Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, taking advantage of political bedlam inside the Donald Trump White House, has busied himself with “regime change” in Venezuela. Pompeo, working with National Security Adviser John Bolton and Iran-contra felon and arch-neo-conservative Elliott Abrams, worked secretly with Venezuela’s self-proclaimed “interim president,” Juan Guaido, to overthrow that nation’s duly-elected president, Nicolas Maduro.
Pompeo, Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Abrams have been secretly negotiating with Guaido and the right-wing governments of Presidents Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Ivan Duque of Colombia to stage opposition demonstrations in Venezuela following Maduro’s January 10 inauguration in Caracas to a second presidential term. Maduro was re-elected as president in May 2018 in an election boycotted by the opposition and not recognized by the United States and its allies. Pence, Bolton, and Pompeo’s conspiracy against Venezuela included a series of timed events: Peru and Paraguay closing their embassies in Caracas after Maduro’s inauguration; the staging of violent anti-Maduro protests outside the Venezuelan embassies in Lima, Buenos Aires, Bogota, Quito, Ottawa, and Madrid; holding a massive protest among right-wing Venezuelan exiles in Miami; and Argentina expelling all Venezuelan government personnel from the country.
Neo-conservatives always tend to take advantage of situations to fill political power vacuums and as Trump’s administration has been rocked by one scandal after another, war mongers and regime change activists like Pompeo, Bolton, and now, Abrams, have grabbed key positions within the Trump administration. On January 25, Pompeo announced that Abrams was being appointed as the special envoy overseeing US policy toward Venezuela. But that announcement came after Pompeo, Bolton, Abrams, and Pence had secret meetings with Guaido in mid-December 2018 in Washington to coordinate regime change activities to force Maduro from office after his January inauguration. Guaido also traveled in December to Brazil and Colombia to hold secret meetings with Bolsonaro, still the president-elect, and Duque. Guaido clandestinely crossed the border into Colombia, from where he traveled to the United States and Brazil. It was also disclosed that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed Venezuela with Duque on January 26.
The international conspiracy involving Maduro’s opponents also included Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, currently under house arrest, and former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma. It came as no surprise that Guaido’s two principal supporters, Bolsonaro and Duque, were at the annual World Economic Forum of billionaires and reactionaries in Davos, Switzerland, as Guaido pronounced himself interim president of Venezuela.
As the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the Ronald Reagan administration, Abrams conducted secret negotiations with Nicaraguan contra leaders, as well as other Latin American leaders of El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama, to bypass US congressional restrictions on US military assistance to the contras to covertly provide the contras with arms to depose the Sandinista socialist government of Nicaragua. In a case of “déjà vu,” Abrams is reprising his old role with Venezuela and its Chavista socialist government the target. In 2002, Abrams, a National Security Council official under George W. Bush, helped coordinate the failed US-led coup d’état against Maduro’s late predecessor, Hugo Chavez, the father of the Chavista political movement.
Guaido, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, which is not recognized by Maduro, proclaimed himself “interim president” of Venezuela, hours after the Trump White House recognized him as the new leader. In reaction, Maduro severed diplomatic relations with the United States and ordered all US embassy personnel to leave within 72 hours. During a United Nations Security Council meeting called on January 26, Pompeo, referring to the Venezuelan government as the “former Maduro regime,” laid down a gauntlet for countries to “pick a side” between Guaido, who Pompeo called “Guido,” and Maduro. Four members of the Security Council—Russia, China, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea—picked a side and defeated a US-led resolution calling for the council to recognize Venezuela’s National Assembly, led by Guaido, as the country’s “only democratically elected institution.”
The United States, Brazil, Colombia, and Canada were able to line up several Latin American countries to recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Honduras, Haiti, Bahamas, and Panama to “pick a side,” as Pompeo called it, and announced their support for the presidential pretender. In addition, Spain, Britain, France, Germany, and Australia announced they were prepared to recognize Guaido unless Maduro called new elections. In addition, the Socialist government of Spain, in a complete betrayal of the socialist government of Venezuela, was pushing for the European Union to recognize Guaido. However, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, continued to refer to Guaido by the title of “president of the National Assembly,” not “interim president of Venezuela.”
Guaido was also recognized by the rather puny diplomatic troika of Kosovo, Georgia, and Denmark. Maduro received messages of support from the governments and leaders of India, Iran, Syria, Algeria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Western Sahara.
Standing firm against Guaido and picking the side of Maduro were the Latin American countries of Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Uruguay. Venezuela’s Caribbean Community (CARICOM) allies, including Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda, stood with Maduro. Saint Lucia and Jamaica came out in support of Maduro after wavering. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne and St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, firm supporters of Maduro, linked up other CARICOM nations to support the legitimate Venezuelan government. They included Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
From Europe, Greece and Turkey, traditional foes, found themselves on the same side in their support for Maduro over Guaido. The ruling Greek party SYRIZA issued a communique from Athens that stated, “SYRIZA expresses its full support and solidarity with the legitimate President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, after yesterday’s move by opposition leader and president of the National Assembly of the country Juan Guaido, to declare himself the interim president of the country, thus challenging the result of last May’s presidential election.” From Ankara, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared, “My brother Maduro! Stand tall, we stand by you!”
Pompeo has truly opened up “Pandora’s Box” with his leading the parade of international recognition of Guaido as Venezuela’s president in an undemocratic usurpation of power. Whether it is called Pompeo’s Pandora’s Box or the “Trump Doctrine,” those rushing to support Guaido may see the tables turned on them. Bolsonaro, who was elected president of Brazil only because the nation’s immensely more popular leader, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, remains in prison after his political show trial conviction on trumped-up frivolous charges could easily find nations de-recognizing him as the legitimate president of Brazil and switching their recognition to the imprisoned Lula.
The same goes for Colombia’s Duque, who won his 2018 election because of voter intimidation by drug cartels and powerful oligarchs. The losing leftist candidate, Gustavo Petro, could be recognized as Colombia’s president by other nations. Peru’s president, Martin Vizcarra, became president only after the man he served as vice president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, resigned over the Latin American-wide Odebrecht bribery scandal. Vizcarra could easily be re-recognized as Peru’s president since he, too, has been implicated in the Odebrecht scandal. Nations around the world, in disgust over such a criminal in the presidential palace in Lima, could switch their recognition to Vizcarra’s vice president, Mercedes Araoz.
As for Argentina’s Guaido-supporting president, Mauricio Macri, his 2015 razor-thin and fraud-heavy election victory over Daniel Scioli, could easily see progressive nations recognizing Scioli as Argentina’s true president. And so it goes with leader after leader who recognized an unelected Guaido as Venezuela’s president. Perhaps a group of nations could announce that they will only deal with Labor Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn as the United Kingdom’s actual prime minister.
And, a group of nations could always proclaim that they believe Donald Trump was illegally elected president of the United States and announce that they recognize Hillary Clinton as the interim president of the United States. Indeed, the opening of Pompeo’s Pandora Box leaves open some interesting possibilities.
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).