[News] Trump Sends Gun Boats to Venezuela While the World Partners to Fight a Deadly Pandemic

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Apr 7 12:55:02 EDT 2020

Sends Gun Boats to Venezuela While the World Partners to Fight a Deadly
Pandemic by Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
<https://www.counterpunch.org/author/vjprplnm48881/> - April 7, 2020

On April’s Fools Day, U.S. President Donald Trump gave a press conference
where he announced a new “counter-narcotics effort” by U.S. Southern
Command. “We’re deploying additional Navy destroyers, combat ships,
aircrafts and helicopters, Coast Guard cutters…doubling our capabilities in
the region,” he said. The point of this mission—which will be joined by
other countries—is to “increase surveillance, disruption, and seizures of
drug shipments.” “We must not let narco-terrorists exploit the pandemic to
threaten American lives.”

On 26 March, less than a week before Trump’s announcement, the U.S.
Department of Justice indicted
several members of the Venezuelan government for narco-trafficking. An
indictment is not a verdict of guilt, merely a note—in this case – prepared
by the U.S. government against an adversary; there is nothing in the
indictment that proves the case that any of the individuals mentioned in it
have anything to do with narcotics smuggling. It was apparent from the
press conference at the U.S. Department of Justice that this was political
theatre, an attempt to further delegitimize the government of Nicolas

Coming less than a week after this indictment, it is clear to all that the
point is not to actually disrupt the cocaine trade, but it is to put
pressure on Venezuela. No evidence was provided during the Department of
Justice press conference when the United States charged Maduro with
narco-trafficking, and no evidence was presented at Trump’s press
conference when he announced that a naval carrier group would enter the
Caribbean. There was no evidence presented at either high-profile event,
because no evidence is either available or necessary; it is not available,
because even the U.S. government’s own agencies say that Venezuela is
neither the originator of narcotics nor the trafficker of narcotics, and it
is not necessary because the United States has been consistently
delegitimizing Venezuela to overthrow the government based on increasingly
hallucinatory stories about the Venezuelan government.

*The Primary Source of Cocaine*

In December 2019, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) released its *National
Drug Threat Assessment*
This study offers the most detailed look at the movement of drugs into the
United States. At several points in the study, the DEA says that Colombia
is the “primary source for cocaine seized in the United States,” According
to the DEA’s Cocaine Signature Program, in 2018 “approximately 90 percent
of cocaine samples tested were of Colombian origin, six percent were of
Peruvian origin, and four percent were of Unknown origin.” As far as the
U.S. government’s own drug agency is concerned, there is no cocaine or any
other narcotic that comes from Venezuela.

Both at the U.S. Department of Justice press conference and at Trump’s
press conference, maps were shown that indicated cocaine traffic from
Venezuela to the United States. This is simply not true, based on U.S. DEA
information. “The majority of the cocaine and heroin produced and exported
by Colombian TCOs [Transnational Criminal Organizations] to the United
States is transported through Central America and Mexico,” write the DEA
officials in their 2019 report. However, there are suggestions in the
report that Colombian narco-traffickers sometimes “store large quantities
of cocaine in remote areas of Venezuela and Ecuador until maritime or
aerial transportation can be secured.” It is important to recognize that
the cocaine and heroin are hidden in “remote areas” of Colombia’s
neighbors, with Colombia being the focus of the entire drug trade.

At no point in the entire DEA document, and in documents from previous
years, do the U.S. drug officials make any statement that implicates the
Venezuelan government in either the production, storage or transportation
of the cocaine and the heroin. The only time Venezuela enters the picture
is when Colombian narco-traffickers hide their cocaine and heroin in
“remote areas” of Venezuela before they traffic them into Central America
and Mexico and then onwards to the United States.

The indictment against Venezuelan officials is bizarre. There is no
footprint for it in any DEA document that is available.

There is, however, significant evidence—as presented by the Colombian
journalist Gonzalo Guillén in *La Nueva Prensa*
on 3 March 2020—that Colombia’s president Iván Duque and his patron, the
former president Álvaro Uribe had close ties with the narco-trafficker José
Guillermo Hernández Aponte, alias Ñeñé. The previous day, Duque was in the
Oval Office as Trump chided him for not doing enough to eradicate cocaine
production in Colombia. “Well, you’re going to have to spray,” Trump told
Duque. “If you don’t spray, you’re not going to get rid of them. So, you
have to spray, with regard to the drugs in Colombia. Yeah.” Trump was
talking about glyphosate-based fumigation, which the government of Colombia
stopped doing in 2015 because the World Health Organization said that such
sprays caused cancer. Duque said he will restart spraying. There was no
mention of the accusations that Duque himself is linked to the
narco-traffickers; since he is pliant towards Washington, his own alleged
crimes do not amount to much.

Strangely, in that press conference, both Trump and Duque talked about
Venezuela, but neither of them mentioned drugs or narco-trafficking. It was
all about regime change.

*Demand for Surrender*

On 31 March, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Venezuela
must have a transitional government; this itself is bizarre because Pompeo
is neither Venezuelan nor a United Nations official and yet he felt
emboldened to speak for the Venezuelan people. His plan—*Democratic
Framework for Venezuela*—called upon President Maduro to resign and for
Washington’s favored replacement Juan Guaidó to renounce his imaginary
claim to power. Members of the four main parties—including Maduro’s
Socialist Party—would form a council and be led by an “interim president.”
If this plan is accepted, Washington would lift its unilateral coercive
sanctions that it had imposed from 2014.

The previous weekend, Guaidó announced on twitter that Venezuela needed an
Emergency Government that had the participation of all parties and would
govern until new elections could be held. After Pompeo’s announcement,
Guaidó took credit for it and thanked Pompeo publicly. Other far-right
politicians, such as Leopoldo López, Carlos Vecchio, and Julio Borges,
saluted <https://twitter.com/carlosvecchio/status/1245119783370178560?s=20>
Pompeo’s plan and thanked the United States for “backing” Guaidó’s
Emergency Government.

The Organization of American States, which had behaved
as the long-arm of the U.S. State Department during the coup against the
government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, joined in the chorus begun by Pompeo
and Guidó. In a statement
the OAS declared that it “considers that the plan presented constitutes a
valid proposal for a path to end the usurping dictatorship and restore
democracy in the country.”

The Venezuelan government led by President Maduro rejected the plan. But it
was not alone. His opponent in the 2018 presidential election, Henri Falcon
of Avanzada Progresista, also rejected the Pompeo-Guidó plan and the
deployment of U.S. warships off the Venezuelan coast. The removal of
Maduro, he wrote
<https://twitter.com/HenriFalconLara/status/1245093356629372936?s=20>, “is
a process and not an imposition; it requires agreements between adversaries
for it to be successful. The solution in Venezuela is between Venezuelans.”
In other words, Pompeo and Trump had no role in the destabilization of
Venezuela. “The pandemic,” he wrote, “is wreaking havoc in the world.
Venezuela is one of the most vulnerable. It would be humanitarian and very
great if ships came with aid and medicine, and it would be very inhumane if
they came loaded with weapons and threats.”

Falcon is not alone. Most of the opposition in Venezuela did not approve of
Guidó’s submission to Trump and Pompeo. Claudio Fermin of the Soluciones
Party attacked
the “irresponsible and fanciful thesis” of Guidó and his supporters, which
is reliant upon the “fantasy cloud of instructions sent to them by their
bosses Elliot Abrams, Pompeo, and Trump.” Henrique Capriles Radonsky, who
twice ran unsuccessfully to be president, said
that Maduro has “internal control” while Guidó’s people have “international


When she heard that gunboats are coming towards the Venezuelan coast, Maria
Corina Machado of the Vente Venezuela Party tweeted
<https://twitter.com/MariaCorinaYA/status/1245470886397915143>, “That’s the
way to build a credible threat.” It is credible because the gunboats have
done this before.

So much of this is *déjà vu*. On 7 October 1963, U.S. President John F.
Kennedy gathered his advisors in the White House to discuss how to
overthrow the democratically elected government of João Goulart in Brazil.
Kennedy asked frankly, “Do you see a situation coming where we might
be—find it desirable to intervene militarily ourselves?” His Ambassador in
Brazil Lincoln Gordon said that he had worked on a plan with U.S. Southern
Command—then based in Panama—and with his contacts in the Brazilian
military. A U.S. invasion, Gordon told Kennedy, would require a “massive
military operation,” which “all depends on what the Brazilian military do.”
Any coup without major military support would lead to “what would amount to
a civil war.”

Rather than risk a civil war, Gordon said the military had to act, and the
United States had to provide them with diplomatic and military support. By
March 1964, Gordon said that the “most significant development is the
crystallizing of a military resistance group under the leadership of
General Humberto Castello Branco.” Washington gave the green light.
Operation Brother Sam was put in motion, which included egging on the
Generals and sending a massive naval task force to sit off the coast of
southern Brazil. An aircraft carrier, two guided missile destroyers, and
other support vessels left Aruba and made their very public journey to
Brazil. General Castello Branco moved against Goulart; that coup created a
military dictatorship—backed by Washington—that lasted 21 years.

The U.S. carrier group that is now sailing towards Venezuela seems to be
mimicking Operation Brother Sam of 1964. Rather than focus attention on the
pressing problem of controlling the virus in the United States and amongst
its military forces, Trump has begun maneuvers that could very well lead to
a serious and dangerous clash in the Caribbean Sea.

*Vijay Prashad* is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a
writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter
a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor
of LeftWord
and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research
He has written more than twenty books, including *The Darker Nations: A
People’s History of the Third World*
(The New Press, 2007), *The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the
Global South*
(Verso, 2013), *The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab
(University of California Press, 2016) and *Red Star Over the Third World*
(LeftWord, 2017).

*Paola Estrada* is in the Secretariat of the International Peoples Assembly
and is a member of the Brazilian chapter of ALBA Movements (Continental
Coordination of Social Movements toward the Bolivarian Alliance for the
Peoples of Our America).

*Ana Maldonado* is in the Frente Francisco de Miranda (Venezuela).

*Zoe PC* is a journalist with Peoples Dispatch
and reports on people’s movements in Latin America.

*This article was produced by Globetrotter
a project of the Independent Media Institute.*
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