On January 5, 2019, a little-known Venezuelan politician, Juan Guaidh, proclaimed himself president. Like the proverbial madman who thinks he is Napoleon, Guaidh was suffering from delusions of grandeur. But compared to most madmen, Guaidh was in an enviable position: his delusions drew support from the world’s biggest, albeit dying, empire.
Donald Trump’s rabid Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began howling that Guaidh was the real president, and that duly elected President Nicolas Maduro was the imposter. The US Empire’s lapdogs around the world barked dutifully in agreement.
The sinister farce was staged by the usual murderous gang of coup choreographers in and around Washington. As if to emphasize the point, on January 25 Trump appointed death squad specialist Elliot Abrams as Special Representative to Venezuela. That’s a bit like appointing Charles Manson as Special Representative to Hollywood.
But despite the best efforts of Pompeo, Abrams, and their rascally regiment of reactionary regime-change ruffians, the atrocious attempt to install a megalomaniacal nobody as puppet dictator of Venezuela has (as of this writing) bogged down in tar sands (tar sands is the Venezuelan translation of the important Vietnamese word quagmire).
First, Guaidh’s call for support from the Venezuelan military fell on deaf ears. Then his call for support from the American military merely cemented his reputation as a traitor. Aside from a small minority of rich people who hate the Bolivarian Revolution and want to return Venezuela to its previous status as an unofficial US colony, few Venezuelans are eager to see their nation invaded and its fabulous oil resources looted. And even the US Empire’s lapdogs around the world unanimously yapped out pathetic little yelps of opposition to any American invasion.
Throughout February the increasingly desperate Americans and their stooges tried to orchestrate public relations stunts involving humanitarian aid convoys. Just as they had tried to cast Syrian President Bashar al-Asad as anti-humanitarian by staging false-flag chemical weapons attacks, the same regime-change specialists tried to paint Venezuelan president Maduro as a viciously callous cad who doesn’t care about the material suffering of his people.
But following in the failed footsteps of al-Ghouta’s Syria false flag of August 2013, the attempt to blame Maduro for the February 23, 2019 burning of a humanitarian aid truck in Cúcuta, Colombia fell flat. Viral videos showed that anti-Maduro hooligans, not Venezuelan soldiers, threw the Molotov cocktail that set the aid truck on fire. What the whole world saw on February 23, the New York Times “revealed” two-and-one-half weeks later.
In a March 10 story headlined “Footage Contradicts US Claim That Nicolas Maduro Burned Aid Convoy,” the Times all but admitted that the event was a false flag operation designed to push the Maduro-is-a-monster meme, “Many of Mr. Maduro’s critics claim that he ordered medication set on fire during the border standoff — even though many of his people have died of medicine shortages in hospitals. Yet the claim about a shipment of medicine, too, appears to be unsubstantiated, according to videos and interviews.” In other words, the whole thing was a lying PR scam from the get-go.
On March 7, 2019 the Empire upped the ante, unleashing a wave of sabotage that crippled Venezuela’s electricity grid. Pompeo’s propagandists blamed Maduro’s alleged incompetence. But WikiLeaks revealed the truth, tweeting a reference to the 2012 leaked Stratfor emails, “US-backed regime change consultancy CANVAS analyzed how to topple Chavez, including by exploiting electricity outages, ‘This would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.’”
Imperial propaganda painted a preposterous picture of public panic and pandemonium. But the actual situation on the ground in Caracas and across the country was mostly calm. By mid-March the lights were going back on, sending regime-change cockroaches scurrying for cover.
The constitutional government of Venezuela has survived (thus far) not only due to popular support, but also thanks to encouragement from the world’s leading independent nations including Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran — the key nodes in an emerging “axis of independence” that is challenging Washington’s world takeover bid. Russia is supporting Maduro in part because the legitimate government of Venezuela owes Moscow plenty of oil and money. But there are also important principles involved: “We view the attempt to usurp power in Venezuela as something that contradicts and violates the foundations and principles of international law,” Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained in January.
Iran, too, is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Venezuela as a matter of principle. Iran’s Islamic Revolution, like Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, is steeped in anti-imperialism and the global struggle for economic and social justice.
The other major Middle Eastern Muslim-majority power, Turkey, also supports Maduro. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin summarized that policy, “My brother Maduro! Stand tall, we stand by you. Under the leadership of President Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey will maintain its principled stance against all coup attempts #WeAreMADURO.”
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Turkey is not just offering verbal support, but also is refining and processing Venezuelan gold — and that US officials suspect Erdogan of helping that gold find its way to Iran “in violation of sanctions on the Islamic Republic.”
China, too, has economic reasons for standing by Maduro. China has invested heavily in Venezuela, and will likely lose out if the US overthrows the constitutional government and installs a puppet regime.
Will Venezuela’s legitimate government once again successfully stymie a US coup attempt, as it did in 2002? Might the Americans lash out with an invasion? As Pompeo keeps saying, “all options are on the table.” But increasingly it seems that whatever military options the US has are staying on the table; the all-out-invasion card has not been played since Bush’s catastrophic 2003 attack on Iraq. Even so, the Americans keep warning Iran that all cards are on the table. They keep warning Syria that all cards are on the table. They keep warning North Korea that all cards are on the table. But at the end of the day the US is failing to get anywhere with its thuggish threats. The world is calling its bluff.
The difficulty the US is experiencing trying to have its way with Venezuela is a symptom of imperial decline. The American empire has lost its war in Afghanistan. It has lost its war in Iraq. It has lost its war in Syria. It has surrendered to permanently nuclearized North Korea. It promised to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran before its 40th anniversary, and failed miserably.
Surrendering the middle of Brzezinski’s “grand chessboard” to Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran, the US has retreated to its own backyard and tried to reinvent the Monroe Doctrine, according to which the imperialist yanquis own everything in the Western hemisphere. And though they have successfully installed neoliberal-fascist dictatorships in several previously free and independent Latin American countries, the eternal gringo war on Uncle Sam’s southern neighbors seems to have run out of gas on the road to Caracas.