There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 6/6, written by Charles Davis. Originally published on The Daily Beast on 21 February 2019.
Donald J. Trump, the oppressively dim president of these United States, was elected by a majority of white people who cast ballots but only a minority of the popular vote, and only then with the actively solicited help of a foreign intelligence service. His closest allies are gaudy authoritarians who murder their critics without so much as a plausible cover story. He does not, one must conclude, give half a goddamn about democracy—not in the United States, not in Saudi Arabia and certainly not in Venezuela, where his point person is a man, Elliot Abrams, whose obituary will include the term “right-wing death squads.”
It is an obvious point, but one necessary to make in a world where implausible statements from an incoherent president are still treated with legitimacy by a class of reporters and pundits trained to show undue respect to those who wield power, corporate or political and nowadays both. Trump cares about Venezuelans, whom his government routinely deports, about as much as he cares about his own children, which is not to say “a lot.” If he cared about corrupt elites ignoring the opposition-held legislature on their way to bankrupting a country for profit, he would resign, or at least hand back the $500,000 he received from the Venezuelan state for a party on his inauguration.
It is good and just to be an irritant on this point, but it is equally important that it not be the only one that is made. When Trump talks about democracy and poverty in Venezuela unconvincingly, what he says that is discernible is not necessarily wrong; the former is indeed lacking, in Caracas and Washington, and the latter abundant. As in the imperial core, the Venezuelan government has usurped its constitutional authority. I know, in part, because I was paid by it, working as an editor at the state-sponsored teleSUR, based in Ecuador, a former sponsor (its governing social democrats recently withdrew).
In late 2015, when the opposition coalition won the National Assembly with 56 percent of the vote, the expectation was that my employer would go down with the dethroned ruling party—the expectation being that legislatures, not presidents, determine spending priorities. And the opposition did not like us.
That did not happen. Maduro, instead, claimed the authority to pass budgets by executive fiat—in the U.S. democracy, presidents declare a “national emergency” to do that—helping preserve the delicate balance of power that has led the military, enriched by smuggling and the self-inflicted currency exchange system that fuels it, to stick with his administration. He then created an extralegal body, called a Constituent Assembly, that has the purported power to rewrite all laws.
Filled with party loyalists, the assembly was declared illegal by Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, who had been appointed by Hugo Chavez in 2007; she was forced to flee the country, another Chavista labeled a right-wing plotter by a government that has betrayed the poor. Maduro then won a presidential election, after banning his leading opponents, in a vote that, according to the United Nations, “does not in any way fulfill minimal conditions for free and credible elections.”
The international left, then, should have taken notice and—supporters of Maduro or not—urged against the dismantling of democracy, and walking back from the precipice; friendship is not telling a drunk comrade that they are a great driver and thus ceding the moral high ground to the cop that pulls them over.
It is also true that the Venezuelan government, not the U.S., is largely responsible for the state of the Venezuelan economy.