Donald Trump

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.

Cheerleading for the Coup: An Analysis of Media Coverage of Venezuelan Politics

By Nick Pendergrast

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Self-declared President of Venezuela, Opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Image from channelnewsasia.com

It was sad to hear about the attempted coup by the US-backed far-right Opposition in Venezuela. I watched some ABC News (USA) coverage of it and they were really beating the drum for the coup and even seemed disappointed that there was no direct US intervention there yet.*

ABC News mentioned that Opposition leader Juan Guaidó checked with Trump’s administration before declaring himself President but then thought it was ridiculous when Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called Guaidó a “US puppet”.

They also unquestioningly accepted Guaidó’s justifications for declaring himself President, such as:

The most recent election was not valid because the Opposition was not included.

Just because the Opposition boycotted the election and instead attempted to go down the road of a US-backed coup, that does not make the elections invalid. In fact some Opposition candidates such as Henri Falcon did not boycott the election and instead ran as Candidates in the 2018 election.

The result was not valid because there was not enough participation.

In the 2018 Venezuelan election there was a 46.1% voter turnout, compared to a similar 50.1% in the 2018 US mid-term election. Presidential elections in the US always have a higher participation rate and the last Presidential election had a significantly higher, 60.1% turnout. However, in terms of share of the vote, in the 2018 Venezuelan election, Maduro received 67.7% of the vote compared to Trump’s 47.0% in 2016. This means that Trump received the support of 28.2% of Americans in the most recent Presidential election in 2016, compared to Maduro receiving the support of 31.2% of Venezuelans in the most recent election in 2018.

If you’d like to hear more about the situation in Venezuela, you can listen to a first-hand account from journalist Federico Fuentes on episode 224 of our podcast. Also follow Federico on Twitter @FredFuentesGLW for updates on the situation.

*Unfortunately the specific video I’m discussing has been removed since I published this article but you can view ABC News (USA) coverage of Venezuela generally here.