Calling for the overthrow of the government of President Nicolas Maduro is a new and extremely serious development in the US’s longstanding strategy of aggression towards Venezuela, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE.
IN recent weeks, we have all seen how the US has been ramping up its “regime change” strategy towards Venezuela, both directly and through its right-wing proxies in the country and the region.
The thrust of the US strategy is to delegitimise the presidency of Nicolas Maduro and secure a transition to a new government led by Juan Guaido, who they and their supporters internationally have claimed is now Venezuela’s president, against all the norms of international law.
In reality the US is backing a coup in Venezuela, aimed at taking back control of its vast oil resources.
It is worth restating that Maduro won last year’s presidential election with 68 per cent of the vote, with some opposition parties taking part and others choosing to boycott of their own accord. International observers including representatives from the Council of Electoral Experts from Latin America (CEELA) confirmed the reliability of Venezuela’s election system.
Five days before Maduro’s swearing-in for his second term on January 10, the US State Department issued a statement attacking what it termed the “corrupt and authoritarian Maduro regime.” It went on to declare that “the National Assembly is the only legitimate and last remaining democratically elected institution that truly represents the will of the Venezuelan people.”
The day after the inauguration, Juan Guaido, the National Assembly’s new president, refused to recognise Maduro as the new President of Venezuela. Instead, he offered himself as interim president, and since then US aggression and intervention has stepped up each day.
A slew of public statements from the Trump administration followed this move to prepare the ground for “regime change.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that “the Maduro regime is illegitimate and the United States will work diligently to restore a real democracy to that country.”
US National Security Adviser John Bolton praised Guaido’s “courageous decision” in saying “Maduro does not legitimately hold the country’s presidency.”
The US then further ramped up the pressure on Venezuela even further, by backing Guaido’s call for people to take part in a right-wing opposition demonstration on January 23.
On the day before (January 22), US Vice-President Mike Pence speaking “on behalf of President Trump” made an impassioned appeal to Venezuelans to come out onto the streets on January 23 to protest against the government of President Maduro.
Then on January 23 itself the Trump administration recognised Guaido as president, in a move clearly aimed at provoking regime change and perhaps a coup.
Brazil, now led by the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, has also recognized Guaido as have other close US allies, including the UK, and now it also seems the EU and major EU powers.
This US intervention is a clear and flagrant violation of international law and an unacceptable interference into the affairs of a sovereign nation.
By openly calling for the overthrow of the government of President Nicolas Maduro, it constitutes a new and extremely serious development in the US’s longstanding strategy of aggression towards Venezuela since 1998.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza is on record as saying that “what they want [is] a coup d’etat in Venezuela. They want a war in Venezuela.”
It is hard to disagree, and it is also therefore easy to understand, especially when the bloody history of US intervention in Latin America is considered, why progressive governments in Latin America such as Mexico and Bolivia are calling for the international community to back dialogue in Venezuela rather than Trump’s threats of war or a coup.
The US has tried to oust the democratically elected government of Venezuela since Chavez was first elected president in 1998.
The brief coup against Chavez four years later in April 2002 had Washington’s fingerprints all over, drawing on a history of such interventions, including the ousting of Chile’s president Salvador Allende in 1973, with horrendous results.
A successful coup attempt, though, requires the support of a significant sector of the armed forces — if not, then direct US military intervention may be what Trump means when he says “all options are on the table.”
Worryingly, Guaido’s National Assembly is trying to prepare the ground to win over the armed forces by discussing a “transition law,” under which any rebel military personnel would be offered immunity.
According to Reuters, the 17-page draft document entitled Law Governing the Transition to Democracy includes provisions “to ensure that defectors from the armed forces would not be persecuted by a future government if they abandon Maduro.”
The “transition law” also provides insight into what those seeking to overthrow Maduro are explicitly trying to achieve.
Underlying its vision of the installation of a “model of freedom and market” as the new basis for the economy, is a determination to return nationalised companies to their former private owners, as well as landed estates expropriated by the people.
John Bolton let the cat out of the bag this week when he made it crystal clear the reason for the US backing for “regime change” in Venezuela is to get its hands on Venezuela’s oil.
As for the rights and protections that Venezuelans have achieved, through the 2012 Labour Law and other legislation, it can be expected that these would be abolished with the whole economy sold off as part of some IMF-imposed neoliberal package. The mass movements, including trade unions and political parties, that have backed “Chavismo” since 1998 would no doubt face severe repression, just as the left has after other US backed right-wing regime changes in the history of the region.
These preparations by the right wing in Venezuela and the threats of military action supported by the US therefore present a grave danger. We must campaign against them and loudly say no to another Chile 1973 and no more Pinochets in Latin America.
First published by the Morning Star.