Fifty social justice organizations demand Trump stop aggression against Venezuela
A government supporter protests US sanctions against Venezuela during an anti-imperialist demonstration in Caracas, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. | Ariana Cubillos/AP

The Venezuela situation remains dangerous and volatile, but opposition to the Trump administration’s bullying “regime change” efforts in that country may be growing in the United States.

Since March 11, there has been a series of electrical blackouts which the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro blames on cybernetic and other sabotage carried out by supporters of National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, whom the Trump administration, supported by the old European colonial powers and right-wing governments in Latin America, is trying to foist on the Venezuelan people as “president.”

Though blackouts are common in the poorer countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the fact that one power failure after another is happening just as Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Advisor John Bolton are stoking up the conflict with Venezuela to fever heat, is unlikely to be mere coincidence. Rather it seems obviously part of a campaign to make the 30 million inhabitants of the country suffer so that they will rise up and oust Maduro. This tactic has been used by the U.S. against President Salvador Allende’s socialist government in Chile in the early 1970s, and against Cuba for half a century after the 1959 revolution.

Internationally, though the corporate controlled media in the U.S. and elsewhere tout the claim that fifty countries now have declared that they recognize Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela (out of almost 200 sovereign states in the world), Venezuela is getting diplomatic and economic support from China, Russia, and other countries.

Sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Venezuela have been making it hard for the country to import needed medical supplies, but the International Committee of the Red Cross is responding by stepping up its aid to the country.

On April 2, responding to a request from the head of the country’s Supreme Court, the democratically elected Constituent Assembly, Venezuela’s highest legislative body, revoked Guiadó’s legislative immunity from prosecution. Guaidó had been forbidden by the courts from leaving the country, which he did anyway, and then returned. Since his return, he has been circulating freely and blatantly calling for a foreign—meaning U.S.—intervention in Venezuela to oust Maduro and install himself as president. With his immunity revoked, he could now be arrested and prosecuted for these actions and for other things, such as illegally receiving funding for his many trips to the U.S. and its allies to drum up support for a coup. The Trump administration had threatened that the arrest of Guiadó might somehow be the last straw leading to an armed intervention but has not responded yet.

One major problem for progressive groups who want to stop Trump’s regime change efforts in Venezuela has been that the supposedly “liberal” press and media in this country, plus a large proportion of the Democratic Party leadership, has jumped on board the regime change bandwagon. This has made it hard to get the other side of the Venezuela story out in the public venues of debate. There have been demonstrations against the Trump policies, including two in Washington, D.C., on March 16 and March 30, but much more is needed to break the information blockade.

On April 2, fifty U.S.-based social justice advocacy organizations wrote an open letter to the U.S. Congress calling for no U.S. military intervention and an end to sanctions.

The letter was initiated by the Center for Economic Policy Research and Just Foreign Policy and was signed by, among others, Peace Action, the American Friends Service Committee, the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the Franciscan Action Network, the National Day Laborers’ Action Network, the Chicago Religious Leadership Network, the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, CISPES, the Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice, the Institute for Policy Studies, CODEPINK and Global Exchange.

The letter is strongly worded. It describes Trump’s policy toward Venezuela as a “dangerous and destructive regime change strategy” which, with the sanctions imposed since 2017, have caused “great hardship and loss of life” in the South American country. Senate and House members to whom the letter is directed are called to “take a strong public stand against these immoral, reckless and illegal policies and to support peaceful dialog before it is too late.”

Specifically, the letter calls on senators and representatives to oppose economic sanctions, which not only are illegal under the United Nations and Organization of American States Charters, but which, in harming Venezuela’s ability to import vitally needed medicines, have caused the death of innocent people. Further, it calls for the legislators to oppose Trump administration threats of military intervention, and to that end, to support two bills currently in Congress that forbid such intervention: HR 1004 (“Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Intervention in Venezuela Act”) and SJ Res 11 (a Senate Resolution with the same purpose).

The letter further calls on Congress to support the efforts to advance dialog in Venezuela, which the Venezuelan government is agreeable to and which the Vatican and the governments of Mexico and Uruguay have offered to facilitate. Finally, the letter points to the danger of having appointed “convicted Iran-Contra veteran Elliott Abrams as Special Envoy to Venezuela” as representing an immediate danger of a violent outcome. That is what in fact the Trump administration appears to be actively seeking, among other things with its exhortations to the Venezuelan armed forces to carry out an old-fashioned military coup.

In a covering note to the public, Hassan El-Tayyab, co-director at Just Foreign Policy, calls on the public to contact Senators and Representatives to ask them to cosponsor and support HR 1004 AND SJ Res 11, as well as sharing the open letter with all media contacts.

People’s World readers should respond vigorously to that request! The coalition letter is here.


CONTRIBUTOR

Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Emile Schepers was born in South Africa and has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He has worked as a researcher and activist in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He now writes from Northern Virginia.

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