Protest in Caracas, Venezuela, on Jan. 23, 2019. wikimedia/Voice of America

Protest in Caracas, Venezuela, on Jan. 23, 2019. wikimedia/Voice of America

Local activists push back against intervention in Venezuelan crisis

Anti-war group Answer Coalition plans protest March 16 at Seattle Central College

As the U.S. ramps up its intervention efforts in Venezuela, activists in Puget Sound are preparing to demonstrate against it.

Jane Cutter is a member of Answer Coalition, an anti-war activist group that is planning a protest on March 16 at Seattle Central College. Cutter is concerned with what she called a U.S.-backed coup to support Juan Guaido, the opposition candidate whom several countries are backing as Venezuela’s new president. Venezuela’s current president, Nicolas Maduro, has not recognized Guaido. In response, the U.S. has slapped the country with sanctions, destabilizing it further.

Cutter said Answer Coalition is against any form of U.S. intervention into Venezuelan politics and said economic sanctions lead to hardship for ordinary people.

“We know what sanctions do, we know what sanctions are,” Cutter said. “They are not an alternative to war, they are a different form of war.”

Cutter said their protest is designed to send the message that the U.S. should not interfere with Venezuela, and to let the Venezuelan people decide how to move forward. Given the U.S. track record in Latin America, Cutter said she doesn’t buy claims of humanitarian assistance that the Trump administration has put forward.

“What we need right now is for there to be a clear statement from the American people that we reject this,” Cutter said.

The situation in Venezuela is complicated. Gregory Weeks, editor of The Latin Americanist and a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said even right-wing governments in the region who oppose Maduro also oppose U.S. military intervention. If the U.S. were to become aggressive — especially unilaterally — in its push to unseat Maduro, the nation would likely lose support of tentative allies.

“If the United States pushes forward with this and takes a unilateral approach instead of a multilateral approach, it would be widely unpopular,” Weeks said.

The U.S. has a long and sometimes dark history of intervening in Latin America, and has often taken a leading role in pressuring and toppling governments it views as unfriendly. Venezuela is somewhat different, Weeks said, because Maduro hasn’t found much support from neighboring countries.

“The government is unpopular both internally and it doesn’t have a whole lot of support around Latin America,” Weeks said.

Polling suggests that Maduro is unpopular in Venezuela, with one poll finding 68 percent of Venezuelans wanting Maduro to step down. At the same time, only 35 percent of Venezuelans said they would support a foreign military intervention to remove their president, and more than half of the people would reject it. Weeks said he thinks the Trump administration should avoid starting a military conflict, saying it would likely lead to even more problems for Venezuelans.

“If you’re concerned about human suffering, it’s going to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis,” he said.

Venezuela was again in the headlines in recent weeks for stopping a shipment of humanitarian aid from the U.S. At the same time, it has been accepting humanitarian aid from other countries. Some 90 percent of Venezuelans live in poverty and the country faces food and medicine shortages. Kelsey Gilman is a PhD student at the University of Washington who teaches Latin American political history. Often times, humanitarian assistance is used by the U.S. as a political tool, she said.

“The U.S. wanted to pressure Maduro out of office. They wanted to do that by offering an aid package designed to help poor Venezuelans in the short run,” Gilman said. “But in the long run, that action actually undermines democratic processes that could happen in Venezuela.”

The situation in Venezuela doesn’t fit neatly into a right-left paradigm, or even one that can be measured in any sort of dichotomy, Gilman said. This partially comes down to which human rights the U.S. chooses to emphasize.

During the height of the Cold War, the U.S. chose to emphasize civil and political rights with its foreign policy while the Soviet Union focused on increasing economic, cultural and social rights. Since the formal end of the Cold War, Gilman said U.S. institutions have begun focusing more of the latter three, but the Venezuelan crisis is allowing the Trump administration to emphasize civil and political rights.

This strategy in Latin America has led to massacres, crimes against humanity, and the U.S. supporting security forces in Guatemala during the 1980s while they committed genocide against indigenous Mayan peoples.

One striking example of this move toward Cold War politics is the Trump administration’s decision to bring back Elliott Abrams, who served under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s — and who helped cover up and smooth over U.S. involvement in several massacres in Latin America on his watch.

Gilman penned an article for PRI where she explores some of the massacres that have occurred in Latin America stemming from U.S. involvement. To fight against communism, the U.S. has backed dictators in Chile, Argentina, Peru, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Uruguay and more, Gilman wrote. During this time, Abrams knew of and endorsed sweeping human rights abuses committed by these dictatorships and lied to Congress about them.

Some notable examples of Abrams and U.S. involvement that led to deaths includes the U.S. backing of the right-wing military government in El Salvador, which left more than 75,000 people dead. One massacre in particular was the El Mozote massacre, where the U.S.-backed Salvadorian army murdered around 800 civilians with U.S.-supplied weapons. Before, many of the women and children were raped.

Another high-profile success of U.S. foreign policy was the Iran-Contra scandal, when the Reagan administration illegally violated a trade embargo with Iran to fund the Contras, a right-wing force in Nicaragua. The Contras were trained and armed by the CIA and went on to kidnap, torture and execute civilians. They also destabilized the left-leaning Sandinista government and assassinated health workers. After backing the murder of 50,000 people, the U.S. beat the Sandinistas, installed a Contra-run government and opened the markets to U.S. companies.

Even as rhetoric is ratcheted up, Weeks said the best thing for the U.S. to do no may be nothing.

“It’s useful to understand that there are no good options right now, so that if anyone is offering easy solutions, it’s just not true,” he said.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Auburn Mountain View Cemetery Manager Craig Hudson, center, confers with maintenance workers David Partridge, left, and Zach Hopper in March 2020. Sound Publishing file photo
State allows weddings, funerals, religious services to restart with restrictions

Gov. Inslee issues new rules during May 27 news conference.

State loosens cougar hunting restrictions

The regulations will impact 19 areas around the state.

American Medical Response (AMR) organized a parade of first responders to show appreciation for St. Elizabeth Hospital staff April 30. Photo by Ray Miller-Still/Sound Publishing
The complications of counting COVID deaths in Washington

State relies on results of tests and death certificates in calculating the daily toll of the disease.

Republicans file lawsuit over Inslee’s emergency: ‘Facts, and the science, are clear’

Lawsuit says state has violated Constitutional rights of citizens.

A look at construction work. Photo courtesy city of Kenmore
Kenmore shares update on West Sammamish River Bridge construction, Memorial Day

No construction is scheduled for Saturday (May 23) through Monday (May 25).

How to report unemployment fraud

The Snoqualmie Police Department and the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD)… Continue reading

Among the candidates for Washington state governor in 2020: (Top row, L-R): Omari Tahir Garrett, Winston Wilkes, Thor Amundson, Cameron Vessey, Martin ‘Iceman’ Wheeler, Ryan Ryals; (middle row L-R): Liz Hallock, Goodspaceguy, Gov. Jay Inslee, Don Rivers, Gene Hart; (bottom row L-R): Phil Fortunato, Tim Eyman, Alex Tsimerman, Cairo D’Almeida, Cregan Newhouse, Raul Garcia.
GOP gubernatorial hopefuls aim to oust Inslee amid COVID-19

Former Bothell mayor Joshua Freed and initiative-pusher Tim Eyman could be the front-runners.

Nonprofit launches new online COVID-19 local resource hub for King County

Hub collects links for more than 300 local resources for people affected by virus.

Most Read