Opinion | Venezuelan crisis shouldn’t be US opportunity


Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer

On Jan. 23, protesters in Schenley Plaza advocated for Juan Guaido over Nicolas Maduro.

By Jason Henriquez, Staff Columnist

Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is a recipe for disaster. But to the U.S. government, it’s standard foreign policy.

According to a study published in the Journal of Politics of South America, the United States has supported 11 coups in Latin America over the past 50 years. Even a cursory examination of regional history shows that in every case a regime far more authoritarian and oppressive than the preceding government took power through force and violence. The United States has now publicly announced its intent to make that number an even dozen.

The U.S. government’s posturing for both regime change and more sanctions on Venezuela are deeply unpopular in the Latin American country. Polls show that four out of every five Venezuelans oppose these threats by the Trump administration. Despite the will of the people there and the historically detrimental results of foreign meddling, the U.S. government continues to play with fire. Meanwhile, it enthusiastically collaborates with dictators like Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Trump decided opposition leader Juan Guaido is the interim president after he swore himself in Jan. 23, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims the National Assembly of Venezuela has the constitutional right to make him interim president because of Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution.

The article states if the president becomes permanently unavailable to serve for reasons such as death or resignation, the president of the National Assembly will take charge for 30 days until a new election is held. The opposition and its supporters claim the article should be invoked because of concerns about the legitimacy of Maduro’s election. But some observers believe President Nicolas Maduro is not permanently unavailable to serve according to the definitions listed.

The Trump administration denies Guaido’s claim to power is unconstitutional and states its choice for the president of Venezuela will unequivocally improve the nation’s problems. But history contains enough evidence of the terrible aftermaths of U.S. foreign policy to fill a library.

The CIA unapologetically admitted it influenced news media in Chile in 1973 to encourage the overthrow of democratically elected President Salvador Allende. Murderous dictator Augusto Pinochet quickly took power and his regime received the clandestine support of the U.S. government.

The U.S. government proudly endorsed the Argentine coup in 1976 that removed democratically elected President Isabel Peron and supported the new authoritarian regime. Tens of thousands of civilians disappeared and children were forcibly separated from their parents.
There are countless modern examples in other parts of the world in which U.S. involvement worsened seemingly horrible situations. Many experts say the power vacuum following America’s involvement in Iraq spawned ISIS. The overthrow of the Libyan government by the Obama administration is seen to have enabled the development of a vast slave trade in the country. The past three presidents have a laundry list of nations they have destabilized.

None of these countries ever requested the U.S. government’s supposed beneficence. In fact, the poor and vulnerable of these countries have only been hurt by it. Venezuela might have lost more than $20 billion from American-led sanctions in 2018 alone. An evil regime intentionally starving its people may make for a popular narrative, but in reality a large portion of the nation’s shortages are directly a result of American intervention.

On top of that, Venezuela suffers from Dutch disease, or the dependency on one natural resource. Its vast oil reserves that once enriched the population have since lost value with the fallen price of fossil fuels. As a result, the entire economy has endured a decline. The GDP per capita plummeted from $12,381 in 2013 to $6,042 in 2015 — which, combined with the crushing power of sanctions, has made life a living hell for Venezuelans.

Despite the poor conditions for most people in the country, the majority of the people do not prefer the opposition. The political parties that make up the opposition overwhelmingly support unpopular leaders across the globe like purported fascist Jair Bolsonaro. A pro-opposition polling firm confirmed in October that 70 percent of Venezuelans disapprove of the suspended National Assembly being led by Trump-supported opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Maduro handily won the past two elections. Although the opposition chose to boycott the most recent election, the voter turnout ended up being only 1.4 percent lower than that of the United States in 2018. The opposition had a chance to prove if there was any election fraud as its supporters so claimed, but it then demanded the United Nations not send observers.

Regardless of the opposition’s popularity — or lack thereof — it is not the place of the United States to deny the election results of another country. A president who did not win the popular vote should not be talking about the subversion of democracy when that very thing helped him get elected.

If the Trump administration — and the American government in general — really wants to confront dictatorship, it should focus on ending its close relationship with Saudi Arabia. It should stop lauding the destruction of democracy, the demolition of the Amazon and the systematic encroachment upon indigenous land in Brazil. It should pay its federal workers during future shutdowns so they don’t have to wait in bread lines to eat. It should save the lives of the 45,000 people who die in America each year due to lack of health coverage.

Until then, let the people of Venezuela choose for themselves.