US encouragement of military coup in Venezuela 
is dangerousfor both countries Timothy M Gill02/22/2018
Since the election offormer Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 1998, the US 
and Venezuela have beenat odds.
Oppositionleader María Corina Machado meets George W. Bush in 2005 
(Eric Draper, publicdomain) US state elites repeatedly condemnedChávez and his 
socialist policies, met with opposition leaders in Washington,and failed to 
recognise the electoral success of both Chávez and his successorthe current 
president Nicolás Maduro. Chávez, meanwhile, aligned himself withseveral US 
foes (such as Iran and Russia), routinely lambasted US imperialism, expelled 
the US ambassador, and ultimately blamed the USfor the 2002 coup d’état which 
temporarily removed him from power. TheTrump administration’s approach on 
Venezuela and Latin America Like Iran and North Korea, Venezuela hasremained a 
top foreign-policy priority for the new Trump administration. Whilecertain 
elements within it have pushed for a harsh response to PresidentMaduro, other 
individuals – recently retired Under Secretary Tom Shannon, forexample – have 
discouraged the application of more dramatic measures like a banon oil imports 
from Venezuela, which the administration has been seriouslyconsidering. While 
US administrations from Clinton toTrump via Bush and Obama have made no secret 
of their disdain forVenezuela’s socialist government, only the Trump government 
has publiclysignalled its support for a military coup in the country. Speaking 
at the University of Texas before hisrecent tour of Latin America, Secretary of 
State Rex Tillerson statedplainly that he believed “there will be a change [in 
Venezuela],” and that theVenezuelan military would ultimately carry it out. 
Tillerson also claimed that: in]the history of Venezuela, and, in fact, the 
history in other Latin American andSouth American countries, oftentimes it’s 
the military that handles that. Whenthings are so bad that the military 
leadership realizes they just can’t servethe citizens anymore, they will manage 
a peaceful transition. He even declared the MonroeDoctrine, which established 
US imperial domination over the Western Hemisphere,“a success” and asserted 
that it remains “as relevant today as it was the dayit was written.” If anyone 
doubted Tillerson’s familiarity with the nature ofthat document, he went on to 
say that Latin America did “not need any newimperial powers” like China and 
Russia exerting their influence in the region,clearly implying that Latin 
America is already currently subject to theimperial power of the US. Indeed, 
throughout thetwentieth century, the US actively supported military coups all 
acrossLatin America, from Guatemala and Nicaragua in Central America to 
Argentina andChile in the Southern Cone. But these coups led to nothing 
remotely approaching“peaceful transition”. The Guatemalan military, 
forinstance, committed what many consider genocide against local 
indigenouspopulations, whereas the Chilean regime disappeared tens of thousands 
ofleft-wing activists. These governments safeguarded US economic and 
securityinterests, but only by terrorising their own citizens. The threatof 
oil-related sanctions and the 2018 elections As well as voicing support for 
amilitary coup, Tillerson also indicated that the Trump administration 
isweighing up the nuclear option of banning oil imports from Venezuela. The 
severely debilitated Venezuelaneconomy relies almost exclusively on oil exports 
for foreign exchange, much ofwhich continues to come from sales to refineries 
on the US Gulf Coast. Despite Maduro’s claims that Venezuelawould survive any 
embargo, in reality this would doubtless prove catastrophicfor the Venezuelan 
economy, intensifying the already significant suffering ofcitizens all across 
the country. It is hard to envision a means of compensatingfor the loss of this 
foreign exchange, which is desperately needed to serviceforeign debt and cover 
the imports that keep a minimum of goods on Venezuelanshelves. In response, 
Maduro would also amplifyhis anti-imperialist rhetoric and shore up nationalist 
sentiment. Yet, if theTrump administration wants to scare military members into 
moving against thegovernment, there is no better move to make. There is no 
denying that Venezuela facesa serious political-economic crisis with no end in 
sight: ·        Oilproduction and prices, which together provided the 
government with thewindfall of foreign exchange that underpinned its heavy 
social spending, haveboth plummeted;·        hyperinflationhas left the local 
currency virtually worthless;·        homiciderates are among the highest in 
the hemisphere – if not the world;·        PresidentMaduro remains deeply 
unpopular throughout the country. Though Maduro did overcome formergovernor 
Henrique Capriles in a 2013 election generally considered free andfair, he has 
since sought to maintain his rule through a host of authoritarianmanoeuvres: 
sidelining the opposition-controlled National Assembly,establishing a parallel 
legislative body, and jailing or disbarring politicaladversaries. Yet, 
historically the opposition hasn’tplayed by the rules either. In 2002, some 
opposition members supported amilitary coup and a transitional government that 
temporarily displaced HugoChávez. Opposition groups then orchestrated a 
months-long strike thatparalysed the country by shutting down the vital oil 
industry. And since2014 the opposition has periodically called for the ouster 
of Maduro throughnationwide protests that have resulted in the death of dozens 
of Venezuelans, amongstthem security forces, opposition activists, and 
government supporters alike. Elements of the opposition haverecently sought to 
negotiate with the Venezuelan government to work out themany messy details 
surrounding imminent presidential elections. But severalrounds of mediated 
negotiations in the Dominican Republic have ended in astandstill, with the two 
sides unable even to achieve a temporaryresolution of their many differences. 
Nonetheless, presidential elections arenow slated for 22 April 2018, and Maduro 
is undoubtedly aware of hisown unpopularity. Should the government tamper with 
election results in anattempt to prolong its rule illegitimately, the 
international community –and particularly Venezuela’s neighbours – would be 
right to condemn theseacts. But encouraging a military coup bythreatening “to 
make the economy scream” will only exacerbate Venezuelansuffering and further 
damage the tattered reputation of the US when it comes todemocracy and human 
rights in the Western Hemisphere.

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