Venezuela has been on a downward spiral for years: a total collapse of currency, outrageous hyperinflation, rising infant mortality rate, the second-highest murder rate in the world, a shortage of almost everything (including basics such as food and oil), and widespread starvation.
More than three millions Venezuelans––or 10 percent of the country’s population––have left since 2014. But migration isn’t for everyone, so many stay behind and continue their unimaginable daily suffering. Some bravely rose to protest and were brutally suppressed. Finally there is some hope.
On January 23, the 61st anniversary of the fall of Venezuela’s last military dictator, Gen. Marcos Pérez Jiménez, massive protests erupted on the streets of Caracas, demanding an end to the authoritarian Nicolas Maduro government. Venezuela’s various fractured opposition groups united behind one young and energetic leader, democratically elected National Assembly Leader Juan Guaido.
The 35-year-old Guaido took the oath of office before the crowd and declared himself the country’s interim president. Only a few minutes later, President Trump recognized Guaido as the only legitimate leader of Venezuela. Soon, other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and a majority of South American countries, joined in recognizing President Guaido. The list is still growing.
The countries who continue to embrace the failing Maduro government are the permanent members of the authoritarian and anti-democracy club: China, Cuba, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and a few others. No surprise there. What is surprising is that some on the American left, including members of Congress, choose to join authoritarian regimes around the world to stand by dictator Maduro. They have been using social media to repeat the same propaganda and lies Maduro and his minions have been telling for years.
Lie 1: President Guaido Is Part Of A U.S.-Led Coup
The US-led coup in Venezuela was orchestrated by Donald Trump, Mike Pence, neocon fanatic John Bolton, former CIA head Pompeo, and neocon Marco Rubio, along with some hawkish Democrats, in alliance with Brazil's new fascist gov and Colombia's far-right gov https://t.co/zbyvLTmy1p
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) January 25, 2019
Let’s examine the classical definition of coup: “a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government.” Maduro is the one who seized power illegally, aided by violence. His so-called successful reelection in 2018 was a sham and widely denounced by the world, due to extraordinary measures the regime took to ensure Maduro’s win, per The New York Times’ report (not a right-wing media organization, mind you).
This included moving up the election from December to May so opposition parties had little time to campaign and organize, barring the largest opposition parties and their leaders from running, arresting activists and oppositions leaders prior to the election, and even eliminating the requirement that “that voters dip a finger in indelible ink, which is used to keep people from voting more than once.” The regime also used food handouts as both a threat (and an incentive) to get hungry Venezuelans to vote for Maduro.
Even with all these vote-manipulating measures, many eligible voters boycotted the election, so the voter turnout was only 46 percent. The day after Maduro declared victory, Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly refused to recognize Maduro’s legitimacy.
The Lima Group, an alliance of 14 Latin American countries and Canada, also called Maduro’s reelection illegitimate, stating: “We do not recognize the legitimacy of the electoral process that was carried out in Venezuela on May 20th, because it does not adhere to the international standards of a democratic, free, fair and transparent process.” The same group reiterated its stand against the Maduro presidency on January 4, 2019, stating it would not recognize Maduro as the legitimate leader of Venezuela and would impose economic sanctions.
The definition of coup is also closely associated with using violence to seize power. The demonstration last week in Caracas has been largely peaceful. Speaking of violence, Maduro is the one who uses violence to suppress opposition, imprisoning opposition leaders and is well on his way to turning a democracy into a dictatorship. After he lost control of the national assembly to opposition parties in 2015, his government suppressed the National Assembly’s attempt for a recall referendum in 2016, which prompted protests on the street of Caracas. A professor in Venezuela tweeted: “The government’s striptease is complete. Before us is the horrible figure of dictatorship.”
On the same day as President Guaido’s swearing in, Canada’s outspoken minister of foreign affairs issued a strong statement, saying “Canada rejects the Maduro regime’s illegitimate claim to power and has called upon Nicolás Maduro to cede power to the democratically elected National Assembly, ” and ” Canadians stand with the people of Venezuela and their desire to restore constitutional democracy and human rights in Venezuela.” How could anyone call this a U.S.-backed coup?
Lie 2: President Guaido’s Actions Are Unconstitutional
Omar tweeted a Venezuela Supreme Court’s decision as evidence that interim President Guaido’s action was unconstitutional. I hope one of her staffers will give her a quick history lesson on Venezuela, and soon.
Just as a reminder, this person is now on the House Foreign Relations Committee. And she apparently is unaware that Venezuela's Supreme Court is bought and owned by Maduro. https://t.co/bndJYGHvlk
— Jazz Shaw (@JazzShaw) January 29, 2019
Venezuela’s Supreme Court is not a reliable source for information because Maduro stacked the courts with his loyal cronies. In return, the Supreme Court used its judicial power to provide Maduro legal cover in order to usurp power from the National Assembly.
The court removed the assembly’s authority to have a say over the economy in October 2017. Then the judiciary dissolved the National Assembly completely in March 2017 and was forced to reverse its decision after an international outcry. Only a few month later, Maduro’s government held an “election” to elect a new legislative body to replace the National Assembly. No one was surprised that Maduro’s allies “won” all 545 seats of this new legislative body so Maduro can do whatever he wants with no opposition.
Consequently, the true National Assembly deemed Maduro a “usurper” and the presidency vacant. According to Venezuela’s constitution, the head of the National Assembly––in this case Guaido––should take over as acting president until a free and fair election takes place at a later date. So what Guaido did on January 23 was legally sound and constitutionally bound.
I’m Venezuelan-American 100% liberal. Right now is not about discussing US intentions. Facts are there IS NOT A COUP, @jguaido is 100% constitutional, Venezuelan people support and trust him to guide the country out of the autocratic, corrupt and violent illegitimate regimen.
— Chabela Sánchez (@ChabelaSL) January 26, 2019
Even Sanders, who used to sing the praises of Venezuela, tweeted that “The Maduro government has waged a violent crackdown on Venezuelan civil society, violated the constitution by dissolving the National Assembly and was re-elected last year in an election many observers said was fraudulent.”
Lie 3: Guaido Was Handpicked By The U.S. Right
According to a BBC profile on Juan Guaido, he was one of seven children in a poor family in the port city of La Guaira in the state of Vargas. His studied industrial engineering in college and later earned graduate degrees at George Washington University (GWU) in the U.S. and Venezuelan private business school Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración.
Apparently the fact he went to GWU is sufficient for some on the American left to name him a far-right colonialist. See here:
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) January 26, 2019
Although he is young, Guaido has been fighting back Venezuela’s authoritarian government for years. When he was in college, he protested against Hugo Chavz’s efforts to control the media. He joined another prominent opposition leader, Leopoldo López, to found a centrist political party Popular Will in 2009.
Guaido was elected to the National Assembly in 2011. In early January 2019, the National Assembly elected him as the speaker. Shortly after, Maduro’s security force dragged Guaido out of his car and arrested him for no other reasons than simply being an opposition leader. He was only released a few days later after international outcry at his arrest.
Despite Guaido’s credentials and the fact he was elected by his fellow countrymen who oppose Maduro’s ruthless rule in Venezuela, Omar still refers to Guaido as a far-right opposition installed by President Trump in her tweet. Thankfully, other Venezuelans pushed back on that one too.
A US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face. Trump's efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican's efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 25, 2019
Lie 4: U.S. Sanctions Caused Venezuela’s Collapse
This is one of those lies Maduro repeats in order to avoid taking responsibility. Yet it has been well-documented, even by liberal media, that the socialist policies Chavez installed since 1999 and reinforced by his handpicked successor since 2013 are somehow responsible for Venezuela’s economic and political collapse.
Policies such as central planning and nationalization of private businesses destroyed a once-vibrant private sector. Years of price controls drove producers out of business. Public-sector investment was neglected. Social welfare programs such as “free” health care and college increased wasteful spending and made these services totally unaffordable.
The high oil prices in the early 2000s masked the seriousness of these problems for a while since Venezuela is a major oil producer and exporter. But after oil prices peaked at $100 per barrel in 2014, it plunged to $50 and below, and hasn’t recovered since. Unable to pay for subsidies and welfare programs, Maduro kept printing more money. Consequently, Venezuela suffers the world’s worst inflation rate, at more than 13,000 percent.
Of course Maduro blames the U.S. economic sanctions for all Venezuela’s problems. But some American leftists continue to perpetuate his lie. Here is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez applauding Chris Cuomo, an anchor on CNN, blaming the United States for “starving the people and stand back watch them burn.” Also check out this tweet blaming the U.S. sanctions for Venezuelans’ suffering from Ben Norton, a journalist with a blue check on his Twitter account.
Of course Omar agrees, and calls for lifting U.S. sanctions. Never mind that U.S. sanctions are neither the cause (nor the cure!) of Venezuela’s economic and political collapse. And we don’t care about their oil because the United States is the number one oil producer in the world, thanks to fracking.
Many Democrats like to claim they are for human rights and democracy, but when an oppressed people rises up to fight for their inalienable rights, some on the left choose to stand by a dictator and his authoritarian regime. Either they are so blind by their hatred to Trump that they can’t think straight or they never really believed in human rights and democracy to begin with.