Once again, the US has been exposed as interfering in the affairs of another country. Venezuela went to the polls in May last year and through a democratic process elected Nicolás Maduro as President by an overwhelming majority of 67.84 per cent. Washington, though, has taken it upon itself to declare the result to be illegitimate, throwing vague accusations around, such as “irregularities”, despite independent observers saying otherwise. It is no surprise that the US is backing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as “interim president”, whilst simultaneously preaching to us all about the importance of democracy and the liberation of the Venezuelan people; all, it must be said, with a completely straight face.
Guaidó is the leader of the National Assembly in Venezuela and, most importantly, is willing to play ball with the US. The Americans have had their eye on oil-rich Venezuela for years, even attempting a coup in 2002 to overthrow the late socialist President Hugo Chavez, which was eventually repelled by a popular movement. We are hearing the same old rhetoric from the US which — as President Donald Trump himself might say —is very much fake news. No matter, whatever you may think of Maduro, this is aggressive interference by the US, and a thoroughly undemocratic move against the people of Venezuela.
As we know from Washington’s dealings in the Middle East and, indeed, Latin and South America, none of this is particularly new or surprising. The US has a history of deposing “hostile” leaders and installing puppets in their place. A case in point is Iraq. Saddam Hussein wasn’t always the devil incarnate as far as America was concerned; he was Washington’s guy in Baghdad and favoured by the US, which helped him into power when it suited American interests to do so. Saddam fell out of favour when he stopped cooperating with US plans for the region and set fire to Kuwaiti oil fields. The long-standing foreign policy objective of the US has always been to have control over resource-rich regions, of which the Middle East is a key battleground, quite literally. The bogeyman may have changed over the years — from the Soviet Union to Osama Bin Laden and the war on terror — but the US always claims to be fighting for freedom and democracy.
The US modus operandi might be boots on the ground, air strikes or using its economic clout. Venezuela has actually been subject to US sanctions for years, alongside countries like Cuba and Iran. Whatever the democratic situation in these countries is, all that has mattered to Washington is the willingness of the government to cooperate with the US; hence, for example, Washington’s support for distinctly undemocratic Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has one of the worst human rights record in the world, and is ruled by a royal family prepared to crack down with great brutality on political dissidents, who face imprisonment without trial, flogging and possible execution by beheading; accusations of torture are not uncommon. Citizens of the Kingdom have very little freedom and no democracy; there are no free and fair elections. Their government has been fighting a vicious campaign of air strikes in neighbouring Yemen for almost four years. Apart from sitting on huge oil reserves, significantly Saudi Arabia is also the source of lucrative arms deals for Western countries, notably the US and Britain.
Neither the US nor any of its democratic allies even considers intervening in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, so the argument goes, don’t need to be “liberated”, despite the appalling human rights record in their country, because their government is in thrall to the West. As long as Riyadh plays ball, it can basically act with impunity.
Elsewhere, look at what happened in Chile in 1973. A socialist called Salvador Allende was elected as president three years earlier. His policies improved the general health of the Chilean people radically, and he created jobs, developed the infrastructure, provided education for the working class and reduced the illiteracy level to 12 per cent. Unfortunately for Chile, socialism was, and remains, America’s enemy, especially in what Washington believes is its own “backyard”. Unable to bear the thought of a successful socialist state, the US plotted a coup against Allende, and installed military dictator Augusto Pinochet, who presided over a brutal and deadly regime with US protection. Freedom and democracy were surplus to requirements for that US intervention.
Washington has been systematically weakening Venezuela for years, with sanctions ensuring poverty for many Venezuelans as the US tried to turn the tide of popular support for Maduro. America has imposed sanctions on the oil to which it doesn’t have unfettered access, and has been grooming Juan Guaidó for regime change. Trump has said that military intervention is not off the table, and has even put pressure on Israel to throw its support behind this new, unelected “president” of Venezuela, despite Tel Aviv’s concerns about the safety of the small Jewish community in the South American country.
After playing the waiting game with Venezuela for some time, the US believes that the country is now weakened enough to go in for the kill. Despite the initially “softer” approach taken by the EU giving Maduro eight days to call elections, they too have now declared Guaido president of Venezuela after one meagre European Parliament vote. The US doesn’t want democratic elections unless it is confident that the result will go the way that Washington wants.
Military intervention by the US is being considered because Maduro apparently has the Venezuelan army’s support, and it doesn’t look like that will change, so a Chile-style coup d’état is out of the question. This leaves Washington with the options of concocting a civil war in the country by supplying arms and ammunition to militant right-wing groups along the lines of what was done in Libya, Syria and countless other countries; actual military intervention as happened in Iraq, while encouraging other countries in the region to get involved as well; and applying more and more pressure with the backing of America’s allies until the Maduro government buckles.
We’ve seen this act play out in the Middle East before, and we know the dire consequences for peace and the people of the “uncooperative” country involved and their neighbours. It is imperative to oppose US intervention. We all know that the claim to be promoting “freedom and democracy” is a lie; from experience, we know that it’s all about regional hegemony, control of natural resources and keeping things in order in America’s “backyard”. Solidarity with the Venezuelan people and their right to democratic self-determination is essential. The US has imposed dictators on states in Latin and South America and the Middle East before. It must not be allowed to get away with doing it again.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.