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May 13, 2019

The Left’s Cowardice on Venezuela

The Left’s Cowardice on Venezuela

As Ambassador to the United Nations, I traveled to Colombia, right up to the border with Venezuela. I stood on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in Cucuta, watching streams of Venezuelan people fleeing the only home they had ever known. I saw hunger, pain, illness, and desperation. 

Behind them, they left a once-rich country shuddering under the abuse of Nicolás Maduro’s socialist dictatorship. 

Over the past couple of months, the world has watched Maduro’s tyranny in action and the courage of the Venezuelan people. Thanks to the internet, they have seen what I have seen: Children pawing through garbage cans looking for food; Maduro’s thugs running innocent civilians down; blackouts that claim too many lives; and a burning desire to be free.

The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is the kind of issue that should supersede politics. It shouldn’t matter what political party you belong to; it shouldn’t matter whom you voted for. Every political leader in America should condemn Maduro’s iron grip. Every political leader should root for the Venezuelan people.

Sadly, that’s not the case. On the fringes of the left, celebrity politicians refuse to condemn Maduro. Worse, some have actually embraced him. 

When a reporter asked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez if the Maduro regime is legitimate, she offered this non-answer: “I defer to caucus leadership on how we navigate this.” A simple “no” would have sufficed. 

In an interview with “Democracy Now!” Rep. Ilhan Omar blamed America for the crisis in Venezuela and accused the U.S. of bullying Maduro: “A lot of the policies that we have put in place has kind of helped lead the devastation in Venezuela, and we’ve sort of set the stage for where we are arriving today. This particular bullying, and the use of sanctions to eventually intervene and make regime change really does not help the people of countries like Venezuela.”  

This was a consistent position for Rep. Omar, who declared Maduro the legitimate leader of the Venezuelan people in January. 

When I saw this, I couldn’t stay silent. Rep. Omar needed to be educated; she needed to see what I have seen on that Colombian bridge. I tweeted:

While Bernie Sanders has conceded that there are terrible things happening in Venezuela, he has repeatedly refused to label Maduro a dictator.

Sen. Sanders’ support for socialist dictators goes back a long way. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Bernie signed a letter supporting Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez in 2003.

The Washington Post recently published an expose on Bernie’s 1988 and 1989 trips to the Soviet Union and Cuba, where he praised the communist system even as these countries’ leaders were denying their own people basic human rights.

Bernie Sanders should know better. Since his trips to the USSR and Cuba, communism collapsed all across the Eastern Bloc and Cuba has continued to wither under the Castro dictatorship. History has shown that communism and socialism do not work. In their extreme – in places like Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua – these dangerous ideologies result in murder, starvation and despair. 

I hope we can put politics aside. I hope all our leaders on both sides of the aisle can recognize that some things are more important than scoring political points. This is about good versus evil. This is about human rights. This is about the basic humanity of all people, and the God-given right to live freely in possession of one’s own destiny.