On January 22, 2019 vice-president of the US Mike Pence made a video directly addressing the people of Venezuela. In it he declared that “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator, with no legitimate claim to power.” He did so, he said, “on behalf of Donald Trump and all the American people”. He pledged his “unwavering support” for those planning to take to the streets the following day to try to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. He said he supported the call by Juan Guaidó , Opposition leader and head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, “to declare Maduro a usurper”.
After protests on the streets the following day Juan Guaidó declared himself “interim president”. This followed a phone call to him the night before, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on January 25, 2019, from Mike Pence offering US support. The WSJ also reported: “Mike Pence pledged that he would back Mr Guaidó if he seized the reins of power from Mr Maduro by invoking a clause in the South American country’s constitution.”
Meanwhile, at a meeting on January 24, 2019 in Washington, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to the New York Times, “urged all of the 35 members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to recognise Juan Guaidó, the head of the National Assembly, as Venezuela’s new president”. And US President Donald Trump has declared: “All options are on the table.”
The US response to the political and social crisis in Venezuela merits a response:
1. There is no part of international law or in the charter of the UN for a nation state to unilaterally choose a leader for another sovereign state. This flagrant violation of international law and the UN Charter is contrary to the ongoing paralytic hysteria in the United States over Russia’s alleged “meddling” in the US elections process — a concern that has been shared by the British, French and German governments.
2. This US response is designed to mastermind a political coup d’etat in Venezuela from Washington. It is cynical and reckless. It attempts to browbeat the OAS and wilfully ignores the views of other stakeholders in this process, the majority views of South American nations, and Caricom.
3. Nicolas Maduro is the legitimate president of the country. He was sworn in after being elected by the popular vote, on January 10, 2019, and is legally entitled to serve a six-year term as president. Juan Guaidó is the head of the legitimately elected National Assembly. He is an Opposition leader, though he has declared himself “interim president of Venezuela”. This situation is complex and fraught with possibility of further political and social breakdown, and requires skilful and good-faith diplomacy. Cynical political chicanery and bluster from a thousand miles to the North are unwarranted.
4. There is a social crisis in Venezuela. It ought to be resolved, not smoothened over by apologies and ideology. This crisis manifests itself in real hunger, shortage of basic household commodities, mass migration to Colombia, the US and some migration to Caricom states, including Trinidad. Any military invasion of the sovereign nation of Venezuela will aggravate, not resolve, these problems. The contending parties are not averse to diplomacy and political mediation. Intervention (Central Intelligence Agency subterfuge) and picking a side is nasty business and leads to chaos.
5. The US, from the 1970s to the late 1980’s, has had its bellyfull of genocide in Latin America. Between these dates, over two million citizens, soldiers, paramilitary personnel, and public officials have died in the proxy war between the Soviet Union and the United States. The jungles, villages, streets, and public squares of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua thundered with the sound of Central Intelligence Agency- and Russian-supplied arsenal. Hundreds of thousands died in urban and suburban slums and villages in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. This US-Venezuelan gambit is the latest attempt by the Washington “swamp” to fully re-enter its historical role in Latin America as congenital genocidals.
6. US genocide in Latin America in the last quarter of the 20th century was followed by the emergence in the 21st century of a new generation of leaders: Nestor and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Raphael Correa in Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Michelle Bachelet of Chile, and Jose Mujica of Uruguay. This tradition of democratic, self-emerging leadership must continue. The US, imposing leaders, as it did earlier in the 20th century, another phase of US gunboat diplomacy and big- stick rule — ought to keep its bloody hands off.
7. US President Donald Trump once noted that if US presidents George Bush and Barack Obama had done nothing in the Middle East, had simply stayed home — its Assad Must Go campaign, leading to the arming of terrorists and pandemic destruction; the murder of Libya’s pan-African leader followed by anarchy; the extension of war (drone strikes, terrorist bombings) in Pakistan; the destabilisation of North Africa; all leading to a humongous refugee crisis for Europe and the world — the world would have been a better place. President Trump wants to “Make America Great Again”; stay at home.
The decision taken by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, that is non-intervention allied with Caricom diplomacy, is the correct position. The US and it European lackeys — France, Britain and Germany — must stay at home to solve their own chronic political and economic crises.