Photo: Cristian Hernández / NYT retrieved

In a short article for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s main newspaper, Ben Rowswell, the current president of the Canadian International Council (focused on strengthening the role of Canada in foreign policy) states that the crisis in Venezuela is turning into a sort of proxy conflict between the United States and Russia, a geopolitical standoff with millions of lives in the middle.

“Outside Venezuela, events are viewed through the prism of power politics, each development a gain or a loss for world powers. As if the campaign to prevent abuses of U.S. power tomorrow mattered more than the lives of individual Venezuelans threatened today. As if Russia’s efforts to prop up yet another unloved dictator mattered more than the largest mass migration in the history of Latin America.”

The crisis in Venezuela is turning into a sort of proxy conflict between the United States and Russia, a geopolitical standoff with millions of lives in the middle.

Rowswell is used to the way the dice roll in Venezuela. He was the Canadian Ambassador to the country from 2014 to 2017, so he experienced first-hand how a domestic crisis, born out of corruption and mismanagement, transmuted into a regional emergency with global implications, something unseen in Latin America since the last years of the Cold War.

A war that, all things considered, seems to not have ended at all.

The Venezuelan crisis is also an ideological battlefield where, in Rowswell words, the Left expects to finally halt the ambitions of the U.S., and the Right expects to unmask socialism’s evil nature for the nth time. Trapped in the middle are the Venezuelans who keep dying and suffering on the ground.  

“While those debates rage on, surely we can find common ground in a shared concern for the human impact of the crisis. The middle-aged woman from Valencia who had to carry her deceased teenager to the morgue in her arms because the hospital had no transport doesn’t care if the left or the right prevails. Let us focus on her needs instead.”

A situation like this tests how committed the world really is to responding to human rights abuses, and to enforce the set of rules known as Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a concept recently popularized by the most vocal defenders of a foreign military resolution to our crisis.

Rowswell says that R2P must be applied in Venezuela through a series of diplomatic, political and humanitarian measures that help alleviate the suffering of Venezuelans, while paving the ground for a peaceful resolution. He goes further, saying that “as we embrace the responsibility to protect Venezuelan lives, we should loudly and explicitly rule out armed action” while stating that the coordinated action of the Lima Group next to the International Contact Group, made mostly of European countries, should lead to a mediated resolution.

A situation like this tests how committed the world really is to responding to human rights abuses, and to enforce the set of rules known as Responsibility to Protect.

Rowswell’s words are those of a diplomat and a wise man. No one wants a long armed conflict that prolongs Venezuela’s misery to uncertain lengths, and the mere fact that this possibility is being considered is a reminder of how destructive the Bolivarian Revolution has been and how badly Venezuelans need it to end. Sadly, the people with the power to make this peaceful resolution happen seem to lack Rowswell’s wisdom. They’ve repeatedly shut the door to negotiated solutions, proving to be too ambitious to make the most basic concessions, and deciding instead to prop the failed, tyrannical state that made them rich and powerful, at the expense of its people’s misery.

These people have managed to turn a military intervention that seemed extremely unlikely two years ago, into a still small, but increasingly real possibility. To the most desperate, it’s also the only real alternative.

It’s really up to them to protect the innocent they claim to love.

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