Liberal leaders and commentators have rushed to support Washington’s coup attempt in Venezuela. As ever, the liberals are providing a convenient cover for imperialism’s pernicious interests.
The US-backed attempt to topple the Venezuelan government has stalled temporarily. But the furious propaganda campaign in support of this coup shows no signs of ending. Whilst the imperialists and the Venezuelan opposition try to coax the military into supporting their unelected government-in-waiting, an international audience is being treated to a masterclass in liberal hypocrisy.
In a statement released minutes after Juan Guaidó’s self-appointment to the Venezuelan presidency, Donald Trump declared, “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.” And who better to give it to them than a military superpower that has supported 18 attempted coups in the region since 1945?
But, we are told, this is no coup. In fact, according to The Economist (which Lenin aptly described as “a journal which speaks for British millionaires”): “If anyone has launched a coup it is [Maduro]” – presumably by holding and winning last year’s presidential election instead of losing it, which would have been the preferred outcome for millionaires across the world.
Of course, according to the Venezuelan opposition, Maduro’s election was illegitimate – as apparently was every other election held in Venezuela in the last two decades, with the honourable exception of the 2015 National Assembly elections, which they won. It is for this reason that Emmanuel Macron, the champion of European liberalism, has joined Trump in recognising Guaidó as president.
It must be asked, however, how illegitimate does an election need to be for Macron to recognise it as such? The Democratic Republic of the Congo recently ‘elected’ its own president, Felix Tshisekedi, who won despite getting only 19% of the votes, according to thousands of observers.
Surprisingly, Tshisekedi’s transparent fraud did not prevent Macron from writing to his new Congolese counterpart, recognising that his “election as President of the Democratic Republic of Congo […] is the result of the will for alternation and change that the Congolese have expressed with force and calm”. Who needs principles when vested interests are at play?
Democracy by siege
First and foremost, this is about the Venezuelan people, we are told. This is why in Britain Corbyn has been lambasted as a Russian puppet for refusing to support Trump’s meddling in Venezuelan democracy.
And this is why, in order to rescue poor Venezuelans from a deep economic crisis, the US has imposed further sanctions on the country which, to quote The Economist, “will accelerate Venezuela’s economic collapse”.
The liberal magazine’s analysis on Venezuela reeks from beginning to end. In the same breath, they accuse Maduro and his allies of “plundering” the country’s vast oil and gas reserves, before calling on a new pliant government to “welcome foreign investment” – that is, to allow big business to do their own plundering.
They decry the current Venezuelan president for being a stooge of Moscow, without so much as pausing before declaring their support for Washington’s designated puppet. And they suggest that an ‘interim president’ should establish an ‘independent’ central bank to implement a currency-peg against the dollar. In other words, to hand over independence and sovereignty to the US Federal Reserve.
Another article in the same journal continues: “Mr Guaidó and Mr Trump are betting that hardship will topple the regime before it starves the Venezuelan people.” So, ‘accept our man or starve’ is the choice being offered to anyone who has the misfortune to live in the USA’s ‘backyard’.
This will come as no surprise to those who remember the USA’s involvement in the overthrow of Salvador Allende’s democratically elected Chilean government in 1973. In 1970, US President Nixon had ordered the CIA to “make the economy scream” in Chile to “prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him”.
The result of Allende’s removal was neither “free and fair elections” nor an improvement in living standards for the poor. Instead, an American-backed dictator, Augusto Pinochet, ruled Chile for 17 years, in which time he sold off most of the country’s wealth to foreign capital and suppressed all opposition with the arrest, torture and murder of thousands of people.
This is the programme of liberalism everywhere: freedom for capital, dictatorship for the workers.
A long tradition
From Venezuela to Chile and beyond, liberals have a long and proud tradition of giving right-wing coups a useful political cover.
In Honduras, for example, an elected president was ousted with American support in 2009. The pattern was disturbingly similar to that intended for Venezuela today. First the head of the Honduran Congress, Roberto Micheletti, charged the sitting president, Manuel Zelaya, with having “violated the constitution”. Next, the military moved in and physically removed Zelaya from power.
The reaction of the liberal establishment was telling. Then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended her support for the coup on the grounds that Zelaya would become “another Chavez”, and “certainly the region did not need another dictator”. So to prevent a regime from becoming a dictatorship, she helped to replace it with another dictatorship by force.
The cynicism of the bosses’ press was no better. In answer to the protests of other Latin American nations who claimed that recognising the new government would legitimise a coup, The Economist simply replied, “Maybe so. But, by denying a way out of the impasse, rejecting Mr Lobo would punish ordinary Hondurans even more.”
Further, in the same article, we read that “the biggest threat to Latin American democracy today is—happily—not coups: it is elected presidents who themselves corrode democracy as, to an extent, Mr Zelaya did.”
So the greatest enemy of democracy is not coups but elected presidents – a triumph of Orwellian doublespeak. It is not the first time this liberal journal has resorted to such mental contortions either. Its response to the murder of Allende was similar: “The temporary death of democracy in Chile will be regrettable, but the blame lies clearly with Dr Allende and those of his followers who persistently overrode the constitution.”
It could be said that by shooting Allende and installing a military dictatorship, Pinochet also “overrode” the Chilean constitution, but this would be to miss the point. The real “constitution” being referred to has nothing to do with the actual constitution, written or otherwise of any country – it is the property, power and privilege of the capitalists, landowners and their imperialist backers. If a government touches these then, elected or not, it is deemed illegitimate.
Hands off Venezuela!
The liberal hypocrisy over Venezuela today may be breathtaking, but it is nothing new. A long and bloody thread runs through all of the contradictions and cynical distortions we see in the media each day: the fundamental interests of US imperialism and its allies.
The role of liberalism is to prettify these interests with vague appeals to “democracy” and “freedom” while the world becomes less free and more unequal by the day. It is the grotesque handmaiden of war and oppression.
It is the duty of socialists everywhere to condemn the shameful campaign being waged by Trump and his liberal allies, and to combat the lies and hypocrisy being peddled here in Britain and internationally. We must say loud and clear: not this time. Hands off Venezuela!