Above photo: A large replica of Salvador Allende’s glasses, which were broken when he was killed in the coup, sits in the Foreign Ministry building in Caracas, Venezuela. By Margaret Flowers
I am watching the cable news coverage of the latest escalation of the U.S.-orchestrated attempted coup in Venezuela. And I am disgusted. As far as I can tell from checking out a broader variety of news sources, the violent protests called by self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido are relatively small and pathetic.
A more robust war is being waged, however, on the cable networks themselves. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “we only care about the welfare of the Venezuelan people.” Which makes Venezuela pretty darn special. Since when do Trump, Pence, Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams and Rubio care about anybody but the billionaires whom they serve?
“It’s not a coup,” says National Security Advisor John Bolton. Because we have already declared Juan Guaido to be our hand-picked president in Venezuela. So Guaido can do anything he wants, and so can we. It’s not a coup. And night is day.
Pompeo and Bolton blame the Cubans and the Russians for supporting the democratically-elected president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. They threaten the Russians with consequences, but thy save their bitterest bile for the “Cuban thugs.” Thugs? Who are the thugs? Who are the punks? Who are the bullies? Let me say their names again. Donald Trump. Mike Pence. John Bolton. Mike Pompeo. Elliott Abrams. Marco Rubio.
I couldn’t think of a more worthy rogue’s gallery. Peace-loving people need to get rid of these imperialist thugs once and for all. The only place they should be seen is the dock of the International Criminal Court. They are all guilty of multiple war crimes. They will probably be guilty of many more unless we stop them. They should spend the rest of their lives in prison.
It’s nice that Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, the militarists who killed the Iran Nuclear Deal, are getting in touch with their softer side. They say they are worried about the children of Venezuela, who don’t have enough to eat and are deprived of needed medicines. I guess they forgot about the U.S. “sanctions” – their economic war against the people of Venezuela. Apparently, they also forgot that those Venezuelan kids are sitting on top of the largest oil reserves in the world. Not to be distracted…
Pompeo wants President Maduro to step down. But that’s not enough – he says Maduro must leave Venezuela. “I can’t imagine a scenario that would allow Maduro to remain in the country that he has so devastated,” says Pompeo.
Juan Guaido had a few armed troops with him this morning – there may have been some defections, or so he wants people to believe. He is calling on the military to back the opposition and complete the coup d’etat. But that appears unlikely. The large majority of Venezuelan troops – both high-ranking officers and ground troops – appear to remain loyal to the constitutional government.
And then there are the U.S. troops. Veterans For Peace is calling on GI’s to resist illegal orders to invade Venezuela. Will this also be the spontaneous reaction of war-weary troops who have been sent to one too many wars based on lies?
In May 2018 – one year ago – Nicolas Maduro was re-elected president for a six-year term. Six million Venezuelans voted for him. The election, boycotted by some of the opposition parties under pressure from the U.S., was not even close. Having failed to totally undermine the legitimacy of the election, the U.S. was determined not to allow the socialist president to rule. They have been busy undermining Maduro ever since.
There are many problems in Venezuela. The economy is in a shambles. There are serious shortages of food and medicines. The infrastructure is deteriorating. The precipitous drop in the price of oil, Venezuela’s primary export, is a major factor. U.S. “sanctions” are certainly exacerbating the suffering. Many Venezuelans also blame the Maduro government for mismanaging the crisis and making it worse. There are even charges of corruption in some government ministries. Nicolas Maduro is not wildly popular. But it is not poor and working people who make up the so-called “opposition.” There is a huge class divide. And a race divide too. The opposition is primarily white, middle class, and led by extreme right wing oligarchs.
I was in Venezuela about a month ago with a delegation of U.S. and Canadian peace activists. We visited several poor, black and brown working class barrios in the capital Caracas, populated by millions of people. There was NO visible support for Juan Guaido, who probably would not step foot there. Dark-skinned people have been violently attached at Guiado’s rallies – even burned alive – because they were assumed to be supporters of the government.
The working class barrios are well organized. There are hundreds of neighborhood councils. There are also many armed militias that are prepared to resist a U.S. invasion.
Bolton, Pompeo (and Guaido) say they want a “peaceful transition,” even while creating chaos in the streets and calling for a military coup. But “all options remain on the table,” they remind us repeatedly. We would really rather not have to mount a military invasion, suggest Bolton and Pompeo. That would only be a last resort. “But make no doubt about it,” says a smirking Pompeo, “if our military needs to go in, it will have no problem achieving our objectives” [words to that effect].
If there is a U.S. invasion, it will not go any better than other recent U.S. invasions. First of all, they will have to attack the poor barrios and kill thousands of poor, working class people of color who are the base of the “Bolivarian Revolution,” and whose lot has actually been improved by the socialist government’s programs.
This feels like it may be a profound turning point in the history of the western hemisphere. A “successful” coup would be a huge disaster. First of all for Venezuelans, who would have an extreme right repressive U.S.-backed government imposed upon them. Secondly for all the people of Latin America, for whom the threat of ongoing U.S. domination would be renewed. Thirdly, for the peace-loving people of the U.S. and Canada, whose governments are creating economic pain, political chaos and a violent overthrown of the progressive government in Venezuela.
On the other hand, if the Venezuelan people continue to organize effective resistance to the rightwing, white supremacist coup leaders, if international solidarity stands firm, and if the U.S. peace movement steps up our resistance to U.S. intervention, we can turn a huge corner. We can tear up the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, almost two hundred years old. Those days are over. Latin America is no longer the “backyard” of the United States.
The Statement of Purpose of Veterans For Peace commits us “to restrain our governments from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations.” In recent years, we have been overwhelmed by endless wars on multiple fronts. Will Venezuela be one more such war? No! This will not stand!
We must do all we can to join this historic struggle for peace, justice and self-determination in our hemisphere. When we need a little extra motivation, we can focus on the arrogant punks who are leading this dying empire: Trump, Pence, Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams, and Rubio. Did I forget anybody?
Well yes, there are quite a few co-conspirators. The Democratic and Republican parties, which ensure bipartisan support for aggressive U.S. foreign and military policies. The billionaires, their think tanks and lobbyists. The rapacious weapons industry. And the mass media propaganda machine, which LOVES and participates in regime change wars.
Venezuela just might become the Waterloo for the whole darned rotten Establishment, and a victory for all the world’s people. Let’s get busy.
Gerry Condon is a Vietnam-era veteran and war resister who currently serves as the national president of Veterans For Peace.