Column: The coup in Venezuela
By Payton Williams
Most Americans know that South America is burning, but very few of us realize the extent to which we are holding the match.
If we did, we’d know enough to remember the name of Elliott Abrams, the current US Envoy to Venezuela, from a long and brutal history of US government-sponsored war crimes.
And we would know, from that history, not to trust anything he, or anyone else involved in establishment politics, Republican and Democrat alike, said about the nation of Venezuela.
Our memories are faulty, however, and even now, there is a lot of talk about how the US must use force to push out the current “dictator” of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro.
For instance, on March 2, 2017, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said during a hearing on the subject of Venezuela that he had spoken to President Trump, and that if Maduro were elected again as president of Venezuela, Trump would react in a “Unilateral and swift way.”
“And that is not a threat,” Rubio continued. “That is a reporting of the truth.”
Keep in mind my use of the word “elected” there, as that’s a pretty important part of this story.
But before I go into that, I’d like to go a little more into Donald Trump’s full-throated support of the coup in Venezuela.
In February of this year, during an interview on CBS, Trump said that Maduro asked for a meeting with the administration several months prior to negotiate, and that Trump had turned him down because “We’re very far along in the process.”
The “process” that Trump was talking about was the one in which the US government would push out Maduro by promoting their own Manchurian candidate, The president of Venezuela’s general assembly, Juan Guaido.
Juan Guaido, who got his education in Washington, D.C., before moving back to his home country of Venezuela to work in politics, declared himself the rightful president of Venezuela during a rally on Jan. 23rd of this year.
The day before he announced himself president, US Vice President Mike Pence posted a video on Twitter, congratulating Guaido for his bravery and essentially endorsing him as the leader of Venezuela.
“The United States supports the courageous decision by Juan Guaido, the President of your National Assembly, to assert that body’s constitutional powers, declare Maduro a usurper, and call for the establishment of a transitional government.”
In the same video, Pence also made some pretty big accusations toward Nicolas Maduro.
“Nicholas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power.” Pence said “He’s never won the Presidency in a free and fair election, and he’s maintained his grip on power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him.”
This part of Pence’s message, it may surprise you to learn, is pretty flagrantly inaccurate.
In 2016, President Maduro was elected. The results of the election were monitored, as they were when he was elected previously, and he won. Say what you will about the man, and a lot can be said negatively about him, but he was elected.
Many of the people in opposition to Maduro and to the Socialist government of Venezuela have pointed out that voter turnout was historically low, with only 46% of Venezuelans showing up to the polls. Some in the media and in our government point to this as an indication of wide-spread fear and election meddling done on the part of Maduro.
I’d like to present some argument against that idea.
For one thing, In the US’s midterm elections of 2018, only 48% of voters showed up to the polls, and no one here seems to be making any real claims of foul play about that.
And for another point, the opposition parties of Venezuela held a boycott of the vote, since they already suspected the numbers would be falsified.
They didn’t go to the polls.
So, frankly, for the opposition in Venezuela to choose not to vote, then point to their loss and call it evidence of meddling should start to raise red flags for any logical person.
But somehow, it doesn’t seem to phase anyone in the US media, who summarily condemned the election and widely are in support of this coup.
But none of these points, to me, are the most disturbing parts of this transparent takeover of the Venezuelan government.
To me, the thing most disturbing thing about this whole affair is that the man dictating US foreign policy in Venezuela is a known war criminal.
President Donald Trump appointed Elliott Abrams US Envoy to Venezuela in January of this year.
His is a name we should remember, but nearly no one does.
Elliott Abrams career in politics began in the Reagan Administration in the early eighties.
At that time, South American nations with burgeoning socialist revolutions were the sport of the administration, and the dirty warfare tactics used to crush those revolutions was Abrams’ specialty.
One of the first places where he proved this expertise was in El Salvador.
On Dec. 11, 1981, a battalion of right-wing soldiers created and trained by US Armed forces advisers marched into the small village of El Mozote, which was rumored to be housing Socialist rebels.
Over the course of the next three days, 800 or more unarmed civilians in the village were slaughtered.
The soldiers started with the men, questioning them, torturing them and then killing them. Then the soldiers moved on to women and children, who account for most of the dead. The women were rounded up in groups, raped and shot in the woods near the village or in their homes.
One of the witnesses to the massacre tells the story of returning to his village, and finding his family slaughtered. Next door, he found a woman lying in her bed, shot in the forehead, and nearby, her one day old child, who had been stabbed in the throat. On the wall next to their bodies, written in blood, were the words “Un nino muerto, un guerrillero menos.”
“One dead child is one less Guerrilla.”
Over the next few months, American journalists went to El Salvador to report on the massacre, and it became Elliott Abrams job, as the assistant to the Secretary of State on Human Rights, to discredit the reports on behalf of the Reagan administration.
Abrams dismissed the reports immediately as Socialist propaganda.
“This massacre appears to be an incident that is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas.” Abrams said.
At the same time, he and other State Department officials attempted to discredit the reports, claiming variously that there weren’t enough people in the village to account for such a high death toll, and that the stories had downplayed the extent to which women and children joined the Socialist Guerrillas.
Despite both of these points being easily disputed by a full reporting of the events of the massacre, the Administrations version of the story remained the officially accepted version until more than ten years later, when in the early 90s, a second investigation ruled that the massacre had, in fact, taken place, and that the death toll was well over 700.
Elliott Abrams, meanwhile, referred to the US’s humanitarian record in El Salvador as “A fabulous success.” During a recent Congressional hearing.
There’s a lot more to the story of Elliott Abrams, and I hope to tackle that more thoroughly at a later date, but the point I’d like readers to come away with is that the impression the media gives of Venezuela as a starving country in the throes of a brutal dictatorship is not a simple as our government officials make it sound.
The story is even further complicated by the fact that Venezuela has massive Oil reserves and has, in the past, refused to cooperate with the global trade system set up by major corporations, and this, needless to say, complicates the trustworthiness of anything the US government says and the US media reports about the small, Socialist country.
In cases of foreign policy, where appeals to emotion and human rights are used, one must always ask, “Why now?”
Why is the US choosing to be involved in Venezuela, when they refuse to aid so many other countries with similar problems?
After all, the more eager our government is to do anything, the more skeptical we should be.