- Trump has repeatedly expressed interest in taking military action in Venezuela.
- Experts and officials from around the region have rebuffed such action, with some comparing it to the invasion of Iraq.
- But others have held out military action, as part of a collective response, as an option of last resort.
But in the year since the US has kept pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, punishing dozens of officials with sanctions but sparing others in a gambit to stoke tensions in Caracas.
Trump has reportedly pressed his advisers and Latin American leaders about military action, citing what he believed to be past successful US-led interventions, and officials from his administration met with, but ultimately rebuffed, Venezuelan officials looking for help to depose Maduro.
In recent weeks, voices outside the White House have invoked US military action an option to address a crisis that has only worsened.
In late August, a day after meeting with national-security adviser John Bolton, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio — a close Trump adviser on Latin American issues — said he believed Venezuela had become a destabilizing force.
“I believe that the armed forces of the United States are only used in the case of a threat to national security,” Rubio said, adding that he believed there was a “very strong” argument that “Venezuela and the Maduro regime have become a threat to the region and to the United States.”
The region has taken some action to isolate Maduro, but the idea of US intervention has been widely rejected.
Government repression and deepening misery in Venezuela warrant a push for political change, according to Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“But US military intervention is not the way to do it,” O’Neil argued this month. “Venezuela isn’t Grenada or Panama, the two Latin American countries invaded by the US during the closing days of the Cold War.”
Such action would require a US commitment on the scale of the invasion of Iraq, a country half the size of Venezuela with slightly more people.
“Any invasion requires preparations on a similar scale, meaning a 100,000-plus force,” O’Neil writes.
Polling indicates US troops wouldn’t be welcomed in Venezuela, O’Neil said, and political divides and deteriorated infrastructure mean any recovery effort would be a long one.
Retired US Navy Adm. James Stavridis, who led US Southern Command, said this month that the “Trump administration needs to avoid anything that smacks of unilateral US military action.”
The US should instead boost interagency coordination and encourage greater involvement by other countries, Stavridis said.
“All of the major countries of the hemisphere, particularly Venezuela’s immediate neighbors, need to coordinate and come to an agreement on an appropriate response today and if and how to escalate that response if necessary in the future,” James Bosworth, founder of political-risk-analysis firm Hxagon, told Business Insider.
“The US should definitely not act alone.”
‘Too late and too innocent’
While many argue against unilateral US action, military action in some form has been held out as an option.
During a visit this month to Cucuta — ground zero for Venezuelan migration into Colombia — Luis Almargo, head of the Organization of American States, accused Maduro of crimes against humanity and argued for keeping military action on the table.
“With respect to a military intervention to overthrow Nicolas Maduro’s regime, I don’t think any option should be ruled out,” Almargo said. “Diplomatic actions should be the first priority but we shouldn’t rule out any action.”
Almargo later acknowledged there was little appetite for intervention but stressed that the responsibility-to-protect doctrine obligated the international community to respond, citing the case of Rwanda as a failure do so.
Francisco Santos, Colombia’s ambassador to the US, echoed Almargo a few days later, stressing the need for a collective response. (Colombian President Ivan Duque, a hardliner on Venezuela, has said US intervention “is not the way.”)
“But we believe, and let me be very clear, that all the options should be considered,” Santos said, calling for more pressure on Maduro. “It is already too late and too innocent to think that this will be solved without a change of regime.”
‘Almost nobody wants a military intervention’
Given Maduro’s abuses — including repressing peaceful protest and using access to food to control the public — Almargo was correct to say the responsibility-to-protect doctrine held out military action if other responses fail, Bosworth said.
But that doctrine calls for a “collectively coordinated effort” and is clear that non-military options to protect Venezuelans “are preferred and must be attempted first,” he added.
“Almost nobody wants a military intervention in Venezuela. It’s unfortunate that we’ve wasted the last few weeks arguing over whether intervention is ‘on the table’ … rather than discussing other non-military ways to pressure Maduro,” Bosworth said.
“Those non-military options are where we should be focused right now.”
Others in the region have expressed a continued commitment to a peaceful solution.
In a statement issued after Almargo’s comments, 11 of 14 members of the Lima Group, formed in 2017 to address the situation in Venezuela, rejected military action and reiterated its commitment to a “peaceful and negotiated” resolution. (Colombia did not sign the statement, thought it said it agreed with its “purposes.”)
In Uruguay, where Almargo was foreign minister, the government and the opposition united to reject intervention.
“If there is a word that Uruguay detests,” said Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, “it’s intervention.”
Brazil also distanced itself from Almargo.
“We don’t see [as] viable any other type of mechanism, like the use of military means or force, in order to solve the problem of Venezuela,” Brazil’s defense minister said this week.
Geoff Ramsey, assistant director of the Venezuela program at the Washington Office on Latin America, said discussing intervention was likely to change little in Caracas.
“I think those pushing this rhetoric know it’s an empty threat, but for some reason think it’s a useful pressure tactic,” Ramsey said on Twitter.
Venezuela’s government likely doesn’t buy into US threats, as Caracas “is not ignorant” of how unpopular such action would be at home, he added.
While resistance to action on the ground in Venezuela remains widespread, the Trump administration has promised more action to isolate Maduro’s government.
“You’ll see in the coming days a series of actions that continue to increase the pressure level against the Venezuelan leadership folks, who are working directly against the best interest of the Venezuelan people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.
Pompeo did not elaborate but said the US is “determined to ensure that the Venezuelan people get their say.”
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.