Fight COVID-19 Not Venezuela

The Keystone Cops have nothing on the rag-tag group of soldiers of fortune who failed earlier this week in their implausible plot to kidnap Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, trigger a military coup, and install the US puppet, Juan Guaidó, in the presidency.

We know all about the hair-brained scheme due to a falling out of the thieves. The man behind the plot, Jordan Goudreau, spilled the beans because Guaidó only paid Goudreau $50,000 of the $200 million promised in a contract both men signed. Goudreau has released the contract as well as audio of discussions about the contract in an apparent attempt to distance himself from responsibility for the badly botched coup attempt.

On Sunday and Monday, Venezuelan military forces killed eight and captured a dozen members of what is reported to be a 60-member assault force trying to carry out the coup attempt. They are a portion of a group of 300 who had been training for the mission in Colombia under the direction of Goudreau’s private military company without adequate food or equipment. Among the captured were two US special forces veterans and a man who says he is an agent of the U.S. government’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The rest are Venezuelan army deserters.

Former US special forces soldier Luke Denman who was captured said in a videotaped interview played on national television in Venezuela that he was part of a team that was to secure the airport and fly President Maduro to the United States. In the tape, he said that the person in charge of the coup attempt was President Trump. Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Mike Esper have all denied the U.S. was involved.

While US government officials deny involvement in the plot, it strains credulity in the context of the support for regime change by Trump and most of the members of both parties in Congress to think that the CIA and US military intelligence were not aware of the plans of this mercenary force. As if he had foreknowledge, John Bolton, a long-time fixture in right-wing national security circles and Trump’s one-time national security advisor, tweeted on April 30 right before the assault was launched, “Morning is coming to Venezuela — again.” If US intelligence agencies were not directly involved in supporting the plot, they certainly did nothing to stop it.

One conclusion we can draw from this farce is that Juan Guaidó is no democrat. It just reaffirms that he and his Venezuelan and international allies are willing—hypocritically in the name of democracy—to employ violence and a military coup for regime change in Venezuela.

Trump first publicly called for US military action to remove Maduro from power in August 2017. In January 2019, the US recognized Juan Guaidó after he declared himself the Venezuelan president. Vice President Mike Pence called Guaidó the night before his declaration and told him the US would back him. The US assembled an international coalition of 65 allied nations to recognize Guaidó.

Putting in place a US-subservient Venezuelan government has been a long-term bipartisan national security goal of the United States. Trump’s regime change operations build on efforts by President George W. Bush’s administration, which was involved in a coup against President Hugo Chavez in 2002, and by President Obama who put in place unilateral coercive measures (known as economic sanctions) after declaring Venezuela to be a national security threat.

The current attempt at a putsch comes almost one year to the day after Guaidó’s failed call for a military uprising against the Venezuela government. The US kicked off a renewed regime change push in early February when President Trump planted Guaidó in the House chamber gallery for his State of the Union address. Trump called Guaidó the legitimate president of Venezuela, which brought the Democratic as well as Republican members of Congress to their feet in a standing applause.

In March, as the global pandemic hit the Americas with full force, the U.S. tightened sanctions against Venezuela and the U.S. Treasury Department pressured the International Monetary Fund to deny Venezuela access to emergency finances to address the health crisis.

As March turned to April, the US announced a spurious charge of narco-trafficking against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro when the evidence points to that criminal activity being perpetrated by US allies among Colombia’s political leaders. The US then deployed a naval detachment off the coast of Venezuela on an “anti-narcotics mission.” On May 2, the day before the failed mercenary incursion, the US activated 200 Army Reservists to join the Navy’s patrol.

Regime change operations against oil-rich Venezuela have nothing to do with promoting democracy or the security of the people of the United States. It’s another war for oil and other resources and against any country that charts an independent path of development and diplomacy outside of US tutelage. Venezuela not only has the largest oil reserves in the world but also the largest reserves of gold and silver, the fifth-largest reserves of natural gas, and vast quantities of minerals needed for electronics and weapons.

This US aggression comes at a time when Trump is inept and Biden is invisible in mounting an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic depression. When the US needs federal health care, income, job, housing, and small business protections, Trump is pitting the 50 states against each other and the nations of the world against each other in a mad scramble for medical supplies and virus testing. The US needs coordination to provide testing, contact tracing, and quarantining the infected so that people can safely resume economic activity. The world needs cooperation to develop better treatments and eventually a vaccine for the dangerous disease. But Trump is spreading misinformation and Biden is failing to use his platform to point us toward an effective response. Both support regime change in Venezuela that would install Juan Guaidó as president. We should be fighting COVID-19, not Venezuela.

With respect to Venezuela we must demand that the United States:

  • Withdraw diplomatic recognition of Guaidó.
  • Stop regime change operations against Venezuela.
  • Normalize relations with Venezuela.
  • Lift the economic sanctions against Venezuela.
  • Resume aid and trade with Venezuela, particularly to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump won’t do it and Biden won’t do it—unless we make them. We must make opposition to US aggression toward Venezuela an issue in the presidential and congressional elections. A big vote for anti-imperialist Green Party candidates will send whoever is elected a message.

Voting has to be accompanied by massive protests. That is what convinced Nixon in the fall of 1969 that he would lose re-election if he carried out his secret plan to end the Vietnam war, which was to nuke North Vietnam. That is what convinced Congress to override Reagan’s veto of sanctions against apartheid South Africa. We can make them do the right thing again if we rise up, speak out, and vote for what we want.

Howie Hawkins is the leading candidate for president for the Green Party of the United States, see HowieHawkins.US for more information. Read other articles by Howie.