A Failed State on Our Doorstep

commentary-magazine-logoThe Western Hemisphere reached a milestone this week. According to United Nations observers, Colombia’s leftist rebel militia FARC has entirely disarmed. When it comes to monitoring rogue actors, the UN’s representatives have a spotty track record, but even FARC’s leaders are endorsing the group’s transition away from violence. After a half-century of war, Latin America’s longest-running insurgency is over. Unfortunately, celebrations must be tempered by the sobering developments on the other side of the Colombian border. There the violence surging, the military is teetering, and the political class is nearing the point of irreversible illegitimacy. The prospect of Venezuela collapsing in on itself looms dreadfully large.

The crisis in Venezuela again made its way into international headlines following a daring attack on the country’s Supreme Court. On Tuesday, an elite police officer-turned-actor allegedly commandeered a helicopter and flew it over the nation’s high court, dropping live grenades on the building from overhead. No one was injured in the attack, but the rogue cop posted a confession on social media expressing the hope that his actions would stir the country to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

It worked, in a way. Maduro took the daring and potentially galvanizing raid quite seriously. He immediately appeared on state television to denounce the assault, mobilized the military, and implied that Washington D.C. was behind the incursion. Accordingly, the world has temporarily forgotten to forget about the crisis in Venezuela. That condition seems unlikely to last. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.