With the current situation in Venezuela rapidly deteriorating, the United States is seizing the opportunity to do what it attempted to do in 2002: enact regime change in Venezuela. Joined by over 50 other countries, the United States has recognized Juan Guaido, a Venezuelan politician who is challenging the current dictator of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro, as interim president of Venezuela. It seems inevitable that Maduro will be ousted by Guaido supporters who are currently demonstrating in the streets against the current leader. While it may seem like an obvious decision to support Guaido over the current regime, there is no guarantee Guaido will be any less of a despot than Maduro currently is if history is any indication.
Latin America’s Regime Change History
The United States has a long history of regime change in Latin America. Altruistic goals such as human rights and democracy are typically cited as reasons for backing regime change, but history has shown that those reasons do not hold up to scrutiny.
One of the earliest examples of CIA-backed regime change in Latin America was the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected leader of Guatemala in 1954. After his ousting, the United States backed a right-wing military dictatorship that committed grave human rights atrocities. These abuses included crimes such as genocide and plunged the country into a forty-year civil war.
Another instance of US-backed regime change was the overthrow of Salvador Allende of Chile in 1973. He was democratically elected by the people of Chile, but because he had Communist leanings, the United States backed the coup against him. He was replaced by Augusto Pinochet and his military dictatorship, which proceeded to torture, jail, and kill political opponents and repress the Chilean people on the whole.
The United States also backed the 1964 coup against Brazilian leader João Goulart. Replaced by a military dictatorship, it suppressed the freedom of expression of Brazilians and tortured, killed, and “disappeared” many political opponents.
The United States not only supported the coups against these democratically elected leaders but actively supported the dictators that took over once the coups’ completion. The United States currently backs 73% of the world’s dictators with military aid, making it clear that this trend has continued. While the United States claims its goals are altruistic, it is obvious that the United States has participated in regime change in Latin America to serve its own interests.
Current US Campaign in Venezuela
Beyond verbally backing Guaido, the United States has taken other measures to ensure the Maduro regime falls and Guaido takes over.
The United Sates has been running a propaganda campaign against the Maduro regime. Just this past week it was revealed that certain groups had been lying about the Maduro regime burning humanitarian aid when it was in fact actually anti-Maduro protestors who were responsible for this act. They also used a blocked bridge that had not been in use for years as an anti-Maduro PR stunt.
The United States has also implemented sanctions that have decimated Venezuelan imports and starved their state run companies of money and resources. Venezuela imports more than 80% of its goods. With US sanctions, along with hyperinflation, causing Venezuelan imports to fall by roughly 83%, it is no wonder there is a shortage of basic necessities in the country.
Along with a propaganda campaign and crippling sanctions, the United States appointed Elliot Abrams, a former official in the Reagan Administration, as special envoy to Venezuela. Abrams has been directly involved in some of the most reprehensible foreign policy decisions the US has made in Latin America over the past forty years.
Abrams was essential in the attempted cover-up of the El Mozote massacre. The killings were done by the Salvadoran military, which the US government trained to fight communist guerrillas in El Salvador. Even after the massacre occurred, Abrams still gave the Salvadoran government his full support.
Abrams is probably best known for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, which took place while he was working in the Reagan administration. After Congress passed a bill that ended the funding of the Contras of Nicaragua, who were committing human rights violations, the Reagan administration sold arms to Iran, which was under an arms embargo at the time, and funneled that money to the Contras who were fighting the socialist Sandinista government. Abrams helped facilitate secret arms shipments to the Contras on planes that were supposedly carrying humanitarian aid. He was charged and convicted of lying about this to Congress, but was later pardoned by George H. W. Bush.
Although Abrams was a convicted criminal and had supported groups and dictators that committed human rights abuses, he, unsurprisingly, found a spot on George W. Bush’s National Security Council. While there, he continued his history of attempting to overthrow Latin American governments by giving support to the 2002 Venezuelan coup that temporarily ousted Hugo Chavez.
Although Abrams was the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in the Reagan administration, it is clear from his history that he cares about neither human rights nor humanitarianism. With the Abrams history in Latin America, as well as the United States’ record in foreign intervention as a whole, it is no wonder as to why Maduro refuses humanitarian aid from the United States.
Although Maduro is a corrupt dictator who silences his opposition and has no regards for human rights, there is no guarantee that Guaido will be any better. The United States has a long history of replacing one despotic regime with another in Latin America, and with the appointment of Elliot Abrams, there is no reason to believe the United States is ending this practice. Guaido will likely become the new president of Venezuela, and, like the Saudi Arabian Royalty, he can govern however he wants as long as he serves US interests.
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