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As Some Call for Military Intervention in Venezuela, 10 Latin American Countries Reject Regime Change

Invoking the bloody history of regime change in the region, 10 countries signed a document rejecting military intervention in Venezuela.
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Pro-government activists demonstrate in support of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and against United States meddling, in Caracas, on September 11th, 2018.

Pro-government activists demonstrate in support of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and against United States meddling, in Caracas, on September 11th, 2018.

Across Latin America, governments have come to the consensus that the problem with Venezuela, a nation in a prolonged state of collapse, is the presidency of Nicolás Maduro. But fault lines appeared in that consensus this week as states clashed over how to best address the crisis. For some, like Luis Almagro, the president of the Organization of American States, the only solution to the turmoil in Venezuela is the end of the Maduro government—perhaps by any means necessary.

On Friday, Almagro made fiery comments and declared that OAS should consider military intervention to replace the Venezuelan president. In response, a group of 10 Latin American countries issued a statement on Monday rejecting violent regime change. (The Latin American signatories were joined by Canada.)

In the statement, issued by Brazil's foreign ministry, the signatories "express their concern and their rejection of any course of action or declaration involving military intervention or the exercise of violence, threat, or use of force in Venezuela."

Perhaps Almagro should have expected the negative response to his proposal. Over the last century, Latin Americans have become weary of violent regime change. For instance, last week, as people across the United States bowed their heads for a moment of silence on September 11th, Chileans observed their own somber anniversary. In Chile, September 11th marks the anniversary of the 1973 coup d'état in which a U.S.-supported military junta overthrew the county's democratically elected government. Chile's foreign minister may have had that history in mind on Monday when he signed the statement condemning the possibility of another militarized regime change in Venezuela.

The countries that signed the rejection of a military solution in Venezuela represent the majority of the Lima Group. This organization, which includes a collection of Latin American and Caribbean nations as well as Canada, convened in 2017 to address the turmoil in Venezuela, a political and economic crisis that has caused over two million Venezuelans to flee their home country.

Earlier this year, the members of the Lima Group rejected the May results of what they called a sham election in Venezuela. Though the Lima Group does not recognize the legitimacy of Maduro's government, the statement on Monday firmly committed the group to a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

In a tweet, Bolivian President Evo Morales called the statement a "defeat of Trump's interventionism and a victory of dignity and courage of Venezuela and Latin America." Morales, a frequent critic of U.S. intervention in Latin America, invoked recent revelations that members of U.S. President Donald Trump's administration met with Venezuelan military officers to discuss a coup attempt against Maduro.

For some, Almagro's comments and Trump's interest in regime change resemble the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965. With the support of OAS, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent U.S. Marines to the Dominican Republic during the Caribbean nation's six-month civil war. Though the invasion and civil war ended with a democratic election, many have criticized the U.S.'s military action and its troubled legacy on the island.

Besides Chile and the Dominican Republic, in the last century the U.S. has also backed regime change—often against democratically elected governments—in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, and other Latin American countries.