When Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council this week that “enough is enough” and “we need to do something”, she was not suggesting that Tomahawk missiles should soon rain down on Venezuela or marines land on its beaches. Nonetheless her words formed part of a growing chorus for tougher action, including persistent rumours of perhaps military escalation, fuelled by growing international outrage over Venezuela’s refugee and social crises, and frustration over the entrenched regime’s authoritarianism. “We’ve been talking about Venezuela for a long time,” said Ms Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations.
“Now we need to do something.” Donald Trump, the US president, has repeatedly suggested the idea of military action, but US officials as well as Latin American leaders reject the idea. Jim Mattis, US defence secretary, said last month that Venezuela’s crisis is “not a military matter”. Nonetheless, rumours continue to rumble, fed by domestic political considerations in Venezuela and the US. “There is a sense of ground being seeded, at least at the UN,” said Diego Arria, a former Venezuelan ambassador to the UN, who advocates the idea of “humanitarian intervention” backed by an Inter-American task force.
“But if anything or whatever happens, it will not be until after the US November midterms.” Ricardo Hausmann, the respected Harvard economist and a former Venezuelan planning minister, outlined the controversial idea in January. Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s president, who presides over a hyperinflation-ravaged economy, has faced repeated coup attempts by disgruntled army officers, according to a series of reports, but each has been thwarted with the help of Cuban intelligence advisers. Most recently, an attempted assassination by drone failed in Caracas on August 4.