US heightens efforts to overthrow Maduro

By Alberto Kernier

AFTER a series of attacks on the government of Venezuela in the first part of this year the news about Washington’s attempts to overthrow it have disappeared for a while from the front pages of the world’s newspapers. A temporary lull looked like the Trump administration had to deal with failure of its evil plans to oust Nicolas Maduro.

But it didn’t last long. Speaking at a press conference at the State Department on November 27, Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams defended US regime change policy, which he said would continue.

“There’s no change… What is next is, I would say, a continuation of the current policy,” he said in response to questions about the status of US efforts more than ten months after recognizing opposition politician Juan Guaido as “interim president” of Venezuela.

Guaido proclaimed himself the head of state in January and has gone on to lead several unsuccessful efforts to topple Maduro, including a failed military putsch in April. Trump immediately backed Guaido’s “interim presidency,” handing the Venezuela file to Abrams, a veteran cold warrior infamous for his role in the Iran/Contras scandal, the Reagan administration’s Central America policy and the War in Iraq.

Asked about the efficacy of US sanctions, Abrams assured reporters that the measures are cutting off vital funds for the Venezuelan government. However, he acknowledged that he “would like to see, obviously, the sanctions work better,” adding that “there are plans to reinforce the effort.”

He did not offer further details, but  announced that “the gravy train days that they had 10 years ago are over,” referring apparently to the period when Venezuela had the highest minimum wage in Latin America and among the lowest level of inequality.

Abrams went on to deny that the US sanctions are negatively impacting Venezuela’s economy, citing a paper authored by former Guaido Inter-American Development Bank envoy Ricardo Hausmann claiming, “the bulk of the deterioration of living standards occurred long before sanctions were enacted in 2017.” Hausmann was a key architect of neoliberal policies in Venezuela in the 1980s and 1990s and has been a long time government opponent.

The conclusions of Hausmann’s study have been disputed by the DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, which published its own report in April finding sanctions responsible for at least 40,000 deaths since 2017. The study likewise claims that sanctions amount to “collective punishment,” blocking any possibility of economic recovery in the Caribbean nation.

Washington has dramatically ramped up its sanctions regime since January, imposing an oil embargo which has since been escalated to a sweeping ban on dealings with Caracas under threat of secondary sanctions.

Abrams likewise rebuffed reporters’ concerns about Guaido’s “lack of momentum,” suggesting that “hundreds of thousands… went to the streets on November 16.” The claim was scrutinized by journalists who pointed out that viral video footage purported to be from the protests was in fact taken in January.

Questioned repeatedly about allegations of the Maduro government “intervening” in regional protests, the White House envoy accused Caracas of acting to “promote more strife everywhere.” “There is evidence beginning to build of an effort by the regime in Venezuela to exacerbate problems in South America,” he added.

In recent weeks, the region has been rocked by massive anti-neoliberal protests that have shaken right-wing governments in Ecuador, Haiti, Chile, and Colombia. Government spokespeople have frequently attributed the uprisings to “meddling” by Caracas, while the Organization of American States has branded it a “destabilization strategy” by the “Bolivarian dictatorships.”

The above observations indicate that regrettably the Trump administration not only did not abandon its determination to topple Maduro but it manipulates its Latin American puppets to reach this goal. We see again how Washington tries to interfere in internal affairs of sovereign states while it unashamedly distorts information.

Against this background a speech of President Hage Geingob at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, where he criticised the West for violation of the basic principles of the international law and determined Namibia’s solidarity with Venezuela and other oppressed countries, deserves great respect. In this context it would be proper to call the authorities of this and all other African countries not to stop their efforts to resist any attempt of the West to adjust the international system purely to suit their own interests.