Western governments are organising to force out Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. Their manoeuvres show up the sham that is democracy under capitalism.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela last month.
Several European countries, including France, Britain and Spain, recognised Guaido as interim president on Monday. They ordered Maduro to call presidential elections by Sunday, and threatened to recognise Guaido if their demand wasn’t met.
The US announced it is sending “aid” to Venezuela following a request from Guaido. It has also imposed sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA.
Geoff Ramsey from the NGO Washington Office on Latin America said the US hoped this “will be the silver bullet that finally kills Maduro’s regime”.
The sanctions ban US firms from exporting goods or services to PDVSA. US refineries are banned from buying crude oil from PDVSA unless the money is paid into accounts not linked to Maduro.
US national security advisor John Bolton said the sanctions would immediately block £5.4 billion of PDVSA assets. The firm will lose an estimated £8 billion in the coming year.
Bolton claimed the sanctions were aimed at helping the poor and promoting “democracy”. But Ramsey said, “It’s hard to see these sanctions doing much apart from increasing the suffering of normal people.”
Events in Venezuela have nothing to do with democracy. The real aim is to install a regime that is friendly to the US. Even Bolton admitted that the sanctions are aimed at protecting US interests.
“The authoritarian regime of Chavez and Maduro has allowed the penetration by adversaries of the United States, not least of which is Cuba,” he said.
“That is a strategic significant threat and there are others, including Iran’s interest in Venezuela’s uranium deposits.”
Bolton added that unless Maduro accepted “a nice quiet retirement on a pretty beach” he would end up “in some other beach like Guantanamo”.
Asked if US troops could get involved he said, “The president has made it very clear that all options are on the table.”
Guaido called protests last weekend and said they would continue until there was “freedom”. Thousands of people protested in the capital Caracas in his support—but thousands also demonstrated to support Maduro.
Maduro has kept the support of the military, but some figures are switching sides. General Francisco Yanez last week became the highest-ranking military official to publicly back Guaido.
The coup attempt follows years of crisis. Ordinary people have suffered shortages of food and millions have emigrated. But this isn’t some particular failing of left wing governments—the crisis is fuelled by a system that is stacked in favour of the rich.
Venezuela was hit by a sharp fall in oil prices in 2014. And its government is punished for not slavishly following the US. It isn’t allowed to interact with the US financial system, for instance, and so can’t restructure its debts.
Left wing governments in Venezuela have been elected with great enthusiasm. But while they brought about some reforms, they left the rich and their system in place.
Workers and the poor taking action for themselves can block a right wing coup—and create a movement that can pose an alternative.