Juan Guaidó continues to advocate punishing the Venezuelan people with US coercive economic measures. Recently shipped to Washington DC, the former “interim president” of Venezuela pleaded, “You can’t use a kind or soft approach,” such as easing the suffering, because it would “normalize dictatorship.”
By Roger D. Harris
Guaidó was livestreamed May 3 from the quasi-governmental Wilson Center. Located in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington DC, the Wilson Center is a think tank established by the US Congress, which “conducts research to inform public policy” in service of the US empire.
Former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield opened with remarks about the need to “compel” the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Then Wilson Center head Mark Green obsequiously introduced Guaidó. Before helming the Wilson Center, Green was executive director of the McCain Institute and prior to that administrator of the USAID, both CIA cut-outs.
The Wilson Center program was interrupted by pro-Venezuelan government protesters, accusing Guaidó of being a thief and a fraud. Although blacked out on the livestream, this video of the action was posted on Twitter.
In an orchestrated Q&A, a Venezuelan friendly to Guaidó asked why his attempted coup on April 30, 2019, failed. Guaidó truthfully admitted that, in effect, regime change was not supported by either the Venezuelan masses or the military. In what may have been an allusion to the failure of the US to militarily intervene in Venezuela – a scheme floated by Donald Trump – Guaidó complained about insufficient “international pressure.”
Far from advocating for the Venezuelan people, Guaidó passionately implored the US government to “improve” the tool of sanctions. He admonished that easing the economic war on his fellow citizens would only “encourage dictatorship.” Lest he be thought of as being soft on socialism, he proclaimed: “Venezuelans believe in private enterprise!”
Guaidó also crusaded against allowing Russia or China into the Americas and for overthrowing the other “dictatorships” in Cuba and Nicaragua. Adding, “we need to put a lot more pressure on authoritarian regimes.”
The rise and fall of the “interim president”
How the hapless would-be president got to Washington is a convoluted story. He had illegally snuck into Colombia on foot with the intention of crashing an international conference on Venezuela called by Colombian President Petro. But the Colombians didn’t relish the embarrassment on their soil. So after locating him with the assistance of US agents, he was dumped on a plane to Miami on April 25.
Once in the US and interviewed by the Washington Post, Guaidó whined about “pressure” from a US official to get on the plane out of Colombia and “threats of deportation” from the Colombian government. At the Wilson Center event, he continued to rail against the Colombian government for their alleged support of the Venezuelan “dictatorship.”
That was not the only indignity Guaidó has to complain about. His own far-right coalition in Venezuela had dropped him last December. By January 5 and the end of his term in the National Assembly, not even the US continued to recognize his “interim presidency.”
Indeed, the US security asset had come a long way. Back in January of 2019, he was unknown to over 80% of the Venezuelan public according to polls at the time. He had become head of the National Assembly when, in a rotational scheme, it was his party’s turn to assume the post.
That put him third in line to the presidency in the Venezuelan constitutional succession, much the same position as that of the current speaker of the house Kevin McCarthy under the US constitution. But no one would claim that the representative from Bakersfield is the legitimate US president.
However, that did not deter US Vice President Pence four years ago from calling Juan Guaidó and asking him to self-appoint himself president of Venezuela. The next day, Mr. Guaidó did precisely that on a street corner in Caracas. Trump immediately recognized him, followed by over 50 of the Washington’s most sycophantic allies.
The US claimed that the 2018 re-election of Nicolás Maduro was “illegitimate” and therefore the presidency of Venezuela was “vacated.” That election was not considered “free and fair” according to the US’s “rules based order” because the winner was chosen by the Venezuelan electorate rather than Washington. This judgement, by the way, contrasted with former US President Jimmy Carter’s prior assessment of the electoral system in Venezuela as “the best in the world.”
As the Wall Street Journal observed, the biggest obstacle to the US installing a president to its liking is the fact that the opposition is in disarray and lacks popular support. Another obstacle to a Venezuelan presidential election in 2024 meeting Washington’s approval is that certain individuals have been barred from running because they engagaed in violent coups against the elected government.
One such convicted individual is Leopoldo López. Now in exile, Mr. López incidentally was at the Wilson Center event along with fellow Popular Will party members and Guaidó confederates Freddy Guevara, David Smolansky, Carlos Vecchio, and Pedro Burelli.
US hybrid warfare against Venezuela
Rather than struggle under a sanctions regime that he had promoted, the man who vowed to “…stay on the street until Venezuela is liberated!” is now in cushy DC. His reception has been far friendlier than what he experienced back home as illustrated in this video of his visit to the state of Sucre.
Predictably and deliberately, the US measures that Guaidó now champions were responsible for over 100,000 deaths. The previous US Senate unanimously passed the BOLIVAR Act on December 16 to preclude any relaxation of sanctions even if the Biden White House had any intension of letting up on their regime-change efforts, which it doesn’t. However, Senator Rick Scott’s Republican partisan attempt to repass the Act in the new Senate has not succeeded.
In contrast to Guaidó’s histrionics at the Wilson Center and the opinions of some other opposition elements, the new official representative of the Venezuelan opposition to Washington, Fernando Blasi, urged Biden to ease oil sanctions last month. Shortly thereafter, Colombian President Petro met US President Biden at the White House and broached the US budging on its sanctions. Then in the end of last month at Petro’s international conference on Venezuela, most of the attendees recommended release of Venezuelan assets frozen in US banks.
Around the same time, US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen admitted that US sanctions may endanger US dollar dominance because the blocked countries must seek an alternative: “There is a risk when we use financial sanctions that are linked to the role of the dollar that over time it could undermine the hegemony of the dollar.” And the UN Human Rights Council approved a resolution rejecting unilateral coercive measures.
Regardless, relief from hybrid warfare will not come from the US anytime soon. The most recent blow in the immiseration campaign against the Venezuelan people is the US courts’ authorizing auctioning off of the multi-billion-dollar CITGO, Venezuela’s largest overseas asset. Meanwhile, international solidarity from Russia, China, Iran, and non-state activists help buoy Venezuela’s resistance.
Roger D. Harris is with the human rights group Task Force on the Americas, founded in 1985.