Responsibility to Protect

Nobody is allowed to commit crimes against humanity or genocide. They are international crimes and they are never prescribed. Furthermore, states have the responsibility to protect their citizens from these crimes. In 2005 the world community decided that if a state fails to protect its citizens from crimes against humanity, genocide, ethnic cleansing or war crimes, the international community has a responsibility to protect, and that the UN Security Council has a right to decide to intervene and override the sovereignty of that country.

But what to do if a state itself commits crimes against humanity or genocide, and the international community fails to act? Clearly as individuals we the people still have a moral obligation to act. When faced by a situation like the one in Venezuela, where the regime deliberately is starving its people to try to stave off a rebellion (like Stalin did in Ukraine in 1932/33, the original Holodomor), a situation where people have to choose between dying of starvation or taking up arms against the regime, and the regime is armed to its teeth while the population was disarmed years ago, plus the regime uses heavily armed criminal gangs called “colectivos” to spread terror against those who protest for food, what options do we in the civil society have?

All non-violent methods have already been tried, but non-violence does not work against a regime that does not care if dissidents die. In 2010 Franklin Brito went on a hunger strike until he died and what did the regime do?, they made sure he died. In 2014 unarmed people protested all over the country and the regime used live ammo, which provoked a response by criminals (the only civilians with guns). Apparently unreported by media, 55 soldiers were shot during the “non-violent” protests in legitimate self defense. How many of these soldiers were Cubans is not known, only that Cuba sent 60,000 troops to quell the rebellion.

The Venezuelan people is fully aware that the only way to get out from this tyranny is through the use of force, but they also realize that the regime advantage in weapons and armaments is a hundred to one or a thousand to one. It’s one of the worlds heaviest armed regimes, a criminal regime, against a population that does not even have the right to own weapons (although many criminals do anyway). So its criminals against criminals, with those wanting peace and the rule of law having no power whatsoever. Because they allowed themselves to be disarmed.

The first lesson is of course that The People should always make sure that they have a legal right to own weapons, to prevent tyranny. In my opinion hunting rifles that can function as sniper rifles is the best protection because they allow for the creation of a home guard milicia, and at the same time they are virtually useless for criminals. In places high in crimes they can also work for home defense with appropriate light load ammunition to prevent over-penetration. I’m talking bolt action or single-shot, not semi-automatic. For close encounters the milicia could use semi-automatic pistols, but since they are very sought-after by criminals it would make sense to restrict them more. The milicia could instead use pump-action shotguns, another weapon useful for home defense but of little use to criminals. An armed citizenry is crucial as a way to prevent internal enemies from taking over the country.

However, in the case of Venezuela this discussion comes too late. They already allowed themselves to be disarmed and invited the Devil by voting for Chávez in 1998. They are already facing crimes against humanity from their own (illegitimate to be sure) regime, including arbitrary detentions, torture, disappearances, assassinations, Holodomor (genocide by starvation) and Holodolencia (genocide by denying basic health services and medicines). The forces of repression include the police, the national guard (part of the military), and the Venezuelan version of the brownshirts, the colectivos, fanatics who ride on bikes and spread terror. They are used for propaganda reasons, to avoid pictures of uniformed personnel committing those acts of terror. The propaganda is a key ingredient in the regime’s arsenal, and it is used to avoid that the international community acts against its crimes against humanity.

In 2014 the non-violent uprising that was met with military force did not ebb out until the civilians ran out of ammunition. For over a month they had control over one state in Venezuela, Táchira. When the regime re-took control it was a full military operation with tanks, close air support, the works. The resistance still bills it as a non-violent uprising because it was not their choice to make it an armed conflict.

Now, starting last Tuesday, June 14th, the resistance called for rebellion again, with the call coming from Cumaná, Sucre state. This time everyone is clear that the rebellion must be armed and that the colectivos must be met with deadly force. The instructions to the civilians include to barricade themselves in their homes and to meet any intruder with force, colectivo or national guard, because they know from experience that their intent is to kidnap, torture, and murder.

In this situation the international community has a difficult choice: Do nothing and watch people being exterminated, or break the law to help them.

The OAS is prohibited from intervening, so the Democratic Charter is a paper tiger. And even so, it may not be activated since so many countries in the Caribbean area are political prostitutes who vote to defend the genocidal regime in Caracas, taking Venezuelan blood money.

The UN Security Council is the only international organ that is authorized to call for intervention, that is, actions that violate the national sovereignty. Note that even the air drop of food to starving people violates the national sovereignty. But it may be necessary very soon, since the regime is firm about not allowing humanitarian aid (it is also forbidden to send food or medicines to the country, if it is found in shipments it is confiscated and destroyed). But the UNSC is very unlikely to vote for such a resolution since China and Russia are traditional allies of the regime, and both have veto power.

This leaves only one avenue for international assistance and that is to smuggle help into the country. The things they need for survival are food and medical supplies, and to defeat the regime they also need ammunition as a minimum. But here one runs into ITAR, the rules prohibiting arms trafficking. So the unarmed and defenseless people can not be helped by the international community because of rules that were designed to prevent the bad guys from getting weapons. In this case, when the bad guys are in power, the rules instead help the bad guys commit crimes against humanity.

My conclusion is that the international community has a responsibility to protect the people of Venezuela and that this justifies certain violations of ITAR, since obeying by all the ITAR prohibitions of arms smuggling would aid and assist a Crime Against Humanity.