Normally México, geopolitically, looks inward. Its few forays into international diplomatic advocacy, external to national concerns, has frequently resulted in internal problems for México. The Mexican government is dominated by the doctrine of a country’s right to self-determination. However, in the case of Venezuela, the Mexican government has undertaken the leadership for Latin America and the world in condemning the Venezuelan government’s rights abuses and deteriorating democratic institutions. The United States’ government is the only other country strongly advocating against the Venezuelan deteriorating situation.
Mexico’s foray into the Venezuela situation is the result of Donald Trump.
The Mexican government has awoken to the realization that it cannot rely on the U.S. for its future. México needs to forge closer ties with other countries. To do so, geopolitically, México needs to start asserting itself more at the international level. México needs to start acting more like the 11th largest economy in the world.
On a more practical level, México sees the Venezuela conundrum as an important element in Mexico’s 2018 elections.
Both the PAN and the PRI fear a rise of the political left in the upcoming elections. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, has been rising in the polls because of the Mexican people’s animosity towards Donald Trump. AMLO represents a strong Mexican left modeled after the Venezuelan Bolivian Revolution undertaken by Hugo Chavez and further strengthened by Nicolás Maduro.
AMLO has been mounting a grassroots campaign, much like Bernie Sanders, for many years now. His political rhetoric wants to empower the Mexican left, under the leftist rhetoric of funding inward benefits and projects with national resources while moving away from global trade. AMLO wants to be Mexico’s Nicolás Maduro.
The problem, as amply demonstrated by Venezuela, is that an inward economy is not sustainable over the long-term, especially because Mexico’s natural resources are no longer its largest export.
Former PAN president, Vicente Fox, was declared a persona non-grata by the Maduro government in July, banning Fox from returning to Venezuela. Fox was accused by the Maduro government of inciting political discord during his recent visit there to observe a referendum.
The Enrique Peña Nieto government has been leading an effort at Organization of American States (OAS) to reign in the Maduro government. It is an effort led by the internal necessity of curtailing AMLO’s rising popularity and to a lesser extent of asserting México on the world stage.
The Russian Connection
Russia, again, is part of the dynamic. In 2006, the United States government banned military weapons sales to Venezuela. Russia, as well as China to a lesser extent, filled the void. If Trump follows through on his military threat, the U.S. military would be facing Russian weapons systems and Chinese logistics. But, the Venezuelan military is nonetheless a paper military. It boasts fighter jets, like the Russian SU-30 and missiles, but it lacks the capability to use them effectively over the long term. Venezuela’s military ranks behind Mexico’s in terms of the overall ability to defend the national territory from the number one military in the world. It is also unclear how far the Venezuelan military will back the Maduro regime when faced with the destruction of its power. However, Donald Trump’s threat has empowered the Nicolás Maduro regime over the short term, and possibly over the long term.
The Donald Trump Threat
The problem with the Trump threat to deploy the U.S. military in Venezuela is that Trump clearly does not understand the optics of the threat in the eyes of the Venezuelan people. Like Mexicans, Venezuelans look at the United States foreign adventures in Latin America as regime-changing military interventions designed to expand the United States worldview upon Venezuelan politics. American imperialism expands nationalism and trumps internal politics in Venezuela when it comes to the threat of a U.S. military intervention. Hugo Chavez, and now, Nicolás Maduro have been pointing to a U.S. intervention for the cause of the destruction of the economic in Venezuela and the need to impose dictatorial policies.
Donald Trump’s threat of military intervention played directly into the hands of the Maduro regime. It has also forced the Brazilian and Mexican governments to decry the threat, weakening México’s overture towards resolving the Venezuelan crisis, further empowering the Maduro regime.
The Venezuelan crisis may seem distant to U.S. voters but it easily reaches into Washington politics and affects U.S. voters.