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TODAY, Saturday February 23 will mark a further and very dangerous stage in Trump’s bid to secure regime change in Venezuela. He has announced that US military personnel will accompany the “humanitarian aid” convoy which he hopes to see cross the Venezuelan border from Colombia. Washington’s man in Caracas, Juan Guaido, is also calling on his supporters to mass at the border.
These are desperate steps and reflect the failing momentum of Juan Guaido’s bid to usurp the presidency. Some weeks ago Guaido claimed that he would “soon” assume power. But nothing has happened. Venezuela continues as before. The legitimate government continues to govern. Only a minority of countries have followed the US in recognising him — almost all with close military ties to the US.
In Africa there is only one country, Morocco, an absolute monarchy. Only one in the Middle East, Israel. In Asia/Pacific, only Australia. It is solely in the EU and the Americas where there is a majority of states backing Trump.
But no one should underestimate the level of danger. Trump has not ruled out direct military intervention and it is shameful that the British government is complicit, along with Germany, in the current plans for a border crossing.
British oligarchs are also on board with Richard Branson financing a huge concert at the border on the same day. Much has been made of Venezuela’s “humanitarian crisis.” But who has caused it? The actions of the United States have surely contributed.
For over two years Venezuela has been frozen out of the international payments systems controlled by US banks. Six months ago the US embargoed trade in Venezuela gold. This month a comprehensive embargo has been placed on oil — affecting all companies, not just those owned from the US but any that have trading relations with the US. All payments for Venezuelan oil previously exported to the US have been frozen. So have Venezuela’s foreign assets.
Over the past year alone the US and its allies, including Britain, have robbed Venezuela of $30 billion and blocked attempts to raise loans overseas. This is why the Venezuelan government has failed to solve its economic woes — including the scarcity of some basic commodities and high inflation.
Now the US is proposing to “give back” $20m, 0.06 per cent, in “humanitarian” aid.
Both the International Red Cross and the United Nations have refused to have anything to do with it. They describe it as “politicised intervention” and have pledged to double the aid they are currently supplying to Venezuela through government channels.
Who will get the US aid? Pictures of Guaido’s rallies show his supporters have no need for it. Those attending are mostly white, plump and expensively dressed.
The amount of aid is itself derisory. There are “basic food supplies” sufficient to feed 5,000 for 10 days — Venezuela has a population of 30 million. There are “hygiene supplies,” including soap and toothbrushes, for 7,000.
This is the “humanitarian aid” that may well be used this weekend to trigger military intervention. Guaido has simply said “we will do what we have to do.”
It needs to be repeated that Venezuela is no tyranny and Guaido has no constitutional legitimacy. The great bulk of Venezuela’s economy remains in private hands.
Guaido himself has no claim to the presidency. He assumed the position of president of the National Assembly by rotation among the component parties and this position has nothing to do being President of Venezuela. The presidency was won by Nicolas Maduro 10 months ago with a 68 per cent vote in a contested national poll with a 49 per cent turnout. Guaido’s party boycotted.
Nor is Guaido a democrat. He models himself on Brazil’s Bolsonaro. In 2014 and 2017 he was among those calling for street violence. He has been coy about announcing his political programme and has of course fought no presidential election. He has, however, indicated that he would sell off parts of Venezuela’s state oil company and privatise the precious stock of public-sector housing built by the government to combat slum conditions.
Venezuela’s army has made it clear that it supports the government and significant sections of the opposition have become muted — fearing they will be seen as unpatriotic should direct military intervention take place.
Yet there should be no complacency. Four weeks ago Trump appointed Elliott Abrams as his special envoy to Venezuela. Elliott Abrams was convicted for his role in the Iran Contra scandal in the 1980s — illicitly supplying weapons to death squads in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala on behalf of the Reagan presidency. He was pardoned by George Bush. He is now Trump’s point man in Venezuela.
The British government, backed by other parties that should know better, is currently supporting this criminal intervention. Democrats in Venezuela appeal to all political parties in Britain to end their government’s support for Trump.
Paul Dobson lives in Venezuela and writes for venezuelanalysis.com
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