The Trump administration has mapped out its strategy for regime change in Venezuela, and Africa should take note of the blueprint as the continent is not immune from US regime change plots.
Join the dots between the US-backed coup against Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, the coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti in 1991, the attempted coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 2002, the coup against Manuel Zelaya in Honduras in 2009, and the impending coup against Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela in 2019.
Ever since the discovery of oil in Venezuela in 1922, the US has had Venezuela in its crosshairs. The US obsession with controlling Venezuela’s politics has increased since it was proven to have the world’s largest oil reserves. The US economic blockade of Venezuela in order to starve it into submission has continued for over four years, ever since President Barak Obama’s decree in 2015 that Venezuela is a threat to US national security. The US has prevented food, medicine and consumer goods from entering the country.
Then came Trump and his mantra “all options are on the table,” and the attempt to assassinate Maduro on August 4th last year by use of a drone. When that failed, the New York Times reported in September a secret meeting that Trump held with rebellious Venezuelan military officers. Then in November came the pronouncement of Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton that Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua comprised the “Troika of Tyranny.” All so reminiscent of how the US set the scene for the invasion of Iraq, with President George Bush declaring Iraq, Iran and North Korea the “Axis of Evil.”
The mainstream media has been complicit in supporting US coup attempts, convincing the world that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, making an invasion palatable in world public opinion. The mainstream media has played the same role in the vilification of Chavez and then Maduro, driving home the message that the public should accept regime change in Venezuela for the good of its people.
The media has depicted the situation in Venezuela as a humanitarian crisis, setting a pretext for outside intervention. There is no question that there is an economic crisis in Venezuela that has brought hunger and suffering to its people. But the root causes have been the dramatic fall in oil prices, and the US economic blockade and sanctions. The blockade has meant shortages of food and medicine, and inflation that, according to the IMF, has reached 1 million percent last year, the highest in the world. The situation has also led three million Venezuelans leaving the country since 2015.
The objective of the US is to generate a crisis that will lead to a violent solution, and ultimately the take over of the Venezuelan state by political elites who will operate under US instructions. Paramilitary groups have been infiltrated into Venezuela through Colombia, which have ensured that protests against the Maduro government have been violent, particularly those staged in 2014 and 2017.
Despite the attempts at destabilisation, 27 elections have been held since 1998, some of which former US President Jimmy Carter has monitored. Carter’s assessment of elections was largely positive, saying that there are the necessary systems and safeguards in place for democratic elections. The US-backed opposition chose to boycott and sabotage the recent elections, but over eight million Venezuelans still went to the polls last May. The US and the opposition claimed the elections were illegitimate, but Maduro was sworn in on January 10th as President for a second six-year term.
The crisis escalated this week when US President Mike Pence declared on Tuesday that Maduro was a dictator with no legitimacy, a day before opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself President. The US, EU, OAS and Lima Group has recognised Guaido as President, while Russia, China, Mexico, Turkey, Cuba and Bolivia have publicly opposed the attempted coup. The move of Guaido, who heads the national assembly which has been declared unconstitutional by the executive and judiciary, has been likened to the notion of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declaring herself as US President.
When the US and its allies in the region (the Lima Group) give themselves the right to intervene in Venezuela, in clear violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty and right to self-determination, Africa should sit up and take note. There is a pattern in such madness.
* Shannon Ebrahim is the Group Foreign Editor.