By Pat Elder, World BEYOND War, May 6, 2019
A fortified door inside the Venezuelan Embassy.
I’ve been studying the Pentagon’s use of psychological tactics in the way it recruits youth into the armed forces for 20 years, so I have a sense of the lack of boundaries practiced by the US government through its military. Now I can report on the psychological tactics employed by the State Department through the Secret Service Police. I spent a week in the besieged Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, and I was exposed to a relentless psychological operations campaign (psy-ops) orchestrated by my government to drive peace activists like myself from the embassy.
Our attorney, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, addressed the severity of the threat to us in her May 3rd letter to the Secret Service Police, in which she wrote:
“At this moment, the violent mob that you have allowed to continually commit acts of violence against persons and property at the Venezuelan embassy is actively working to smash in the doors while your officers give permission to the assault and explicitly refuse to intervene.
“As you know, and your officers have witnessed, members of this mob have physically attacked and made death threats to the peace activists who are inside and around the embassy. This presence inside the embassy, as you also know, is lawful, as the peace activists were invited inside the embassy by those lawfully in charge of the premises.
“There has been no action that has divested them of the right to be inside the embassy or lawful process that could authorize removal.
“Instead you are authorizing a vigilante group to attack the peace activists inside.
“You must take action immediately to cease this assault and ensure that there is no violence against the persons inside. They are in grave danger from the mob you have facilitated and authorized to besiege the embassy.
“You are responsible for any acts of violence that will be committed against these peace activists inside the embassy.”
Physical harm and the fear of death stir the greatest terror in our hearts. These kinds of operations are designed to frame the image of an impending disaster, like being pummeled to death by an angry mob. You think it can’t happen here, but you quickly correct yourself, realizing the United States under Donald Trump is capable of orchestrating such a scenario.
There are apparently no enforced audio level limits in the District of Columbia from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. The decibel level from the outside cacophony rattle the windows. I feel badly for the residents of the adjacent James Place Condominium who endure the same audio onslaught.
The psy-ops campaign is being directed by one individual who arrived several days before the orchestrated onslaught began on April 30. That was the day when fake ambassador Carlos Vecchio arrived to claim the embassy for Juan Guaido, the make-believe president, designated by the U.S. government. The Vecchio embassy coup attempt was foiled by a poor turnout and a surprisingly strong showing of those who support our mission and adherence to international law.
I spoke to the man in charge of this psy-op campaign on several occasions, before he took command after the Vecchio visit. It’s best not to divulge the name he gave me. He stood a little taller than 6 feet, likely of Spanish/European descent. He was perhaps 55 with leathery skin, a three-day beard, with seriously graying hair and dark sun glasses. He wore black jeans and a tattered, green military jacket. He sat for hours alone, writing on a yellow legal pad what he said were philosophical responses to deep questions. For several days, he was camped with peace activists at the main entrance to the embassy.
He spoke of philosophers and history from the early colonial period and he ran down a brief overview of political philosophers. His politics seemed muddled, even contradictory. I pulled away from him after our second 15-minute exchange, wondering where he was coming from. What he said didn’t fit. I was puzzled. He was accompanied by a screaming, seemingly crazy lady who only shouted at the top of her lungs and repeated the same lines over-and-over again. “Maduro is a criminal.” “This is not your fight.” “This is our embassy.” She screamed for four or five twelve-hour days before Vecchio arrived when she was joined by three or four dozen protesters who took orders from the tattered general and stayed on the premises for long hours and returned every day.
I witnessed three women wearing designer clothes emerge from a late-model Mercedes to join the fracas and take on tasks delegated by the general.
Once the operation got under way, lieutenants would report, and he would dispatch the necessary tools to carry out various operations.
The first line of attack in this military campaign was the emergency siren. Four of these torturous devices were allowed to blare on each side of the building, with the intensity of a passing ambulance. Odysseus of old ordered his men to use beeswax to plug their ears from the potentially lethal wales of the Sirens, while some of us used ear plugs and others retreated to interior rooms. Wee-ooh wee-ooh, from 6:00 am to 10 pm.
The second assault used air-powered cans that emit an amazingly loud, piercing noise often heard after touchdowns are scored at high school football games. They’d point their blasters at us when we looked out the window. Several of these have been continuously employed since Vecchio’s visit. I spotted a box full of these devices on the embassy grounds.
Several bull horns were activated to emit a grating, high pitched noise. The well- dressed women, after inserting earplugs, took on these jobs, at least for part of one evening.
There were always two or three outside who used bullhorns to constantly repeat a few lines of their propaganda. “You must leave the embassy now.” “You are violating the law!” Maduro is a criminal.” “This is not your fight.” It was irritating, but it didn’t move us. One lady, with a loud, shrieking voice, sounding hysterical, screamed repeatedly at the top of her lungs, “You are with the criminals.” “You are with the murderers!”
Rarely did more than a few hours go by before one of our supporters outside was assaulted. The police allowed the assaults to occur. After one attack, when a man in his 70’s, who was attempting to deliver toothbrushes to us, was knocked to the ground semi-conscious, a crowd of 50 cheered his injury and all of the sirens came together to celebrate his writhing body. Each time there’s a beating, chaos reigns and hell breaks loose. It’s an attempt to orchestrate chaos, intending to instill panic and terror. It’s textbook stuff.
The mob covered up all of the first-floor windows with anti-Maduro/ pro Guiado posters, blocking our view. They smashed the security cameras to knock out our ability to see what was going on. It never affected us, though, because we were confident of the security improvements we improvised around the doors, windows, and large vents. The place is a fortress. Thankfully, the embassy has a large machine tool workroom with an array of power tools and materials. We boarded up doors and secured bottom floor and 2nd story windows with 4-inch screws, while the attacking force relentlessly pounded away, demanding we leave immediately.
The loudest decibels were probably registered by the incessant pounding on several bottom-floor metal doors with hammers, rocks, and large iron frying pans. The right-wing insurgents worked in groups of a half dozen or so, taking turns pounding on several doors.
At one point on Friday evening about 50 vigilantes converged at a basement door while their incessant banging shook the door frame and the walls. There were no DC Metropolitan Police or Secret Service visibly present. The police had retreated into the adjacent James Place Condominium. Several of us called 911 and were immediately referred to the Secret Service Police when we provided the address of 1099 30th St., NW Washington, DC. Apparently, the DC police have jurisdiction over the streets and sidewalks, while the Secret Service Police are responsible for maintaining the security of the embassies. I explained to the Secret Service officer on the phone that the mob was damaging the door while there were no police present. I explained that they were using rocks and hammers and a frying pan. “A frying pan?” said the Secret Service officer. “Were they cooking up anything good?” I said, “Let’s cut to the heart of the matter. Are you guaranteeing our safety or not?” he replied by asking under whose authority we were in the building and I responded that we were invited in by the government of Venezuela and he said we were not. He said we were illegally trespassing. I again asked him if it was the intention of the police to protect our safety and he replied that we were there illegally, and he again asked what they were cooking in that frying pan.
I am an American citizen, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, from a family of professional federal workers dating back to the 19th century. In the heart of Georgetown, I was subjected to a dystopian psychological operation that would have horrified my ancestors who helped create the federal structures dedicated to a separation of powers, governmental transparency, and the rule of law. I tremble for the fate of the world as fascism takes hold in the United States of America.
President Trump’s Yemen Veto Turns Our Constitution Upside-down
The Green Party Peace Action Committee calls on the US House and Senate to overturn the President’s veto by the required two-thirds majority to not only end our involvement in the immoral war in Yemen, but to reclaim congressional authority over the imperial presidency. “This war is yet another in a string of illegal wars carried on by the US without the declaration of war by Congress, as required under the US Constitution in Article I Section 8,” said B. Keith Brumley, Secretary of the Wisconsin Green Party, “Congress has not declared war since 1941.”
Green Party of the United States
For Immediate Release:
April 24, 2019
Gloria Mattera, Co-chair of the Green Party of the United States, email@example.com
Rita Jacobs, Co-chair, Green Party Peace Acton Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wesson Gaige, Co-chair, Green Party Peace Acton Committee, email@example.com
Media Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Despite his claimed opposition to endless US involvement in foreign wars, President Trump has vetoed a congressional resolution to end US participation in the Yemen war. In earlier comments, Trump brazenly declared that the value of Saudi arms sales is the most important consideration influencing his decision to continue supporting the Saudi war on Yemen. Thus, the murder of Khashoggi, the torture of human rights activists, and the creation of the worst ongoing civilian wartime suffering in the world is tolerable to Trump as long as Saudi blood money for weaponscontinues to flow to US defense contractors.
A bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate voted to end our involvement in this undeclared and illegal war. “Trump’s veto flies in the face of our Constitution that requires a simple majority to declare war, and should require a simple majority to end a war,” said Logan Martinez, a member of the Green Party of Ohio.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is an absolute monarchy that uses its vast oil wealth to enrich and empower the US Military-Industrial Complex which feeds on regional wars, international tensions, and public fear. In addition to massive spending on US weapons, the KSA has directed millions of dollars in campaign contributions to US politicians through lobbying agents.
The war in Yemen is primarily a one-sided, genocidal war against the poorest country in the Middle East. It is fully supported by the US government with weapons & targeting by our military. The people of Yemen have suffered four years of unimaginable violence and are now in a deep famine in which tens of thousands of people are starving.
The Green Party Platform states that “We demand repeal – not amendment — of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and oppose any other measure purporting to ‘authorize’ preemptive or illegal military action. In passing the AUMF, Congress abdicated its exclusive authority under the Constitution to declare war. It further violated the Constitution and betrayed its responsibility to the American people by delegating to the president – one person – virtually dictatorial power to commit acts of war whenever he or she chooses.“
On the heels of a month-long trip through Venezuela in the midst of growing U.S. aggression, anti-war activist Gloria La Riva will speak in numerous cities on the current situation in Venezuela, with a progressive perspective on the crucial issues facing the Venezuelan people: the U.S. economic sanctions, the U.S. media blockade, and the people’s organizing efforts to overcome the aggression. La Riva will show exclusive first-hand video footage from her trip and answer the questions:
- What is the Bolivarian revolution all about?
- Is Venezuela suffering an economic collapse?
- What is the role of the U.S., is the danger of U.S. war near?
- How can people in the United States get involved?
If you are interested in hosting La Riva in your city, contact us at: (661)487-1060
- Thursday, March 21 – New Haven, Connecticut
Eyewitness: Venezuela with Gloria La Riva
First and Summerfield United Methodist Church
6:30 pm EST
- Friday, March 22 – Boston, Massachusetts
Women Fight Back: Report Back from Venezuela + Housing in Boston
The City School
- Saturday, March 23 – New York City, New York
Women and Socialism Conference: Feminism for the 99%
The People’s Forum
- Tuesday, March 26 – Seaside, California
Hands Off Venezuela: Breaking the U.S. Media Blockade
Sponsored by the Monterey Peace and Justice Center
6pm to 8pm PST
- Saturday, March 30 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Liberation Forum: No Coup in Venezuela, Free Puerto Rico!
Philadelphia Liberation Center
- Monday, April 1 – Bowling Green, OH
Grounds For Thought Coffee
174 S Main St, Bowling Green, OH 43402
- Tuesday, April 2 – Antioch College
Coretta Scott King Center
One Morgan Pl, Yellow Springs, OH 45387
- Wednesday, April 3 – Depauw University
609 S Locust St, Greencastle IN 46135
- Thursday, April 4 – University of Illinois
Gregory Hall – Room #213
Wright Street Urbana, IL 61801
7:00 pm CST
- Friday, April 5 – St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis Association of Community Organizations5888 Plymouth Ave, St. Louis 63112
- Saturday, April 6 – Chicago, Illinois
3460 W. Lawrence, Chicago, Illinois 60625
6:00 pm CST
- Sunday, April 7 – Ann Arbor, Michigan
University of Michigan, Kalamazoo Room
911 N University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
- Monday, April 8 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Peace Action Bldg., 1001 E. Keefe St.Contact:
- Tuesday, April 9 – Madison, Wisconsin
First Unitarian Society – Landmark Auditorium
900 University Bay Dr.
- Wednesday, April 10 – Minneapolis, Minnesota
4200 Cedar Ave. S.Contact:
- Wednesday, April 17 – Albuquerque, New Mexico
(details to be announced)
- Thursday, April 18 – Denver, Colorado
(details to be announced)
Tuesday, April 23 – Arcata CAHumboldt State University
11:00 am PST
Wednesday, April 24 – Sacramento CASol Collective, 2574-21st St., 95818
Saturday, April 27, Pittsburgh PA
(details to be announced)
Sunday, April 28, Cleveland OHSite TBD
- Seattle, Washington
(date and location to be announced soon)
If you have questions or are interested in hosting a speaking event with Gloria La Riva in your city please contact (661)487-1060
Still Media From Venezuela Support In DC
Thank you for all who have stood up to the corporate hegemony and the U.S. oligarchy, NATO, War and their evil plans for the people of Venezuela.
Remember it is always the children and the women that suffer most.
Peace is possible.
Wage Peace At Wars Pace.
Slideshow and Download
Credits and Thank you Ted Majdosz
When we talked with Venezuelans they told us how pleased they were people from the United States were in Venezuela and could see what was really happening in their country. They wanted us to return to the United States and tell the truth about Venezuela — that is exactly what we will be doing.
There is more false information in the US mass media than there is the truth. The people of the United States are being misled in order to create support for the Trump intervention in Venezuela which includes the economic war, an attack on the electrical system and the threat of war and militarism.
We will report on what we saw in Venezuela. When the US was claiming there was widespread civil unrest when in fact there was calm. When the US claimed there were people starving and homeless, we saw healthy people, food distribution programs, urban food gardens and millions of social housing units built in the midst of an economic war. There were no starving Venezuelans.
While the US pushed the farce Juan Guaido as a coup president, the reality was Guaido’s self-appointment violated the Constitution of Venezuela. Guaido is the butt of jokes in Venezuela with very little support among the population while Maduro is seen as working for the necessities of people and fighting against US imperialism.
The peace delegation was organized by the US Peace Council and COSI (the Committee for International Solidarity). We spent time in the barrio’s, shantytowns, on the streets, food cooperatives and at rallies and talked to many Venezuelans.
We will also report on a 90-minute private meeting our delegation had with President Maduro, as well as meetings with the National Electoral Council, the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Urban Farming, Ministry of Peace and the Health Ministry.
Join us so you can learn what is really happening in Venezuela and share the information widely.
The panel will include:
Margaret Flowers, co-director of Popular Resistance
Kevin Zeese co-director of Popular Resistance
Joe Lombardo, national organizer of the United National Antiwar Coalition
Original Article: https://popularresistance.org/venezuela-report-back-livestream-thursday-7-pm/
Another report direct from Kevin Zeese: https://independentpoliticalreport.com/2019/03/greens-report-on-their-peace-delegation-to-venezuela/
The Green Party Peace Action Committee (GPAX) has endorsed back-to-back anti-war demonstrations in DC. (see below.) These actions are important and we would like to have a strong Green Party presence. There will also be local peace actions we need to support and help organize.
I have proposed that the party members help organize Anti-War Teach-Ins:
“From Yemen to Venezuela US Aggression Must End”.
There is a great need for peace education and outreach. Most Americans have little understanding of why we are at war and are fatigued by how long these wars have been going on. The peace movement needs to reach out to new constituencies..
I propose that we encourage peace groups to organize anti-war teach-ins on college campuses and in communities in the coming months.
- HANDS OFF VENEZUELA!
NATIONAL MARCH ON WASHINGTON
SATURDAY, MARCH 16: See below.
- Mobilization to Oppose the North American Treaty Organization(NATO).
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Lafayette Park (across from the White House)
Washington, DC1:00 PM ET
Historically, massive protests have taken place in major cities during NATO meetings and summits. 2019 will be no exception.
Additional actions will take place on April 4, 2019 at the opening of the NATO meeting. April 4th marks the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a grotesque desecration of King’s dedication to peace and his fight against racism, poverty and war, military leaders will gather and celebrate NATO’s 70th anniversary at their annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
This is nothing short of a deliberate insult to King.
Since its founding, NATO has succeeded in being the world’s deadliest military alliance. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once correctly asserted, the U.S. government is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” Hundreds of thousands of people have died in U.S./NATO-led wars in places like Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yugoslavia.
March on the Pentagon invites you to join us in opposing NATO with UNAC. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
So let’s be loud. No to NATO. U.S. and NATO wars must end.
Learn more at No2NATO2019.org.
The Steering Committee for the March 30th Anti-NATO Mobilization:
- Bahman Azad, Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases • Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace • Leah Bolger, World Beyond War • Alison Bodine, Mobilization Against War and Occupation • Gerry Condon, Veterans For Peace • Miguel Figueroa, Canadian Peace Congress • Sara Flounders, International Action Center • Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance • Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ • Madelyn Hoffman, U.S. Peace Council • Tarak Kauff, Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases, Veterans For Peace • Marilyn Levin, UNAC • Joe Lombardo, UNAC • Tamara Lorincz, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace • Jeff Mackler, West Coast UNAC • Alfred L. Marder, U.S. Peace Council • Sarah Martin, Women Against Military Madness • Nancy Price, WILPF-US Section • Paul Pumphrey, Friends of the Congo • Cindy Sheehan, March on the Pentagon• Paki Wieland, CODEPINK • Phil Wilayto, Virginia Defenders • Ann Wright, Veterans For Peace, CODEPINK • Rev. Bruce Wright, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign and Refuge Ministries • Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance
NATIONAL MARCH ON WASHINGTON SATURDAY, MARCH 16:
HANDS OFF VENEZUELA
White House, Washington, D.C.
By Coalition of Signers, ANSWER Coalition
“People Of The U.S., I Ask For Your Support To Reject The Interference Of Donald Trump’s Government In Making My Homeland A Vietnam In Latin America. Don’t Allow It!” President Nicolas Maduro, January 31, 2017.
On Saturday, March 16, thousands of people will march in Washington, D.C. against the Trump administration’s effort to engineer a coup in Venezuela and a new devastating war there. The aggressive policy against Venezuela repeats the ugly pattern of wars for regime change in the oil-rich countries of Iraq and Libya. National Security Advisor John Bolton is reading from the same script, declaring a “troika of tyranny” in Latin America (like the “axis of evil”) as a precursor for regime change first in Venezuela, and then Cuba and Nicaragua. Trump has always said that the “mistake” of the Middle East wars was that the U.S. didn’t “take the oil.”
It is time to stand up and with a clear voice say NO to the newest example of the “Monroe Doctrine,” which the U.S. government has used for over two centuries to repeatedly invade Latin America and Caribbean, control its politics and extract its resources.
The White House aims to overthrow the government of President Nicolás Maduro and replace him with Juan Guaidó. Guaidó is a U.S.-trained operative who was unknown to the vast majority of Venezuelans before he proclaimed himself president — at Vice President Mike Pence’s urging. Although Guaidó has the backing of Trump, the CIA, and the Republican and Democratic Party leaderships alike, huge numbers of Venezuelans have marched to reject this coup and defend their independence.
On March 16, the people of the United States will come together to say:
- U.S. hands off Venezuela!
- NO to the coup — the U.S. does not have the right to select other country’s leaders!
- NO to the sanctions, oil embargo and economic war on Venezuela that aims to cause suffering for ordinary people in the country.
- NO to intervention and war from the U..S. and their proxies in the region.
- ANSWER Coalition
- Black Alliance for Peace
- Alliance for Global Justice
- Popular Resistance
- Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee
- Haïti Liberté
- International Support Haiti Network
- Popular Education Project
- Abby Martin, journalist, The Empire Files
- Dr. Jill Stein, 2016 Green Party presidential candidate
- Dr. Jared Ball, Prof. of Communication Studies, Morgan State Univ., imixwhatilike
- Medea Benjamin, activist and author, CodePink
- Cindy Sheehan, activist and author, Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox
- Berthony Dupont, Director, Haïti Liberté
- Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, constitutional rights attorney
- Max Blumenthal, journalist
- Ajamu Baraka, National Organizer, Black Alliance for Peace
- Mike Prysner, Iraq War veteran, producer, The Empire files
- Dr. George Ciccariello-Maher, author
- Dr. Anthony Monteiro, Saturday Free School
- Dr. Jodi Dean, author, Prof. of Political Science, Hobart & William Smith Colleges
- Gloria La Riva, National Coordinator, Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee
- Kim Ives, journalist
- Anoa Changa, host, The Way With Anoa
- Dan Cohen, journalist and filmmaker
- Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice
- Eugene Puryear, Stop Police Terror Project
- Jeanette Charles, International Solidarity Liaison, Venezuela Analysis
- Lucas Koerner, Editor and Analyst, Venezuela Analysis
- Margaret Flowers, Co-Coordinator, Popular Resistance
- Kevin Zeese, Co-Coordinator, Popular Resistance
- Dan Kovalik, author and human rights lawyer
- Mahdi Bray, National Director, American Muslim Alliance (AMA)
Brian Becker, National Director, ANSWER Coalition
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance
Above photo: John Zangas, DC Media Group.
Two things stand out about the US coup in Venezuela. First, it is unusually open. Typically, the US tries to hide its coups. Second, the coup is built on a series of obvious falsehoods, yet the bi-partisans in Washington, with a few exceptions, keep repeating them.
First, we will correct the falsehoods so readers are all working from the same facts. Second, we will describe how this coup is being defeated. It will be another major embarrassment for the Trump administration and US foreign policy.
It is important to understand Venezuela has become a geopolitical conflict as Russia and China are closely allied with Venezuela. China and Russia coming into the backyard of the United States challenges the antiquated Monroe Doctrine.
Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and the second largest gold reserves, as well as diamonds and other minerals such as coltan (needed for electronic devices). And, Venezuela is taking over as president of OPEC and will be in a position to push for oil payments in non-dollar currencies or in cryptocurrencies, a major threat to the US dollar.
Correcting the Record
There are a series of false statements repeated by DC officials and corporate media to justify the coup that are so obvious, it is hard to believe they are not intentional. In his two-paragraph comment on the coup, even Senator Bernie Sanders repeated them.
1. Truth: President Nicolás Maduro is the legitimate president.
President Maduro was re-elected on May 20, 2018, in response to the opposition demanding an early election. The legitimacy of the election of Maduro is so evident that it must be assumed those who say he is illegitimate are either intentionally false or ignorant. The election was scheduled consistent with the Venezuelan Constitution and in consultation with opposition parties. When it became evident that the opposition could not win the election, they decided, under pressure from the United States, to boycott the election in order to undermine its legitimacy. The facts are 9,389,056 people voted, 46% of eligible voters. Sixteen parties participated in the election with six candidates competing for the presidency.
The electoral process was observed by more than 150 election observers. This included 14 electoral commissions from eight countries among them the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America; two technical electoral missions; and 18 journalists from different parts of the world, among others. According to the international observers, “the elections were very transparent and complied with international parameters and national legislation.”
Venezuela has one of the best electoral systems in the world. Voter fraud is not possible as identification and fingerprints are required for each voter. Voting machines are audited before and immediately after the election. Venezuela does something no other country in the world does — a public, citizen’s audit of a random sample of 53% of voting machines that is televised. All 18 parties signed the audits.
Maduro won by a wide margin, obtaining 6,248,864 votes, 67.84%; followed by Henri Falcón with 1,927,958, 20.93%; Javier Bertucci with 1,015,895, 10.82%; and Reinaldo Quijada, who obtained 36,246 votes, 0.39% of the total.
This same voting system has been used in elections that Maduro’s party has lost in governor’s and legislative elections. Venezuela is a real democracy with transparent elections. The United States could learn a good deal about real democracy from Venezuela.
2. Truth: The economic crisis is caused by outside intervention, internal sabotage and the decline in oil prices.
There is no doubt the economic situation in Venezuela is dire. The cause is the economic war conducted by the United States, the major decline in oil prices and economic sabotage by the opposition. In essence, the United States and opposition created problems in the Venezuelan economy and now say Maduro must be replaced because of problems they created.
Oil was discovered in Venezuela in the early part of the 20th Century and has dominated the economy since then. The Dutch Disease, the negative impact of an economy based on one natural resource, causes a sharp inflow of foreign currency, which raises the value of the country’s currency, making the country’s other products less price competitive. It is cheaper to import products rather than create them. This makes it more difficult for segments of the economy like agriculture and manufacturing to develop.
Chavez/Maduro sought to diversify the economy. They put in place thousands of communes and hundreds of thousands of people working in cooperatives to build agriculture and manufacturing. When the global price of oil was cut by more than half, it collapsed Venezuela’s public finances undermining these efforts. The economic war by the US made it difficult for Venezuela to borrow and trade with some countries.
Economic sanctions against Venezuela began under President Obama, and the Trump administration escalated them with financial sanctions. United States sanctions cost Venezuela some $6 billion since August, according to an October analysis. Measures against the nation’s oil industry have prohibited the Venezuelan majority-owned company, CITGO, from sending profits back to Venezuela, a $1 billion loss to the government yearly. Now, the Bank of England is refusing to return $1.2 billion in gold reserves after US officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, lobbied them to cut Venezuela off from its overseas assets.
The US economic war and sabotage of the economy by business interests has been exposed as part of the effort to remove Maduro by creating social unrest and lack of confidence in the government. This has included hoarding of goods, storing essentials in warehouses and selling Venezuelan goods in Colombia.
In September 2018, Venezuela pointed to a false media campaign exaggerating migration from Venezuela. They highlighted statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to affirm that Venezuela has the fewest volunteer migrants in the continent. They pointed out 5.6 million Colombians have fled violence in their country and live in Venezuela. Venezuela has programs that have helped thousands of Venezuelans return home.
Socialism strengthens economies, as demonstrated in Portugal. Indeed, one criticism of Venezuela is that the Bolivarian Process is moving too slowly to put in place a socialist economy. There is a need for more sectors to be nationalized and put under democratic control of the people.
3. Truth: The opposition is violent, not the Maduro government.
Opposition protesters have been extremely violent. One tactic of the opposition was to be violent and then film the government’s response to make the government look violent. When Abby Martin was confronted by opposition protesters, they told her, “Do not film anything that we do. Just film what the government does to us.” She reported on the violence saying, “the vast majority has been caused by either indirect or direct violence by the opposition.”
Martin reports the opposition attacked hospitals, burned down the Housing Ministry, assassinated Chavistas and attacked citizen communes such as an art commune that gave free dance and music lessons to local children. Afro-Venezuelans were burned alive. Protesters pulled drivers out of buses and torched the buses. When photos and videos of opposition violence were put on social media, Martin and her colleague, Mike Prysner, became the target of a false media campaign on social media. The opposition did all they could to prevent them from reporting the truth using hundreds of death threats and threats they would be lynched.
In 2017, Venezuela Analysis reported that violent opposition protests included an attack on a maternity hospital endangering the lives of more than 50 newborn babies. Another report described the opposition using snipers to shoot government officials and civilians. Opposition newspapers urged that blunt objects be used to “neutralize” pro-government protesters, resulting in serious injuries and death.
Steve Ellner also reported that violence was coming from the opposition. He pointed to attacks at grocery stores, banks, buses, and government buildings. Other commentators described specific incidents of violence by the opposition including killing people. Maduro ordered the arrest of a retired general who tweeted how to use wire to decapitate people on motorcycles, which happened, and how to attack armored vehicles with Molotov cocktails.
Documents show that violence was the opposition’s strategy. They sought to “Create situations of crisis in the streets that will facilitate US intervention, as well as NATO forces, with the support of the Colombian government. Whenever possible, the violence should result in deaths or injuries.”
The tales of government violence are rooted in lies. The government’s response was Maduro calling for a peace conference describing it as “a national peace conference with all the country’s political sectors … so we Venezuelans can try to neutralize violent groups.”
4. Truth: The National Assembly acted in violation of the law and is in contempt of court.
The National Assembly is not the only democratic body in Venezuela. Indeed, its actions since the opposition won a majority have violated the law and protected the violence of the opposition with an embarrassing amnesty bill.
On December 6, 2015, the opposition won a parliamentary majority in the Assembly. There were allegations of vote buying in Amazonas state that were investigated by the National Electoral Council, another branch of the government. The Supreme Court barred four legislators from Amazonas taking office, two from the opposition, one allied with the opposition and one from the ruling party. The National Assembly allowed three candidates to take office. The Assembly has been held in contempt of court since July 2016 and their decisions were nullified.
Before the court ruling, the Assembly passed an amazing amnesty law, which granted amnesty for crimes the opposition has committed since 1999 (Chavez’ election). The law is an admission of guilt and provides a well-organized catalog of crimes including felonies, crimes committed at public rallies, terrorist acts involving explosives and firearms and undermining the economy. They essentially admitted exactly what Chavez/Maduro have claimed — crimes to overthrow the government for 17 years. Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled the amnesty law was unconstitutional. Inaccurately, the Trump administration calls the Assembly Venezuela’s only remaining democratic institution.
This January, a subsidiary of the state oil company asked the Assembly to intervene claiming the president cannot make reforms to mixed public-private oil businesses without the prior approval of the National Assembly. On January 16, the court ruled that the Assembly was still in contempt of court and could not act. This is also when the Assembly elected Juan Guaidó as their president, who would later appoint himself President of Venezuela, as part of the US-led coup. Guaidó’s election to head the legislature was illegal and nullified by the court.
The Assembly still exists but remains in a state of contempt of the judiciary. It can rectify the situation by removing the lawmakers accused of electoral fraud. The Assembly refuses to do so because their goal is to remove Maduro from office and they need a super-majority to do so.
A Timeline of the US Coup in Venezuela
In “Anti-Maduro Coalition Grew from Secret Talks,” the Associated Press explains the coup was “only possible because of strong support from the Trump administration, which led a chorus of mostly conservative Latin American governments that immediately recognized Guaidó.”
Since August 2017, Donald Trump has been saying that military interventionagainst Venezuela was a distinct possibility. AP describes this as a “watershed moment” in the coup planning. They report Trump pressuring aides and Latin American countries to invade Venezuela. In September, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration had been meeting with coup plotters since mid-2017.
The Wall Street Journal reports Trump has long viewed Venezuela as one of his top-three foreign policy priorities, with Iran and North Korea. Trump requested a briefing on Venezuela on his second day in office, talking of the immense potential of Venezuela to become a rich nation through its oil reserves. AP reports that Trump “personally sparked” this as he brought up regime change in Venezuela in every meeting with Latin American leaders.
After Maduro was re-elected, administration plans began taking shape, driven in part by key members in the National Security Council and anti-Maduro advocates in Congress like extreme interventionist Senator Marco Rubio.
On November 1, John Bolton zeroed in on Latin America, calling Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela a “troika of tyranny.” On January 2, Bolton met with his Brazilian and Colombian counterparts to collaborate to “return Venezuela to its democratic heritage.”
On January 10, Maduro was sworn in for his second term, Pompeo spoke with opposition leader Guaidó, pledging support. Canada also played a key role, AP reports that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke to Guaidó the night before Maduro’s inauguration offering Canada’s support. This was 13 days before Guaidó announced he was president of Venezuela.
On January 12, the State Department backed Guaidó’s move to invoke his authority as president of the assembly, saying, “It is time to begin the orderly transition to a new government.” On January 15, the National Assembly declared Maduro as illegitimate. The Trump administration worked to get allies lined up to support Guaidó’. By January 18, the Venezuela Foreign Minister was describing a US coup in progress.
The night before Guaidó’s announcement on January 23, Vice President Mike Pence put out a video message encouraging Venezuelans to overthrow their government, saying, “We are with you. We stand with you, and we will stay with you.” Guaidó also received a phone call from Pence the night before he appointed himself president where he pledged that the U.S. would back Guaidó.
Guaidó declared that Maduro’s government was illegitimate and he was assuming the presidency. In a well-coordinated charade, almost instantly, Trump recognized Guaidó as the country’s rightful leader. To further demonstrate the preconceived, tightly coordinated and efficiently carried out the coup, US allies, among them Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Peru, quickly recognized the coup president.
The Trump administration is claiming Guaidó represents the lawful government and is entitled to all Venezuelan revenues. The State Department notified the Federal Reserve that Guaidó is the agent for access to Venezuelan assets in US banks.
Nearly as quickly, Maduro drew statements of support from Russia, China, Turkey, Mexico, Cuba, Bolivia, and others. The Venezuelan Supreme Court called for an investigation into the National Assembly and Guaidó, regarding the illegal usurpation of Executive power. The Venezuelan military announced it supported Maduro and Russia warned the US not to intervene militarily.
On January 25, the Organization of American States, which is traditionally a US tool, rejected a resolution to recognize Guaidó. Medea Benjamin of CODE PINK interrupted Pompeo at the OAS holding a sign that said: “a coup is not a democratic transition!” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza thanked Benjamin, saying, “With her protest, she revealed the macabre coup plan against Venezuela, we will always prevail, thank you!” Eighteen countries defeated the proposal.
At the UN Security Council meeting on January 26, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of attempting “to engineer a coup d’etat.” He demanded to know whether the Trump administration “is ready to use military force” against Venezuela. European countries gave Venezuela eight days to hold an election, a suggestion Venezuela rejected. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Venezuela an “illegitimate mafia state.” He accused Russia and China of trying “to prop up Maduro.”
Both China and Russia have told the US not to intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs. In December, Russia sent two nuclear-capable strategic Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela along with an An-124 heavy military transport plane and an II-62 long-haul plane. As of December, Russia has one brigade in Venezuela and was discussing sending a second military brigade to Venezuela even before the coup due to the continued threat of intervention from the United States.
China has lent over $50 billion to Venezuela through oil-for-loan agreements over the past decade and has become a partner in the Venezuelan oil industry. In December, seven months since signing a financial business venture with China, Venezuela’s oil production has doubled to 130,000 barrels per day. The take-over of Venezuela’s oil would also be an attack on China. China and Venezuela signed 28 bilateral strategic cooperation agreements on September 14 in the areas of oil, mining, security, technology, finance, and health.
Demonstrating the nature of the coup president, the first acts that Guaidó took were to seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund, which would put Venezuela in debt to western bankers and under their control, and to privatize the Venezuelan oil industry, which would rob Venezuela of the funds being used to lift up the poor and working class.
The appointment by Mike Pompeo of Elliott Abrams as the person in charge of overseeing operations “to restore democracy in Venezuela” is an ominous sign. It is scandalous and demonstrates the most extreme elements of the US establishment are leading the charge. Abrams was convicted during the Iran-Contra scandal, supported US-backed death squads in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s, played a key role in the Reagan administration support for the murderous Contras in Nicaragua and was the person who gave approval for the US-backed coup in Venezuela in 2002.
Analyst Vijay Prashad writes the coup violated the charters of the United Nations and of the Organisation of American States and describes efforts to call on the military to rise up against the government have failed. The Trump administration is now threatening a total oil embargo on Venezuela and is leaving the “military option” open.
The concerted campaign by the US and Canada to install Juan Guaidó as the new ‘self-declared’ interim President of Venezuela has been met with initial failure. Unfortunately, the illegal and undemocratic attempts to destabilize the country and overthrow the democratically-elected President will continue with harmful consequences. The people of Venezuela are rising once again to defend their country against hostile foreign intervention. It is essential that we support them in this fight. Many groups are holding solidarity rallies and issuing statements of support. Find rallies and protests here and here.
While Sanders got all the facts wrong about Venezuela, he did reach the right conclusion: “The United States has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American countries. We must not go down that road again.” People in the United States have an important role to play in supporting Venezuela and defeating the coup.
The Executive Secretariat of the São Paulo Forum expresses its profound rejection of the decision of the Government of Donald Trump, of Canada and of several Latin American countries to support the illegitimate presidency of the opposition Juan Guaidó in Venezuela, contrary to the popular decision expressed in May 2018, when the people democratically elected compañero Nicolás Maduro for the presidency of the country.
The elections of 2018 were legitimate and recognized by various sectors of Venezuelan society, including the opposition. The Venezuelan political-electoral system assures the population a broad voting right and has transparency and verification mechanisms. He was praised by the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, and now by the former president of the Spanish government, José Luís Zapatero, who joined the delegations of international electoral accompaniment.
The group that now wants to assume the command of the country is a minority group and does not accept the popular demonstration. This group uses the support of the Trump Government and its puppet governments in the region. Trump has already demonstrated on several occasions that he does not respect the sovereignty of other countries and international agreements, in addition to having attitudes that are openly opposed to peace and dialogue for the resolution of conflicts.
We call the countries of the continent to respect the sovereign decision of the people and the principle of nonintervention.
Together in the São Paulo Forum, we will fight for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to reach their full sovereignty and independence!
São Paulo Forum