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Weisbrot writes: "The Trump administration has stepped up its efforts at 'regime change' in Venezuela. In the past, Trump himself has even mentioned military action as a possible option, but the most recent moves appear more likely to be implemented, and some are already operational."

A protester wielding the flag of the Fourth Republic of Venezuela, facing the National Guard. (photo: Efecto Eco/Wikimedia)
A protester wielding the flag of the Fourth Republic of Venezuela, facing the National Guard. (photo: Efecto Eco/Wikimedia)


The Trump Administration Is Intensifying Its Regime Change Efforts in Venezuela

By Mark Weisbrot, US News and World Report

08 March 18


The Trump administration is intensifying its regime change efforts to potentially include torpedoing Venezuela's presidential election.

n recent weeks, the Trump administration has stepped up its efforts at "regime change" in Venezuela. In the past, Trump himself has even mentioned military action as a possible option, but the most recent moves appear more likely to be implemented, and some are already operational.

According to a source with knowledge of the matter, the leading opposition contender for Venezuela's May presidential election, Henri Falcón, was told by U.S. officials that the Trump administration would consider financial sanctions against him if he entered the presidential race. (The U.S. State Department did not return requests for comment.) The U.S. has backed the main opposition coalition decision to boycott the election.

Falcón is a former governor and retired military officer. He is leading in the latest polls, and according to the most reliable opposition pollster, would defeat Maduro in the election by a margin of nearly 7 percentage points.

Why would the Trump administration want to prevent an opposition leader who could possibly win the presidency in Venezuela from running in this election? There is no way to know for sure, but high-level sources from inside the administration have stated that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is determining U.S. policy toward Venezuela. Rubio is a hardliner who does not seem interested in an electoral or negotiated solution to Venezuela's political crisis. On Feb. 9, he appeared to support a military coup when he tweeted:

Such open support from Washington for a military coup against an elected government – before the coup has occurred – is unusual, to say the least, in the 21st century. But the Trump team is not just sitting around waiting for it to happen. The Rubio/Trump strategy seems to be to try to worsen the economic situation and increase suffering to the point where either the military, or the insurrectionary elements of the opposition, rise up and overthrow the government.

That appears to be the purpose of the financial sanctions that Trump ordered on Aug. 24, 2017. These sanctions cut off Venezuela from billions of dollars of potential loans, as well as from revenue even from its own oil company in the U.S., Citgo. They have worsened shortages of medicine and food, in an economy that is already suffering from inflation of about 3,000 percent annually and a depression that has cost about 38 percent of GDP. These sanctions are illegal under the Organization of American States charter and under international conventions to which the U.S. is a signatory.

Now U.S. officials are talking about a more ferocious collective punishment: cutting off Venezuela's oil sales. This was not done previously because it would hurt U.S. oil refining interests that import Venezuelan oil. But the administration has floated the idea of tapping the U.S. strategic petroleum reserves to soften the blow. All this to overthrow a government that nobody can claim poses any threat to the United States.

No one can pretend that the Trump administration cares about fair elections in Latin America. The Honduran election of Nov. 26 was almost certainly stolen, and even Washington's close ally who heads the OAS, Secretary General Luis Almagro, called for it to be run again. But the Trump administration went with the incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández in Honduras, a politician whose brother and security minister have been linked to drug traffickers and whom Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly, former head of the U.S. Southern Command, has described as a "great guy" and a "good friend." The Trump administration did not object to their post-election killings of unarmed protesters or other human rights abuses – in fact, the State Department certified the Honduran government as complying with human rights obligations just days after the election.

There are certainly valid complaints about the upcoming election in Venezuela. Some opposition candidates have been excluded, and the government moved the election forward from its initially scheduled time in December to April. The opposition had wanted it moved forward, but this was sooner than they wanted. (On Thursday, Reuters reported that an agreement had been reached between Venezuela's election board and some opposition parties to hold the election in late May.)

Negotiations between the government and the opposition over these and other problems broke down last month, although the government did agree to allow election observers from the United Nations. With regard to the procedural credibility of Venezuela's elections, in the past two decades there has almost never been any legitimate doubt about the vote count, due to the adoption of a very secure voting system. (The only exceptions were the Constituent Assembly election of July 30 last year, which the opposition boycotted and there was some question about the number of people who voted; and one out of 23 governors' elections on October 15, where the local vote count was not credible.) For the current negotiations, we cannot know if other disagreements might have been resolved if the Trump administration had not been pushing so hard to prevent elections from taking place, and encouraging extra-legal "regime change" as an opposition strategy.

The main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD, by its acronym in Spanish), has as of now decided to boycott the elections. But it's not clear that the voters will follow their lead. The most reliable and recent polls, from Torino Capital and Datanalisis, show that 77.6 percent of voters intend to vote in the upcoming election, with only 12.3 percent planning to abstain. They should have that opportunity, and the Trump administration should not be trying to take it away from them.


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+7 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-03-08 09:34
Yes, this is a good subject to talk about. Thanks Mark Weisbrot. I've always liked your work, esp. the film you made with Oliver Stone.

Now here is a case of a foreign nation really meddling in the elections of another nations. Rubio seems to want to destroy Venezuelan democracy and impose a military dictatorship. We know from the military coup against Chavez that there are many officers in the Venezuelan military that are actually loyal to the US. This is a real case of treason. The US actually suborns treason in another nation's military. But it does this all over the world.

I wonder if Trump even knew where Venezuela was on a map before he was told what to do?

When I read stories like this one, I really don't care any more if anyone interferes with or rigs US elections. The US deserves whatever it gets. The US has never been about democracy. It is a military dictatorship and that is what it wants for the whole world.
 
 
+2 # lfeuille 2018-03-08 21:12
It's hard to take you seriously when you keep defending the meddler-in-chie f.
 
 
+8 # chrisconno 2018-03-08 11:22
So the republicans want to interfere in yet another democratic election. Is this just the desire to have yet another ongoing for profit war? When will our warring be used for actual good? When are we going to be actually defending what is right? Trump and the republicans seem to be suffering wild machinations about $billions and world domination. We Americans had better stand tall together to put as many barriers to these creeps' dreams as possible, otherwise they will become our worst nightmares.
 
 
+6 # PCPrincess 2018-03-08 12:27
Seriously? Wait, what? That we can pitch a fit about Russia meddling out of one side of our mouth, then from the other, literally PUSH for an insurrection? Oh, I know; they are going to say something along the lines of: "but, we are a 'Democracy', (ahem) and they are not", and/or, "they are a 'socialist' country and that is bad" Ooooh... so bad. Can someone please travel to the United Nations headquarters, gather the representatives into one room and start handing out spankings until they start to do their jobs? Hey U.N.! Quit being so afraid of the big bad USA and start doing some world policing OK? Even US citizens will thank you for it.
 
 
+8 # dotlady 2018-03-08 12:30
Will never understand, that is, tolerate, that the US doesn't considers countries like Venezuela as partners as they move slowly toward having their own democracies and decent civil societies. They pose no threat to the US, possibly only to oil and gas industries which currently reign in the US. We destroy over and over again attempts by former strongmen countries to change their ways by holding legitimate elections. Wouldn't it make more sense to have a relationship with these countries, and with Mercosur-like organizations formed in self defense against US bullying, and preclude their gradual absorption by Chinese interests and businesses? I just don't get it.
 
 
-4 # lnason@umassd.edu 2018-03-08 19:52
While we (and everyone else on earth) were unduly quick to accept the results of the (probably) rigged Honduran election, our involvement with Venezuela has been minimal. US sanctions targeted a few corrupt, sometimes drug-dealing, individuals in the ruling regime but have been largely ineffective in accomplishing anything. Venezuela's problem is a result of their confiscating all oil assets, nationalizing all successful businesses, giving out jobs in the state owned organizations based on political loyalty, and running everything into the ground. For context, Venezuelan oil production went from a high of 3.5b barrels of oil a day the year Chavez was elected to today's rate of 1.7b barrels of oil a day. Whatever marginal influence the US might have had in Venezuelan affairs, nothing could compare with Bolivarean socialism's killing of virtually their only source of income.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-03-09 08:20
Lee -- I don't agree with your analysis. Mark Weisbrot is a co-founder of the Center for Economic Policy Research. This organization has produced a lot of very good studies on Venezuela. The real problem there is the power of the US dollar and they way it destroyed the Venezuelan currency, the Bolivar.

If you look at the long term graph of oil production, it is not bad as you say. Chavez and his revolution inherited a fatal flaw in the economy. It was too dominated by oil. Venezuela went to other countries (mostly the US) to buy almost everything else. When the Dollar smashed the Bolivar, importing became a disaster. Also the US has blockaded many imports to Venezuela.
 
 
+3 # Texas Aggie 2018-03-08 20:37
Just had a report of someone who returned from Caracas. A big problem is that there is no agriculture in the country worth mentioning. Back before Chavez the oligarchs did absolutely nothing to further their own agriculture because they had the oil income to import whatever foodstuffs they wanted. It was essentially a oil dictatorship similar to Saudi Arabia.

Under Chavez and Maduro not a whole lot was changed although there has been movement toward land redistribution. Other than redistribution, there has been little support for farmers. There is, however, more support than under the government of the oligarchs. There is a center for agriculture research, but how effective it is is doubtful. It does work with foreign countries that send their experts to help develop the country's agriculture. Before Chavez, Venezuela led South America in the percent of land owned by a small (3%) minority of rich people.

A problem with food right now, besides not having the money to import like they did before, is that the opposition (the corporate owners) controls food processing so what grain is imported is made into flour, and the flour is then exported rather than sold domestically. The opposition also controls the corporations that ship and distribute food (and other items) and they are doing it in such a way as to discredit the government. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to think of anything other than nationalization that will protect the common people.
 
 
+3 # relegn 2018-03-09 07:06
In the past US administrations have tried regime change in South America not to mention Iraq. The results have not been good for either the US people, example crack cocaine in LA, or for the target country. The people leading this nonsense are the same types who have tried and failed in the past. These are generally the conservative right and wealthy corporations using taxpayer money for their own gain. The fools who push this global BS are never as smart as they think they are.
 

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