“You are risking your future and your lives,” said Trump to Venezuelan military officers in a war-mongering speech in Miami on 18 February. “You will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You’ll lose everything,” he added, perhaps frustrated that there have been so far no significant cracks in the Venezuelan armed forces, a month after the beginning of the ongoing US coup attempt.
Everything is now being ramped up for 23 February: the day US puppet Guaidó has set for “humanitarian aid” to enter the country.
A month after he proclaimed himself “president in charge”, Guaidó still has no real power at all. There has been no uprising in the army. Other than a couple of officers stationed in the US and one Air Force officer without command of troops, the Venezuelan armed forces remain loyal to president Maduro. Even the BBC has reverted to calling Guaidó “the leader of the opposition”. The president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, has been touring the country organising large, anti-imperialist rallies in the main cities. The most recent ones in Mérida (on the border with Colombia) and in Bolivar (the state which borders with Brazil).
The Wall Street Journal was forced to admit that Trump’s regime change in Venezuela is not going according to plan:
“Many among Venezuela’s opposition and its U.S. backers figured President Nicolás Maduro’s regime would crumble quickly after Washington threw its support behind a plan designed to sap his military support and spur his exit. It hasn’t happened that way.”
It then went on to quote a “former senior US official” who said that: “The people who devised it in Caracas and sold it here [in Washington], sold it with the promise that if Guaidó made a move and [South American countries] and the U.S. came in behind, the military would flip and Maduro would go, they thought it was a 24-hour operation.”
Humanitarian aid: a cover for provocation
For this reason, and in order not to lose momentum, the coup plotters needed to be seen as taking a bold step, galvanising their forces and stepping up pressure on the army. The excuse being used is “humanitarian aid”, which is playing the same role “weapons of mass destruction” did in the run up to the Iraq invasion. The date has been set for 23 February.
Juan Guaidó has said, repeatedly, that there are 300,000 people on the verge of dying of starvation unless aid is allowed in. A straight lie. The economic crisis in Venezuela is very serious and has had a massive impact on the living standards of people. But Guaidó’s claim is completely fabricated, as were the “weapons of mass destruction” posing an “imminent threat” in the case of Iraq.
The US has graciously granted US$20 million in aid, after having seized US$7 billion in Venezuelan assets. The UK has joined in with a “generous” US$8 million, which pales into insignificance when you consider that the Bank of England is withholding Venezuelan gold worth US$1.2bn.
In fact, anyone can see this has nothing to do with aid nor with any humanitarian concern. In the Colombian region of the Guajira, over 4000 children have died of malnourishment. In Haiti there is a serious humanitarian crisis and a corrupt government using the might of the state to quell a mass rebellion. There have been no calls from Washington for regime change in Colombia nor in Haiti, nor any mass media campaign about humanitarian aid either. Naturally, these two countries already have US-compliant regimes.
Three separate places have been identified as points of entry for “humanitarian” aid: one on the Brazilian border, another in the Dutch island of Curaçao (off the Venezuelan coast) and a third (the most important) in Cúcuta in Colombia. Tons of aid has been delivered by military aircraft. In the last week, the head of the US South Command has visited Colombia, Brazil and Curaçao, where he also offered provocative and threatening statements aimed at Venezuelan army officers. The Colombian president Duque, a key piece in the puzzle, was in Washington for talks. Republican Senator Marco Rubio, one of the political chiefs of the reactionary Miami Cuban exile mafia, is already in Cucuta to coordinate the operations. Right-wing Chilean president Piñera is also en route.
The Cuban government, which is the secondary target of the aggression against Venezuela, as Trump and other US officials have explained openly, issued a strongly worded statement in which it warned of US military transport aircraft that have been flying to several Caribbean islands.
It is clear, therefore, that this is a very serious escalation in the imperialist provocations against Venezuela.
As part of the “humanitarian” cover for imperialist aggression, British millionaire Richard Branson has organised a “Venezuela Live Aid” concert right on the border. The Venezuelan opposition claims to have signed up tens of volunteers to bring in the aid. Guaidó has issued an ultimatum to the armed forces: “you have three days to abide the order of the President in charge and put yourselves on the side of the constitution”. He added: “On the 23rd we will go to the military barracks to demand the entry of humanitarian aid."
Y anuncio al país: este #23F nos movilizaremos a todos los cuarteles de Venezuela a exigir el ingreso de la ayuda humanitaria.— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 20, 2019
Señores de la #FANB, tienen 3 días para acatar a la orden del Presidente (E) y ponerse del lado de la constitución. Esta ayuda es para salvar vidas.
The idea is to create some provocation on the border where “unarmed civilians” attempt to bring in the “humanitarian aid” and are stopped by “repression and violence” on the part of the “dictatorship’s armed forces”. US imperialism and its regional allies are piling up the pressure, calculating that this will push at least a section of the Venezuelan army to rebel and move to remove Maduro, or that Maduro will step down himself.
Further to the provocations on the border, in Costa Rica, the “ambassador” appointed by Guaidó and a group of thugs linked to the former governor of Guárico Manuitt, under the cover of darkness took over the Venezuelan embassy and are preventing access by the legitimate ambassador and diplomatic staff. The Venezuelan consulate in Guayaquil was also attacked.
Trump and other US officials have said that “all options are on the table”. The implication is that a US military invasion is not ruled out. Guaidó himself, in an act which cannot be described in any other way than treasonous, said in an interview with AP that he did not rule out “authorising foreign military intervention” in Venezuela.
This is probably not the first option contemplated by Washington. Direct military aggression against Venezuela would be costly, both in terms of lives and political consequences. Over 15 years after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the US has not yet been able to leave. An invasion of Venezuela would require large numbers of troops, who would certainly face fierce armed resistance. It would also have major consequences throughout Latin America, where there is a deep-rooted, anti-imperialist sentiment.
Most likely, US planners calculate that the combination of hard-hitting economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation and the pressure of the threat of military action will be enough to dislodge Maduro from power, one way or another. This is not ruled out, but it is still a struggle of living forces and the result is not decided in advance.
Trump playing with fire
Trump’s bravado is also partly aimed at the American public. He is looking at the forthcoming presidential elections and attempting to secure the support of the Republican right by making all the right noises about Venezuela and Cuba. In his speech in Miami, he stressed that socialism is a failed ideology “which we will never allow to reach the shores of America,” a remark which was clearly aimed at Sanders and the Democrats in general.
He is playing with fire. The key people dealing with Venezuela (Bolton, Cruz, Abrams, Rubio) are rabid anti-communists who would not hesitate in using all means at their disposal to crush the Bolivarian and Cuban revolutions, regardless of the consequences. While direct military intervention might not be the wisest choice for US imperialism from the point of view of a cold cost-benefit analysis, there are plenty who do not necessarily think this way in Trump regime.
The situation is very serious. This imperialist aggression must be opposed with all forces at our disposal. Some on the left have attempted to take a “neither Maduro nor Guaidó” position. That is a completely false starting point. First of all, because this is not about Guaidó, but rather about Trump’s plans for and ambitions in Venezuela.
During the struggle to oppose imperialist aggression in Iraq, for example, all consistent anti-imperialists took a clear position, regardless of the fact that Saddam Hussein was a murderous dictator who had massacred his own people (as an ally of imperialism).
The case here is even clearer. One of the aims of US aggression is precisely to crush the Bolivarian Revolution, or what remains of it. One does not need to support Maduro and his government in order to adopt an uncompromising stance of opposing imperialist aggression by the US and its puppet Guaidó.
If the US is successful in this coup attempt, not only any remaining gains of the revolution will be destroyed, but also the revolutionary organisations and cadres of workers, peasants and the poor will be mercilessly destroyed. Anyone who cannot see the implications of this does not deserve to call themselves left-wing.
Neither Maduro nor Guaidó?
In fact, the practical consequences of this “neither, nor” position can be seen in one recent example. A group of former-Chavista ministers have set up the Platform for a Consultative Referendum. They represent nobody but themselves and long for a “democratic” and “constitutional” solution to the crisis. As if you could convince imperialism to stop imperialist aggression by waving a copy of the Constitution!
On 5 February, this group had a meeting with Guaidó with the aim of putting his demands to him. As was to be expected, it was Guaidó who gained political capital out of it, by saying “see, even former Chavez ministers are against Maduro, we have points in common”:
Hoy sostuvimos un encuentro con ex Ministros del Gobierno del ex presidente Chávez. Escuchamos sus planteamientos, y coincidimos en la necesidad de resolver los problemas de los venezolanos.— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 5, 2019
Seguimos trabajando y escuchando a todos los sectores que quieren un cambio #VamosBien pic.twitter.com/4FGM0gecZO
Scandalously, also present at this meeting was Gonzalo Gómez, a leading member of Marea Socialista (a sympathising section of the so-called “Fourth International”). He justified his presence at the meeting by arguing that “we must do everything to prevent war”.
Well, surely, no one wants war, but what we are dealing with here is open imperialist aggression and an attempted coup. Do you prevent it by going into dialogue with Trump’s local agent? Do you expect to convince him? Or do you call on workers and peasants to organise and arm themselves (politically and with weapons) to fight imperialism? It seems comrade Gonzalo chooses the first option.
Does this mean that we suspend criticism of the Maduro government? Not at all. All it means is that we need to pose the question in terms of what measures are required to really fight the imperialist coup plot.
The comrades of Lucha de Clases in Venezuela are doing precisely that. At their initiative, a series of revolutionary organisations in Caracas have organised a rally on Friday 22 February (see below) with the following slogans:
- Prison for Guaidó and his accomplices!
- No more impunity for the coup plotters!
- Dissolution of coup-plotting National Assembly already!
- Arm the Bolivarian militias now!
- Confiscation of the imperialist transnationals and national monopolies involved in the coup!
- No more concessions to the parasitic bourgeoisie!
- Make capitalists pay for the crisis!
The call has been taken up by a number of revolutionary organisations and collectives and has also been raised in workplaces and trade unions. Larger organisations like the PPT have not signed the statement but have promised to participate in the rally. The Communist Party and others in the People's Anti-Fascist and Anti-imperialist Front have issued a public statement pointing in the same direction, though they have not signed the 22 February appeal either.
Other sections of the chavista rank and file are also starting to move into action on their own. In the Apure region on the border with Colombia, the Bolivar Zamora Revolutionary Current has revived the Hugo Chavez People’s Defence Forces:
The central idea the comrades are putting forward is that a serious imperialist counter-revolutionary attempt like this can only be effectively combated with revolutionary measures, by striking blows against the multinationals and the local capitalists who are behind the plot and by relying on the revolutionary elan and enthusiasm of the working class and poor masses.
Our position is clear:
Hands off Venezuela!
Oppose the imperialist coup!
Expropriate the oligarchy and imperialism!
Arm the militias!
Against the imperialist onslaught, we must go on the offensive!
By Lucha de Clases
In Venezuela, a new reactionary coup attempt, led by imperialism and the oligarchy, is underway. 20 years since the imperialist-backed ruling class lost direct control of the Venezuelan state, the White House has decided to reestablish its grip by resorting to relentless diplomatic, economic and military pressure against the government of Nicolás Maduro.
The goals pursued by the US are known to all: to control the innumerable riches of Venezuela, to crush the Bolivarian Revolution and to make an example of the Venezuelan people to discourage popular and workers’ movements of the continent and the world. We have arrived at a decisive and defining moment in the national class struggle. The situation demands a forceful, revolutionary response.
With the self-proclamation of Juan Guaidó as President in Charge of Venezuela, an attempt has been made to erect a parallel government under the remote control of the White House. The imperialist puppet that heads the National Assembly (AN), which is under the majority control of the opposition, has begun to appoint diplomatic representatives abroad and also to management of state companies abroad like CITGO.
This illegal initiative, led by the US, has been endorsed and recognised by numerous Latin American governments in the service of Washington: the infamous Lima Group and the OAS. The European Union (EU), which has also sided with Guaidó, has created a Contact Group together with several states of the region with a view to facilitating a negotiated exit for Maduro under the guise of "free elections".
Yankee imperialism has kidnapped enormous financial resources belonging to the Venezuelan state - more specifically the BCV - with the promise of transferring them to its puppet. The Bank of England has done the same, preventing the repatriation of US$1.2 billion in gold belonging to the Venezuelan state. Also, on Monday 28 January, the White House announced a series of sanctions against PDVSA, which include the retention of assets in the US amounting to US$ 7,000 million and the blockade of Venezuelan oil exports. Also, these measures impose restrictions on energy companies supplying raw materials, components and diluents necessary for the oil sector, and the production of derivatives, which seriously compromises the operations of PDVSA.
The intention of US imperialism is quite clear. Along with the diplomatic and economic attacks, there have been countless threats of military intervention by Trump, Pence, Pompeo and Bolton. In addition to meeting between General Mark Stammer, Commander of the Southern Command, and representatives of the Colombian government in recent days, there has been increased transportation of American military aircraft through several Caribbean islands, and also the diversion of the British Royal Navy towards Curaçao (80km from the Venezuelan coast). Additionally, Trump has commissioned Elliot Abrams as Special Envoy for Venezuela, the same person who organised logistics and financing for the Contras in Nicaragua, and supported the operations of the death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala three decades ago.
Under the pretence of providing "humanitarian aid", Yankee imperialism hopes to create a situation of extreme tension on the Venezuelan borders - especially the border with Colombia - with the entry of supposed shipments of medicines and food, without authorisation from the official government, and using civilians - organised in assistance brigades - like cannon fodder.
Juan Guaidó has announced that on 23 February "humanitarian aid" will enter the country, which is why he has intensified his invitation to the FANB to execute a military coup as soon as possible. On the scheduled date, a possible violent confrontation and even an eventual massacre - perpetrated by mercenaries - may provide the perfect excuse to initiate a direct intervention of US troops in our country.
Those of us who subscribe to this declaration strongly repudiate the interventionist, destabilising and coup-plotting manoeuvres of US imperialism against Venezuela. For revolutionaries, it is imperative to prevent the return of the right to power regardless by any means.
One scenario is the Guaidó Country Plan, which will plunge the country into severe debt - this time to the IMF - and thus speed up privatisation of state companies and public services. This will be accompanied by brutal labour and social counter-reforms, which will deepen the great austerity suffered by the working people today. To undertake an aggressive, macroeconomic adjustment policy with the least possible resistance, the ruling classes demand the crushing of popular and workers' organisations, who will not endure these policies lying down.
The targeted assassination of community leaders, working-class and peasant trade activists; the ruthless persecution of the entire left and the curtailment of the most basic democratic guarantees: there will be no hesitation in the implementation of such measures. In addition, there will be revenge exacted by violent right-wing groups against Chavismo, which will be made to pay for so many years of defeat and political marginalisation of the right.
The policies of class conciliation and half-measures executed by the government have been shown to be detrimental to battling reaction. We have witnessed constant appeals for peace and consultation, aimed at the same sectors that are preparing to drown the revolution in blood. On the other hand, with the resurgence of imperialist pressure, the government has granted new concessions to the capitalist class, such as the recent measures of exchange liberalisation and the devaluation of Bolívar at a level higher than the parallel market of dollars, both of which are detrimental to the interests of the workers. This policy leads to the demoralisation of the working class and the people, who are the motor force of the revolution and the only ones who can save it from the present threats.
Given all of these potential scenarios, it is necessary to undertake a series of firm and decisive actions, not only to defeat the current imperialist offensive, but also to implement structural solutions to all the calamities that the working masses suffer today. As for the need to abate the threats of reaction: it is necessary to arrest Guaidó and dissolve the pro-imperialist AN, which serve as the main agents of internal destabilisation at Washington's service. The inaction in this area has allowed the US puppet and his accomplices to proceed with their coup agenda without the slightest restriction. Recently, Guaidó said he did not rule out authorising a foreign military invasion.
On the other hand, it is imperative to implement a policy based on the organisation and armed intervention of the masses on the internal level, and a call to internationalists to support the Bolivarian Revolution from without. Regarding the first, Maduro called weeks ago for the strengthening of the Bolivarian militias, with the establishment of more than 50,000 Popular Units of Defense throughout the country. However, after the presidential announcement we have not seen concrete actions significant enough to organise popular defense in the neighbourhoods, nor by the workers in the factories and in the institutions of the state.
Understanding the dangers present in the situation, where the ruling classes can provoke an armed civil confrontation or a foreign military intervention, we revolutionaries have the right to demand that words be translated into action. Although we repudiate the possibility of war, the violence that the bourgeois reaction is willing to unleash forces us to be prepared.
The foregoing, in turn, must be linked to the struggle to improve living conditions for Venezuelan workers, removing the enormous burden of the crisis from their backs and placing it on the shoulders of the ruling classes. Given the urgent need to prevent the return of the right to power, revolutionaries must fight the new reactionary attack, but not to maintain the current, chaotic and degrading state of affairs. Instead, we must build a new society worth living for, and worth defending with our lives.
In this sense, and considering the strong US sanctions on the Venezuelan economy, it is necessary to confiscate all the imperialist monopolies in the country, but also the national companies involved in the coup, and place them under workers' and popular control. This must be accompanied by the cessation of payments of foreign debt, the nationalisation without compensation of the banks, and the establishment of a state monopoly on foreign trade, thus acquiring resources to finance a revolutionary economic emergency plan and facilitate the establishment of a planned economy under democratic control of the working class and the people. The nationalisation without compensation of the large estates under the control of peasant councils and rural communes must also be central to this programme.
- Prison for Guaidó and his accomplices!
- No more impunity for the coup plotters!
- Dissolution of a pro-imperialist National Assembly!
- Arm and deploy the Bolivarian militias!
- Confiscation of the imperialist multinationals and national monopolies involved in the coup!
- No more concessions to the parasitic bourgeoisie!
- Make the capitalists pay for the crisis!
Corriente Marxista – Lucha de Clases
Izquierda Unida Venezuela
Organización Regional de Trabajadores Socialistas de la Salud del Estado Vargas (ORESTVA)
Periódico Revolucionario Querella
Revolución o Muerte – Cátedra Che Guevara
Comité de Fábrica Heroínas de Aragua (Antigua Gotcha)
Frente Revolucionario 86 Contreras
Wiliam Prieto, General Secretary of SUTRAFOGADE
Union Delegates of the Smurfit Kappa company (Mill and Corrugated Plant Petare Division)