Invasion of Venezuela in the works?

Things may be heating up in South America:

A top Colombian official told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo that its government will support Brazilian’s far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro if he wants to overthrow the socialist government of Venezuela.

According to Folha, a top diplomatic official said that “if [President-elect] Bolsonaro wants to help overthrow Maduro with a military intervention, he will have the support of Colombia.”

According to the anonymous source, Colombian President Ivan Duque and his political patron, the hard-right former President Alvaro Uribe, would agree with a military intervention.

“If it is [United States President Donald] Trump or Bolsonaro are the first to set foot in Venezuela, Colombia will follow suit without hesitation,” the diplomat told Folha. […]

Ivan Duque Colombia

Colombian president Ivan Duque

Colombia’s conservative President Ivan Duque, who is supported by the far-right in his own divided country, considers Maduro a “dictator” and has refused to rule out military intervention.

“Duque is confident that if such an operation is underway, with the involvement of Brazil, Colombia and perhaps the US, they will participate. The region can no longer bear a worsening of the Venezuelan diaspora,” said the source.

Regarding that diaspora, the Miami Herald reported in June:

Almost 1 million people from Venezuela are thought to have poured into neighboring Colombia in the last two years, amid a grinding economic, social and political crisis that has rattled the region.

On Wednesday, Colombian authorities said a nationwide census found that 442,462 Venezuelans are living in the country without proper documentation and 376,572 Venezuelans are in the country legally — for a total of 819,034. […]

The Venezuelan exodus is being felt throughout the hemisphere. According to the International Organization on Migration, there were at least 1.6 million Venezuelans living abroad in 2017 — up from 698,000 in 2015.

Venezuela exodus Columbia

Venezuelans looking for a better life in Colombia (Source)

On a possibly related note, the “Axis of Evil” has a successor in the Western Hemisphere:

Now the Trump administration has coined the term “Troika of Tyranny” to describe the group of oppressive Latin American dictators it is pledging to confront. The administration is right to call out the crimes of the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. But it remains to be seen whether the White House can deliver a comprehensive strategy to go along with the rhetoric.

National security adviser John Bolton gave a speech Thursday afternoon at the Freedom Tower in Miami to a crowd filled with people who fled Cuba and Venezuela to escape the cruelty and oppression of the Castro and Maduro regimes. Linking those situations with the escalating repression of the Daniel Ortega government in Nicaragua, Bolton promised a new, comprehensive U.S. approach that will ramp up U.S. involvement in pushing back against what the administration sees as a leftist, anti-democratic resurgence in the region.

Caution is needed here. The American public does not want another foreign war, and a major intervention in South America is guaranteed to be a multi-faceted disaster.

Daniel Ortega Nicolás Maduro

Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega

Bolsonaro

Right-wing populist nationalist Jair Bolsonaro, of the confusingly named Social Liberal Party, sweeps to victory as Brazil’s new president-elect, winning 56% of the votes in the runoff election against left-wing candidate Fernando Haddad. Brazil being the world’s fifth most-populous country (#2 in the Western Hemisphere), this is certainly a result worth noting.

Bolsonaro’s campaign slogan: “Brazil above everything, God above everyone.”

Andrew Fishman reports in The Intercept:

Bolsonaro, who has taken aim at the media throughout his campaign, chose to make his first statement after the election via Facebook Live, rather than a press conference. “We could not continue to flirt with socialism, communism, populism, and the extremism of the left,” he said. The broadcast was picked up by major TV networks, but repeatedly froze due to connection issues.

Brian Winter of Americas Quarterly provides a useful rundown of what, in his estimation, Bolsonaro’s victory means:

1. Bloodshed.

If there’s one thing Bolsonaro’s supporters and critics tend to agree on, it’s that upcoming months will bring an onslaught of death in Brazilian cities.

This is after all Bolsonaro’s number-one policy priority: relaxing laws and rules for security forces, allowing them to shoot first and ask questions later (to an even greater extent than today, considering police already kill 5,000 people per year). The goal is to intimidate or kill drug dealers, thieves and other criminals – and thus reverse the inexorable rise in crime since democracy returned to Brazil in 1985.

Bolsonaro sounds like a Brazilian Duterte. Of course, Brazil already has plenty of bloodshed, with “a homicide epidemic that killed a record 63,880 people in 2017,” as Winters notes.

2. Pro-business economic policy. […]

3. Near-total alignment with the Trump administration.

As stated above, the United States has become a kind of North Star for Bolsonaro and his acolytes – so much so that the candidate even saluted the American flag and chanted “USA! USA!” with the crowd at a campaign event in Miami last October.

This would have been career suicide for virtually any other Brazilian candidate over the past 30 years. But in today’s climate, supporting the U.S. has become a kind of code for rejection of the ideological left, which governed Brazil from 2003-16 and led the country into its current disaster. […]

This will play well with Bolsonaro’s base, and put Brazil more firmly in line with other South American governments. Argentina, Colombia, Chile and (arguably) Peru are also now run by center-right presidents who have aligned themselves with Trump, although with less enthusiasm than Bolsonaro likely will.

4. Erosion of democracy and its norms.

Here, again, there can be no mistake – Bolsonaro despises democracy, at least the version that has been practiced in Brazil over the past 30 years.

And the promised End of History, having failed to arrive everywhere from Cambodia to Spain, continues to recede into the misty distance…

Having said that:

It’s worth mentioning that he may not have to [ignore or trample democratic practices and norms to get his way]. The outcome of Sunday’s election means Bolsonaro will be dealing with a far more pliant Congress than previously expected, especially if he wins the runoff by a healthy margin and has a strong mandate. Much of the judiciary may also support him.

Here’s Reuters on Bolsonaro’s policy platform.

Bolsonaro Facebook

President-Elect Bolsonaro makes first public statement on Facebook Live