American foreign policy has never been short of its Warhawks, and with The Trump Administration being no different, it has seen some of the dark figures of history return to the spotlight in prominent cabinet roles, most recently, Elliott Abrams. Abrams returned to the policial spotlight after a heated exchange with freshman congresswoman, Ilhan Ohmar, and while some had criticized the timing of Ohmars comments to Abrams, they do bring up the issue of American foreign policy and the effect it has had on its neighbors in Central and South America throughout the 20th and 21st century.
During her exchange, Ohmar brought up Abrams past involvement with the bloody civil wars that ravaged Latin America throughout much of the 1980s, at a time when the United States fought to keep hold of the influence it has had in the region since the early 19th century. While potentially not the most appropriate time to say her comments, it was necessary of Ohmar to bring up the former Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs past experience with human rights violations at a time when individuals with a similar attitude are guiding the Trump Administration’s strategy for foreign policy.
For those unfamiliar with Abrams, his role in American foreign policy gets its start shortly after the election of Ronald Reagan, as American influence in Latin America began to be threatened following a revolution in Nicaragua that saw the people overthrow the American-backed leader, Anastasio Somoza. As was the case for most America’s foreign policy throughout much of the Cold War, the Reagan administration was determined to contain the so-called “Communist” threat in the region, and it was at this juncture that Abrams first entered the fray.
Being nominated to the position of Assistant Secretary of State before taking on other roles, Abrams was to have much say over where American support in the region was to go, and often advocated for a full US invasion of Nicaragua before notoriously becoming involved in Oliver North’s Iran-Contra Affair. A strong supporter of the Contras and operating under the codename “Kenilworth,” Abrams was put in charge of a botched mission involving the Sultan of Brunei which saw him accidentally lose $10 million that was pledged for Contra support.
With Abrams also being a strong supporter of brutal Guatemalan President Efraín Ríos Montt, who ruled Guatemala from 1982 to 1983 and was found guilty of genocide by Guatemala’s justice system in 2013, he called for an end to the arms embargo on the country and praised Montt for the “considerable progress” he had brought to the country. Abrams also praised Montt for the way that his rule had impacted the countries indigenous population even though in 2013, the violence that these people faced during the civil war was a specific highlight of the genocide charges he faced.
After the Reagan Presidency ended and the investigation into the Iran-Contra affair had already begun, Abrams found himself faced with multiple felony charges but pleaded guilty to just two misdemeanor counts for lying to Congress about his involvement in the Iran-contra situation. The final sentencing of Abrams saw him accept charges that included a $50 fine, two years of probation, and 100 hours of community service, however, Abrams was pardoned by George H.W. Bush in 1992 and never faced the consequences for his involvement in Latin America.
Despite supporting the brutal regimes in Latin America and lying to Congress during his testimony, Abrams was ironically appointed Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations at the National Security Council in 2001 as part of the George W. Bush administration. During this time, Abrams was involved in the first attempted Venezuelan Coup that sought to oust, Hugo Chavez. He then went on to serve in additional posts throughout the department of national security, before leaving with the election of Barack Obama in 2009.
Abrams complicated past in overseeing the Reagan Administrations Latin American foreign policy makes the current situation in Venezuela even more worrisome from a human rights aspects, as a recently surfaced video already contradicts US claims that forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro had burned aid as it attempted to pass over an unused bridge from Columbia into Venezuela. In the video, American backed opposition protesters can be seen throwing Molotov Cocktails at the aid convoy, an act that seems all too familiar to chaotic destabilization techniques used by groups such as the American-backed Contras in the region during the Reagan Era.
Yet, Abrams is not the only Warhawk that has involved himself in the Trump administration, as both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Director of National Security John Bolton have beat the drums of war in the past when dealing with countries such as Iran and Cuba. This tone is also worrisome due to America’s previous track record of regime change being less than successful, as the intervention in Iraq helped to further the rise of ISIS, while the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya led to the return of the Slave Trade to the region.
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With individuals such as Abrams at the helm, it is clear that the United States does not have the best interests of the Venezuelan people at hand, instead, and as directly stated by John Bolton, The US is acting purely in pursuit of the countries vast oil reserves. This is dangerous due to both the size of the Venezuelan military, as well as its proximity to the United States mainland, two aspects that see Trump and his cronies dangerously flirting with a situation that could very well become another Iraq War.
America’s previous intervention in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador may well be a foreshadowing for the current situation underway in Venezuela, and it will be the innocent people who pay the price yet again. Whether you support the Maduro Government or the US-backed opposition, it is vital that the United States and all involved nations leave the outcome of the crisis to the Venezuelan people for the sake of saving innocent lives.