Trump’s Coup in Venezuela

Last year in our final report on 2018, we closed with this warning: “one of the things we must all look out for then are the prospects of a new war in 2019, with those at greatest risk being Iran and Venezuela”. Opening the new year and marking the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, Cuban President Raul Castro condemned the Trump administration for following an outdated path of confrontation and intervention in Latin America. Cuba, along with Venezuela and Nicaragua, continue to be the targets of ongoing sanctions and destabilization. Events would quickly prove Castro correct, yet again. In fact, throughout 2018 the Trump administration ramped up not just its rhetoric but also its policy of active destablilization of Venezuela, making little of what is now happening a shocking surprise.

New Year, Old Policy

We should note that the new year also opened with President Trump congratulating the new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro: “Congratulations to President @JairBolsonaro who just made a great inauguration speech – the U.S.A. is with you!” Bolsonaro’s new government quickly went about forging closer ties to the US. Brazil’s new Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, was picked by Bolsonaro “for his admiration of Trump’s conservative nationalism”—but it wasn’t “nationalism” that would cement their relationship. Almost immediately Bolsonaro sat down with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss ways of countering Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Without any awareness of their hypocrisy, they discussed “restoring human rights” in those three countries—when Bolsonaro himself has lashed out at the “distortions of human rights” in his own country. Bolsonaro, himself a fan of military dictatorship, has a problem with “authoritarian” regimes—but only when they are not his own, and only when they serve mass interests. Bolsonaro will be relying heavily on US support—hardly any states sent representatives to his inauguration, including the governments of the other two Latin American giants, Mexico and Argentina. Meanwhile Nicolas Maduro was inaugurated on January 10, after winning the majority of votes in recent presidential elections (which the US opposed, likely anticipating his victory at the polls). Maduro was also denied recognition by the Organization of American States, in a resolution backed by 19 countries, but with 6 opposed and 8 abstaining.

In what Venezuela’s foreign minister appropriately observed was a “display of humiliating subordination,” Canada and several Latin American states refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Nicolás Maduro retaining the presidency after recent elections. Participating in their meeting was none other than US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Vice President Mike Pence, in a continuation of old US policies of regime change and destabilization—because apparently Trump’s withdrawal from foreign interventionism is selective and fragmentary—offered support for a Venezuelan opposition politician claiming to be “acting president”. Juan Guaidó is the president of the disbanded National Assembly, which has been replaced by the newly elected Constituent Assembly that supports President Maduro, who won election for a second term. Pence did not then go quite as far as recognizing Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela, but came very close—and that recognition would indeed follow later. Meanwhile, Wikipedia for a time published fake news by claiming that Guaidó was the acting president, a move that appeared to some as being followed by Facebook. In 2011 we witnessed similar acts of denying legitimacy to established governments, through US “social media,” during the so-called “Arab Spring”.

On January 23, in a move that significantly escalated US threats and intervention against Venezuela, Trump formally recognized Guaidó, the “president” of the disbanded “national assembly,” as Venezuela’s “interim president”. In addition, in spoken remarks that same day Trump made it clear that US military intervention was a possibility, threatening that “all options are on the table”. At the same time as Trump was confronted by a coup logic at home, he deployed one abroad. Also, while American politicians generally complain—without the benefit of actual direct evidence—of “foreign meddling” in their elections (namely, Russia), they show no hesitation intervening in the domestic affairs of Venezuela, to a degree never seen by any foreign actor in US politics. France, where Emmanuel Macron complained about Trump cheering on the Yellow Vest protesters, with the foreign minister demanding “leave our nation be,” also enthusiastically supported regime change in Venezuela. The EU and Canada, which had previously pretended opposition to Trump, now stood shoulder to shoulder with him. While many noted the outrageous hypocrisy of interventionist anti-interventionism, most of “the resistance” in the US remained silent, and not by accidental oversight: Trump’s opposition, for the most part, is even more aggressively imperialist than he is.

Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro, ordered the closure of the Venezuelan embassy and all its consulates in the US, and also ordered the closure and removal of all US diplomats from Venezuela. The US refused, which is illegal, saying its embassy would remain open, while promising aid to the self-styled “government” led by Guaidó. The US however also ordered non-essential staff out of the country, and warned US citizens about traveling to Venezuela. The US retained diplomatic staff in Venezuela, and baited the government, warning of “consequences” if anything happened to them. The US dismissed Maduro as having no legitimate authority to order the withdrawal of US diplomats, but on the other hand relied on his government to protect them, since Guaidó has no such resources as a pretend president. For its part, Venezuela’s armed forces declared their loyalty to President Maduro.

American Coronation, American Coalition

It’s important to note the exact chronology of events: it was only after US Vice President Mike Pence committed the US to support the Venezuelan opposition, and incited the forcible overthrow of Venezuela’s legally elected government, that Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself the interim president. Immediately after proclaiming himself president, violence erupted on the streets of Venezuela, with several casualties. The leaders of Venezuela’s opposition thus base the substance of their authority on foreign sources, primarily backed by the US. They do not have a string of electoral victories to substantiate their claims. Indeed, some are suggesting that Guaidó has admitted to being “under pressure” to proclaim himself president, which he has yet to publicly deny. Also, much like the opposition to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the opposition is divided, and will likely not be able to forge a workable coalition if US power should succeed in installing them, over the corpses of tens of thousands of their compatriots (which they are apparently quite ready to sacrifice). It’s also important to note—images of partial multilateralism aside—that it was only after the US recognized Guaidó, that Canada and others followed suit.

The US’ intervention in Venezuela was not isolated or simply unilateral: it was backed, illegally, by Brazil, Canada, the EU leadership, and most of the Organization of American States members. Specifically, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala all recognized Guaidó. Unelected officials of the EU backed the overthrow of President Maduro.

Opposing US Intervention and Regime Change

In Latin America, Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua, did not recognize Guaidó. Russia, China, Turkey and Iran also opposed US intervention in Venezuela’s affairs. Despised at home, Trump, Trudeau, Macron and May presume to determine who should lead Venezuela.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova was correct to say that:

“The example of events in Venezuela shows clearly how the progressive Western community actually treats international law, sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of states—by handpicking the government there”.

Equally correct was Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov:

“The US, which is paranoid about somebody interfering in their elections, even though they have no proof of that, themselves are trying to rule the fates of other peoples. What they actually do is interfere in their internal affairs. There is no need for [US special counsel Robert] Mueller to determine that”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appropriately offered Russia’s continued support of Venezuela’s legal and legitimate government under President Maduro.

Multilateralism and Force Multipliers

What is the strategy of the technocrats appointed to lead EU offices? What about Canada, France, and the UK? One part may be the attempt to forge a coalition that can pull off foreign intervention, with the vague semblance of “multilateralism” and “legality,” but without going through the UN Security Council where such interventionism would immediately be shot down by Russia and China. Western leaders have mused for several years now about finding alternative mechanisms that sidelined the UNSC: these considerations took on greater weight in the wake of conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. Another part has to do with preserving the US’ “force multipliers,” that wide network of collaborators that make neoliberal imperialism possible. The US may have had its security services purchased by transnational capital, to function as the “world’s policeman,” but it’s a policeman with millions of foreign deputies. Venezuela is now in an active fight against those who have been deputized by US power.

What does the US Gain?

As for Trump, his dreams may be of commanding a hemispheric coalition of right wing clones, beginning with Jair Bolsonaro—a bloc of countries that could significantly strengthen his hand at home, where his grasp is tenuous and threatens to crumble from day to day. Trump’s obdurate lack of situational awareness prevents him from comparing anti-Trump coup logic at home, with the coup logic he uses abroad (with the support of some of the same figures that would unseat him). Trump and many of his supporters have declared a war on “socialism,” abroad and at home. They would like to pin the “Venezuela” badge on all of their opponents on the domestic left in the US. Venezuela, for its part, became a target of US aggression as a result of nationalizing over 1,000 companies, as well as the oil fields owned by US oil giants Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips. The US has been engaged in economic warfare against Venezuela, with US sanctions directly harming the Venezuelan economy. The “failure of socialism” trope so abundantly over-exploited by the talking heads at Fox News is a form of active deceit meant to mask the impact of US economic destabilization, and then blame Venezuelans for it. That kind of propaganda is currently called “fake news” in the US; they are deliberately lying to their viewers, when not just simply misleading and misinforming them.

Knocking out Venezuela as an oil supplier will ensure the US’ newfound oil primacy, while boosting the profits of US oil companies since oil prices will skyrocket as a result of conflict in Venezuela. The US working class will pay the price, and see their standard of living further eroded.

WikiLeaks was smart to comment that US intervention could itself trigger a “civil war” in Venezuela. WikiLeaks was certainly not alone in making a logical assessment of the situation. Have Venezuelans in the opposition asked themselves if Trump would welcome their refugees with open arms, in the event of a catastrophic “civil war”, especially now that Trump has shut down parts of his own government in an attempt to force the building of a wall on the southern border? He probably will, again to the chagrin of his base.

“US Interests”

The root of the US’ continued addiction to imperialist rule is articulated through the notion of “US interests”. Like any of the old colonizing powers, and following the same colonial logic, the US installs “interests” like others installed settlements and garrisons—and any threat to these real or virtual, concrete or abstract “interests” is then used as a trigger to authorize intervention. “Interests” plus actual human bait—US travellers, US diplomats, or US agents and military forces—can also be sacrificed to justify intervention. In Venezuela, the US is travelling on both of these freeways.

US intervention in Venezuela will result in what US intervention has almost always produced: a widening, an Americanizing, and a militarizing of what was previously a local, domestic conflict. In fact, even the phrase “civil war” now needs to be used cautiously, since any events that follow will be conditioned by this same foreign intervention, transforming the “civil” war much more into an international war.

The manner in which foreign powers, primarily the US, so eagerly walk down the path of the 2011 Libya model, shows more than just a refusal or inability to learn, but outright stupidity joined with malice. As for Trump’s 2016 proclamation that, “We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with”—that was apparently opportunistic rubbish (note to translators: in the US the politically correct word for opportunism is “transactionalism”).


We can expect some or all of the following to transpire in the near future:

  • The interventionist model that the US is pursuing is that of the 2011 “Arab Spring” and the 2014 coup in Ukraine.
  • The US will likely not commit its own troops to Venezuela, but will almost certainly deploy covert agents, while arming and further funding the opposition. However, it is now more possible than ever before that the US could become involved militarily.
  • The US may also use US travellers and US diplomats (kept in the country illegally), as bait to be sacrificed in an effort to provoke more direct US intervention.
  • President Maduro will not step down, and the presidency will be defended by most of the military, and by mobilized elements of the mass base that backed the Chavista program.
  • The US has now succeeded in branding the Venezuelan opposition as a tool of US imperialism—Venezuela’s 235,000 active duty forces, plus 1.6 million armed militia members, will now be encouraged to know that fighting the opposition is an act of defense of Venezuela’s national sovereignty.
  • A “civil war” is now more likely. It will be exceedingly violent. The consequences will weaken and divide Venezuelan society for generations. Most of the current opposition leaders, if they do not promptly flee to Miami or Bogotá, may well turn up on Caracas’ streets as corpses—their days are also numbered. There will eventually be an internal struggle for power among Venezuela’s opposition leaders.
  • An outflow of refugees from Venezuela is now certain to increase immediately, just as the US government is trying to find more ways of locking them out. Colombia and Mexico will pay the immediate price.
  • Oil prices will skyrocket, at the height of winter in the global North, and the working class in the US and internationally will pay the greatest price.
  • The US will increase its economic destabilization, and likely move to take control of Citgo’s assets in the US. The US may also move to impose an embargo on Venezuela to prevent it from selling oil abroad.
  • The OAS is divided: standing opposed to the denial of recognition of Maduro’s legitimacy as the elected leader are not just Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and for now Mexico, but also Caribbean states such as Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname. Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Belize abstained from the OAS resolution. The action by the OAS implicitly threatens all governments in the region, which could significantly damage the organization’s integrity. Right now the OAS is playing the same role as the Arab League did against Libya. Expect the US to use leverage to get some OAS states to send troops to Venezuela, possibly in return for Trump surrendering any real effort to block illegal migration from Latin America.
  • If the US succeeds in overthrowing Venezuela’s government, the effort will most likely serve as preparation for the next target in 2019: Iran.
  • Trump views Latin America as the US’ “backyard,” sovereignty does not apply to the Western Hemisphere’s states.
  • Trump has endorsed coup-making, which could haunt him at home.
  • Fortunately, the progressivist, liberal “rules-based international order” is further revealed to be what it always has been: an abusive, coercive will to conquest by the Western world’s most powerful states.

To follow events in Venezuela, the two most reliable sources of information will be:

  1., and,

For more on the Libya model of intervention, and the use of force multipliers, see:

Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa

Force Multipliers: The Instrumentalities of Imperialism

14 thoughts on “Trump’s Coup in Venezuela

  1. Douglas Smith

    Now more than ever Canada is in need of an impregnable wall that stretches from sea to sea. This is where our BLOCKS TO BUFFALO campaign comes in. For an appropriate donation we will arrange to deliver a single cinder block to any one of our many grassroots agents operating along Canada’s border with Usania. Their task is to place these blocks at random intervals in such a way as not to arouse suspicion. Turnstiles will be installed to allow for the passage of collaborators and anti-imperialists in opposite directions. While the Empire’s attention is turned southward we expect to lay a couple of courses lathered with mortar before drawing untoward attention. Thereafter it is up to the forces of history to determine whether the project will be completed in a timely fashion.

    1. Maximilian C. Forte

      Very good Douglas, this would make an excellent kickstarter campaign. I wonder if Canadians forgot their brief moment of boycotting the US last summer. We are such suck-ups.

  2. Denis Patrick Gill

    Fantastic analysis as always. The USA never fails to prove itself a rogue state.

    1. Maximilian C. Forte

      Thanks very much Denis. I forgot to mention this in the article, but I think I have done so on several other occasions: it’s the “capitalist success stories” of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador that are generating the migrant outflow to the US. Virtually nowhere in the US media is there any mention at all of any of the many advances of the Bolivarian Revolution. And if it were really “socialist” as they imagine, then why did it not “fail” at the outset? Why has it taken over 20 years to get to this point? Of course this assumes that Venezuela is actually “socialist”–very little is needed to become a “socialist” in the US.

      On a separate point altogether, what the media is reporting as an OAS resolution that was overwhelmingly against Venezuela, is also misleading. It turns out that many of the Caribbean states that abstained, did so because of their commitment to non-intervention in the affairs of member states, and they rejected the very premise of the resolution.

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  4. Victor Barac

    What options does the US have other than to make war on another oil-rich country in order to delay a collapse of their currency? The ponzi scheme cannot be kept afloat by other means. Is this not the case? Thank you for keeping us informed about the current situation in Latin America with another compelling analysis.

  5. Maximilian C. Forte

    Some useful background information:

    The Maduro government: why illegitimate?

    By Pasqualina Curcio


    Have those who claim that Nicolas Maduro is a dictator, a usurper and that the 2019-2025 period lacks legitimacy asked themselves this question? Or do they just repeat what they hear?

    It was the 12 countries gathered in Lima that began to position this opinion matrix. Their communiqué reads: “…the electoral process carried out in Venezuela on May 20, 2018 lacks legitimacy because it did not include the participation of all Venezuelan political actors, nor the presence of independent international observers, nor the necessary international guarantees and standards for a free, fair and transparent process.”

    The leaders of the Venezuelan opposition, we refer to the non-democratic one, tirelessly repeat, and of course without arguments, that Maduro is a usurper.

    In an act of desperation, the Vice President of the United States himself, Mike Pence, when forced to personally call out the opposition march for January 23, due to the incompetence of the opposition leadership, insisted and repeated that President Nicolas Maduro is a usurper and illegitimate dictator.

    The strategy is clear: to repeat the lie a thousand times in order to turn it into truth.

    Let us dismantle the lie:

    1. There were presidential elections. They were held on May 20, 2018, that is, before January 10, 2019, when, according to articles 230 and 231 of the Constitution, the presidential term 2013-2019 expires. It would have been a violation of the Constitution if the elections had been held after January 10, 2019, or worse still if they had not been held.

    2. It was the Venezuelan opposition that asked for the elections to be brought forward. They were held in May and not in December, as was traditionally the case, because it was the opposition that requested it, within the framework of the dialogue in the Dominican Republic, that took place in the first trimester of 2018.

    3. In Venezuela, voting is a right, not a duty. Those who freely decided, although influenced by some non-democratic political organizations that called for abstention, not to go to the polls, are in their full right, but in no way does this make the electoral process illegitimate, even less so when that would imply ignoring and disrespecting the 9,389,056 who decided to vote and democratically exercised their right to suffrage.

    4. Sixteen political parties participated in the electoral contest: PSUV, MSV, Tupamaro, UPV, Podemos, PPT, ORA, MPAC, MEP, PCV, AP, MAS, Copei, Esperanza por el Cambio, UPP89. In Venezuela, it is not mandatory for all political parties to participate in electoral processes. They have the full right to decide whether or not to participate. Precisely because our system is democratic. The fact that three parties (AD, VP and PJ) freely decided not to participate does not make the electoral process illegitimate.

    5. Six candidates contended for the presidency: Nicolás Maduro, Henri Falcón, Javier Bertucci, Reinaldo Quijada, Francisco Visconti Osorio and Luis Alejandro Ratti (the last two decided to withdraw).

    6. Maduro won by a wide margin, obtaining 6,248,864 votes, 67.84%; followed by Henri Falcón with 1,927,958, 20.93%; Javier Bertucci with 1,015,895, 10.82% and Reinaldo Quijada who obtained 36,246 votes, 0.39% of the total. The difference between Maduro and Falcón was 46.91 percentage points.

    7. Around 150 people accompanied the electoral process, including 14 electoral commissions from 8 countries; 2 technical electoral missions; 18 journalists from different parts of the world; 1 MEP and 1 technical-electoral delegation from the Russian Electoral Centre.

    8. The elections were held using the same electoral system used in the December 2015 parliamentary elections, in which the Venezuelan opposition won. This system is automated and audited before, during and after the elections. This system guarantees the principles of “one elector, one vote” because only with a fingerprint is the voting machine unlocked; it also guarantees the “secrecy of the vote”.

    9. Eighteen audits of the automated system were carried out. The representatives of the candidate Henri Falcón participated in all 18 and signed the acts in which they express their conformity with the electoral system. The audits are public and televised live on the channel of the National Electoral Council. Once the audits have been carried out, the system is blocked and the only way to access it again is with the simultaneous introduction of the secret codes that each political organization holds.

    10. None of the candidates who participated in the electoral process contested the results. There is no evidence of fraud, they did not present any evidence or concrete denunciation of fraud.

    The presidential elections of May 20, 2018 were free, transparent, reliable, secure and in accordance with the Constitution and the laws despite the anti-democratic call for abstention on the part of one sector of the opposition.

    It is others who seek to usurp the office of President of the Republic with the argument of a supposed power vacuum, a figure that is not contemplated in our Constitution and the establishment of a “transitional government”, a figure also not contemplated in the Magna Carta. And as if that were not enough, they intend to exercise power outside our borders in violation of Article 18 of the Constitution, which establishes that Caracas is the seat of public power.

    Things being as they are, the usurpers, those who are illegitimate and anti-democratic, are others. It is illegitimate and constitutes an attempted usurpation that some sectors of the opposition are trying to sustain themselves with the support of foreign actors coming from imperialist governments to exercise an authority that neither the people nor the Constitution gives them.

    Let us repeat these truths a thousand times.


    (Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


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