Combating Misinformation about the US Attempted Coup Against Venezuela

Venezuela fake news

Was the Venezuela 2018 presidential election open to opposition candidates?

This was the 25th election Venezuela has had in the 20 years of the Chavez-Maduro presidency. The Venezuelan government did not block opposition candidates from participating in the 2018 election, but encouraged it, and even agreed to push up the election date to meet opposition demands (from December 2018 to May 20, 2018)

Nicolas Maduro received the votes of 6.2 million people, about 31% of the eligible voters, slightly more than what recent U.S. presidents received (Obama received 31% in 2008 and 28% in 2012, while Trump received 26% in 2016).

The opposition  candidates were Henri Falcón (who received 21% of the vote) and Javier Bertucci (who received 11%).

Was the Venezuela presidential election of 2018 in accord with international standards?

We note that in the US presidential elections this century, the winner of the popular vote was declared president in only 60% of the five elections.

We also note Venezuela invited Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for International Relations of Europe European Union, and UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres to lead or send election observer delegations for the May 2018 election. Both refused.

The International Electoral Accompaniment Mission of CEELA (Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America) issued a report on the May 20 Venezuelan presidential election.

CEELA made these conclusions:

a. The electoral process for the Presidential and State Legislative Council Elections 2018 complied with all international standards and national legislation, particularly in the fields of audit and electoral administration.

b. CEELA Mission is of the opinion that the process was successfully carried out and that the will of the citizens, freely expressed in ballot boxes, was respected.
c. The results communicated yesterday night by the National Electoral Council reflect the will of the voters who decided to participate in the electoral process.Such results are duly certified through the citizen verification audit.
e. The CEELA Electoral Accompaniment Mission upholds that the electoral process has consolidated and reaffirmed strengthening of the electoral institutionalism that supports the democratic system.

What is CEELA? 

The membership of CEELA shows that it is hardly a body under the influence of the Chavistas:

Nicanor Moscoso Pezo,  Former President of the Electoral Supreme Court of the Republic of Ecuador.

Guillermo Reyes, Former President of the Electoral Supreme Court of the Republic of Colombia,

Augusto Aguilar, Former President of the Electoral Supreme Court of the Republic of Honduras,

Eugenio Chicas, Former Presiding Magistrate of the Electoral Supreme Court and Incumbent Magistrate of the Electoral Supreme Court of the Republic of El Salvador,

Alfredo Arévalo, Former Vice President of the Electoral Supreme Court of the Republic of Ecuador

Salvador Ramos, Former President of the Electoral Chamber of Appeals of the Electoral Central Board of the Dominican Republic;

Víctor Soto, Former Member of the National Elections Jury and former President of the National Council of the Judiciary of the Republic of Peru,

Walter Araujo, Former Magistrate President of the Electoral Supreme Court and Incumbent Magistrate of the Electoral Supreme Court of the Republic of El Salvador,

Marina Urrizola, Former Member of the National Electoral Division of the Republic of Argentina

How do Venezuelans themselves feel about the US Sanctions and US military intervention?

The vast majority of Venezuelans oppose military intervention and US sanctions to try to remove President Nicolás Maduro from power, according to a very recent poll by the firm Hinterlaces.

Do you agree or disagree with the US economic and financial sanctions that are currently applied against Venezuela to remove President Maduro from power?

81% disagree
17% agree
2% not sure

Would you agree or disagree if there were international intervention in Venezuela to remove President Maduro from power?

78% disagree
20% agree
2% not sure

Would you agree or disagree if there were international military intervention in Venezuela to remove President Maduro from power?

86% disagree
12% agree
2% not sure

In general do you agree or disagree with a dialogue being held between the national government and the opposition to resolve the current economic problems in the country?

84% agree
15% disagree
1% not sure

What effect do the US, Canada, and European Union sanctions have on Venezuela?

The Independent Rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council, Alfred de Zayas presented a report on his mission Venezuela, issued in August 2018. In a recent interview he said:  “Sanctions kill,” he told The Independent, adding that they fall most heavily on the poorest people in society, demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change in a “sister democracy”.

The report de Zayas issued for the UN Human Rights Commission stated in part:

35. On 23 March 2018, the Human Rights Council condemned unilateral coercive measures by a vote of 28 in favour, 15 against and 3 abstentions,  because economic sanctions demonstrably cause death, aggravate economic crises, disrupt the production and distribution of food and medicine, constitute a push factor generating emigration, and lead to violations of human rights.

36. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that  economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them.

Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

37. Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means.

62. The solution to the Venezuelan “crisis” lies in good faith negotiations between the Government and the opposition, an end to the economic war, and the lifting of sanctions.

63. While the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is undergoing a severe economic crisis, the Government is not standing idle; it is seeking international assistance to overcome the challenges, diversifying the economy and seeking debt restructuring. Sanctions only aggravate the situation by hindering the imports necessary to produce generic medicines and seeds to increase agricultural production. Sanctions have also led to emigration.

Eugenia Russian, president of FUNDALATIN, one of the oldest human rights NGOs in Venezuela, founded in 1978 before the Chavez and Maduro governments and with special consultative status at the UN stated:

“In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect that the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States.”

On what basis did Juan Guaido appoint himself president of Venezuela at a rally on January 23?

Juan Guaido proclaimed himself president after receiving prior backing from the US and Canadian governments. He claims to be president based on Article 233 of the Constitution.

Because of “abandonment of his position” if “an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.”

However, it is quite clear that Nicolas Maduro has not abandoned his position or become unavailable.

Does the international community recognize Nicolas Maduro or Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela?

The corporate media and the US government claim “the international community” recognize  Guaido’s self-appointment as President of Venezuela. However, when the issue was brought to the Organization of American States January 24, it voted 18-16 to recognize Nicolas Maduro as president. When the issue came to the United Nations Security Council, the US again found the international community voted against the US position.

How many countries in the international community recognize Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela?

After the first week of February only  27 countries of the 195 in the world have:

United States, Canada,  Israel, Australia, Georgia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, St. Lucia, and Guyana.

On February 3, these countries also recognized Guaido: Finland, Portugal, The Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, France, Britain, Austria, Sweden, Germany.

Is it true that government repression of the 2017 anti-Maduro, anti-Chavista protests killed over 100 protesters? 

The Red de Apoyo por la Justicia y la Paz [Support Network for Justice and Peace] a NGO founded in 1986, years before the Chavista era, issued a report on the violence of 2017. Memoria de la Violencia, período abril-julio 2017: nos faltan 142 is a report of their interviews of the families of the 142 to determine how they were killed. They found that 50% of the deaths were of passersby not involved in the protests and 36% were killed by government forces, and almost all the assailants are being investigated and tried. The other 64% were killed by civilians.

Soraya El Achkar of the Support Network declared  “There is a lot of evidence that the events in which fatalities took place were financed by groups linked to the Venezuelan opposition.” She pointed out that opposition controlled municipalities and governorships financed groups and people who caused violence and killings.

At least 23 of those killed were burned alive by the opposition. We note that the the violence quickly ceased with the successful holding of the election of the Constituent National Assembly on July 30, 2017.

The Defensoria del Pueblo report En Defensa de la Paz y Por La Verdad, written earlier, found 98 killed, including 7 police and military. It found that 16 were killed by the police or military, that 3 of the Guardia Nacional Bolivariana, 3 of the Policía Nacional Bolivariana, 4 of the provincial police, 11 provincial police had already been held on charges in these killings.

Thus, government policing forces were responsible for a minority of the killings, and by July 2017 the government had already arrested and charged 21 of them in 16 of the killings.

In the cases of the opposition leaders involved organizing present and past attempted coups, Leopoldo Lopez, Henrique Capriles Radonsky and Juan Guaido, none have been executed for treason. The first two are under house arrest, and Guaido, who also advocates for US military attack on Venezuela, is still a free man.

These are not actions of a repressive government.

Is this US coup about Oil?

In an interview on Fox Business, Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton was open about the US-led coup in Venezuela is motivated by oil and corporate interests.

Bolton said, “We’re looking at the oil assets…We don’t want any American businesses or investors caught by surprise. …we’re in conversation with major American companies now that are either in Venezuela, or in the case of Citgo here in the United States…It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela. We both have a lot at stake here making this come out the right way.”

Is the Maduro government opposed to  U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call for dialogue?

The UN Secretary General has called for dialogue between the different parties to defuse the situation between the Maduro government and the US-Guaido opposition. This has been seconded by Pope Francis. Mexico and Uruguay are convening a conference February 7 to discuss dialogue. President Maduro spoke in favor of dialogue. The United States and Juan Guaido  have said they are opposed to any dialogue.

Is there opposition in the US Congress to the US backed coup?

Representative Tulsa Gabbard did make a clear statement of opposition to US interference:

The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela. Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders–so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.

Representative Ilham Omar wrote:

A US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face. Trump’s efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue.

Representative Ro Khanna issued a statement that said in part

The United States should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal, divided conflict. There is no doubt the Maduro’s economic policies have been terrible, and he has engaged in financial mismanagement and also political authoritarianism. But crippling sanctions and threats of military action are making life worse for ordinary Venezuelans, and the U.S. stands alone in its decision to impose economic sanctions against the Venezuelan government. We should work to support the efforts of Uruguay, Mexico and the Holy See for a negotiated settlement and end the sanctions that are making the hyperinflation worse.

Bernie Sanders issued a more ambivalent statement, as if trying to please everyone. Barbara Lee later made a statement calling for a peaceful resolution.

At least ten Congresspeople have now signed on to the letter to Secretary of State Pompeo opposing the war threats, sanctions and attempted coup in Venezuela and call for dialogue: Ro Khanna,  Raúl Grijalva,  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Hank JohnsonMark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Ayanna Pressley, Adriano Espaillat .

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