One cannot disagree with several of Dr Peter Laurie’s concerns about the very serious situation Venezuela confronts (Venezuela: nearing the end, May 11, 2019). Dr Laurie, however, very one-sidedly, to put it mildly, falsely asserts: “The crisis in Venezuela can be laid entirely at the door of President Maduro.”
Dr Laurie simply omits from his depiction of Venezuela’s situation, the US crippling sanctions about which there is an abundance of information and details. Such omission makes Dr Laurie’s piece not just one-sided and pro-regime change but based on misrepresentation and bias.
In case he is not aware, two highly reputed economists have shown how devastating US (and its allies) sanctions have been on Venezuela and Venezuelans (http://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/venezuela-sanctions-2019-04.pdf).
Worse, the US State Department itself has boasted about how damaging US sanctions have been on Venezuela (https://thegrayzone.com/2019/05/06/us-state-department-publishes-then-deletes-sadistic-venezuela-hit-list-boasting-of-economic-ruin/). Readers of Barbados TODAY are entitled to be informed about them.
Dr Laurie’s concerns that Donald Trump will not bring democracy to Venezuela is superficially commendable, and we fully concur with him when he asserts that Trump is only interested in the world’s largest oil reserves that happen to be in Venezuela. We also agree that Guaido cannot be trusted since he is just a US puppet. And furthermore, we agree with his view that John Bolton’s approach to the hemisphere is “genuflect to the might of the US or else be bombed.”
Dr Laurie’s depiction ought to include Trump, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo and Elliot Abrams, the team in charge of US policy on Venezuela. I would add that this has always been US policy but that the current bunch in charge just differ from previous administrations in style but not substance: that has always been US attitude towards its Southern neighbours.
The set of solutions provided by Dr Laurie’s, leave me both perplexed and astonished. I cannot believe that a trained diplomat fails to even consider the possibility of dialogue and political negotiations.
Dr Laurie constructs a catastrophic scenario suggesting that efforts by weighty regional players to seek dialogue and a peaceful solution to the crisis by Venezuelans without external interference are doomed. President Maduro has agreed to the Mexico initiative, proposal that has substantial support in Africa, Asia Europe and the Caribbean, from countries such as South Africa (and all other 55 nations of the African Union), China, Russia, Turkey and many other in the Non-Aligned Movement and some even in the European Union. Is it that Dr Laurie is not well informed? Or is it that presenting the full panorama of possibilities destroys the logistics of his key argument?
Former Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (who has been actively working and facilitating a peaceful resolution and dialogue in Venezuela since 2015, visiting Venezuela 37 times) said recently, regarding Venezuela: “I am absolutely convinced that the option that has been put in place will not work, and sooner or later there will be dialogue, negotiations and an agreement of peaceful coexistence. The people of Venezuela deserve it. The people of Venezuela want peace.” Furthermore, Rodriguez Zapatero’s views coincide with the opinion of the vast majority of Venezuelans. A recent Hinterlaces poll shows that 79% of Venezuelans support dialogue between government and opposition.
For the past 20 years, US governments have unsuccessfully tried all manner of illegal and lethal ways to topple the Bolivarian Revolution. Their most recent coup failure occurred on April 30, 2019, when about 20 soldiers sided with Juan Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez. The coup had the aim to create a military confrontation among the Venezuelan military thus providing the excuse for US military intervention.
So one wonders why does Dr Laurie conclude that the most likely scenario is the ousting of President Maduro by the military through a coup d’etat? Such conclusion is utterly flawed for at least three reasons.
It is in the public domain that, for several years, the US has been trying to recruit, influence and even buy off high-ranking officers of Venezuela’s armed forces, and although that has had very few successes, the bulk of the military have remained loyal both to the 1999 Constitution and to President Nicolas Maduro. The Bolivarian Doctrine that informs our military consists of the defense of Venezuela’s national sovereignty and independence in alliance with the people in the civilian-military unity. Hence, Guaido’s (US-led) coup’s minuscule military support on April 30.
Dr Laurie wants readers to believe that 30 million Venezuelans would like to see Maduro out. Nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of Venezuelans voted for Maduro in free and fair elections (2013 and 2018) and millions staunchly support him. Moreover, millions of Venezuelans who may not necessarily support Maduro, still oppose a Venezuelan take over by Donald Trump. To top it all up, less and less people support Guaido’s unconstitutional and illegal “self-proclamation,” let alone his efforts to carry out a coup d’etat.
AP (May 11, 2019) registered that “a modest crowd of hundreds gathered in Caracas to express support for him.” Last but not least, Dr Laurie implicitly suggests that Venezuela’s opposition is fully behind Guaido when it is not the case at all. Venezuela’s opposition is deeply divided and Guaido’s extreme right-wing party, Voluntad Popular, represents a small minority within it.
Thus, there is no justification whatsoever for Dr Laurie’s conclusion that a military coup is inevitable. Reading between the lines one senses that perhaps Dr Laurie’s, knowing as everyone else does of US-led failures to oust President Maduro, unwittingly expressed a desire rather than an analysis.
So, the situation in Venezuela is much more complex than Dr Laurie portrays. Against all prophets of doom such as Dr Laurie, the solution lies in facilitating dialogue and respecting international law, such as non-intervention, respect for self-determination and the immediate and unconditional lifting of sanctions and other forms of coercive and unilateral measures. There is no reason for an experienced and trained diplomat such as Dr Laurie not to support respect for international law, for peace and dialogue. Instead, he adds his pen to justify a coup d’etat (as Trump, Pompeo, Bolton, Abrams, Marco Rubio and the Republican extreme right wing have done repeatedly). Lamentable.
Rodriguez Zapatero rightly said: “I think Trump’s policies are a complete disaster for Venezuela, a catastrophe, and surely many of the people that I hear daily talk about Venezuela have never been there.”
His view is quite appropriate and instructive in this discussion, and they should serve as the real blueprint for solutions in Venezuela: peace and dialogue, not golpe.
(Alvaro Sanchez Cordero is the Chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Barbados)