Obama-Trump foreign policy in Venezuela has threatened the instigation of a disastrous civil war--or even worse, a full-scale US invasion. Will the Biden administration break with this trend? By: Miguel Escoto, contributor
Nov. 27th 2020
[Depicted: Members of the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Militia (top left); Women in Venezuela's Bolivarian Armed Forces (top right)]
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.
Noam Chomsky (Professor Emeritus of MIT, Laureate Professor of the University of Arizona) authored an open letter to condemn the United States' intervention within Venezuelan politics. This petition, co-signed by over 70 scholars on Latin America, political science, and history as well as filmmakers, civil society leaders, and other experts. The letter held that the US should stop supporting Maduro's opposition through extralegal strategies such as "violent protests, a military coup d’etat, or other avenues that sidestep the ballot box" (Chomsky). Additionally, it condemned the economically crippling sanctions that the US imposes on Venezuela to foment civil unrest towards Maduro--debilitating sanctions which are largely responsible for economic crisis of Venezuela. Although a transition of power through violent coup d'etat is itself undemocratic, it has historically been the explicit foreign policy strategy of the US.
Historian and scholar William Blum documents the instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. The grand total is a whopping 57 times. Although the US intends to overthrow President Maduro and make that number 58, the reality of the matter is that this regime change implies bloodshed. As Chomsky points out in the letter, "Neither side in Venezuela can simply vanquish the other. The military, for example, has at least 235,000 frontline members, and there are at least 1.6 million in militias. Many of these people will fight, not only on the basis of a belief in national sovereignty that is widely held in Latin America ― in the face of what increasingly appears to be a US-led intervention ― but also to protect themselves from likely repression if opposition topples the government by force." The letter effectively sums up the crisis like this:
If the Trump administration and its allies continue to pursue their reckless course in Venezuela, the most likely result will be bloodshed, chaos, and instability. The US should have learned something from its regime change ventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and its long, violent history of sponsoring regime change in Latin America. [emphasis added]
These imperialist motivations displayed by the US government come off the heels of belligerent rhetoric: Eerily reminiscent of the "axil of evil" categorization of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea which launched us into the infamous, disastrous "War on Terror," National Security Advisor John Bolton condemned Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, as part of a “troika of tyranny.”
Although US intervention in Venezuela has long been a reality in the form of economic sanctions, military intervention is unfortunately a very real possibility. Trump administration officials have considered “military action” against Venezuela--aka a military intervention. In fact when directly asked whether he would accept the United States’ military support to oust Nicloas Maduro, self-appointed Interim Preside Guaido refused to rule out accepting US military invention.
"Don't be ridiculous. The US would never invade a Latin American country," you may think to yourself. In his article “How the 1989 War on Manuel Noriega’s Panama Super-Charged US Militarism,” Greg Grandin (history professor at New York University) elaborates on the US invasion of Panama in Operation Just Cause and its civilian casualties:
More than 20 US soldiers were killed and 300-500 Panamanian combatants died as well. We still don’t know how many civilians died, since US officials didn’t bother to count the dead in El Chorrillo, a poor Panama City barrio that US planes indiscriminately bombed because it was thought to be a bastion of support for Noriega [the President which the US ousted]. Grassroots human-rights organizations claimed thousands of civilians were killed and tens of thousands displaced. The University of Panama’s seismograph marked 442 major explosions in the first 12 hours of the invasion, about one major bomb blast every two minutes. Fires engulfed the mostly wooden homes, destroying about 4,000 residences. Some residents began to call El Chorrillo “Guernica” or “little Hiroshima.” Shortly after hostilities ended, bulldozers excavated mass graves and shoveled in the bodies. “Buried like dogs,” said the mother of one of the civilian dead.
There is definitely room for criticism of President Maduro. However, playing into the bait-and-switch foreign policy game of the war hawks like Trump will lead us down a path were we cheer for Guaido, and by extent, cheer for US military intervention. As Chomsky puts it: "Neither side in Venezuela can simply vanquish the other.” The path towards a more prosperous Venezuela must include honest dialogue and an easing of sanctions on Venezuela. Most importantly, it’s important to understand that only the Venezuelan people can solve the Venezuelan political crisis. While the US can definitely improve it’s draconian economic sanctions towards Venezuela and implement a foreign policy that actually lifts up the economy instead of debilitating it, our military will only bring more suffering than peace.
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.