What You Need to Know about the Coup in Venezuela

The U.S. is again attempting a foreign coup in Venezuela. This is not the first time, and if it doesn’t succeed, it will not be the last time. For those of us who are United States citizens, we have a tremendous responsibility to inform ourselves about what our government is doing and to not perpetuate the real and devastating harm that is being caused.

Imagine for a moment that another country declared our elections fraudulent because so many of us are unhappy with Trump, or because the person who wins the popular vote does not become the president. Imagine that country has several nearby military bases. In fact, can you imagine another country having a military base in or near the US?

For example, did you know about the role the United States has played in making sure that “socialism isn’t working” in Venezuela and causing a devastating economic crisis? From this interview with two scholars who have both written multiple books on Venezuela (some of which I’ve read and used in my classes):

Juan Gonzalez: “Citgo, the huge American-based subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil industry, which has not been allowed to remit back any of the money that it’s making here in the United States back to Venezuela.”

Steve Ellner: “The sanction that prohibits Citgo from remitting profits to Venezuela is a very important measure. It means that the Venezuelan government is being deprived of approximately $1 billion a year.”

“But, Juan, in addition to that, there is a major impact in terms of discouraging commercial and financial interests throughout the world from any kind of transaction with Venezuela. There is a list of 70—approximately 70 Venezuelan officials who are being sanctioned. And that translates into a situation in which the U.S. government, and specifically Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the treasury, has undertaken different investigations, workshops with representatives of Japan, Europe, Latin America, in order to find out where the shell companies are. In other words, he has created a situation in which commercial interests throughout the world are afraid to have anything to do with Venezuela. That amounts to virtually a block—an economic blockade.”

Did you know Mike Pence made an announcement to the Venezuelan people declaring someone else the president before Juan Guaidó even declared himself the president? Did you know our ambassadors and VPs made videos to people in other countries for social media? Can you imagine getting a message on FB from Angela Merkel telling us who our president “really” was?

soa latin america

Original image source: School of the Americas Watch

The coup attempt in Venezuela takes place within a history of constant violent military intervention throughout Latin America. These interventions happen regardless of Democratic or Republican administration; the most recent and obvious example is the coup in Honduras which was supported and ratified by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and President Obama in 2009. There seems to be no sense of irony to the calls of “lack of democracy” in Venezuela while an explicitly, clearly illegitimate and fraudulent president sits in office in Honduras with the full support of Washington.

Furthermore, in the US we are basically never exposed to how or why anyone would support Chavismo at the grassroots. What do you know, for example about the deeply democratic comunas? Now this environment has changed, but it is still essential to consider, and to wonder critically what accounts are being left out now?

Democracy Now! and NACLA are good places to get reliable coverage of what’s happening in Venezuela.

When we are ill-informed or when we turn away, or worse, when we perpetuate the idea that Maduro is a dictator, that there is another legitimate president, that a coup is legitimate, or any of the other lies our government is peddling to us, we put real people’s lives in danger.

military interventions map

Saturday Rec: Wormwood

Wormwood

Pairs well with: plaid suits, elaborate cocktails, a blanket to hide under for the rest of your life, and maybe more cigarettes. Just don’t let your cocktail out of your sight for a moment.

CIA document approving use of LSD through MKULTRA project with redactions

Dr. Sidney Gottlieb’s approval of an MKULTRA subproject on LSD.

Watch it if you feel yourself becoming a little bit sympathetic for the FBI in the Trump era. Although it is about the CIA, this is guaranteed to immunize you from forgetting the darkness of the United States security apparatus and its allegiances.

This docuseries, directed by expert filmmaker and story teller Errol Morris, goes beyond the MKUltra premise that it starts with and gets more and more upsetting, linking the sci-fi mind control premise (although it’s true, not fiction) to contemporary military operations. Much of the series was eye-opening and shocking even for a cynical anarchist who studies Latin America like me.

I believe it is only episode two or three when one of the family’s lawyers describes seeing the “burn bowls” inside of the agency. These instruments were meant for quick and regular document destruction.

You can learn more about Frank Olson (the subject of the documentary) and his son’s ongoing struggle for justice here.

Also recommended: everything Errol Morris has directed, including

  • Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (experts on mole rats and hedge sculpture!)
  • The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (somehow not a boring talking head documentary!)
  • Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (about the electric chair, yet watchable)
  • Gates of Heaven (film about a pet cemetary that made Werner Herzog eat his shoe)
  • The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld (it will cure whatever trust you have left in authority and war-mongering after the Fog of War)
  • The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography (will remind you life is still worth living after watching Donald Rumsfeld, without being cliché)