Hoping For More Prayers Rather Than Bombs: A Response to Donald Trump’s Comments on Venezuela

By Nick Pendergrast

US President Donald Trump speaks during a National Day of Prayer event.
Image from: Evan Vucci – AP.

Following the recent failed coup in Venezuela, Donald Trump said he is ‘sending prayers to the people of Venezuela’. This is great, hopefully he continues to send prayers to Venezuela and not the US military!

US Sanctions

Trump commented about the situation in Venezuela: ‘People are starving. They have no food they have no water, and this was once one of the wealthiest countries in the world’. There is no doubting the current economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela but what goes unmentioned not only by Trump but also all of the mainstream media coverage I’ve seen on Venezuela, is the role of US sanctions imposed by Trump’s regime that contribute to all of these problems Trump is apparently so concerned about.

These sanctions are responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 Venezuelans since 2017, according to a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, co-authored by economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot. Sachs makes it clear that this is a very imprecise estimate but nevertheless points out that:

‘What is certain, though, staring us in the face, is that there is a humanitarian catastrophe, deliberately caused by the United States, by what I would say are illegal sanctions, because they are deliberately trying to bring down a government and trying to create chaos for the purpose of an overthrow of a government’.

Threat of US Military Intervention

Trump has also said about the Venezuelan people that: ‘we wish them well, we’ll be there to help and we are there to help’. They’ve already “helped” through their sanctions but Trump has also repeated that all options remained on the table, including military action.

Regardless of Venezuelans having a wide range of views about President Nicolás Maduro, an overwhelming majority reject foreign military intervention. Different polls put this rejection at 54% and 86% of Venezuelans but in both cases there is a clear majority. 81% also reject the US sanctions referred to above. So this “help” Trump is speaking about has already had a disastrous impact on the “ordinary Venezuelans” that the Trump administration claims to care about, and both this and further “help” is not wanted by most Venezuelans.

It is very possible to be critical of the Maduro government and still reject US interference. The ABC News (USA) video that I discussed in my last article on Venezuela included footage of a Venezuelan state police/military vehicle deliberately running over anti-government protestors. This was not necessarily directed by Maduro or his administration and it is important to note, not as a way to justify the actions but for appropriate context, that these protestors were throwing fire bombs at these vehicles. Beyond this though Amnesty International has documented many human rights abuses by the Venezuelan government.

Nevertheless, journalist Federico Fuentes has pointed out that those critiquing the government from amongst the poorer and working class neighbourhoods have retreated in their protests against the government because they don’t want to be associated with the US-supported coup attempt from Juan Guaidó. As noted above, there is overwhelming opposition to foreign intervention, including from many who no doubt are not fans of Maduro.

There was a very good discussion on Democracy Now! recently that presented two very different positions on the Maduro government – Carlos Ron is a part of this government while Venezuelan sociologist Edgardo Lander is highly critical of this administration. But nevertheless they agree that it should be Venezuelans that decide the government and politics of that country, rather than the US or any other outside country.

Democracy Now! has had heaps of excellent coverage of the situation in Venezuela. I’d particularly recommend the 1st May and 2nd May episodes that discussed the failed coup attempt as well as some of the broader issues at play.

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