Recent events in Caracas, Venezuela bring to light the taboo subject of the CIA and its sexual exploitation of women abroad. Early this Tuesday, two U.S. Embassy officials engaged in an altercation outside of the Antonella 2012 strip club, resulting in both men shooting the other in the abdomen. Although one official was also shot in the leg, both of their injuries were not considered life-threatening.
Crime in general is a rampant problem in Venezuela, a nation with one of the world’s highest homicide rates,yet this brawl is only the latest in a series of events involving U.S. officials. As one could guess, the toxic press surrounding illicit or “un-reputable” activities has only increased the political strain on Venezuelan-U.S. relations. Especially after the death of the popular leader Hugo Chavez earlier in March, Vice President Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of a conspiracy to kill Chavez and expelled two American military members working in the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. Washington responded by ousting two Venezuelan diplomats.
The United States' icy relationship with Venezuela stemmed from the view that Chavez's leftist revolution was a destabilizing force and an obstacle to progress in the region. The U.S. government accused him of eroding democracy in the country and denounced his alliance with some of Washington's main enemies, including Cuba and Iran. Chavez’s administration, on the other hand, accused Washington of pursuing imperialist policies. Since a diplomatic skirmish in 2010, both Venezuela and the U.S. have been operating without ambassadors and accusing each other of spying.
Today, the culture of sexual exploitation has only exacerbated these tensions and worsened the perception of U.S. troops. The effects of these events have been so politically volatile that in 2005, former President George W. Bush signed an executive order to crack down on military personnel engaging in prostitution. However, since these events have arguably been a rampant problem in military activity as early as World War II — when the U.S. military took part in illicit activities with “comfort women,” or government-controlled sex slaves — recent laws must be more consciously curated towards combating the culture of sexual engagement overseas, rather than looking to simply punish those who participate in it and abuse the women involved.
Certain legislation like the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act has actually made some headway domestically and internationally, by aiming its efforts to combat human trafficking specifically at prostitution. However, the United States will likely continue to suffer from political tension if its policy improvements are not focused more on the side of the U.S. military and accountability for its actions. Fortunately, President Barack Obama has begun to set new guidelines for the actions of servicemen abroad, and hopefully the nation will soon see more effective policy improvements geared towards psychological rehabilitation, education, and accountable consequences for violators.