If you’ve been following developments in Venezuela, you’ve probably seen viral YouTube comedian Joanna Hausmann’s video “setting the record straight” on country’s brewing crisis.
If you’ve been following developments in Venezuela, by now you’ve probably seen a video put together by viral YouTube comedian Joanna Hausmann. In the video, Hausmann says she’s fed up with disinformation about Venezuela currently spreading online and says she’s going to set the record straight. The points she makes are all generic mainstream talking points, and upon further investigation, her arguments don’t really hold up.
Hausmann’s argument goes as follows:
- What’s happening in the country is not a U.S.-backed coup
- Not an ideological fight
- The people just want democratic elections
- Juan Guaido did not just “declare himself president”
Hausmann makes Guaido out to be the undisputed face of the opposition movement and a major player in the country’s national assembly, but he’s actually a pretty minor politician.
Guaido represents the Venezuelan state of Vargas, one of the least populous states in the country.
Even within that state, he only came in second place during the 2015 parliamentary elections, winning 26 percent of votes cast in order to secure his place in the national assembly.
And he wasn’t even elected to head the national assembly! He came to lead the national assembly because the seat was on rotation. It happened to be his turn to hold the seat — he did not win a democratic vote to be president.
Not to mention he’d have a difficult time in a presidential election. A poll conducted this month found that over 80 percent of Venezuelans had no idea who he was.
Guaido owes his recently acquired celebrity status solely to the Trump administration’s decision to recognize him as the president of Venezuela.
Major opposition figure Henrique Capriles even conceded that move “surprised a lot of political figures.”
Juan Guaido is undeniably right wing
His plan is to privatize the social programs created by the Bolivarian revolution, like the great Venezuelan housing mission, a massive public-housing construction project considered one of the major achievements of the Bolivarian revolution.
According to Reuters, Guaido also plans to privatize the nation’s state oil companies, whose profits have been used to pay for social programs like healthcare and schools.
Guaido and the opposition-held national assembly have been attempting to privatize these programs for years.
It recently passed the so-called “transition law,” which states “public companies will be subject to a restructuring process that ensures their efficient and transparent management, including through public-private agreements.”
Hausmann is referring to Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which has been cited by numerous opposition supporters as proof that Guaido’s claim to the presidency is lawful.
A closer reading of Article 233 shows it applies only if the president is mentally or physically incapable of holding office, has resigned, died, abandons his position, or is deemed illegitimate by the national assembly. Hausmann claims Maduro has been ruled unfit to serve by the assembly.
Furthermore, Guaido announced plans to assume the presidency on January 11. The national assembly only declared Maduro’s illegitimacy days later, on January 15.
These dates are crucial — as Article 233 clearly states:
When an elected president becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new president, the president of the national assembly shall take charge of the presidency of the republic.”
Maduro was sworn in for his second term on January 10, meaning all of this happened after his inauguration.
In which case according to the law, the executive vice president, Delcy Rodriguez, would take over.
You don’t need a degree in Venezuelan law to see how Hausmann and the opposition’s case for constitutionality is extremely fragile. But let’s at least hear why she believes Maduro is illegitimate.
To say the supreme court nullified the national assembly, or that Maduro dissolved it, is absolutely false.
In reality, in 2017 the supreme court placed the body in a state of contempt after an investigation revealed four newly elected lawmakers, including one pro-government representative, engaged in vote-buying.
While the pro-government legislator complied with the court’s ruling, the opposition refused.
Despite inaccurate reports from the likes of CNN, the move does not mean that parliament has been “dissolved.” As it stands, it still exists, but remains in a state of contempt of the judicial system. Theoretically, it can rectify the situation by removing the lawmakers accused of electoral fraud, and continuing to legislate.”
But Maduro didn’t “make up” the constituent assembly. The Venezuelan constitution did!
Article 347 says:
The original constituent power rests with the people of Venezuela. This power may be exercised by calling a national constituent assembly for the purpose of transforming the state, creating a new juridical order and drawing up a new constitution.”
A more analogous comparison would be if the U.S. Constitution contained a clause that allowed for it to be revised and improved. Imagine if we here in the states could actually elect a new constituent assembly to override a filibuster, partisan gridlock, or unseat politicians elected through gerrymandering, vote suppression, schemes.
Venezuela did not simply erupt in protest; rather opposition leaders called for violent street protests following the constituent assembly elections.
Opposition protesters have thrown Molotov cocktails at government vehicles and burned alive Afro-Venezuelans they suspected of being Chavistas.
One group even took up arms, stealing a government helicopter in order to shoot at and drop grenades on the supreme court. Their goal is to incite a response from police in order to cultivate a narrative that the government is violently suppressing dissent.
Hausmann is leaving out a huge part of the story
The opposition boycotted not only the 2017 constituent assembly elections but the 2018 presidential elections as well.
They were not banned.
Yet media reports often claim Maduro banned the opposition from running.
And while Maduro did state in 2017, “A party that has not participated today and has called for the boycott of the elections can’t participate anymore,” that’s because Venezuelan electoral law states, “the registration of political parties will be canceled if they have failed to participate in elections for two consecutive constitutional terms.”
The opposition’s strategy is to boycott elections in order to create the illusion of a one-party dictatorship.
The U.S. supports this strategy, evidenced by the fact the Trump administration actually threatened to sanction opposition candidate Henri Falcon for participating in the elections.
This begs the question: if the elections were as fraudulent and undemocratic as Washington claimed, then why did it go to such lengths to undermine them?
To back this assertion, Hausmann cites one polling firm, which happens to be the lowest estimate of turnout.
The government meanwhile recorded 9 million Venezuelans who voted in the election, which is equal to 46 percent of the country.
The Maduro government went as far as to invite 150 international observers to oversee the elections and those observers stressed that everything went perfectly normally.
In 2012, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter even said Venezuela’s elections were the best in the world after observing elections in 92 countries.
The claim that Maduro lowered the minimum wage so drastically is mind-boggling. There is no conceivable reason why Maduro would benefit from doing this. Regardless, it’s also untrue.
Maduro has increased the minimum wage several times during his presidency. Once in January of 2014, another time in July of 2017, and most recently January of 2019.
Hausmann is probably referring to inflation which can drive down the purchasing power of those wages. Before 2015, inflation in Venezuela was lower than it was in the ’80s and ’90s, the period before the Bolivarian revolution. Inflation spiked in 2015 when Barrack Obama imposed financial sanctions on Venezuela, preventing it from accessing funds stored in American banks. Inflation has continued to rise as further financial sanctions have prevented Venezuelans from accessing loans, foreign investment, and even its own gold
Furthermore, at the Colombian border, Colombian criminal elements facilitate black-market currency exchanges where they offer Venezuelans up to six times the Bolivar per U.S. dollar as at the government exchanges, acting as an external pressure on the Bolivar. The sanctions and black-market exchanges are intentional policies aimed at devaluing the Bolivar. The economic crisis is real but it is a consequence of an economic war waged by Washington and its Latin American allies.
If you’re still not convinced this is a U.S.-led war, consider that the first “aid” shipment sent to Venezuela was intercepted by Venezuelan authorities because it was a filled with assault rifles and ammunition
Again, this is a consequence of the economic sanctions, which have prevented Venezuela from accumulating the foreign reserves necessary to import medicine. To blame the Venezuelan government for the consequence of U.S. sanctions is to blame the victim.
The media in Venezuela is not censored. Journalist Abby Martin traveled to Venezuela to expose this fraudulent claim on her documentary series, Empire Files.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. But on a separate note from Joanna’s video, I want to point out that this conversation has really strayed away from the root of the problems in Venezuela and dozens of other countries around the world and that’s the United States trying to play the role of the world police.
The reason Venezuela is in the situation it finds itself in today is that the U.S. is actively bolstering an opposition movement and economically sabotaging Venezuela to put in place a government that serves Washington’s interests. It’s the same thing our government has been doing for decades in places like Korea, Iran, Guatemala, South Africa, Palestine, everywhere.
We can’t pretend like there’s something different about Venezuela, especially when John Bolton goes on TV and nonchalantly says that U.S. oil companies will benefit from a coup in Venezuela.
They’re lying to us about Venezuela just like they lied to us about Syria, Libya, Iraq, Vietnam, and Korea. We’re being emotionally manipulated by war propaganda disguised as humanitarianism. If the Pentagon really cared about poverty and hunger, the defense department budget should be spent lifting the 40 million Americans in poverty out of poverty and ending homelessness and malnutrition.
Until we solve these problems in America, we just look arrogant criticizing Venezuelans, 86 percent of whom oppose U.S. intervention.
Top Photo | Joanna Hausmann explains why the U.S. is justified in pursuing regime change in Venezuela in an August 19, 2,017 YoutTube video for BuzzFeed’s Pero Like. Photo | YouTube Screenshot | Editing by MintPress News
Kei Pritsker is a journalist and activist located in Washington DC. Kei focuses on international politics and economics. He previously worked as a producer at RT America.