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Local View: U.S. should stop meddling in Venezuela

Why do we seem to think we rule the world? Why should we decide who other nations have for leaders or what their economic structure will be? No one elected us, but this is what we arrogantly are doing right now in Venezuela. The people of Venezuela will suffer for our interference.

Our country has a long history of intervening in the internal affairs of other countries. Our meddling often has resulted in suffering for the people of those countries. Supporting military dictators and overthrowing democratically elected leaders has led to people dying, disappearing, and becoming refugees. Local economies have been destabilized by economic sanctions. Civil wars have been prolonged by our taking sides. Guatemala in 1953, Chile in 1973, Nicaragua in 1979, El Salvador in the 1970s and '80s, and Honduras in 2009 are just a few of the more-disastrous U.S. interventions in Latin America. Seldom has our interference brought freedom, democracy, or prosperity.

Venezuela is unlikely to be different. Conflict with the U.S. began with the election of President Hugo Chavez in 1998. Chavez nationalized oil and steel production and challenged the domination and control of U.S. companies. He used oil revenues to fund health, education, housing, and social programs. The United States has never tolerated left-leaning governments in Latin America. "Socialist" leaders who limited foreign business interests, tried to control their natural resources, or shared the profits with the population were targeted for sanctions and covert actions.

The U.S. is now orchestrating "regime change" in Venezuela. Venezuela is a political and economic mess. Chavez's successor, Nicolas Maduro, is corrupt and authoritarian. Lower oil prices have dried up government revenues that sustained liberal social policies. Political and social unrest has become violent. But U.S. imposed economic sanctions and covert support for opposition groups also have contributed to the problems.

It is not our business to interfere, nor do we have the credibility to be an impartial arbiter.

Our meddling is also illegal under international law, and it violates our own values of national self-determination. As a member of the Organization of American States, the U.S. is required to respect the "sovereignty and independence" of other states. The Organization of American States charter also says member countries can "choose, without external interference, its political, economic, and social system." We would not tolerate other nations interfering with our affairs. Why do we interfere in theirs?

Veterans for Peace works to restrain our government from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Having learned from the tragedies of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we believe that violence, whether by military intervention or by economic sanctions, is not the way to resolve conflicts.

Our government should stop meddling in Venezuela. We should support negotiations and arbitration by neutral third parties.

We believe citizens cannot be silent when our government does what is wrong. We urge you to contact your representatives to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Venezuela.

Philip Anderson of Maple and John Clark Pegg of Duluth are members of Veterans for Peace Chapter 80 of Duluth-Superior. John Clark Pegg and Lyn Clark Pegg are members of Witness for Peace (witnessforpeace.org) and have led delegations from Duluth to Latin America to document the effects of U.S. foreign policy there.