Making the Americas Great Again

President Theodore Roosevelt left a legacy of a strong America. His brave and in some cases daring foreign policy put the U.S. on the map as a powerful proud new superpower, making America (to use contemporary terminology) “Great". Likewise, President Lincoln understood America’s role in the world, describing the U.S. as, “the last best hope”. More recently, however, a withdrawn and cautious America seems to have lost its moral compass. America stands idly by while the Venezuelan people is trampled upon by a socialist dictatorship. Therefore, this is not just a geopolitical issue, nor is it just regional security at stake. It’s an issue of right versus wrong. Hope must triumph over fear and despair.

Today, Venezuela is suffering from the worst economic, political, and humanitarian crisis in its history. Women sell their hair at the borders to be able to afford diapers and food. Malnutrition is causing scores of infant deaths every day and the miscarriage rate is at a heart wrenching high.

Here in America, we used to receive photos of our beautiful new nieces and nephews, grandchildren and god children. Now we receive far too many teary phone calls from loved ones comprised of tragic tales of fatalities

In fact, the entire health system is collapsing. Four out of five hospitals suffer from major deficiencies and a complete lack of professional personnel and medicinal resources. It is common not to find any basic medication and surgical materials in your local medical center, while the majority of operating rooms and intensive care units are now out of service. Without antibiotics, bacteria take over wards, making it often more dangerous for the injured and sick to go to the hospital in the first place. Rotting flesh, emaciated bodies, and blood stained wards; this is contemporary Venezuelan medicine.

And if you’re not starving or dying waiting for basic medical care, maybe the violence will get you. Rule of law is a thing of the past. Three of Venezuela’s major cities are among the most violent worldwide, with Caracas leading the pack. The government stopped publishing the embarrassing and shocking homicide figures a long time ago, but reports from the major cities suggest that at least 300 people are murdered every week in Venezuela, and over 90 percent of those cases never make it to the courts.

Then there are those basic freedoms we have learned to take for granted in America. Dissidents in Venezuela are persecuted, threatened, jailed and tortured for speaking up against the government. There are currently over one hundred political prisoners locked up arbitrarily by the regime. Many face long trials, and in some cases torture to break them psychologically. One particular student is young Danny Gabriel Abreu Abreu who has been incarcerated brutally without trial since August 2015. Any semblance of Venezuelan Democracy is therefore dead. No life. No liberty. And certainly, no pursuit of happiness.

In theory, there is a constitutional mechanism for change in the form of a recall referendum to oust the president. However, the Venezuelan regime has suspended the legal petition process through its control over the electoral and judicial branches. The voice of millions has been silenced with dictatorial red tape.

Meanwhile, countries and international organizations have offered to send humanitarian aid to relieve the suffering of Venezuelans; but the regime refuses it. And if there wasn’t enough to worry about, Venezuela continues to support terrorism, providing safe-havens for Hezbollah members and other Islamist terrorists, right in America’s backyard. This is no longer just about the people of Venezuela. This a moral struggle against a Socialist dictatorship supporting Islamist terrorists; a truly evil regime in the heart of the Western hemisphere.

Therefore, at the Venezuelan American Leadership Council in Washington, we believe this will be President Trump’s first foreign policy opportunity to really Make America Great Again. What could be greater than standing up to a Socialist menace who openly mocks the United States? During the presidential campaign, candidate Trump said that Venezuela was a “beautiful, vibrant, and resource-rich country which had been hurt very badly by its government” and that he would “stand in solidarity with the oppressed people of Venezuela”. It is time to put words into action, taking a lead at home, at the Organization of American States and at the UN to help defeat this evil regime.

In the foreign policy world we are often reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote that leaders should “speak softly but carry a big stick”. During this period of unparalleled crisis in Venezuela, we urge the new administration quite simply, to carry a big stick.

Martin Rodil is the President of Venezuelan American Leadership Council