Rep. Adam Kinzinger: Venezuelan people need US support as they seek freedom

Americans woke up Tuesday to a call for freedom from the Venezuelan people. Russia, China and Cuba also got a call – but from the regime of disputed President Nicolas Maduro.

How we answer the call and how our leaders and the public respond will determine how America defends its values and the future of our hemisphere.

I understand it can be difficult to relate to the problems of foreigners – of "them," of people "far away" and sometimes on the opposite end of the world. But if proximity is the measuring stick that's used to determine if the U.S. should care or become involved, then it should become easier for all of us to appreciate the dire need for U.S. leadership in our very own hemisphere – just across the Caribbean, in our own backyard.

VENEZUELA SEES SECOND DAY OF UNREST AS GUAIDÓ SEEKS POWER

The disastrous crisis in Venezuela, which is just over 1,000 miles from the U.S., should therefore be a cause for grave concern. The humanitarian situation worsens by the day.

The people are famished – reportedly hunting dogs, cats, pigeons and rats to avoid death by starvation. Their currency, the Bolivar, is now worthless. The people are throwing their money away in the streets. Even if their money had buying power, there is no food left to buy.

To make matters worse, these starving people have taken to the streets in protest, but are now being attacked by their own military at the command of an illegitimate authoritarian leader being propped up by authoritarian regimes in Russia, China and Cuba.

America won the Cold War. However, Russia, China and Cuba still want to see socialist authoritarianism prevail in Venezuela and the rest of the world.  

The U.S. didn’t create this situation, nor did we wish to see it devolve into this dire state of affairs. But to those who oppose any and all military intervention, I’m sorry to say that such intervention has already occurred.

The U.S. has partially lifted decades of sanctions and a trade embargo on Cuba. But Cuba appears to be thanking us not by engaging in constructive international dialogue and trade – as hoped –but by exporting authoritarianism and misery.

There are upwards of 25,000 Cuban soldiers and agents in Venezuela sent by the Cuban government to support Maduro against opposition leader Juan Guaidó and the people fighting for freedom in the streets.

Russia has deployed mercenaries, military advisers, and intelligence officials – in unknown numbers but reportedly in the hundreds – to ensure Maduro's Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems remain operational.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t send his men in to aid the defenses of the Venezuelan people; he only seeks to weaken the United States and create a quagmire that divides us. The longer Maduro stays in power, the weaker the U.S. and the Western world become.

China has been aiding the Maduro regime for some time with tens of billions of dollars in loans in exchange for oil.

The controversial Chinese tech giant ZTE was contracted to create a national identification system for Venezuela, designed primarily to control nearly every facet of life for Venezuelans, including through the use of behavior ratings. This is the same plan Chinese President Xi Jinping has for his own citizens.

If this were not abhorrent enough, these same Chinese nationals are now reportedly responsible for the social media and Internet blackouts meant to stifle Guaidó and his supporters. Guaidó is recognized by the U.S. and more than 50 other nations as Venezuela’s rightful president.

What do Cuban leader Raul Castro, Putin and Xi have in common? What benefit might they receive for supporting Maduro while those he purports to govern cry for freedom in the streets as they hold their starving loved ones?

Castro, Putin and Xi stand to gain significant political and military clout in Venezuela to undermine order and stability in the Western Hemisphere and – most importantly to the average citizen – they hope to undermine democratic values that define the free world.

America won the Cold War. However, Russia, China and Cuba still want to see socialist authoritarianism prevail in Venezuela and the rest of the world.

If the political or humanitarian crises have not been enough to spur action from the U.S., it’s time to consider the very real and significant security threats. And we cannot just sit idly by and hope that the situation will be resolved by the Venezuelan people. Russia, Cuba and China will make that impossible.

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The future is being determined today – not only for Venezuela, but for our hemisphere. From the American founders to the freedom fighters in Venezuela, the fight has never been easy.

I believe Americans will decide our values deserve defending, especially this close to home, and that we will provide the counterbalance to the involvement of Russia, China and Cuba.

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