On January 23rd, 2019 Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself acting president, and called on the armed forces to disobey the government. Very few had ever heard of this man — he had never actually run for president. Guaidó is the head of Venezuela’s national assembly; a position very similar to speaker of the house.
Within minutes of this declaration U.S. president Donald Trump took to twitter and recognized Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela; writing off the administration of Nicolas Maduro as “illegitimate”. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo followed by urging Venezuela’s military to “restore democracy”, affirming that the US would back Mr Guaidó in his attempts to establish a government. They also promised 20 million dollars in “humanitarian” aid. To put this into context, Trump is on record saying he was “Not Going to Rule Out a Military Option“ in Venezuela.
This is roughly the equivalent of Nancy Pelosi or Mitch Mcconnell declaring themselves president, calling on the military to overthrow Trump, and having China pledge to fund and assist the effort.
Now if you happen to be in the camp that wouldn’t actually mind seeing Donald Trump forcibly removed from office, I would encourage you to imagine replacing Trump’s name with Obama, Bush, Merkel or Macron.
You know there have been a lot of protests in France, and the Yellow Vests have demanded that Macron step down… Why don’t we restore democracy in Paris?
If Donald Trump can decide on a whim which leaders are legitimate, and which will be deposed-by-tweet, what kind of precedent does that set? And who’s next? The grand irony here, is that the exact same media outlets who blasted Trump as a “illegitimate president whose election is tainted by fraud”, are now calling his regime change ambitions in Venezuela “bold”. Not only have they refused to criticize the move, but in fact they’re hailing this as a “potential foreign policy victory” and “a political win at home”.
Let’s get this straight. Trump is an illegitimate president and should be removed from office (because of Russian interference), but you’re perfectly comfortable with that same illegitimate president toppling foreign governments via twitter?
Though support for Guaidó was quickly parroted by Washington’s most dependable allies, and lauded by virtually every western media outlet, the Venezuelan military responded by condemning the coup, and reconfirmed their loyalty to Maduro.
Russia, China and Turkey also issued statements condemning U.S. meddling, and warned against further interference. By January 25th, reports were flowing in that as many as 400 Russian military contractors were already on the ground. (Well that escalated quickly.)
That same day Pompeo announced that Elliott Abrams — the man who oversaw regime change wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador, was deeply involved in the Iran Contra scandal, and who was an architect of both the Iraq war and the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela (which culminated in the kidnapping of Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez) — would be in charge of the effort to “restore democracy and prosperity to their country”.
So why do you suppose Washington really wants regime change in Venezuela? You’d have to be pretty naive to buy the “democracy and prosperity” drivel.
The Trump administration slams Maduro as authoritarian, while cuddling up to Mohammad Bin Salman, a mass murdering dictator known to dismember reporters he doesn’t like.
Might the real motive have something to do with the fact that Venezuela is sitting on the world’s largest proven oil reserves, and that Western oil companies were kicked out of the country in 2007?
Let’s ask Donald Trump:
“With respect to Libya… I’m interested in Libya if we take the oil. If we don’t take the oil no interest. We have to have… Look, if we have wars, we have to win the war. What we do is take over the country and hand the keys to people who don’t like us. I’ll tell you what… Iraq, 100% Iran takes over Iraq after we leave, and what really happens with Iraq is they want the oil fields. And I have it on very good authority that Iran probably won’t even be shooting a bullet because they are getting along better with the Iraqi leaders better than we are. After all of those lives, and after all of the money we spent. And if that’s going to happen we take the oil.”
Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez nationalized the oil industry and used the proceeds to fund his socialist vision for the country. Now you could make the case that this vision was flawed, and horribly mismanaged, however he had strong public support for this mandate; so much support in fact, that when U.S. backed coup plotters kidnapped Hugo Chavez in 2002 crowds took to the streets en mass and he was quickly reinstated.
Which brings us back to Juan Guaidó. There’s not much information available on Mr. Guaidó, but if you look up the man who tapped him to lead the opposition party Voluntad Popular you’ll find Washington’s fingerprints all over the place. Leopoldo Lopez, the founder of Voluntad Popular, orchestrated the protests in 2002 that led up to the kidnapping of Hugo Chavez.
It’s no secret that the U.S. has been funding Voluntad Popular for years. In fact you can still find documents on state.gov which admit to routing at least 5 million dollars to “support political competition-building efforts”. Nor is it a secret that U.S. officials met with coup plotters in 2018. But if there were any doubt that Guaidó is Washington’s puppet, Mike Pence’s call the day before the coup assuring U.S. support should lay that to rest.
“But Maduro’s a bad leader!”
Compared to who? Which paragon of good governance will we refer to as the model? Trump? Theresa May? Angel Merkel? Macron? Take your time.
This isn’t democracy, it’s a neo-colonial power grab. Juan Guaidó never ran for the office he claimed, and the fact that he directly colluded with a foreign nation to overthrow the man who was elected president marks him as a traitor.
Juan Guaidó is a puppet. If installed, he will serve the interests who bought his ticket. Venezuela’s oil industry will be privatized, and the profits will be sucked out of the country by western corporations.
What’s happening in Venezuela right now is a replay of the 1973 U.S. backed coup in Chile, where the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was overthrown, and replaced with the military dictatorship of Pinochet. Pinochet murdered over 3000 political opponents during his rule, and tortured over 30,000, but he was friendly to American business interests so Washington looked the other way.
One could make the case that Maduro is incompetent. One could make the case that his economic theories are trash. (The same can be said for the haircuts in suits calling for his removal.) But the reality of the matter is that unless you happen to be a Venezuelan citizen, how Venezuela is governed is actually none of your business.
Given how things turned out in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine you’d think people would get the hint. When it comes to spreading democracy, you suck. U.S. regime change operations have left nothing but chaos, death and destruction in their wake. If you want to make the world a better place, maybe, just maybe, you should start at home.