Venezuela: Another US-sponsored coup in Latin America

Venezuela is in the middle of an ongoing power struggle that has left at least four dead, hundreds injured, and many more without access to food or medicine. It all started on January 23, when Juan Guaidó, a member of the “Popular Will” party, took to the streets and declared himself interim president as Nicolás Maduro began his second term. His declaration was based on the powers that the Venezuelan constitution grants. Speaking to his supporters, Guaidó also called for fair elections following what Maduro critics allege were fraudulent elections last spring.

The move has left the twice-elected Maduro struggling to maintain influence as his international legitimacy is overshadowed by Guaidó – who is now backed by over 50 countries, including the US, which recently sent a shipment of humanitarian aid at his request. Maduro vowed to block the aid, calling it a guise by the US government to undermine Venezuela’s sovereignty.

At a rally in Caracas on February 12, Guaidó set a deadline for Maduro to allow the relief to enter the country and essentially set the stage for a stand-off. On Saturday, February 23, violence erupted as the shipments arrived in neighboring Brazil and Colombia. Three trucks made it into Venezuela, two were set aflame, and nearly 300 people were injured. The White House and Guaidó have been quick to blame Maduro, who has denied the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and faces mounting tensions as the country’s economic and political woes continue to worsen.

The Venezuelan opposition (as well as Vice President Mike Pence) has framed Saturday’s confrontation as an affront to human rights, alleging that Maduro’s government purposefully kept food and medicine from reaching vulnerable Venezuelan citizens. According to New York Times reporter Anatoly Kurmanaev, however, “Many opposition leaders focused on PR instead of nitty-gritty logistics of getting the aid in…. Some openly relished a confrontation with Maduro's forces.” Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, quickly established a close relationship to the Trump administration. President Trump has pledged that “all options are on the table.” At a meeting on February 25 with Grupo Lima – a 14-country initiative tasked with solving the economic crisis in Venezuela – Vice President Pence said, “We will keep standing with you until democracy and your libertad are restored.”

The February 23 engagement is considered the beginning of a coup orchestrated by Guaidó to forcibly overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, and is not without precedent. Venezuela faces a mounting economic depression, skyrocketing inflation, and increasing sanctions by the United States and its allies. However, that does not grant the opposition, or a foreign power, the right to intervene in Venezuela’s democracy. In an open letter, Maduro declared, “These are historic days that could decide between war and peace. We demand the end of US aggression and threats of US intervention.” So far elected officials in the US, including progressive presidential candidates, have jumped onto the bandwagon, placing blame on Maduro and recognizing Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. While tangible solutions for the Venezuelan crisis are hard to come by, elected leaders should grant the Venezuelan populace self-determination instead of having an imperial power install someone who better fits their needs.

About the Author

Ariana Rosas is an editorial assistant for The North Star. She is a writer and researcher based in Brooklyn. She has a background in social policy and is interested in social justice, human rights, and immigration.