With Venezuela on the brink of starvation and an economy that has gone from the richest in South America to a starving population, could new leadership in Brazil offer different solutions to the Venezuelan crisis? While it does not seem Jair Bolsonaro wants to intervene militarily in Venezuela, he does seem very willing to work with President Trump in ending the situation in Venezuela.

Background

Venezuela is a country on the brink of collapse, and a former shell of what was once the most prosperous country in Latin America. The economy has spiraled downward in the last few years with reports of massive starvation and inflation that is, according to the IMF, at 1,000,000 this year. Long lines for food and other basic goods, empty shelves at supermarkets, and a corrupt leadership has lead many to flee the country. However, countries such as Peru, Brazil, and Colombia can only do so much for the masses of migrants leaving the struggling country.

Brazil had to send troops in August to keep law and order after thousands of migrants started clashing with local residents. The problems of Venezuela do not only extend to its migrants fleeing by the millions, but also the failing healthcare system that has not stopped the spread of contagious diseases which are increasing at an alarming rate and spreading into neighboring countries. Diseases such as measles, malaria and diphtheria continue to spread rapidly in the country and pose a threat to neighboring countries and populations.

Peru and Colombia do not want a military solution to the problem, but have pressured the Maduro government to restore a more stable form of government. Peru is already past its maximum number of migrants it reportedly is capable of accepting, and has started to create new rules to regulate how many people can come in from Venezuela. Colombia is having many issues with migrants as well, and all of the countries surrounding the area are seeking a Venezuelan solution to the crisis.

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Possible Military Intervention in Venezuela from Bolsonaro?

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Brazil now has a new leader, Jair Bolsonaro, who has often been compared to Donald Trump and has taken many of the same views as the Trump administration. He has recently irked China with a visit to Taiwan, and has also recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He speaks freely and off script which has caused many to see his rhetoric as comparable in some of his remarks about certain social issues. He is often described as somewhat of a hardliner, and is a former Army Captain who has vowed to crack down on crime and corruption.

When asked about military intervention in Venezuela, he has stated that he does not want a military solution, but would prefer a more peaceful solution. However, recently, a newspaper in Brazil had suggested that a military alliance with Colombia is being considered by both countries. The newspaper Folha D. S. Paolo suggested, with an anonymous source, that Colombia has already proposed to Bolsonaro that military intervention could be a possible solution to the Venezuelan problem. Both Colombia and Bolsonaro have rejected the claim that a military solution was ever an option. In a recent TV interview, he stated, “Brazil will always search for peaceful means of resolving problems.” In regards to a possible military intervention, he stated also that currently there are no plans for a military intervention.

Will he work with President Trump regarding Venezuela?

From what we know between the two leaders, it seems on the surface that any coordinated effort between Brazil and the United States will put a lot of pressure on Maduro to relinquish power in favor of a democratic outcome. If the situation worsens there is little that the countries of South America could do to protest an overthrow of the Maduro government. Both Trump and Bolsonaro seem to share the same values for a range of issues and the comparisons between them — in both political outlook and other ways — seem to indicate that they share many attitudes for foreign policy; Israel and China being two on record where they share mutual political similarities. Could their attitude towards replacing the Venezuelan government also be a shared view?

With a new ally in South America who seems to be breaking away from the traditional politics of South America, Trump could have some extra support for other means of overthrowing the Maduro government. President Trump has reportedly been in talks with rebellious members of Venezuela’s military to help form a coup against the Maduro government. He has imposed sanctions against Maduro and high ranking members of his government, however, none of the sanctions have yet worked to topple the government, and the talks of helping a rebellion within the Venezuelan military never seemed to go anywhere. This could change with a powerful ally for Trump in the region.

The new leadership in Brazil could also be a big change to how South America deals with a corrupt Venezuelan government, particularly a declaration made from countries in South America called the Lima Group — which called for a non-intervention of the crisis in Venezuela. The group was held in Lima Peru in 2017 to declare their intention of non-violent and non-intervening solutions to the crisis. The signal they sent to the United States was that they wanted a non-military solution despite the large number of refugees and regional instability Venezuela was causing.  If coordinated properly between Trump and Bolsonaro, there is little the Lima Group countries could do to stop any intervention. This would most likely be a solution of last resort. One problem with this solution is the historic perception that the United States has with constantly intervening in South America. Many times after intervention, the problems it creates do come back to be blamed on the United States.

Although there are military options for overthrowing the Maduro government, the solution, so far, has seemed to be sanctions — with only talks of helping a coup to replace the government. The peaceful and democratic process of Venezuelans is the preferred means. However, with such a new powerful ally in place in Brazil for President Trump it seems there are more options…

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