Venezuela, despite oil wealth, is clearly faltering under their Hugo Chavez-designed socialist economic system, which the current ruler, Maduro, is unable to make work:
Venezuela is slipping toward a humanitarian crisis. News of its latest economic low point, or of President Nicolas Maduro's most recent political tantrum, tends to eclipse this slow-motion disaster. Yet the danger of a Venezuelan implosion is growing.
I know. An economic system designed by this man is imploding?
It boggles the mind, no?
The editors say that Venezuela's neighbors need to worry about chaos flowing out from a chaotic Venezuela.
But it might be worse. What if Maduro tries to rally his hungry and toilet paperless people with a foreign enemy?
It would be unwise to take on Colombia, whose armed forces are experienced after decades of war--that they are finally winning--with leftist/drug cartel insurgents.
A threat to Panama would not work out well since we retain an interest in protecting the canal.
Guyana is weak and Venezuela has a large territorial claim on them, but the Organization of American States would have to take notice of that kind of hemispheric violence.
And Brazil? It may be true that Brazil is the power of the future--and always will be--but they are still capable of drubbing Venezuela. And there is the OAS thing.
So who could Maduro target to distract his people and avoid angering a near power able to smash his armed forces?
I think the Dutch need to worry about defending the Dutch West Indies from Venezuela. I thought so back in 2007. And the case for capturing these Caribbean islands is stronger today.
Venezuela would gain traction with the claim that they are ending the last remnants of colonialism. So the OAS would likely be at least neutral.
NATO is now focused on Russia. Would the NATO reaction force risk coming to the Western Hemisphere?
Russia would be more likely to help Venezuela--if quietly--to harm a NATO nation and gain a bridgehead (militarily useless for Russia but good for image as a globe-spanning power).
And are the Dutch really better prepared than they were back then?
You never can tell whether Maduro will get tired of his Axis of El Vil Status and wants to make the jump to evil.
UPDATE: Things will go boom soon:
The larger answer is that this is the end game of Chavismo. For about a decade, some sectors of the left hoped that Hugo Chavez represented an alternative to the neoliberal consensus on economic policy. Every time I wrote that Chavez was in fact direly mismanaging the economy, diverting investment funds that were needed to maintain oil output into social spending, I knew that I could look forward to receiving angry e-mails and comments accusing me of trying to sabotage his achievements for the benefit of my corporatist paymaster. And in fairness (though without minimizing his appalling authoritarianism), those policies undoubtedly did improve the lives of some incredibly poor people.
My question is whether hyper-inflation will be replaced by hyper-nationalism. And who will be the target?
Maduro is stoking tension with Colombia, but it would be really stupid to tangle with their military.