US Caught Plotting a Rightwing Coup in Venezuela
September 23, 2018
Lesley Wroughton / Reuters & Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Gabriel Hetland / Jacobin & Alliance for Global Justice
A hallmark of the Trump era is the open embrace of ideas and practices that have long been central to the fabric of US politics -- but publicly disavowed. So it is with white supremacy, police brutality, and now, military coups in Latin America. Now, 45 years after the US overthrow of a democratically elected government in Chile -- and the installation of a brutal and bloody rightwing dictatorship -- members if Washington's imperial elite are planning to seize control of another Latin American nation.
Pompeo to Fox News: US Preparing
'Actions' in Coming Days against Venezuela
Lesley Wroughton / Reuters
WASHINGTON (September 21, 2018) - The United States is preparing a "series of actions" in the coming days to increase pressure on the Venezuelan government, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Friday.
"You'll see in the coming days a series of actions that continue to increase the pressure level against the Venezuelan leadership folks, who are working directly against the best interest of the Venezuelan people," Pompeo said. "We're determined to ensure that the Venezuelan people get their say."
He did not give further details on the nature of the planned actions.
Venezuela's information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Trump administration has steadily increased sanctions against officials in the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro, accusing it of stifling democracy by jailing opposition leaders.
Last year, Washington imposed sanctions prohibiting trading new debt and equity issued by the Venezuelan government and its state oil company PDVSA. It has imposed several rounds of sanctions on government officials, including on Maduro.
Venezuela's economy has collapsed under Maduro, with annual inflation running at 200,000 percent, and staple foods and basic medicine increasingly difficult to obtain, which has led to mass emigration.
Pompeo's warning comes ahead of the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York next week attended by heads of state from around the world. Maduro has not attended the meetings since 2015 and this week said he may not attend the gathering because of concerns about his safety.
In August, two drones exploded over an outdoor rally in Caracas where Maduro was giving a speech, injuring seven soldiers and leading to the arrest of over a dozen suspects, including several military officials. Maduro described it as an assassination attempt.
Trump Administration Held Secret
Coup Talks With Rebel Venezuelan Officers
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 9, 2018) – Over the past year, US officials say, the Trump Administration has held a series of secret meetings with rebellious Venezuelan military officers. The talks centered on various plots to carry out a coup d'etat in Venezuela.
The White House declined to discuss the talks directly, only saying they were talking with anyone who could "bring positive change" to Venezuela, and "who demonstrate a desire for democracy."
Officials say the White House ultimately declined to back the coup plotters, and the coup never took place. The repeated meetings, however, showed a serious US interest in the idea, and openness to toppling the Venezuelan government.
This led to severe criticism from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, who slammed the US for providing any planning and support for military conspirators.
This evidence potentially does major harm to any rebellion, and to its ability to credibility sell itself to the rest of the region, as the government can now portray them, somewhat credibly, as part of an American plot. Given President Trump's open talk of a "military option" in Venezuela, this would be credible to many.
Stop Talking About Coups in Venezuela
Gabriel Hetland / Jacobin
It's really very simple:
The US has absolutely no right to
meddle in the affairs of Venezuela,
in any way, shape, or form.
(September 18, 2018) -- A hallmark of the Trump era is the open embrace of ideas and practices that have long been central to the fabric of US politics but have, at least in recent decades, often been publicly disavowed or discussed in slightly embarrassed, hushed tones. So it is with white supremacy, police brutality, and now, military coups in Latin America.
Venezuela is the primary target of current regime change discussions. Unlike the behind-the-scenes support the US gave to past actions -- like the coup that toppled Salvador Allende forty-five years ago last week -- US officials, including President Trump himself, have loudly and repeatedly proclaimed their willingness to use military force to topple Venezuela's government.
In August 2017, Trump told reporters, "We have many options in Venezuela. And by the way, I'm not going to rule out a military option." In June, reports surfaced that Trump had to be talked out of invading Venezuela by his own advisers and right-wing Latin American leaders, such as former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos.
Trump's alacrity makes the recent New York Times' revelation -- that "the Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro" -- unsurprising.
Rather more surprising is that the head of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, has joined Trump in calling for military action against Venezuela. In doing so Almagro has placed himself, and the OAS, to the right of Latin America's conservative leaders.
This development also underscores the OAS's appalling hypocrisy. As AP notes, "For Almagro, the threat of military force is especially surprising given his condemnation of the region's support for a US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965 to remove a democratically-elected but pro-Cuban president."
But while Trump's (and Almagro's) openness and ardency for overthrowing Venezuela's government is new, the policy itself is not. Since at least 2001 various administrations have sought the same end -- just a bit more quietly.
It should go without saying that the US should neither invade Venezuela nor support a military coup to oust its president. That it does not is a sad testament to the arrogance of US empire. But the fact that invading Venezuela is no longer a taboo subject also means it is more urgent than ever to spell out exactly why this is a repugnant and terrible idea.
There are three reasons why the US should keep its hands off Venezuela.
First, the US lacks any moral standing to tell or force other countries what to do. On what basis can a country that resembles an oligarchy more than a democracy (this according to top political scientists and former president Jimmy Carter) criticize other countries for flouting democratic norms?
How can anyone believe that such concerns are the real reason for US actions in Venezuela when the US supports governments in countries like Saudi Arabia, Honduras, and Haiti that have atrocious records on electoral democracy and human rights? Is it possible for anyone to believe that the Trump administration truly cares about ordinary Venezuelans' wellbeing given its profound disregard for the wellbeing of US citizens living in Puerto Rico, Detroit, and elsewhere?
Second, a US-backed coup in Venezuela would be illegal under international law, which prohibits any country from infringing upon another nation's territorial sovereignty. Foreign interventions have been justified on the basis of "humanitarianism." But the US cannot plausibly claim that it's motivated by such concerns since US sanctions have worsened Venezuelans' suffering -- and in fact were designed to do so.
Third, the likelihood that a military coup would achieve the Trump administration's purported goals of "restoring democracy" and "ending the humanitarian crisis" is vanishingly low. Two distinct outcomes are far more likely: one, the Maduro administration, and its more repressive and authoritarian tendencies, would be strengthened due to legitimate security concerns and the "rally round the flag" effect imperialist aggression often has; or two, a bloody civil war would erupt.
Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former top State Department official under George W. Bush, has asked, "If you don't like the idea of the US talking to the [Venezuelan] military, then what do you propose?" This is a legitimate question, even if Haass's answer -- forming a "coalition of the Latin American willing" to engage Venezuela in regional military action -- is profoundly flawed.
One answer, found among a fraction of the US left, is to vigorously oppose US sanctions and offer unconditional support to the Maduro administration. The first part is a no-brainer. The US has no business meddling in Venezuela's affairs, and sanctions profoundly harm the very people they are supposed to help.
But the second is highly questionable. There is little reason to support the Maduro administration given its central role in creating and exacerbating Venezuela's profound and deepening crisis. Since 2013 Venezuela's economy has shrunk by an astonishing 50 percent.
Daily life is incredibly difficult due to hyperinflation and profound, chronic shortages of food, medicine, and basic goods. The crisis has caused millions of Venezuelans to flee the country in recent years. While US actions have exacerbated the country's problems, Venezuelan government (in)action is the prime cause.
So if we should reject US-backed military action and sanctions -- on moral, legal, and pragmatic grounds -- what then should be done to ease Venezuelans' suffering and move towards ending the crisis? The answer is that the Maduro administration needs to face the right type of pressure: popular protest from below.
This has already been happening. In December 2017, protests exploded in barrios in Caracas and other cities when the government failed to deliver on its promise to provide pernil (roasted pork leg) in time for Christmas.
In June, nurses throughout the country went on strike seeking a "dignified salary," improved work conditions, and more medicine and supplies. The following month a nationwide electric workers' strike erupted against low wages and deteriorating conditions, and peasants across Venezuela launched the "Admirable Campesino March" to push for land reform and protest the lack of accountability for the murder of hundreds of peasant leaders since 2001.
These protests led Maduro to initiate a series of much-needed reforms in August, including a massive currency devaluation and a major modification to fuel subsidies. Unfortunately, both reforms appear severely flawed and are unlikely to do much to ease Venezuela's dire economic situation.
Further popular protest, however, could push Maduro to introduce more sensible reforms, such as instituting a free float of the currency. The best hope for Venezuela's future lies in escalating popular protest that pushes the Maduro administration to make more serious reforms, including in the direction of restoring and deepening democracy.
The popular sectors do have some leverage. If Maduro loses workers and the poor -- and he already has to a significant extent -- he loses his primary social base. But this leverage depends on a delicate balance: if Maduro appears to be the only person standing in the way of a US invasion, civil war, or a repressive and vindictive right-wing military regime, his popularity is likely to rebound, and the willingness to challenge him is likely to wane.
No one who cares about Venezuela should have any illusions about the bleak prospects facing the country. The status quo is horrendous and change is needed. Yet foreign intervention, whether in the form of a US- or regional-backed coup or economic sanctions, would do tremendous harm to the prospects for positive change in Venezuela.
There are no magic bullets. The popular sectors have shown, however, that they are willing and able to pressure Maduro. They should be given the chance to do so.
Let Venezuelans resolve the crisis.
ACTION ALERT: Washington Is
Already Waging an Economic War on Caracas
Help end illegal sanctions against Venezuela
Alliance for Global Justice & Campaign to End US and Canada Sanctions Against Venezuela
(September 18, 2018) -- The campaign invites you and/or your organization to endorse this call against the illegal, unjust and cruel sanctions being inflicted on the people of Venezuela.
Call to Action:
Ordinary Venezuelans are hurt by sanctions imposed by the US and Canada
The elderly grandmother who cannot get insulin for her diabetes, the child who is undernourished during an important stage of development, families who cannot afford to feed and clothe their children as a result of hyperinflation. US and Canadian sanctions are precipitating a rapid economic decline in Venezuela and ordinary Venezuelans are the primary victims.
Unilateral sanctions are illegal
On May 21, the day after the re-election of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, the US further expanded economic sanctions against Venezuela. Both the US and Canada have sanctions targeting senior Venezuelan government officials.
These sanctions severely hamper the government’s ability to engage with international financial entities. Furthermore, unilateral sanctions violate the human rights of the Venezuelan people and are illegal under the charters of the OAS and the UN. The imposed sanctions prevent the government from borrowing money from major financial institutions and from repatriating dividends earned by state subsidiaries abroad, restricting Venezuela’s ability to import vital foods and medicines.
The US and Canada hypocritically claim to be concerned about the humanitarian situation in Venezuela, while their sanctions regimes are deliberately designed to asphyxiate the Venezuelan economy.
Sanctions are a form of economic war and can be a prelude to actual war
In addition to the economic war being waged against Venezuela through sanctions, recent reports as well as public statements by US officials have made clear that a military option against Venezuela is under serious consideration.
As people in the US and Canada, we have the responsibility to end our governments’ practice of illegal foreign intervention, including the current economic sanctions against the people of Venezuela.
These sanctions are a collective punishment designed to create enough human misery to bring about the overthrow of a democratically-elected government, including via a military coup. Economic sanctions violate Venezuela’s national sovereignty and the basic rights of Venezuelan citizens.
ACTION: The campaign invites you and/or your organization to endorse this call against the illegal, unjust and cruel sanctions being inflicted on the people of Venezuela.
Greg Wilpert leads an excellent hour-long webinar discussing the historical and current economic conditions in Venezuela and how the sanctions are impeding solutions. The webinar can be viewed here.
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