Hands Off Venezuela!

This article originally appeared in the 2019 MAPA Summer newsletter

Code Pink Members of the Embassy Protection Collective held off the opposition forces from taking over the Venezuelan embassy in Wash DC for several weeks before being evicted by police. Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin is shown on left.

This year, Venezuela has faced a US-backed coup attempt, severe economic sanctions, millions in aid to opposition forces, and threats of military intervention. The country continues to resist US pressure for regime change and private seizure of its oil and other natural resources.

Juan Guaidó, the right-wing head of the National Assembly who illegally declared himself president in January, attempted a coup on April 30. Guaidó called for the military to rise up and for his supporters to fill the streets. The effort fizzled. The military remained loyal to the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro and, for now, the threat of a coup has receded.

But US sanctions are strangling Venezuela’s economy. They prohibit the buying of Venezuelan oil, and essentially ban Venezuela from engaging in the West’s financial system. The effect is devastating.

Economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot estimate that at least 40,000 Venezuelans have died as a result of sanctions since 2017, due to widespread shortages of food and medicines. As journalist Stephen Kinzer wrote, “Human suffering is not a regrettable side effect of the sanctions…it is the goal.” The sanctions tell the Venezuelan people that their pain will continue until they overthrow their government.

The Trump administration, leaders of both parties, and the mainstream media paint Maduro as a brutal dictator, and blame Venezuela’s catastrophic economic situation solely on his government and the failure of socialist policies. But the truth is beginning to emerge.

Some politicians have been willing to oppose military intervention. Reps. Keating, McGovern, Moulton, Pressley, and Trahan are supporting Rep. Cicilline’s bill, H.R. 1004, that would prohibit military intervention in Venezuela without Congressional approval. We and other peace groups call for an end to sanctions and threats, and for urgent negotiations.