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Juan Guaido, the answer is still no

Social media in and outside of Venezuela has blown up with many calling for a US military intervention. While that is completely understandable, it's also completely wrong.
John Feeley was US Ambassador to Panama and is a Univision political analyst.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who many nations have recognized as the country's rightful interim ruler, stands on a truck carrying humanitarian aid for Venezuela, in Cucuta, Colombia, on Feb. 23, 2019. Crédito: Marco Bello/Reuters

Late last night, after a day of valor yet frustration at not seeing humanitarian assistance get past the Maduro regime’s military blockades to his desperate countrymen, Venezuela’s legitimate interim president Juan Guaido tweeted the following:

“Today’s developments oblige me to make a decision: to put formally before the international community the issue of whether we should keep open all options in order to achieve the liberation of this homeland that fights and will keep on fighting.”

No reading between the lines is necessary. Guaido is considering asking the United States to invade his country in order to topple the dictator Nicolas Maduro and his henchman. Social media in and outside of Venezuela has blown up overnight with many calling for just such a military option to put a rapid end to Venezuela’s two-decade slide into desperation and depravity.

These cries for a US invasion force are completely understandable. They are also completely wrong.

No tyrannical leadership in history has ever simply walked away from power. Power must be wrested from those who use it to subjugate and abuse a population. However, the how of that removal of power is more important than the when in terms of the day after.

The nominal shell of democratic governance given to a population at the pointy end of a foreign invader’s rifle rarely works out well. Just look at Iraq, where then-U.S vice president Cheney famously predicted that U.S. forces would be welcomed as liberators. Hardly.

Yesterday, February 23, Guaido and his courageous cohort of Venezuela democrats and volunteers created a new reality in the eastern plains of Colombia and along Venezuela’s border with Brazil . They proved that they could rally the logistical support of the United States and the 14 countries of the Lima Group.

The images of their violent confrontations that whisked around the world demonstrated beyond a doubt their courage and commitment to feed and heal their country. They suffered casualties and watched as Maduro’s troops savagely burned a truckload of the aid.

In a David and Goliath scenario, when met with bullets they threw rocks and protected their own. That should convince even the most callous observer that Venezuela does not lack for patriots.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and others sit far away from those front lines, correctly supporting interim president Guaido, but threatening the deployment of the 82 ndairborne. They are too eager. They have forgotten history.

They have not learned from previous U.S invasions what happens the day after. What if Maduro is not caught immediately? Do U.S. Special Operations forces then conduct manhunts throughout the country in Saddam Hussein-style operations?

Will a small American invasion force be able to feed the hungry, heal the sick, bury the dead and assume the reigns of local government, while a proper crisis stabilization and response force is ramped up over months?

When Maduro’s militias rampage through neighborhoods and the U.S. military does not stop them, will Venezuelans blame themselves? Or will it be the beefy invaders in U.S. camouflage uniforms who bear the brunt of ordinary Venezuelans’ frustrated rage?

As the Lima Group and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence sit down with Gauido on Monday in Bogota, several things should happen.

First, there should be a recognition that Guaido successfully defied a house arrest warrant and traveled safely across the border. This could not have been accomplished had the Venezuelan military been monolithically committed to enforcing Maduro’s orders.

Second, leaders should note the 60 deserters from Maduro’s forces on the first day of action. With repeated attempts to deliver assistance there could be many more.

Third, Guaido should make clear that no liberation struggle is over in a single day. It took 'Chavismo' two decades to break Venezuela; it will take a while to regain her by a popular uprising of Venezuelans. But it will be Venezuelans and not U.S. paratroopers who retake Miraflores palace.

Some say that Venezuela is not a country of heroes. They allege that because the walls of repression didn’t tumble down on day one, the only option left is to ask the 'gringos' to do it for them. I do not accept that proposition. The American colonists fought and died for freedom.

Ghandi and Mandela lost far more battles and skirmishes than they won. Polish and Romanian and Baltic citizens toppled dictatorial regimes and their puppets without U.S. forces firing a shot in those countries.

Why can’t Venezuelans, supported by the United States and their brother Latinos, be allowed the same privilege to struggle and liberate their nation? And yes, possibly die trying. I think Guaido personally knows that some things are worth dying for. Now the international community must echo his courage and principle and remind all Venezuelans that there are no shortcuts to owning your own destiny.