WASHINGTON – As aggressive neoconservatives increasingly take the helm of the United States foreign policy establishment, Washington’s appetite for “regime change” has only grown.
The reinvigorated mood for intervening in the internal affairs of nations who don’t adhere to Washington’s dictates was on full display Tuesday as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley issued the demand that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro step down from office and refrain from holding elections May 20 that he is widely expected to win.
“The systematic oppression of the Venezuelan people has become an active threat to the entire region. For the safety and security of all peoples in Latin America, it is time for Maduro to go,” Haley told a conference of the neoliberal Council of the Americas at the State Department.
Following the speech, Haley pontificated about how the U.S. and its junior regional partners must redouble their efforts to force the Venezuelan leader’s abdication from office:
I am not sure how we will make that happen but I know that we can’t stop … We have to continue to isolate Maduro until he gives in.”
Broadening her fire to include the other leftist governments of Latin America, Haley described the progressive nationalist and socialist models of Cuba and Nicaragua as proven “to be a complete and total failure,” requiring that U.S.-aligned governments work with Washington to ensure that “the last few surviving authoritarians” not be permitted to “drag down the hemisphere.”
Haley had shown no such concerns about authoritarianism in February when she visited the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, to drum up support for the scandalous re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez and to thank him for his decision to move the Honduran Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. For around two months, mass demonstrations and unrest in response to fraud allegations blanketed the Central American nation. All the while, Washington backed the right-wing, pro-U.S. incumbent to the hilt as he suspended civilian law and carried out a campaign of what local human rights monitors described as blatant “state terrorism.”
Shifting winds in the south
Haley’s speech came one day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence slammed Venezuela at a meeting of the 35-member Organization of American States (OAS), calling on the Washington-based body to expel the Bolivarian Republic “regime” and for Venezuela’s authorities to “suspend this sham election and organize real elections.”
“We believe it is time to do more, much more,” Pence told delegates from the OAS, which includes Venezuela as a member. “Every free nation gathered here must take stronger action to stand with the Venezuelan people and stand up to their oppressors.”
Venezuelan authorities reacted with rage, blasting Pence’s “attempts to cover up the damage his government has caused to Venezuelan society through unilateral coercive measures with a false humanitarian concern, which seeks to bend the people’s will to take the wealth and natural resources of our country.”
“We do not accept the U.S. as a court or authority of anything; we are free,” Venezuelan Deputy Minister for North America and Representative to the OAS Samuel Moncada said. Bolivian President Evo Morales hailed Venezuela’s stance, noting:
The empire acts with fear before a sovereign vote, and knows that it will never again be able to subjugate free people.”
Last Friday, former CIA chief and newly-appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contributed his own venomous input to the conversation, stating that “a dictator today in Venezuela cripples his economy and starves his people” and that the State Department must take action to assist the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have fled the economically besieged South American nation.
Noting the hypocrisy of Washington waxing sympathy for the very people afflicted by the steady torrent of sanctions unleashed by the White House, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said:
Mr. Pompeo shows false concern for the reality of Venezuela while hiding the perverse effects of the unilateral coercive measures of his government … [The Trump administration] has launched erratic maneuvers, typical of the arrogance and despair of imperialist politics, after having failed once and again in the face of the will of a free and independent people.”
U.S. pressure continues unabated
While opposition politician Henri Falcon will take part in the election duel with Maduro, opposition figures aligned with the U.S.-backed M.U.D. (Democratic Unity Roundtable), such as Julio Borges and Carlos Vecchio, have embarked on an international tour, calling on officials in neighboring states and Western capitals to tighten their stranglehold on oil-rich Venezuela.
The U.S. has also redoubled its accusation that in addition to corruption, the socialist government is involved in narcotics trafficking.
The accusation was at the core of Pence’s Monday announcement that Washington would slap sanctions on three Venezuelans and 20 companies with ties to the Maduro government, adding further force to a siege primarily impacting the poorest people in a county already facing massive recession, hyperinflation, scarce food supplies and medicine shortages.
“I think the [Trump] administration is willing to do anything, whatever it takes, to make sure that Venezuelan people get to enjoy democracy and the liberties that come with it,” U.S. Ambassador to the OAS Carlos Trujillo told the press.
Venezuela’s government remains defiant and insists that it won’t bow to the “colonialism” that Latin America’s anti-colonial revolutionaries defeated over two hundred years ago. Its Foreign Ministry stated:
On May 20, without fail, presidential elections will take place in Venezuela and the people will defend their right to decide with votes, without interventions of any kind. The whole world will witness a new popular expression which will reaffirm the democratic character of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. No empire can go up against the will of the Venezuelans, worthy heirs of the Liberator Simón Bolívar in his ongoing effort to build nations and free, sovereign, independent and deeply anti-imperialist societies.”
Top Image | A Venezuelan man dressed as Uncle Sam, a personification of the U.S government, holding a fake nuke and a placard showing OAS president as a dog, participates in an anti-imperialist march to denounce Trump’s talk of a “military option” for resolving the country’s political crisis, in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 14, 2017. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)
Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.