The U.S. seldom meets a coup it doesn’t like.
Of course, we have standards. The coup must be orchestrated by right-wing forces and backed by our most egregious allies. As a matter of course, it must violate some aspect of international law. It’s required to invoke the language of human rights to violate human rights. And, most importantly, the country being “liberated” must have oil.
If the coup in Venezuela sounds like a rerun of U.S. foreign policy, that’s because it is. Indeed, the old war criminals are crawling out of the woodwork to help with it.
The newly-appointed special envoy to Venezuela is Elliott Abrams, former Assistant Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan. He spent the 1980s helping death squads massacre civilians in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. He covered up the murders of nearly 1,000 villagers at El Mozote, helped funnel money and resources to the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua and supported apartheid in South Africa. More recently, he re-emerged to assist with the failed 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela.
The appointment of Abrams to oversee “all things related to our efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela,” as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it, underscores how flawed our foreign policy really is.
And let’s not forget about the United States’s other ally in this undemocratic coup: Jair Bolsonaro, the new president of Brazil, who said that the Chilean dictator Pinochet “should have killed more people.” He has also repeatedly joked about rape and even told families looking for information about their loved ones who disappeared under Brazil’s military dictatorship, “Only dogs look for bones.”
Bolsonaro’s anti-LGBTQ, anti-woman, white supremacist positions pose a much greater threat to human rights than Maduro’s administration does. Last week, Brazil’s only openly gay congressman was forced to flee the country after receiving death threats. Yet, Trump — who shares many of Bolsonaro’s attitudes — continues to embrace his fascist friend, proclaiming, “The USA is with you!”
Are there problems in Venezuela? Undoubtedly. But those are problems that Venezuelans — not rapacious, multinational corporations and their paid politicians — should be deciding, democratically. The U.S. can’t even keep our government open and pay workers, let alone uphold human rights at home. Calling Venezuela dysfunctional right now exposes our pot-meet-kettle mentality.
Jaz Brisack is a senior general studies major from Oxford.