Why does the US stand with Guaido in Venezuela?
Venezuela’s right-wing opposition leader Juan Guaidó has called on supporters to take to the streets on May 1 for what he called “the largest march in the history of the country,” and the “definitive phase” of his effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro and take office.
On January 23, after Venezuela’s National Assembly announced that incumbent President Maduro’s May 2018 reelection was illegitimate, its head Juan Guaidó declared himself the country’s acting president. A few minutes later, he was officially recognised as the rightful president of Venezuela by US President Donald Trump. As of March 2019, Guaidó has been recognised as the interim president of Venezuela by 54 countries, including most of Latin America and Europe.
Since, Venezuela has plunged into a major political crisis. The US have been imposing economic sanctions, military threats and intense political pressure for President Maduro to leave office. Earlier this week, top American diplomats warned there would be consequences for foreign backers of Maduro after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly blasted President Donald Trump’s efforts to change the regime.
The expert’s view
Fiona Edwards is a writer and editor of Eyes of Latin America. She is also a member of the executive committee of the British political organisation Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. Here she shares her thoughts on the reasons why Venezuela is part of the US foreign policy agenda.
“The US-backed, self-proclaimed “President” of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, has no legitimacy or serious support in Venezuela. Guaidó has never even stood in an election to be President of the country and has absolutely no democratic claim to the office whatsoever.
Guaidó is perceived by many Venezuelans as a puppet of the US at a time when the US is subjecting the country to intense attacks including harsh economic sanctions and threats of war. In the eyes of many this makes Guaidó a traitor who is willing to sacrifice Venezuela’s national sovereignty. The overwhelming majority of the Venezuelan population are against any US intervention and are completely against the US sanctions that are hurting the population’s living standards and the threats of direct military attacks.
The US administration is committed to overthrowing Venezuela’s democratic government as an immediate foreign policy goal. It is no coincidence that Trump has unleashed a huge offensive against Venezuela just weeks after Brazil’s new far right President, Jair Bolsonaro, was inaugurated in January of this year. Bolsonaro’s election represented a huge defeat for all progressive and left-wing forces in Latin America and a massive victory for the US. The US now has a close ally presiding over the region’s largest country and biggest economy which has undoubtedly emboldened the US’ offensive against the left in Latin America.
Trump’s administration has identified a “troika of tyranny” in Latin America – namely the governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua – which it is determined to remove and replace with ultra right-wing governments that are loyal to US interests. Their explicit strategy is to overthrow the Venezuelan government and to then use this as a springboard to attack Cuba, Nicaragua and other left-wing governments in the region.
The severe economic problems in Venezuela, prompted in particular by the international crash in commodity prices in 2014 which saw the price of oil collapse, have been treated by the US as an opportunity to achieve its long held aim of overthrowing the country’s left wing government. The US has sought to exacerbate Venezuela’s economic problems by applying harsh economic sanctions in an attempt to ferment political instability and undermine the population’s support for the government.
The economic sanctions are designed to kill and starve the Venezuelan people into submission and according to recent analysis from the Center For Economic and Policy Research this is precisely the impact that they have had – causing the deaths of at least 40,000 from 2017-2018.
The Trump administration is seeking to make Latin America the US’ “backyard” again, to extend US control over Latin America’s resources and to install puppet, right-wing governments that will carry out aggressive neo-liberal attacks on the population and a radical programme of privatisations.
The privatisation of Venezuela’s oil reserves – the largest in the world – is a massive motivation for the US, and the National Security Advisor of the United States, John Bolton, has been rather explicit about this fact. Bolton recently said on national television that “it’ll make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela. We have a lot at stake here making this come out the right way.”
In addition to a massive neo-liberal offensive, a right-wing take-over of Venezuela would also be accompanied by severe repression and violence against the left and progressive movements in Venezuela – who continue to be in the majority. Millions of Venezuelans have mobilised in recent months on demonstrations in support of the Venezuelan government and in opposition to US aggression and threats of war. Only by violently suppressing this progressive majority of the population could the right-wing opposition take power in Venezuela at the present time.
A particularly striking feature of Venezuela’s ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ which started in 1998 with the election of Hugo Chavez has been the fact that women have made tremendous gains – benefiting from the huge social advances in education, healthcare and housing as well as making enormous strides in political representation at all levels of government. All of this progress for millions of women will be thrown backwards should be US succeed in installing a puppet regime in Venezuela.”
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