[News] How the U.S. Failed at Its Foreign Policy Toward Venezuela

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Mon Aug 10 14:33:14 EDT 2020


https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/08/10/how-the-u-s-failed-at-its-foreign-policy-toward-venezuela/
How
the U.S. Failed at Its Foreign Policy Toward Venezuela by Vijay Prashad –
Érika Ortega Sanoja <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/rkrtgsnj9391/>-
August 10, 2020
------------------------------

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

On August 4, 2020, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a
hearing
<https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/venezuela-in-maduros-grasp-assessing-the-deteriorating-security-and-humanitarian-situation>
on Venezuela. Appearing before the committee was U.S. State Department
Special Representative Elliott Abrams. Abrams, who has had a long—and
controversial—career in the formation of U.S. foreign policy, was assaulted
by almost all the members of the Senate committee. The senators, almost
without exception, suggested that Abrams had been—since 2019—responsible
for a failed U.S. attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government of
President Nicolás Maduro.

>From Republican Senator Mitt Romney to Democratic Senator Chris Murphy,
Abrams received a severe tongue-lashing. There was no disagreement in the
committee about the goals of U.S. policy, namely to overthrow—with force if
necessary—the government of President Maduro. Murphy laid out the timeline
of Trump’s policy, which began with the recognition of minor Venezuelan
politician Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela in January 2019 to the
current moment, including how the United States—in Murphy’s words
<https://www.murphy.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/murphy-us-venezuela-policy-has-been-an-unmitigated-disaster-we-played-all-our-cards-on-day-one-and-its-been-an-embarrassment-ever-since>—“tried
to sort of construct a kind of coup in April of last year.”

Abrams was unfazed. “Obviously we hope that [Maduro] will not survive the
year and we are working hard to make that happen,” he said
<https://www.c-span.org/video/?474497-1/hearing-political-situation-venezuela>.
The policy—including “a kind of coup”—remains intact. Abrams has now added
another file to his post: he will be Trump’s special representative on
Iran; the man who failed to conduct regime change in Venezuela is now going
to deepen U.S. attempts to overthrow the government in Iran.

*Venezuelan Reaction*

A clip <https://twitter.com/erikaosanoja/status/1290799892470923264?s=21>
from Murphy’s comments—including the “kind of coup” sentence—circulated
widely on social media inside Venezuela. Senior members of the Venezuelan
government—including Vice President Delcy Rodríguez
<https://twitter.com/drodriven2/status/1291108784950124544?s=21> and
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza
<https://twitter.com/jaarreaza/status/1290829788383514624?s=21>—shared it.
It was also shared by former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa
<https://twitter.com/mashirafael/status/1290999498857222154?s=21>, who
acidly noted that Senator Murphy “is surely a good person, but he doesn’t
even understand what he is acknowledging.” What he is saying is that the
U.S. government has tried to do a coup in Venezuela. This is what created
outrage in the country.

We asked Foreign Minister Arreaza to comment about Murphy’s use of the term
“coup” in his statement about U.S. policy vis-à-vis Venezuela. Arreaza told
us the following: “U.S. spokespersons continue to openly admit to their
crimes and illegal aggressions against the Venezuelan people.” It is not
only Murphy—a liberal Democrat—who used the language of a “coup.” Trump’s
former national security adviser—John Bolton—recounts in his book
<https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Room-Where-It-Happened/John-Bolton/9781982148034>
how Trump had said that, per John Kelly
<https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Room_Where_It_Happened/QjTMDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=cool>,
“it would be ‘cool’ to invade Venezuela”; Trump also said that Venezuela is
<https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Room_Where_It_Happened/QjTMDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=venezuela%20is%20part%20of%20the%20united%20states>
“really part of the United States.” Speaking of Murphy’s comment and
Bolton’s book, Arreaza said, “these confessions are priceless evidence for
the complaint we raised at the International Criminal Court.”

Even members of the Venezuelan opposition, such as Enrique Ochoa Antich,
said that the open way in which Abrams and the U.S. senators spoke of armed
action against Venezuela “is painful and unacceptable.” The entire
Trump-Bolton-Abrams policy, he said, has failed to dent the government of
Maduro.

*Illegal*

Ecuador’s Correa correctly said that Murphy did not know what he had
acknowledged. It is rare for a U.S. politician to care when they say things
that violate international law. Murphy’s casual statement about a “coup” is
in clear violation of the Charter of the Organization of American States
(OAS), of which the United States is a member. Two articles from Chapter IV
of the OAS charter <https://bit.ly/2PzhvaI> explicitly outlaw a coup:

“No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or
indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of
any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but
also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the
personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural
elements.” (Article 19)

“No State may use or encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic
or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another
State and obtain from it advantages of any kind.” (Article 20)

There is no need to interpret these articles, because they are written very
plainly. They say that not only is “armed force” forbidden as a “form of
interference,” but so is the “use of coercive measures of an economic or
political character” to violate the sovereignty of a country. The tenor of
the Senate hearing was in total violation of the spirit and letter of the
OAS charter and the Charter of the United Nations
<https://www.un.org/en/charter-united-nations/>. But this has been the
behavior of the U.S. government since at least 1954, when the Central
Intelligence Agency overthrew the government of Jacobo Árbenz of Guatemala.

*Failure*

The U.S. senators certainly attacked Abrams for his failure. But what was
the failure that bothered them? Not the failure to abide by the laws and
conventions signed by the United States; that was not the problem.

Universally, the senators attacked Abrams for not being able to succeed
with his coup plans. They gave him advice about how to better overthrow the
government of Maduro. Thus far, the U.S. government has denied Venezuela
access to IMF funds, charged the leadership in Venezuela of
drug-trafficking (with a hallucinatory
<https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/04/04/trump-sends-gun-boats-to-venezuela-while-the-world-partners-to-fight-a-deadly-pandemic/>
indictment), and sent a carrier group to tighten the embargo on the
country; none of these policies
<https://www.thetricontinental.org/studies-2-sanctions-and-coronashock/>
have succeeded, despite the full weight of the U.S. government behind them.
Rather than concede that the government of Maduro has popular support, the
United States wants to pursue its policy with even more draconian methods.

The United States is currently conducting a hybrid war, which includes an
economic war (sanctions and sabotage) and an information war (coloring the
government as authoritarian). Some senators wanted the Trump administration
to go beyond this highly destructive form of warfare. They wanted the U.S.
government to run a full blockade of Venezuelan ports.

The Trump administration is unwilling to go that far. Such a policy, Abrams
said, would be an “act of war.” Trump wants a war, but not an open war; the
U.S. military knows that it might be able to flatten Caracas, but it would
not be able to win a war against the Venezuelan people.
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