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Coup on Venezuela (Part I): Troubling historical context

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

United States' support of right-wing, torturous dictators Juan Vicente Gomez and Marcos Perez Jimenez brings into question the “democratic” intentions of Washington’s foreign policy towards Venezuela. How can this historical understanding affect our movements' pressure campaigns towards the Biden administration?

By Miguel Escoto, Contributor

Nov. 27th 2020

(Venezuela's US-backed, right-wing dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez)

By claiming that the May 20th, 2018 re-election of President Nicolas Maduro was fraudulent, the right-wing opposition cited a part of the Venezuelan constitution which allows for an "interim" President to preside over the country. The leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly (Venezuela's unicameral legislative body), Juan Guaido, declared himself Interim President with the backing of the United States, Canada, and the European Union.

How was the US involved in Guaido's power move? This article is part of a series of articles entitled “Coup on Venezuela” that delves into the United States’ regime change efforts in Venezuela. With a Biden administration replacing Trump's explicit imperialism, these articles aim to shed light on the fact that our movements' struggle towards peace is far from over.

Dating back to 1908, the United States has a history of supporting right-wing, torture-heavy Venezuelan dictators because these corrupt politicians provided US oil corporations lucrative concessions. In his article "History--and Hypocrisy of US Meddling in Venezuela," Brett Wilkins explains that "during the Dutch-Venezuelan crisis of 1908, the U.S. Navy helped Venezuelan Vice President Juan Vicente Gomez seize power in a coup." US-backed Gomez, known as "The Catfish," governed with extreme brutality: shackling political prisoners in grillos (leg irons that rendered many victims permanently disabled) or "hanging people to death by meathooks through their throats or testicles." Despite these atrocities, the US maintained a friendly relationship with Gomez because of he allowed companies like Standard Oil (ExxonMobil today) and Royal Dutch Shell to profit off of Venezuela's oil reserves.

Venezuela endured yet another US-backed, torturous right-wing dictator in the regime of Marcos Perez Jimenez (1948-1958). Like Gomez, dictator Jimenez was very generous to US corporate interests; but, similar to Gomez, unleashed unspeakable torturous political repression on his people. Instead of denouncing Jimenez's dictatorship, the US ambassador Fletcher Warren awarded Jimenez with the "Legion of Merit" military award for "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States."

Thankfully, Venezuela was able to recuperate their democratic institutions after Jimenez's dictatorship, but the US continued to back right-wing, fascist, torturous dictatorships throughout Latin America. For example: Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military junta in Chile from 1973-1990; Guatemala's military dictatorships; the Somoza Dynasty in Nicaragua from 1930s-1979; El Salvador’s Military Dictatorship from 1979-1992; Argentinean military junta from 1976-1983; The Hugo Banzer Dictatorship in Bolivia from 1971-1977; the Alfredo Stroessner Regime in Paraguay from 1954-1989.

Elliot Abrams is a convicted war criminal. He was also recently appointed by Trump as a special envoy to the current Venezuelan crisis. As a Reagan appointee, he was a chief architect of the US foreign policy strategy to support fascist governments in Latin America under the cheap justification of "winning the Cold War." According to Journalist Roberto Lovato, Abrams was--and still is--a key proponent of the pro-fascist Central America policy which left "80,000 dead in El Salvador, about 200 to 250,000 dead in Guatemala, and thousands more killed in Nicaragua by the Nicaraguan Contras."

As a member of George W. Bush's National Security Council, Abrams "encouraged... a military coup against the democratically elected government of Venezuela in 2002." This US-backed coup briefly ousted President Hugo Chavez for 47 hours until loyalist forces and popular forces restored his power. Two main coup-plotters, Army commander Efrain Vasquez and Gen. Ramirez Poveda, were trained at the US Army School of the Americas.

With Biden's victory over Trump, all signs are pointing to a continuation of the Obama-Trump coup attempts in Venezuela. As of today, Biden's cabinet picks have included John Kerry, Tony Blinken, and Michele Flournoy--key figures of the Obama administration who have actively participated in or are complicit with the US' regime-change operations in Venezuela. Even with Trump (thankfully) out of the White House, our peace movement must stand firmly in opposition of imperialism even when it comes from establishment Democrats.

As with every article for the “Coup on Venezuela” series, we will conclude by highlighting the actual will of the majority of Venezuelans. The following information is hardly part of the mainstream media’s political conversations surrounding Venezuela. According to a poll conducted by local film Hinterlaces, 86% of Venezuelans oppose a international military intervention to remove Maduro from power, and 78% of Venezuelans oppose an international non-military intervention to remove Maduro from power. Instead, 81% of Venezuelans believe a dialogue being held between the national government and the opposition is the way to resolve the current economic problems in the country.

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