An editorial by Guaidó was published in The New York Times on January 30. Its strategy is to distort reality through the omission of relevant and important facts, relying on the unfamiliarity of the U.S. public with the history and current situation in Venezuela, and depending on the political and ideological support of the USA, which also repeatedly uses the same disinformation strategy, thus preparing the ideological terrain for Guaidó’s editorial. In a previous post (“The legitimacy of Maduro and Venezuela” 1/15/2019), I try to describe the historical and political context of the current situation in Venezuela, which includes fundamental facts that Guaidó leaves aside.
Guaidó blames the government of Nicolás Maduro for food and medical shortages. U.S. readers ought to be aware that the opposition and the Bolivarian Revolution blame each other for the economic difficulties of the last five years. Opposition leaders are tied to the dominant economic sectors, and their privileged position includes control of the import-export trade, on which the Venezuelan economy is dependent. In 2014, import-export traders launched what the Chavists call an economic war against Venezuela. The traders stopped importing goods, and they hoarded goods, provoking shortages in necessities. Such a political strategy is in violation of international law, and it is unpatriotic. There are persons, no doubt, in the USA who believe that the policies of the Maduro government have caused the economic difficulties; they ought to be aware of the damage done to the economy by the Venezuelan traders, who adopted a strategy consistent with U.S. intentions of promoting chaos and destabilization.
In as similar vein, Guaidó speaks of violence against protestors, and he maintains that the government has unleashed a brutal crackdown on protestors. He observers that “240 Venezuelans have been murdered at marches, and there are 600 political prisoners.” Again, the government describes these events in a fundamentally different way. It maintains that the opposition has organized violent gangs that have attacked Chavists and government property; that the great majority of the persons who died were killed by the violent gangs organized or stimulated by the opposition; and that the political prisoners have been charged and found guilty of engaging in or inciting violence.
Guaidó claims that Maduro’s re-election on May 20, 2018 was illegitimate. He offers no evidence in support of this claim, other than to say that the illegitimacy of said elections “has since been acknowledged by a large part of the international community.” The veracity of this observation depends on what is meant by “large part.” He further claims that “over 50 countries have recognized either me as interim president or the National Assembly as the legitimate authority in Venezuela.” On the other hand, Cuban newspapers report that more than 120 nations in the world have recognized the legitimacy of the Maduro government. Moreover, recent efforts by the U.S. government to obtain support for a declaration or action against Venezuela were rejected by the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. Even the Organization of American States, infamous for its historic role in soliciting the support of Latin American governments in the U.S. policy of domination over them (see “Pan-Americanism and OAS” 10/2/2013 in the category US Imperialism) and an instrument in the current U.S. strategy toward Venezuela, would not go along with U.S. plans. It appears that the majority of nations are taking the minimal position that the United States should not interfere in the affairs of Venezuela, in accordance with the principles of respect for the sovereignty of all nations and of non-interference in the affairs of nations, which are universally recognized principles, proclaimed by the United Nations and other international organizations. Standing in opposition to these principles, Guaidó is permitting himself to be an instrument of the U.S. coup attempt.
Although it is inconvenient for U.S. policy that the people of the United States know it, the fact is that Maduro won the May 20, 2018 elections with 67% of the vote, in elections that international observers as well as the opposition candidates declared to be fair. The turnout was lower than has been customary in the last twenty years of Chavist rule, partly as a result of calls by some sectors of the opposition to not vote, and partly as a result of a decline in support for the opposition. However, in spite of the low turnout by recent Venezuelan standards, Maduro’s vote as a percentage of registered voters was higher than that of victorious candidates in recent presidential elections in Argentina, the United States, and Brazil, administrations that deny the legitimacy of the Maduro government.
Guaidó writes, “My ascension as interim president is based on Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, according to which, if at the outset of a new term there is no elected head of state, power is vested in the president of the National Assembly until free and transparent elections take place.” The difficulty with this justification is that it is based on the false claim that Maduro was not constitutionally re-elected on May 20, 2018. And a further difficulty is that the National Assembly itself has been suspended, because of its failure to respect the judicial authority established by the same Constitution that Guiadó cites.
Guaidó maintains that “under Chávez the country was drifting toward totalitarianism.” He provides no evidence in support of this claim. Fundamental facts indicate the opposite: the Chavist revolution has organized 20 elections in the past 20 years, certified by international observers, winning 18 of them; the Chavist revolution developed a new constitution on a foundation of democratic elections for a constitutional assembly, expanding the rights of the people; and the Bolivarian Revolution has organized popular councils for popular participation.
The unsubstantiated accusation of totalitarianism has credibility if constantly repeated (as it is by the media and by the powerful), and if the audience has a limited understanding of Venezuelan reality. Unfortunately, public discourse in the United States reflects a limited understanding of the Third World story of colonial and neocolonial domination and popular anti-imperialist social movements. Guaidó makes no reference to the Venezuelan manifestations of this Latin American historic reality and current situation, and it is the most fundamental of his omissions.
In recounting his own personal story, Guaidó describes how he joined the student movement in opposition to the Chavist referendum on constitutional reforms in 2007. Readers of The New York Times may or may not be aware that the Latin American student movement has a heroic tradition of standing in opposition to military dictatorships and U.S. imperialism. In Cuba, for example, historically important leaders like Julio Antonio Mella and Fidel Castro took their first steps as leaders in the student movement. However, Latin American students are not always on the side of social justice; sometimes they are defenders of privilege. In many countries in Latin America, university students are primarily middle class, and the Latin American middle class has high levels of activism in both bands, in both the revolution and the counterrevolution. The student movement in opposition to the 2007 constitutional reform referendum was a movement of middle class students, casting itself in opposition to the deepening of a popular revolution that intended to expand opportunities for persons of all classes; a revolution that is seeking transformation of a historical reality in which opportunities were to a considerable extent restricted to the privileged classes.
Guaidó proposes shoring up the National Assembly and consolidating the support of the international program. But this is hardly a program or a platform, and this has been a continuous shortcoming of the opposition. The opposition is against the Bolivarian Revolution, and it makes vague charges of totalitarianism. But what are its specific objections to the Chavists? Was it that the Chavists took effective control of the previously nationalized oil industry? Was it that they used government revenues obtained through control of the oil industry to reduce foreign debt and to finance missions in education, health, and housing? Was it that they united with Latin American and Caribbean governments, seeking to develop an effective regional response to U.S. imperialism?
And what specific measures does the opposition propose? One suspects that it wants to restore the neoliberal agenda, in which the government permits the market to rule, playing rhetorical political games with its duty to formulate and implement a plan for social and economic development. And one suspects that the opposition wants to restore Venezuelan subordination to U.S. capital, thus creating opportunities for Venezuelans in privileged positions. But such a program cannot be proclaimed, because it would be rejected by the majority as contrary to the needs of the people and the interests of the nation. So the opposition therefore must engage in a disinformation and destabilization campaign, seeking to create chaos and disorder, as a prelude to U.S. military intervention in some form, which would seek to put into power a regime more accommodating to its interests.
It is hard to know how this situation will play out. The U.S. government has frozen Venezuelan assets in U.S. banks, and Guaidó indicates that he will seek control of Venezuelan assets abroad. He could use these funds to appoint ambassadors, which some countries will recognize; to form para-military organizations; and to disseminate misinformation in the world and in Venezuela. He can count on U.S. support, and Trump is threatening a possible military intervention. A “civil war,” of the kind principally financed and supported from the exterior, may be beginning. If this happens, almost everyone will lose, but not the opportunists.
Events of this kind will continue, unless and until the people of the United States acquire the necessary understanding of world history and international affairs; and develop the political maturity and the political power required to establish that the government of the United States, in the conduct of its foreign policy, respect the sovereignty of the nations of the world, even those nations with important natural resources, and even those nations with the audacity to seek an autonomous road, different from that assigned to them by the imperialist and neocolonial powers.