Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) categorically opposes any and all efforts by the U.S. government to intervene in the domestic politics of Venezuela. The U.S. has a long and bloody track record of actions to overthrow democratically elected governments, stop the spread of socialism, and maintain U.S. imperial dominance in the region. This includes the U.S. government’s support of the 2002 Venezuelan coup that led to the temporary ouster of the legitimately-elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. These imperial interventions must stop immediately; the future of the Venezuelan people, and the broader prosperity of Latin America depend on it.
Venezuela is currently suffering devastating economic and political crises that have left millions without consistent access to basic goods and services, and in a state of perpetual insecurity. Inflation has reached astronomical levels, rendering the local currency practically valueless, and limiting the positive impact of regular minimum wage increases implemented by the Venezuelan government. In the wake of President Nicolás Maduro’s inauguration for a second term on January 10, the political situation has become still more dire.
Maduro’s inauguration was accompanied by claims from both the Venezuelan opposition as well as a host of governments in the region and beyond that, he is no longer the legitimately elected President of Venezuela. These claims are based on prior accusations that the May 2018 Venezuelan presidential election was marred by the government’s use of tactics that ensured Maduro’s victory in advance.
The newly-appointed leader of the opposition-controlled Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó of the right-wing Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) party, used this legitimacy crisis as an opportunity to proclaim himself the acting President of Venezuela, and called upon the Venezuelan people to rise up in protest against the Maduro government. Many, including a small band of National Guard soldiers on January 22 (who were quickly suppressed by security forces), have heeded the call, leading to sustained protests across the country beginning on January 21.
Though there have been reports of repression on the part of the Venezuelan security forces (including the brief arrest of Guaidó himself outside Caracas) and property damage on the part of opposition protesters (including the arson of an important community center in Caracas), significant confrontations between government and opposition supporters have yet to materialize. Nor has there been any indication that top military leaders are planning to break with Maduro. Nonetheless, the situation remains extremely tense. Any small political miscalculation could provoke serious violence and chaos in the country.
The role of the United States government in this unfolding situation over the last two weeks has been substantial and extremely counterproductive. Its actions have served only to deepen political divisions and decrease the likelihood of a peaceful solution to the crisis. President Trump and Vice President Pence have both expressed their full support for the unelected Guaidó as acting President, and are working tirelessly to organize other nations to do the same. Further, Trump has stated that he is contemplating a military intervention in Venezuela, and the U.S. National Security Council has indicated that it is strongly considering an embargo on Venezuelan oil imports to the United States. These actions would each have catastrophic consequences for the already suffering Venezuelan people. The U.S. government is clearly more interested in using Venezuela as a boogeyman to show the dangers of socialism than in playing a constructive role in resolving the crisis. Unfortunately the consequences of this rhetorical posturing are all too real for the Venezuelan people.
The U.S. government’s recent actions to destabilize Venezuela are only the most recent in a long series of unfortunate actions it has taken over the past several years. In addition to past reckless and worrying comments made by President Trump and other members of his administration about the need for foreign military intervention in Venezuela, the U.S. government has imposed financial sanctions against Venezuela. These sanctions are putting further constraints on the importation of desperately needed food and medicine into Venezuela.
The sanctions also preclude Venezuelan firms from access to U.S. credit, effectively eliminating the Venezuelan oil sector’s capacity to maintain current levels of production, let alone return to pre-2015 levels (which were more than twice as high as current levels). Given that Venezuela depends so heavily on oil exports to fund the importation of basic goods, the U.S. government’s sanctions against Venezuela’s oil sector are tantamount to direct sanctions against the Venezuelan people, whose economic security grows more precarious by the week.
Both the increasingly top-down Venezuelan government as well as the fractious Venezuelan opposition, which has at times resorted to anti-democratic methods, bear significant responsibility for the current crisis and there are important critiques to be leveled against both. As U.S. socialists, we have a duty to do everything we can to stop U.S. imperialism and make the world safe for democracy and socialism; however, our role as an organization should not be to intervene in the internal politics of Venezuela. Instead, we have a responsibility to use the leverage we have to intervene strategically in U.S. foreign policy to help the Venezuelan people defend the gains made during Hugo Chávez’s presidency.
To that end, we call upon the U.S. government to immediately cease and desist all attempts to intervene in the internal politics of Venezuela and break with its shameful legacy of imperial control in the region. Further, we call upon DSA chapters and DSA supported political representatives to mobilize in this particularly critical moment around a campaign of solidarity with the Venezuelan people, aimed specifically at reversing the U.S. government’s disastrous and counterproductive sanctions against Venezuela.
Solidarity with the people of Venezuela! Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution!