1501 when Italian financier-explorer Amerigo Vespucci bumped his bows into the South American coastline and decided it really isn’t Asia. (Columbus thought the new world he scraped his keel on was part of the Orient.)

We’re talking long after former basket cases in Asia began their upward zoom.

Venezuela wasn’t always a basket case in South America. In 1950, the country had the fourth largest economy per person in the world. It slowed from the 1960s on. But Mr. Chavez gets credit for starting it’s steep dive to the depths of economic ruin.

It’s gotten so bad that now Canada, Brazil and Columbia followed Trump’s lead and recognized Mr. Guaido, 35, as the interim president. He’s the leader of Venezuela‘s congress.

Mr. Maduro, 56, called the Guaido usurpation a coup d’etat.

He’s right in the sense that he — Mr. Maduro — won re-election to the presidency, whether fraudulently or not.

For the opposition leader to declare himself interim president is extra-legal.

In almost every other country a similar move would be considered an act of treason. And trigger a civil war.

Why should any American who frowns on our exporting democracy by military force now cheer what’s happening in Venezuela?

Because although it’s definitely meddling in another country’s domestic political affairs, it’s not another Iraq or Afghanistan or Vietnam.

So long as we keep our military out of this Venezuelan imbroglio, we can applaud our president for taking the lead in rhetorically embracing a saner alternative to Senor Maduro.

Unfortunately, El Presidente Putin put his two rubles in — not to mention two jet bombers that he had flown to Caracas.

Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented with admirably pointed alacrity, tweeting this:

“@SecPompeo

#Russia’s government has sent bombers halfway around the world to #Venezuela. The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”

So here’s President Trump’s chief diplomat calling the Russian Federation under Mr. Putin “corrupt.”

Should one see in this a further distancing from the “Let’s be buds” approach to Gaspadin Putin?

No, not just one — make it everyone should see the Putin-Trump gap turning into a gulf.

The Organization of American States was so impressed with the Maduro machinations in his re-election count earlier this moth that a special session of the OAS Permanent Council declared his presidency illegitimate and urged new elections.

Good. Now on whose side will the Venezuelan military come down?

Given the wreck the Chávez-Maduro tag team has made of Venezuela’s economy, you can (unsafely) put your money on Mr. Guaidó.

No bet is safe south of the Big River.

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