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Venezuela: US regime change operation falters

Tony Kevin

The US-led regime change operation in Venezuela formally began with a bang , on 23 January 2019 in Caracas, when self-declared Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó, who had come out of obscurity a few months earlier, declared himself interim President of Venezuela and the incumbent, Nicolas Maduro, as illegitimate. Guaidó was immediately supported by the US, its close NATO allies, and many but not all Latin American nations.

But really it began in 1998, with US anger at the democratic election of President Hugo Chavez, with his avowedly socialist and nationalist program.

In ensuing years, Chavez (1998-2013) , and Nicolás Maduro (2013-present), earned the loyalty of the Venezuelan poor and lower middle class through progressive social justice reforms. Some – not all – of the elite and upper middle class were alienated. Some emigrated , some remained and plotted for the socialists’ overthrow.

Neither Bush nor Obama attacked Venezuela’s socialist government militarily. But especially after 2013, the US stepped up political and economic sanctions against Maduro’s Venezuela, focussed on Venezuela’s rich oil resources and on banking institutions . Venezuela in response began to build closer economic and political ties with Russia and China. Tensions with US inevitably began to build.

Matters might however have remained in uneasy balance until Trump , sensing that Venezuela was easy low-hanging fruit , began to press for firmer action. Angered at the failure of US policy in Iran and Syria , Trump looked for an easier target closer to home: Venezuela, rich in oil and in the US backyard. He was encouraged in 2018-19 by his sabre-rattling War Party lieutenants, Pence, Pompeo and Bolton, to encourage and to fund a serious regime change operation. He agreed.

We have just seen the end of the first phase of this so far abortive operation. Results have not been impressive . Inconclusive marches and counter- marches took place over many weeks in the capital, Caracas. They have only demonstrated the deep divisions in Venezuelan society between supporters and opponents of Maduro, and how these divisions to some extent mirror Venezuela’s class and race divisions. And of course the rich in Caracas have the wealth and the US connections, which to some extent compensates for their numerical weakness as compared to the now politically aware masses.

But only up to a point. Trump and his advisers, here as regionally, have disastrously underestimated the long history and persuasive power in Latin America of simple nationalism and opposition to Yanqui imperialist greed. No one forgets the infamous United Fruit Company in Central America, the coup in Chile against Allende, and so on.

Such sentiments and memories tend to unite Latin American people in defence of national sovereign governments, both within Venezuela and regionally. There is a national spiritual glue in Venezuela that was not present in Georgia, Ukraine, Libya, Iraq, or Syria: in all those cases there were deep sectarian or ethnic fissures in society ready for US ‘colour revolution’ regime change architects to exacerbate and exploit.

Venezuela is a tougher nut to crack. But still, I must confess, at the beginning I thought the odds were against maintenance of Venezuelan sovereignty. Simple geography, US preponderance of Western Hemisphere military power, the initial US diplomatic mobilisation of all the Western alliance nations and Venezuela’s neighbours against Maduro, and his government’s virtual bankruptcy under US sanctions, suggested he had little chance. In early January, I did not hold out much hope. I thought that if the US struck hard and fast, it would be over quickly for Venezuelan sovereignty.

It was not to be. The game -changers were: the loyal spirit of the Venezuelan people, Maduro’s cool nerve under pressure, the firmly declared diplomatic support of Russia and China, and the publicised despatch of 400 Russian ‘technical contractor’ specialists to Caracas.

No one should have any illusions what these Russians are there to do – to help defend the person of the President and his country’s political institutions against criminal coup d’état efforts in the officer corps and senior police ranks in Caracas . If any were tempted to attempt such a coup, the formidable investigative and punitive powers of this Russian Praetorian Guard sends a strong deterrent message.

Guaidó has heard it – a few days ago he fled across the border to neighbouring Colombia, thereby earning the contempt of Venezuelans for his claim to be a credible alternative government. Venezuelans are unimpressed by governments in exile, from their long revolutionary history.

The farcical but violent regime change shenanigans last weekend at the borders with Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador have fizzled. No local insurgencies took control of any enclaves of Venezuelan territory , which might have given a foothold for US-led military intervention. Borders held firm despite noisy and occasionally violent efforts to breach them with US-organised ‘food aid’ trucks. At least one undercover US Marine was exposed, directing operations at one border crossing. A food van, blocked on a bridge, was set on fire by a Molotov cocktail incendiary device ignited and hurled by an insurrectionist. The showy Richard Branson benefit concert was countered by an equally noisy concert from the Venezuelan side. As theatre, it was inconclusive. By Sunday night, Venezuelan nerve and territorial integrity had held.

Then came the Pence ‘Lima Group’ summit this week in Colombia. Preplanned days earlier, this was intended to be the diplomatic consolidation of the anticipated people power gains over the preceding week at the borders.

It turned out to be a failure. Even before it began, Latin American diplomatic support for the US position of regime change by any means was ebbing away.

Regional countries, first Brazil, then Colombia, then Ecuador , let it be known they opposed US-led military intervention in Venezuela. These currently right-wing governments came belatedly to realise how unpopular and electorally costly such support would become for them at home : especially with the prominent role in the US diplomatic campaign of the universally loathed and infamous Elliott Abrams.

In the end, Pence in the Lima Group meeting was reduced to talking about tightening sanctions. At least for now, the military option has been quietly abandoned.

Venezuelan sovereignty still faces huge challenges, though immediate risks seem to have passed. Maduro will have to deepen his nation’s economic and political links with Russia, China and India. Their terms will not always be generous: India is reportedly buying Venezuelan oil at a large discount. But these relationships will enable the Venezuelan economy to begin to turn the corner towards currency stability and control of the runaway inflation it has experienced under pressure of brutal US sanctions.

The Venezuelan upper class will have to finally decide their loyalties: are they compradores , in which case they might as well cut their losses and emigrate to the US now, or will they stay comfortably in Caracas and get behind the defence of Venezuelan sovereignty?

For now, Venezuelan resistance continues to be an inspiration for all of Latin and Central America , of courage in the face of Yanqui regime-change intimidation such as Latin America has so often experienced.

Tony Kevin, a former Australian senior diplomat, is an independent non-fiction author. His most recent book is ‘Return to Moscow’, a literary travel memoir published by UWA Publishing in 2017.

34 Comments

  1. Seamus Padraig says

    These currently right-wing governments came belatedly to realise how unpopular and electorally costly such support would become for them at home : especially with the prominent role in the US diplomatic campaign of the universally loathed and infamous Elliott Abrams.

    No joke! Talk about image problems. Back in the 80s, Elliott “Santa Muerte” Abrams buried about half of Guatemala in an unmarked grave. Now Bolton wheels him out to be the public face of our little revolución á color in Venezuela ? Really?

    You see, this is the benefit of having Trump running our régime-change campaigns, rather than someone competent like Smooth-Move Obama. Under Trump, they are more likely to self-destruct … and probably fast.

  2. Just a couple remarks:

    There is a national spiritual glue in Venezuela that was not present in Georgia, Ukraine, Libya, Iraq, or Syria: in all those cases there were deep sectarian or ethnic fissures in society ready for US ‘colour revolution’ regime change architects to exacerbate and exploit.

    This statement seems to me fundamentally wrong. At least in relation to Syria. In my opinion, the presence of such a “national spiritual glue” was in many ways the reason why Syria did not fall apart. It is the presence of the “national spiritual glue” among the Syrian people contributed to the many years of successful resistance to external aggression (primarily Western). 8(!) years of war, but Syria is not broken. It is precisely because of the presence of “national spiritual glue”. If Syria did not have this “glue”, the country would have collapsed long ago.

    The statement about the presence of “deep sectarian or ethnic fissures in society” in Syria is also very doubtful in my opinion. On the contrary, Syria is traditionally famous for its deeply peaceful coexistence of various nationalities and religious denominations.

    …the publicised despatch of 400 Russian ‘technical contractor’ specialists to Caracas.

    It is difficult to say something definitely. However, I rather tend to view this information as untrue.
    Firstly, there are players in the region who are able to provide assistance of this kind. Mean, Cuba or Bolivia.
    I recall that after the appearance of rumors about the “400 Russian guards” the following happened:

    Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov officially denied the information of some Western media about Russia sending 400 fighters (either military or mercenaries) to protect Nicolas Maduro.
    Russian Ambassador to Caracas Vladimir Zaemsky in an interview with “RIA Novosti” also denied this information, calling it another fake.
    Venezuelan Foreign Ministry denied reports that President Nicolas Maduro appealed to Moscow with a request for military assistance.
    https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/01/28/world/politics-diplomacy-world/kremlin-denies-reports-russia-mercenaries-protecting-maduro/#.XHiBYylv6t8

    After all, if there was a need to send people to guard Maduro, why would the Kremlin hide it?
    It was possible to declare absolutely calmly that “at the request of the Venezuelan government”, representatives of the Russian armed forces were sent to the country. It is not even necessary to say that it is for the protection of the president. You can always say, for example, that “the Russian military will take part in joint training / exercises with the Venezuelan military”. After all, at the exercises, you can always work out scenarios of a possible attack on the president of the country and repelling such an attack…
    By the way, such a signal would become a kind of “sobering factor” for the United States, and would make them think once more when considering the possibility of a military invasion of Venezuela.
    But this was not done. Instead, both the Kremlin and Caracas officially denied rumors of “400 Russian guards”.

    I repeat, nothing can be said for 100%.
    But in this case, I tend to view this news as a fake.
    We have already heard such nonsense last year, when Western media claimed that the US airstrike in the Euphrates region allegedly destroyed “many hundreds of Russian military men”. It was fake.
    http://russiafeed.com/russia-foreign-ministry-scores-russians-killed-syria-disinformation/

    • Tony Kevin says

      A short response to alaffcreator. I strive for accuracy in what I write: this essay was a short overview narrative of a complex story.

      On my ‘spiritual glue’ remark about Venezuela: as my preceding sentences made clear, I was referring to the long history and persuasive power in Latin America of simple nationalism and opposition to Yanqui imperialist greed etc. As to Syria, while I share the writer’s admiration for how Assad and the loyal.Syrian Army have withstood and now almost overcome their enemies – and my writing record on Syria proves it – there were initially exploitable sectarian and ethnic fissures in Syria involving Shia/Sunni/Kurd communities and Christianity/moderate Islam/ extremist Islamism that gave initial room for mischief- making by Syria’s enemies. There is nothing comparable in Venezuela. There is just one divide – between rich and poor.

      On the reported presence of up to 400 Russian contractors in Venezuela, assisting President Maduro, I have studied all the press including reported comments by Peskov and (on comparable issue of presence of Russian contractors in Syria) Zakharova. I am satisfied that there are some groups of experienced Russians working in Venezuela, possibly under private contractor arrangements. I welcome their presence – I am sure it offers reassurance to Maduro and Venezuelans loyal to his presidency. I would not expect the Russian Govt to issue press releases about this. Peskov did not actually deny their presence , his words were to the effect ‘ sometimes, stuff happens that I would not always be in a position to confirm’.’

  3. vexarb says

    “To be a friend of the U$A is dangerous”. — Kissinger.

    “Wish you’d told us earlier”. — Noriega, Sadam, Ben Laden, Mubarak, the Apart Hate Regime in South Africa, the Nazis in pre-War Germany ….

    Who’s next? There’s plenty of room under the bus.

  4. Peter Jansen says

    Here we go again, the U.S who has been at war 222 of their 239 year history since 1776 are trying to bully little Venezuela into submission through threats, sanctions and of course the worldwide “Fake News” and not to forget that they are also after their oil, coltan and other resources.
    It is also a pet hate that this despotic empire don’t like the idea of a socialist country doing quite well without the interference of the “GLOBAL CENTRAL BANKSTERS” who really love funding wars. They initially invaded Cuba many years back and turned it into a playground for the rich whilst the poor starved, until Castro came and cleaned out the swamp. America had the neck to call Iran, Iraq and North Korea “the axis of evil” though lately North Korea is a rogue nation go figure.

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  5. With the loosening grip of the US Power Elite on the “Old World” due to the strengthened Sino-Russian power Center in the East the US Power Elite wants to “secure” its backyard. The more because of Venezuela´s rich recourses (not only oil, but amny other things like COLTAN).

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    • eddie says

      Coltan.. Is that a new designer drug only available on the deep-web? Because frankly, the word seems to have been coined today, right here on Off-G..

      • vexarb says

        Tan as in Tantalum, used in capacitors. Next question, Wotsa capacitor?

        • eddie says

          OMG, they are coming for our tantalumized capacitors !! World’s End !

      • eddie says

        I will add another down-vote, because frankly, the 21st-Century defining COLTAN WARS just doesn’t set the right tone..

      • Pablo says

        From that font of all knowledge (?);

        Coltan (short for columbite–tantalites and known industrially as tantalite) is a dull black metallic ore, from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted. The niobium-dominant mineral in coltan is columbite (after niobium’s original American name columbium), and the tantalum-dominant mineral is tantalite.[1]

        Tantalum from coltan is used to manufacture batteries for electric cars, and in tantalum capacitors it is used in electronic products. Coltan mining[2][3] has helped to finance serious conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example the Ituri conflict and the Second Congo War.[4][5][6]

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coltan

      • Ray Raven says

        Best to keep your mouth shut and appear ignorant (or just plain tupid in your case), than open it and remove all doubt.
        Or alternatively at a level that you can understand “stop trying to be a smart-ass; you’re not smart, thus you are just an ass” (or arse if you prefer)

    • “Venezuela has rich resources of gold, nickel, iron ore, steel, diamond, alumina, coal, bauxite, asphalt, natural gas, and petroleum. In 2014, the extraction of minerals from mines and quarries accounted for about 26% of GDP”. It also has coltan, which is used for, among other things, car batteries – for which demand is rapidly increasing.

    • vexarb says

      Tom Watson has to go. For the health of the Labour Party. It cannot survive a third infection of BLiarism.

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  6. harry stotle says

    Having tried to club Syria to death US bullies have now turned their attention to Venezuela.

    Curiously western liberals will fail to notice this pattern of intimidation while mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies (such as the Guardian) will continue to spew disinformation on the urgent need for further regime change.

    MPs who suggest this is not the correct thing to do will be vilified by outraged news presenters.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D35uSdJQkA

    At the same time the studio laugh-machine will cranked up to 10 as liberal comics tell us why a bloody coup in Venezuela would make the world a much better place!

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    • Gezzah Potts says

      Harry Stotle: of course western liberals will fail to notice. Look at the adulation and fawning over Obama, while fully ignoring his war crimes and mass murder. Meryl Streep, Michael Moore and Rachel Maddow are three that spring to mind. Their hypocrisy is endless, and their silence is revolting. And of course that cretin on the YouTube clip as well. They have zero shame.

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      • I’m not sure about Michael Moore’s overall record on Obama, but his recent film, “Fahrenheit 11/9”, certainly portrayed Obama in a VERY bad light, as he deliberately tried to made fun of a community of people who were being poisoned, for the sake of profit by private water company, by having to drink water that often looked like the raw sewage it contained since they took over. It was a rare sight of Obama unmistakably showing his true colours.

  7. Philpot says

    Nicely balanced article bringing good news and hope for us for once. Best wishes to Maduro and all Venezuelan people.

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  8. vexarb says

    NATZO Organizing [yet another] Colour Revolution: Plans Delivery Of Heavy Weapons From Ukraine Antonov Co. To Venezuela Putschniks –

    https://www.investmentwatchblog.com/russia-us-nato-organizing-colour-revolution-plan-mass-delivery-of-heavy-weapons-from-ukraine-antonov-state-company-to-venezuela-opposition/

    Vexarb guesses that our Scandiwegian incompetents who lead NATZO have run out of fresh ideas for wasting wealth by spreading the bounds of mayhem “wider still and wider”. After the defeat of our heavily armed mercenaries in Georgia, of our neo-Nazi mercenaries in the Ukraina, and our Jihadi mercenaries in Syria, the EU$A Leaders have obviously not considered the possibility that Venezuela may be ready to meet armed insurrection by NATZO stooges. Ready with a million strong militia, according to Jens in a recent OffG post.

    Pathetic, truly pathetic — or, as a schoolboy might say, even spastic. Rasmussen and co must be even more mentally challenged than GW “Shrub” Bush. At least the Shrub learned, “Fool me twice …. err…. you cant fool me twice”. Let alone 4 times.

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    • John A says

      Rasmussen is long gone from NATO, now Stoltenberg from Norway is the main puppet leaderhead.

      • vexarb says

        Yes, John A, but as the Chinaman said, all these Scandiwegian Jensens-in-Office look the same to me. I simply cant be bothered to check their names: it isnt as though they were any different, one NATZO deadface apparatchnik from another.

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  9. vexarb says

    From SyrianPerspective, Daniel Rich BTL #287813 quotes the current White Hope in U$ Congress:

    “There’s no disputing the fact that Bashar Assad and Syria is a brutal dictator who has used chemical weapons and other weapons against his people.” – Tulsi Gabbard, on ABC’s ‘The View’

    There will be no change in US politics.

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  10. Jen says

    “… There is a national spiritual glue in Venezuela that was not present in Georgia, Ukraine, Libya, Iraq, or Syria: in all those cases there were deep sectarian or ethnic fissures in society ready for US ‘colour revolution’ regime change architects to exacerbate and exploit …”

    Much credit surely goes to the former President Hugo Chavez for creating and promoting grassroots groups and organisations, and for building up a state-run economy with state-run news media running parallel with the private sector and privately owned and run news media, as part of his Bolivarian revolution.

    There are those who say he should have nationalised the banks, the news media and so on and so forth when he first became President in 1998 but the power of the landowning elites over vital economic sectors and the media might have been great and Chavez could have been thrown out as President before he could even begin. By doing what he did in the way he did, Chavez built the foundations for a society with deep roots and values that could eventually absorb the private sector and be truly inclusive.

    The tragedy is that Chavez did not have what he most needed, and that is the time to see the Bolivarian project properly establish itself.

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  11. Savorywill says

    I tend to be optimistic, a reflection of how my life has turned out, I suppose, and I hoped that Trump was once again up to his old tricks of flamboyant threats and gesticulations which, in the end, amount to nothing, with regard to Guaido and his wishful thinking on the Venezuelan presidential election results (Guaido wasn’t even on the ballot!). Of course, Pence set it in motion and Trump huffed and puffed, threatening to blow the house down, but everyone knows this story by now and builds their houses with bricks, which are actually impossible to knock down just by huffing and puffing (which constitutes US foreign policy nowadays as not one single military invasion has been successful, post WWII – except, perhaps, the attack on the tiny nation of Grenada, when Reagan was president).

    I do think Trump knows this and has no intention of starting another ‘regime’ change operation in Venezuela and I am reasonably sure that it is all smoke and mirrors and nothing will come of it.

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    1
  12. mark says

    I can’t believe how clumsy, clownish and generally farcical the Regime Change operation was.
    Anyone with two brain cells to rub together would have come up with a better puppet than Gweedo.
    Find a more credible opposition figure, maybe a disaffected and disgruntled ex Chavista, a former Bolivarian who was known in the country and was not an obvious neoliberal/ IMF/ NED stooge.
    That might have worked. This Mr. Disgruntled could have acted as a focus for discontent in the country while distancing himself from Washington, resulting in a soft coup.

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    • Julio Bigtime says

      He bears a passing resemblance to Obomber, so to Central Casting at the Empire of Chaos in Hollyweird — it’s everything! Promote the fucker!!! Go Gweedo!

      20
    • vexarb says

      @mark: “Anyone with two brain cells to rub together would have come up with a better puppet than Gweedo.”

      Fortunately for the rest of the world, Anglo Zio Capitalists are are growing old, their minds run in a rut, their puppets are all young handsome male airheads. Like this recent Rothschild puppet being held up as a trophy at CRIF (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France) the French AIPAC meeting:

      https://youtu.be/4zmtnTe-PHw

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      • Jen says

        The marionette in the Youtube clip looked as though the microchips in his arm and hand were malfunctioning. Someone get him a screwdriver and a cable!

        13
  13. Oinknose von Tallycracker says

    I hope at some point if the coup completely flops Venezuela will pursue compensation and punishment against the nations, banks, and individuals who are currently seizing its gold, and orchestrating a mini-coup at Citgo, and other outrageous theft. But I’m very ignorant, I hope there’s a neutral (ish) court for these types of things.

    I also hope Syria’s reconstruction contracts blackball US, UK, and other companies. It’s good that direct imperialism via regime-change is being fought successfully, but the efforts should include financial punishment on the imperialists and their interests. If Halliburton gets a fat reconstruction contract, then many parties in the west would be enriched and be more likely to do the same for other countries. War profiteers need to suffer and be ostracized for their immoral acts.

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    • mark says

      I think the only real punishment will come from increasing de dollarization and people with assets avoiding the City of London like the plague. It’s a like a man sawing through the branch on the tree he’s sitting on.

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      • chaize says

        Talk about it! The US is doing a better job slashing its own face than anybody else could do. Alienating allies and vassals everywhere, sanctioning themselves out of business, destroying the value of their only asset the dollar, fast losing credibility by tearing up treaty after treaty without good reason, showing partners and enemies round the world the weakness of a farcical internal political comedy-show………..methinks the branch is going to break soon, and that the Venezuela show could be the last act…..God willing!

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      • Ken Kenn says

        Without a doubt.

        Expect a sort of new Gold Rush.

        Away form the whims of the US as to whether they are your ‘ friends ‘ or not.

        Never be a ‘ friend ‘ of the US is my advice to any nation.

        Capitalist – Socialist or mixed.

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