The US-supported Venezuelan coup is currently facing a major obstacle.
On February 3, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared that the coup — staged by opposition leader Juan Guaido — has failed. This claim is strengthened by US mainstream media reports of confusion among those who supported Guaido, leader of the opposition and President of the Venezuelan Assembly, who had declared himself, on January 23 to be the “interim president” of the country.
The assumption in Washington and among its allies is that Maduro’s government “would crumble quickly” as soon as Washington declared its support for the Venezuelan opposition, reported Wall Street Journal on February 13. That never happened as “Maduro remains firmly in power” and the Venezuelan military has not shifted sides, as western powers had hoped.
Are we witnessing a reversal in the political landscape of South America where the US is no longer the power determining political outcomes? This likelihood was demonstrated on February 12 when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov challenged the US on Venezuela. Lavrov warned US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against his country’s intervention in Venezuela, stating that Moscow is ready to open dialogue regarding the crisis in Caracas. Lavrov’s statement is an indication that Russia is ready to extend its turf war beyond the familiar geopolitical landscape of Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
The lack of US-western strategy in handling the situation following the initial failure of the coup is expressed in the convoluted words of President Donald Trump as he attempted to answer a journalist’s question regarding the US’ ‘plan B’ in Venezuela. I have “plan B — and C, and D, and E, and F,” Trump said, adding, “I have great flexibility. I probably have more flexibility than any man that’s ever been in this office.” Trump’s ‘unique’ approach to Venezuela — and foreign policy in general — is a clear indication that the US has been forthright about its willingness to overthrow Maduro by force.
Soon after Guaido made his move, hoping that immediate western support will place him firmly as the country’s leader in a matter of hours, US politicians from both parties sprang into action.
“Now, despite Maduro, there is hope (in Venezuela)”, wrote Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, in USA Today.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile, claimed that Maduro has picked a battle he can’t win. “It’s just a matter of time,” he said in the New York Times. “The only thing we don’t know is how long it will take, and whether it will be peaceful or bloody.”
Readiness to go the ‘bloody’ route was expressed clearly by other US politicians.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton who has garnered himself a terrible reputation on account of his role in the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent destabilisation of the Middle East, assumed a leading position in the interventionist camp. While speaking about Washington’s need to “protect democracy” in Venezuela, Bolton admitted that a Venezuelan coup is an opportunity to exploit the country’s vast oil and natural resources.
He explained the economic logic of US intervention in an interview with Fox News. Regime change “will make a big difference to the United States economically, if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela,” Bolton explained.
How is that to be achieved? Bolton let that slip too.
During a press conference at the White House a few days after the coup, he “appeared to disclose confidential notes written on a yellow pad ... that included a plan to send US troops to Colombia” in preparation for military intervention in Venezuela, reported the Washington Post.
Sadly, Venezuela is not the exception. South America — like the Middle East and Africa — has long been perceived as a Western protectorate, going back many years. And again, like the Middle East and Africa, Venezuela is rich in oil and other mineral resources, and is strategically significant in terms of global hegemony. The US, in particular, has always viewed South America as its own “backyard”, and has either directly or indirectly contributed to coups and political and economic instability across the region over the years.
“Old habits die hard,” apparently, and it seems that western politicians refuse to abandon the old interventionist maxim and colonialist mentality through which they divided and ruled the world for far too long.
One should not underestimate the horrific economic conditions in Venezuela or overlook the endemic corruption in that country. However, while the Venezuelan people have every right to protest against their government, nobody else has the right to meddle in the affairs of Venezuela, or any other sovereign country, anywhere.
The situation in Venezuela is dire, with children reportedly dying as a result of the lack of medicine and food, and should not be allowed to fall victim to yet another American military adventure.
Considering that all such tragic predictions for Venezuela have already been witnessed in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, South American leaders and the few sensible voices around the world must move to block any further US meddling, and allow the people of Venezuela, through democratic means, to determine their own future.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter, and is a former Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Centre for Global and International Studies, UCSB.