Venezuela 2020

Updated: Feb 5

Rudy Atencio

U.S. Congressional TX CD7 (R) 2022



Venezuela’s instability threatens American interests and a wicked problem to the geopolitical region in that its crumbling infrastructure poses a risk for a regional outbreak of malaria (Casey 2016). Similarly, the political climate may function to conceal terrorist networks and drug cartels, threatening national security as unemployment has surged due to a crumbling economy. A recommendation for mobilizing funds to a multilateral non-profit organization like the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) using USAID as the primary source for funding. Because the U.S. serves as a primary source of income for the re-development of impoverished states, funding should be allocated in order to subvert the rise of new geopolitical problems in the region (Sachs 2005).

 A Venezuelan philanthropic mission could rally community driven re-development, leading to a more sustainable community, addressing the malaria outbreak, while doubling as an intelligence surveillance unit infused with covert agents in order to reduce the risk posed by terrorist organizations breeding out of the growing disparities felt between the controlling party and its citizens (Casey 2016). An effect felt from a robust sustainable infrastructure would, increase regional security widening the bargaining range for U.S. driven multilateral negotiations in the region (Muthoo 2000). Averting a prisoner’s dilemma would subvert the defection of the highly mistrustful Venezuelan regime from cooperating in the subversion of the disease outbreak (Jervis 1978).

There is a perception that the United States has used foreign aid in order to meddle in the domestic policies of its recipients. Thus domestic institutions often couple foreign aid in the form of USAID under the conditions that intelligence be gathered as a concession to senatorial approval (Downs 1988). What makes Venezuela’s situation a wicked problem is that because most of Venezuela’s thriving middle class has been driven out of the country the crumbling infrastructure has led to a massive outbreak of malaria. Also, the complicated nature of funding disaster relief via USAID, may deepen the paradox of this wicked issue, in that in trying to solve malaria, multilateral organizations funded by foreign aid, has both domestic as well as international barriers whereby foreign aid is often times met with resistance by foreign government officials.  

Also, the lack of a democracy in Venezuela, means that there is a lack of infrastructure and thriving middle class, thus there may also be a need for a second non-profit like the National Democratic Institute or (NDI) funded through USAID in order to redevelop Venezuela’s democracy, in that infusing Venezuela with democratic ideals via a non-profit would decrease the likelihood that the U.S. and Venezuela would become entangled in a global conflict as democracies tend to not war with each other. Using philanthropic multilateral networks like PADF, coupled with NDI could enhance the quality of democracy (Milner 2013), leading to the redevelopment of Venezuela’s fallen middle class. While also dealing with the current healthcare risk posed by malaria due to crumbling infrastructure.


During the cold war, beginning with the Kennedy administration and spanning well into the Reagan years, the United States used foreign aid for advancing democracies and thus, this proposition aims at deploying multilateral aid respectively, in order to confront the wicked problems involved in the outbreak of malaria, which actually stems from an inability for Venezuela to maintain an adequate healthcare system. One of the first hurdles in dealing with geopolitical issues is that, domestic institutions in the united states, could be a “stop point” for aid delivery. This means that resistance from domestic key players like senates failure to “buy in” to the issue could be a huge hurdle when petitioning, for the deployment of foreign aid to issues surrounding the crumbling infrastructure of Venezuela’s healthcare system.  However, domestically, democratic senators are most likely to see foreign aid as mutually beneficial to American interests (Milner 2011). Because enhancing democracies benefits American interests, in that, it creates regional and geopolitical stability by supporting non-profits which spread those interests (Milner 2013), and thus require a robust budget that house and senate members could approve by a margin of 74-76% (Milner 2011), of the total proposed budget for foreign aid to the PADF and NDI discretely. What this means is that as we tackle a healthcare issue that in reality is a threat not only to the regional geopolitical region of the northern amazon, we must also face perceptions from domestic institutions in order to rally enough support in funding a critical healthcare issue which serves both foreign and domestic interests making it more likely for senators to “buy into” the idea.

One of the first ways we begin to crosslink Venezuela’s malaria outbreak as a wicked problem is that “you don’t understand the problem until you develop the solution” (Conklin 2006). Thus although we are trying to address the malaria issue, you then run into the funding issue and the perception of USAID’s involvement by the Venezuelan government as an attempt to depose their leadership. Although the U.S. would most likely want to primarily deal with the issue of malaria, task forces might come into direct conflict with pockets of terroristic networks would also surface as issues one might encounter in the jungles of south America. For example: because foreign aid is usually tied to intelligence, if a task force were assigned to Guyana, which is where the malaria outbreak is centered, cartels which use coercive tactics thereby characterized as terror networks would surely be part of the equation, further deepening the dimensions of the issue of solving an outbreak. Second you, a healthcare unilateral NGO’s using USAID funding would certainly run into political road blocks, which is why healthcare missions using USAID would have to infuse a multilateral methodology, in order to diffuse any unilateral suspicion raised by a highly paranoid Venezuelan regime, as multilateral efforts are often seen as more benign as opposed to unilaterally USAID funded networks (Downs 1988). The wicked problem for solving malaria deepens as we begin to explore its dimensions.

A third way in which the dimensions of Venezuelas malaria outbreak   resemble a wicked problem is that “wicked problems have no stopping rule” (Conklin 2006). Thus, Venezuelas issues in dealing with malaria reach into every pocket of its administration, economy, and even criminal networks which would be costly and exert funding beyond that which the U.S. alone might be able to fund using USAID. Ultimately if the United States were to fund a mission, the rise of unforeseeable issues like subverting cartels, and trying to diffuse suspicion by using decoy NGO’s in order to actually solve malaria and while also gathering intelligence using a healthcare taskforce as a platform would pose unforeseeable funding barriers imposed by domestic institutions like the U.S. senate driven by community pressure within their constituency to either deal with or not deal with foreign interests (Downs 1988).

 Decoy non-profits could be used in order to tackle suspicious regimes for example in this instance, the use of USAID is one that could fund a network like              NDI meant to safeguard democratic elections in Venezuela, and promote citizen participation, openness and accountability in government (, thereby drawing the attention of Venezuelan officials towards NDIA as opposed to the actual malarial taskforce which would truly be active intelligence unit. Funding this NGO would promote American and democratic interests through the spread of Democracy, averting future war, while also serving as a diversionary tactic, however it could also create the rise of new problems for NDI discretely making further complicating the wickedness of the issue. Because NGO’s are heavily scrutinized (Downs 1988), NDI’s diversionary tactics would surely come under scrutiny and thus any suspicion of intelligence gathering by NDI might later compromise the PADF, and safety of intelligence officers tackling malaria in Guyana.

This multilateral/ multipronged approach whereby U.S. intelligence could infiltrate through a backdoor channel through the PADF covertly, while drawing the eye of critical Venezuelan officials would allow for gathering intelligence on terrorist networks, like cartels who might use coercion creating a catastrophic risk for American cities (Betts 1998), whereby analysts could duly serve as advocates, in healthcare thereby tackling two problems at once (Friedman 2012). Meanwhile working to diminish the outbreak of malaria regionally. As such this modality may appear unethical, however in truly wicked problems such as intelligence gathering efforts coupled with the use of USAID truly has “no right or wrong answer” (Conklyn 2006). This scenario is also a unique issue sparred by the geopolitical consequences wrought on by the desire for Venezuelan officials to punish the ruling and middle class of Venezuela for the sole purpose of holding on to power. Political figure usually only care about one issue and that is to stay in office according to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (2012) in his book titled “The Dictators Handbook”, whereby often times, brutal dictators will allow for the breakdown of society to occur, including its infrastructure, in order to hold on to power, as starving sick citizens make poor revolutionaries. Thus there could be an interest for the Venezuelan government to keep its citizen’s poor. A final dimension we will discuss is that Venezuela’s economy is primarily a resource drive economy, and as Bruce Bueno also mentions, resource driven economies can create huge revenues while being manned and driven by sick and dying citizens (Bueno 2012).

This is exactly, what we see in Venezuela, in that because the middle class, including healthcare workers are no longer employable as middle class jobs have been diverted into the mines of Guyana, citizens are being driven into resource extraction jobs such as mining for gold, which create pools of stagnant water, which breed more mosquitoes and thus breed more malaria (Casey 2016). Allot of the mines in Guyana maned by Venezuelan workers have fallen under the control of brutal cartels and ruthless bosses (Casey 2016). This raises a new dimension of the wicked problem in that Venezuela’s growing instability could lead to the fall of authoritarian control over oil production whereby cartels and even terroristic networks might try to assert control over their oil infrastructure very much in the same manner they did over the gold mining industry that led to the malarial outbreak (Casey 2016). This is why, the problem of dealing with malaria in Venezuela raises new problems, which lead to solutions that then lead to new issues and thus seems like there is a never ending of issues being raised from what might seem like a simple task force assignment to deal with a malarial outbreak.

Not facing the threat whereby, the assertion of dominance by cartels and terror networks or foreign states over Venezuelan oil, could lead to political coercion, whereby U.S. demand for oil, could lead to the exploitation of capital, and unethical work safety standards, whereby key players could exacerbate an outbreak creating a financing and global healthcare disaster. Constrained finances due to coercive tactics imposed by unethical players seeking to control Venezuelan resources would inadvertently affect U.S. funding for projects like USAID. Competing superpowers, terror organizations, and cartels alike seeking to control those resources would ultimately lead to disease outbreak and conflict. PDVSA, Venezuela’s national oil refinery and member of the OPEC is a huge asset which could be exploited by coercive terrorist organizations should Venezuela’s political system present a power vacuum (Betts 1998). Thus gaining control over assets is imperative in order to subvert a situation which stems from crumbling infrastructure and thus led to the malarial outbreak. Wide ranging consequences, from disease outbreaks concertedly raise more problems as the U.S. tries to peel back the onion of what led to the original outbreak, meanwhile also trying to address the layers, agonizing the breakdown of healthcare and of which also pose a threat to U.S. interests.

Although the recommendation for a reduction in a malarial outbreak, is proposed as a multipronged approach, it truly is targeting one issue like the outbreak of malaria. Because malaria, stems from the breakdown of Venezuela’s middle class (Casey 2016), targeting this one issue has revealed a complex network of issues. The irresponsible exploitation of a disparaged middle class by those controlling resources, can only be controlled by a multipronged multilateral approach which is collaborative, in order to diffuse suspicion by a highly guarded regime whose sole purpose is to stay in power. The unchecked influence of greedy cartels and terror networks in the region who control some of the mining locations have led to the outbreak and spread of disease due to unsafe mining practices (Casey 2016). This means that the issue is a network driven wicked problem and has far reaching implications that are economically, socially, structural unsound, as well as politically motivated. Dealing with one issue uncovers many more. Coklyn (2006), clearly says that cooperation is the only way to solve wicked problems, thus multilateral solutions reduces the likely of misgivings, which also increase the likelihood of cooperation by Venezuelan officials and thus would solve the issue of the malaria outbreak. This means not only multilateral USAID funded organization should be at play, but also, multiple non-profit driven networks that serve to diffuse suspicion, while also help, increase intelligence in the region, meanwhile educating Venezuela’s citizens about democratic values.

As this multipronged plan is put into effect, covert units could have access to Venezuela’s borders through Guyana via the PADF task force and thus mobilize in order to closely monitor for any exploitation of oil revenues, via covert healthcare units. In the event of a crisis, having units present, could divulge a plan to re-establish control over what could become an uncontrollable downward spiral into explosive geopolitics, hindering any future negotiations with the U.S., undermining healthcare driven initiatives, and an attempt to gather intelligence about possible threats to U.S. national security. Lacking intelligence, would be a mistake, in that Americas bargaining range and ability to make multilateral agreements would be greatly reduced (Muthoo 2000), leading to a reduction in multinational cooperation and thus an increase in regional instability, due to a lack of multilateral safeguards. As you can see this is an approach whereby cooperation drives the reduction of anarchy increasing to likelihood of solving healthcare issues, boosting intelligence in the region, and thus preventing a prisoner’s dilemma (Jervis 1978), whereby defection would ruin efforts to solve the wicked problems surrounding malaria (Conklyn 2006), which rivals American geopolitical interests (Waltz 1959).

         One of the caveats to consider is that foreign aid may undermine any bargaining power gained from aid, often sparked by armed conflict over attempts to control the foreign aid endowments (Findley 2011) meant to reintegrating a democracy into a state’s regime. Again a potential unforeseeable consequence of meddling in Venezuela’s domestic issues. As a result, it could be suggested to break up the endowment for Venezuela, into two separate budgets in order to safeguard USAID investments from any intrusions. In order to secure financial oversight (Birdsall 2005), using a foreign aid regime like OECD-DAC (Milner 2013) in developing countries would contribute to the rebuilding of infrastructures similar to those created during the cold war (Milner 2013). OEDC-DAC already cooperates with Venezuela (

A cooperative modality decreases the likelihood of defection (Conklyn 2006), as well as corruption, or diversion of funds into the hands of President Nicolas Maduro’s winning coalition (Bueno 2012) stemming from a lack of oversight. The overseeing by the OEDC-DAC (Millner 2013) is a modality also discussed by Conklyn (2006), in that it increases cooperation and thus the likelihood of a successful outcome. The final piece of solving the Venezuelan outbreak is that there really is no other possible way to tackle this issue as most of the mines that led to the outbreak of malaria in the region are controlled by brutal cartels, and criminal organizations (Casey 2016), thus a robust taskforce is essential in securing a successful mission (Conklyn 2006). Intelligence must be gathered and a mission that is covert but also well prepared to deal with violence must be activated otherwise, left uncontrolled, the malaria outbreak poses not only a threat to the region, but with the advent of air travel also poses a threat to U.S. interest and geopolitical stability.


Wicked problems are issues that wen tackled reveal multiple layers and possible unforeseeable new problems arising from the effort to tackle the original one. A final dimension to the problems wickedness is that there is often no other possible solution such as treating an outbreak. If the problem is not tacked then the outbreak spreads thereby putting the lives of everyone at stake. Solutions often lead to other problems with other solutions thus cooperation is essential. For the case presented, one possible solution is a multipronged / multilateral approach, given the current Domestic political stop points and interests of the U.S. whereby house and senate could solely fund a philanthropic dual mission through multilateral institutions like the PADF and NDI in order to re-develop healthcare institutions, and democratic ideologies in Venezuela without intelligence gathering.  A second possibility is that, the U.S. could issue link by, gathering intelligence about the safety of PDVSA, terror networks and drug cartels in the region to foreign aid sponsored by USAID under the rouge of PADF and NDI, in order to increase Americas bargaining range (Muthoo 2000). Thus, avoiding defection due to the creation of a prisoner’s dilemma, or power vacuum looking to be filled by competing superpowers (Jervis 1978). 


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