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Everybody Else’s Business: Coup Fever in Venezuela

This could have been seen as audacious. Instead, it had the smell of a not so well concealed sponsorship, the backing of a meaty foreign hand. Venezuelan opposition leader and President of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó decided to take a quick step in the direction of the presidency. His own counterfeit theory is simple: he is not being a usurper, so much as a panacea for the usurpation by the current president, Nicolás Maduro. “I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure and end to the usurpation.”

Such language is not that of a principled revolutionary figure so much as a hired hand intent on returning the country to conservative tedium. The power doing that hiring has had friendly press outlets for Guaidó to express his opinions. On January 15, the president of the National Assembly was permitted space in The Washington Post to claim that his country was witnessing something without precedent. (Be wary of the message claiming the exceptional.) “We have a government that has dismantled the state and kidnapped all institutions and manipulate them at will.”

But even Guaidó had to explain, despite deeming Maduro an unrecognised figure, that Venezuela was not your vanilla, crackpot dictatorship wedded to the use of police powers. “The regime may have ties to drug trafficking and guerrilla groups, but we also have a functioning, democratically elected parliament, the National Assembly.” Pity, then, that Guaidó needs so much outside help to make his call.

Maduro, understandably, fumed at the challenge. “We’ve had enough interventionism, here we have dignity damn it.” But dignity is a hard matter to retain in broader geopolitical dramas. Shame, compromise, and a general muddying of credibility tend to follow in such foreign incursions.

The official Venezuelan president cannot be said to have been a friend of state institutions. He is holding power under a form of sufferance. His interpretation of the democratic mandate can be said to be sketchy at best, a feature not uncommon in the history of the Americas. Authoritarianism breeds revolt, which breeds authoritarianism, a default revenge mechanism. But Maduro has good reasons to sneer at his opponent and the warm embrace by US officials of the movement seeking to remove the Chávista. The memory of 2002 and the failure on the part of Washington to remove Hugo Chávez remains strong and, in some ways poisonous; the failed coup resulted in attempts on the part of Chávez to neutralise the power of his opponents, be they in the Supreme Court or the corporate media. Mass round-ups and executions were resisted, but authoritarian counter measures were used. Maduro has merely been one of Chávez’s keener students in that regard.

To this dysfunctional mess can be added the pervasive, consistent and persistent molestation of US foreign policy. Gardens in Latin America have been trampled upon by US thuggery since the Republic was founded, and the tendency is instinctive and genetic. That thuggery also shares a neurotic relationship with democracy, the product Washington finds hard to export while scuttling the democratic projects of others. Hustlers and gamblers are not, by their dispositions, democratic: they believe in the doomed nature of change, and, to that end, identify the steady horse they would wish to back in any political race. If that horse is sympathetic to capital interests, despite kicking in the teeth of liberal democracy, all the better.

While apoplectic hysteria governs the US security heavies from the Hill to the public talk circuit about Russian electoral interference, dispensation will always be given to meddling in the affairs of others. Trump, for one, has acknowledged Guaidó’s declaration as legitimising an interim presidency, one that will arm an opponent of Maduro and ensure a transition of loyalty to the United States. “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.” (Richly inconsistent, is The Donald, on matters regarding freedom and the law.)

The international reaction has been illustrative of the broader issues at stake, making it far more than a matter of pure bullying from Washington. Other countries have decided to make Venezuela their business, some by suggesting that it should not be the business of others. Mexico remains an observer of the status quo. China and Russia have taken the view that non-interference should be the policy while Turkey insists that Maduro dig in. Cuba and Bolivia had defended the incumbent, but Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina have gone the whole hog in accepting Guaidó.

Liberal democratic states have shown themselves presumptuous enough to violate the UN Charter in directly stating their willingness to back Maduro’s opponents. Even timelines have been advanced and demands issued that directly impair the Venezuelan political process. “Unless elections are announced within eight days,” suggested France’s unpopular President Emmanuel Macron, “we will be ready to recognise @jguaido as ‘President in charge’ of Venezuela in order to trigger a political process.” Given Macron’s own tarnished legitimacy as leader, harangued as a charlatan intent on market and labour reform, this came across as rich posturing.

The same with Spanish Prime Minster Pedro Sanchez, yet another figure who has decided to make Venezuelan politics a matter of personal interest. “The government of Spain gives [President] Nicolas Maduro eight days to call free, transparent and democratic elections. If that doesn’t happen, Spain will recognise Juan Guaidó as interim president in charge of calling these elections.” And to think that Sanchez can hardly be said to have a standing vote in those elections.

As in other countries, the fate of the incumbent government may be decided by the loyalty of the army. The position, as stated by the country’s defence minister Vladimir Padrino, is that the armed forces do not, at this point, recognise the usurping antics of the opposition leader “imposed by shadowy interests… outside the law”. Such stances, as history shows, change.

From this whole mess, one conclusion may be drawn. Venezuela has ceased being a midget to be pushed over by the obese villain and its allies, though it still risks succumbing to the dictating wishes of others. Maduro has severed relations with Washington, issuing marching orders to US diplomats. But the schismatic spectacle of two governments seeking to pull the strings has become an absurdly disruptive prospect. Any state that has suggested this as feasible should be wary of what they wish for.


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  1. Wat Tyler

    I think the world should sponsor a wall around the USA, and let none of the bastard out until they kill each other By the time they run out of ammunition there might be a manageable population left.

  2. RomeoCharlie29

    I like the suggestion I saw in a cartoon, that a wall should be built around the White House. Regarding this particular story, yet another example of US Imperialism. Cripple a democratically elected government with sanctions then support a neocon who will do your bidding.

  3. helvityni


    Building a wall around the White House is a rather civilised way; here in Oz our shock jocks wanted to get rid of Gillard by putting her in a hessian bag and throwing it in the sea….

  4. Kaye Lee

    Needless to say, Craig Kelly has made it his business too. He posted an article about Trump recognising the Opposition leader and added “We should do the same. The people of Venezuela should be freed from the socialist nightmare they have been forced to endure.” Craig posts about Venezuela very regularly.

  5. helvityni

    …so Craig Kelly is expanding; he’s with the people of Venezuela now…( does he even know where that country is…? )

  6. mark delmege

    I guess there is no need to repeat what the ABC says about all this but I’ll give just a little hint – they dont like socialists.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Oh lawdy,

    The Australian Government has recognised Venezuela’s Opposition Leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate leader, following the US, UK and Canada

  8. Perkin Warbeck

    Has Australia ever made up its own mind since the Whitlam experiment in self-determination? Are we content to be toadies?

  9. Kaye Lee

    Perkin, I am reminded of Life of Brian

    BRIAN: Look. You’ve got it all wrong. You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves. You’re all individuals!

    FOLLOWERS: Yes, we’re all individuals!

    BRIAN: You’re all different!

    FOLLOWERS: Yes, we are all different!

    DENNIS: I’m not.

    ARTHUR: Shhhh.

    FOLLOWERS: Shh. Shhhh. Shhh.

    BRIAN: You’ve all got to work it out for yourselves!

    FOLLOWERS: Yes! We’ve got to work it out for ourselves!

    BRIAN: Exactly!

    FOLLOWERS: Tell us more!

    BRIAN: No! That’s the point! Don’t let anyone tell you what to do! Otherwise– Ow! No!

    MANDY: Come on, Brian. That’s enough. That’s enough.

  10. Diannaart

    Exactly, Kaye Lee

    Everyone tells you what to do and what’s good for you. They don’t want you to find your own answers. They want you to believe theirs.

    Successive Australian governments follow the biggest bullies and want us to believe its in our best interests.

  11. Perkin Warbeck

    And we’ve done a bit of bullying ourselves. East Timor, for instance.
    Gore Vidal once said that the Pilgrim Fathers went to America because they were tired of prejudice and bullying, and wanted to have a go at it themselves.
    They’ve never stopped.

  12. Diannaart

    Perkin Warbeck

    East Timor … Australia appears to have a penchant for penalising people on small islands …

  13. Bradley Willis

    57% Clearly have no idea what is going on nor have they bothered to inform themselves. Maybe start with Noam Chomsky. John Pilger, Eva Bartlet and Venessa Beasly Seriously so tired of ignorant people…

  14. Kaye Lee

    Oh geeze….how predictable that you drag out those names and what makes you think we have not heard and rejected their views. Have you EVER heard anyone on the state owned RT criticise Putin or Assad? No? Go figure.

    Bartlett was the guest of the Syrian government, accompanied by Syrian army soldiers as she asked people what they thought of Assad. I’m not sure what answer she was expecting considering criticism gets you locked up.

  15. Kronomex

    AAGGHH!! Started sneezing while I editing the Murdoch comment and ran out of time. It should read –

    Elsewhere: I think Murdoch now sees The Donald as a failed experiment and has started, slowly but surely, dumping him. He will either look for the next best Republican or even throw a bone or two to the Democrats.

  16. Robin

    Murdoch allegedly drinks virgins blood and fornicates with goats-a galling and disgusting thing to do,given I’m a Capricorn.
    Prove he doesn’t.
    (Murdoch playbook 101)

  17. Kerry

    Kaye Lee I respect your views on many subjects however i don’t understand why you are so closed off to Syria being yet another attempt at regime change by the Western Allies and the Saudis.

    The journalists quoted by Bradley above are all reputable, anti war and independent from each other yet they all agree on the obvious truth that we have been sold a pack of lies on Syria (and Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan). And there are many many more who agree with them. Why are you so eager to discredit them and put your trust in the MSM?

    I ask you to open your mind to this one and just consider that we have all been so propagandised about the Middle East over the last 60 years that we all need to go back to history to discover the real truth behind Middle Eastern unrest. History reveals it is not true that they are barbarians who have been killing each other for thousands of years (at least no more than any other humans), in fact the instability began when the Ottoman Empire fell and the west began to carve up the middle East and North Africa. I’m not a historian but i can see the greasy paws of the UK and US all over the de-stabilization destruction of the Middle East, including the creation of Israel.

    Bartlett may have been a guest of the Syrian government, what on earth is wrong with that? No one else will tel the true story.

    American and other Nato soldiers have not ben invited by the Syrian government yet they illegally occupy the country and bomb civilians of a sovereign nation.

    This is the operative concept: Syria is a sovereign nation. It is not our right to tell them what to do or who to elect and it is certainly not our right to kill them in the name of democracy.

    Do you not see the utter hypocrisy and lunacy in the western occupation of Syria?

    if we are so concerned about atrocities and democracy why isn’t the US bombing Saudi Arabia? Oh right: its because they are their biggest buyer of arms that they use to kill Yemini civilians.

    Sheesh. I just don’t get why any thinking person doesn’t see that US regime change has only one script that they repeat over and over which is happening right now in Venezuela and we are all really that dumb because we buy it every time:

    Demonize the elected leader and accuse him of murdering or suppressing his own people
    Sanctions and more sanctions: make those people suffer
    use NGO’s to bring in money and stir up political unrest
    Install a puppet to challenge the rightful leader
    use copious photo ops of children in hospitals and random crowds cheering
    Invade the country, kill a lot of people coz it takes a lot of “collateral damage” to liberate a country for the sake of democracy

  18. Robin


    Hi D (:

  19. Wat Tyler

    If you look at the list of US ‘interventions’ since WW2 – of which there have been about 80 – you will see very few aimed at imposing ‘freedom’ and/or ‘democracy’ on the intervened peoples.
    Venezuela will just be the latest. How a very oil-rich country can be without food and life necessities is a question best asked of the USA, which is largely responsible. We’ve seen it all before, and may very well see it all again.

  20. Andreas Bimba

    Venezuela has lots of oil. A few rich Americans and rich locals want control of the oil so they can be even richer. The rest of the story are distractions.

    Is the US a democracy? The vast majority of eligible voters no longer vote and the electoral system only allows a choice between two parties that have been bought by corporate money. Even their courts have been stacked by judges that implement the political agenda of the business elite. 80 to 90% of winning candidates for the federal House of Representatives are the candidates that spent the most money on campaigning. Vested interests draft and push through nearly all of the legislation that is passed by Congress. The best interests of the people have become irrelevant. The US has not had a higher percentage of national wealth owned by the wealthiest 1% since the Great Depression.

    In the unlikely event that Bernie Sanders is still physically able to run in the 2020 US Presidential elections, will be allowed to be the Democratic Party nominee and will be allowed to win the election and then be allowed to implement his policy agenda whilst in office, will the fabulously wealthy corporate kleptocracy, the rabidly antisocialist evangelical right and allied vested interests engineer civil disruption like we are now seeing in Venezuela and inititiate a coup? Probably I would think.

    Currently the US is probably the worlds most undemocratic democracy but very soon the US could be just another bloody autocracy like China or Russia on current trends and with all those guns and haters of central government they may have another civil war.

    Australia would be wise to reduce its dependence on oil imports given the impending geopolitical uncertainties and become more economically self sufficient by reducing our dependence on the mining industry, reinvigorating a manufacturing sector and establishing an economy that harnesses higher education and creativity. The global warming crisis necessitates this path in any case.

    Our duopoly has led us to the precipace of disaster economically, geopolitically and environmentally. It is well beyond time to unwind most of the last 40 years of the neoliberal failed experiment.

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