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Open Letter by Over 70 Scholars and Experts Condemns US-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela

"For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks with Carlos Alberto Calles Castillo, Chair of the Permanent Council, during a meeting of the Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), on January 24, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

As many American lawmakers, pundits, and advocacy groups remain conspicuously silent in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to formally recognize Venezuela's opposition leader as the "interim president"—a move that was denounced as open support for an attempted coup d'état—renowned linguist Noam Chomsky, filmmaker Boots Riley, and over 70 other academics and experts issued an open letter on Thursday calling on the Trump administration to "cease interfering in Venezuela's internal politics."

"The U.S. and its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change."
—Open Letter

"Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability," the letter reads. "The U.S. and its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change. If the Trump administration and its allies continue to pursue their reckless course in Venezuela, the most likely result will be bloodshed, chaos, and instability."

Highlighting the harm American sanctions have inflicted upon the Venezuelan economy and people, the letter goes on to denounce the White House's "aggressive" actions and rhetoric against Venezuela's government, arguing that peaceful talks are the only way forward.

"In such situations, the only solution is a negotiated settlement, as has happened in the past in Latin American countries when politically polarized societies were unable to resolve their differences through elections," the letter reads. "For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents that will allow the country to finally emerge from its political and economic crisis."

Read the full letter below:

The United States government must cease interfering in Venezuela’s internal politics, especially for the purpose of overthrowing the country’s government. Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability.

Venezuela’s political polarization is not new; the country has long been divided along racial and socioeconomic lines. But the polarization has deepened in recent years. This is partly due to US support for an opposition strategy aimed at removing the government of Nicolás Maduro through extra-electoral means. While the opposition has been divided on this strategy, US support has backed hardline opposition sectors in their goal of ousting the Maduro government through often violent protests, a military coup d’etat, or other avenues that sidestep the ballot box.

Under the Trump administration, aggressive rhetoric against the Venezuelan government has ratcheted up to a more extreme and threatening level, with Trump administration officials talking of “military action” and condemning Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, as part of a “troika of tyranny.” Problems resulting from Venezuelan government policy have been worsened  by US economic sanctions, illegal under the Organization of American States and the United Nations ― as well as US law and other international treaties and conventions. These sanctions have cut off the means by which the Venezuelan government could escape from its economic recession, while causing a dramatic falloff in oil production and worsening the economic crisis, and causing many people to die because they can’t get access to life-saving medicines. Meanwhile, the US and other governments continue to blame the Venezuelan government ― solely ― for the economic damage, even that caused by the US sanctions.

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Now the US and its allies, including OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, have pushed Venezuela to the precipice. By recognizing National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the new president of Venezuela ― something illegal under the OAS Charter ― the Trump administration has sharply accelerated Venezuela’s political crisis in the hopes of dividing the Venezuelan military and further polarizing the populace, forcing them to choose sides. The obvious, and sometimes stated goal, is to force Maduro out via a coup d’etat.

The reality is that despite hyperinflation, shortages, and a deep depression, Venezuela remains a politically polarized country. The US and its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change. If the Trump administration and its allies continue to pursue their reckless course in Venezuela, the most likely result will be bloodshed, chaos, and instability. The US should have learned something from its regime change ventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and its long, violent history of sponsoring regime change in Latin America.

Neither side in Venezuela can simply vanquish the other. The military, for example, has at least 235,000 frontline members, and there are at least 1.6 million in militias. Many of these people will fight, not only on the basis of a belief in national sovereignty that is widely held in Latin America ― in the face of what increasingly appears to be a US-led intervention ― but also to protect themselves from likely repression if the opposition topples the government by force.

In such situations, the only solution is a negotiated settlement, as has happened in the past in Latin American countries when politically polarized societies were unable to resolve their differences through elections. There have been efforts, such as those led by the Vatican in the fall of 2016, that had potential, but they received no support from Washington and its allies who favored regime change. This strategy must change if there is to be any viable solution to the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents that will allow the country to finally emerge from its political and economic crisis.

Signed:

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, MIT and Laureate Professor, University of Arizona

Laura Carlsen, Director, Americas Program, Center for International Policy


Greg Grandin, Professor of History, New York University


Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of Latin American History and Chicano/a Latino/a Studies at Pomona College


Sujatha Fernandes, Professor of Political Economy and Sociology, University of Sydney


Steve Ellner, Associate Managing Editor of Latin American Perspectives


Alfred de Zayas, former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order and only UN rapporteur to have visited Venezuela in 21 years


Boots Riley, Writer/Director of Sorry to Bother You, Musician


John Pilger, Journalist & Film-Maker


Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research


Jared Abbott, PhD Candidate, Department of Government, Harvard University


Dr. Tim Anderson, Director, Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies


Elisabeth Armstrong, Professor of the Study of Women and Gender, Smith College


Alexander Aviña, PhD, Associate Professor of History, Arizona State University


Marc Becker, Professor of History, Truman State University


Medea Benjamin, Cofounder, CODEPINK


Phyllis Bennis, Program Director, New Internationalism, Institute for Policy Studies


Dr. Robert E. Birt, Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University


Aviva Chomsky, Professor of History, Salem State University


James Cohen, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle


Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Associate Professor, George Mason University


Benjamin Dangl, PhD, Editor of Toward Freedom


Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Faculty of Professional and Social Sciences, Middlesex University, UK


Alex Dupuy, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Wesleyan University


Jodie Evans, Cofounder, CODEPINK


Vanessa Freije, Assistant Professor of International Studies, University of Washington


Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor in International Development Studies, St. Mary’s University


Evelyn Gonzalez, Counselor, Montgomery College


Jeffrey L. Gould, Rudy Professor of History, Indiana University


Bret Gustafson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis


Peter Hallward, Professor of Philosophy, Kingston University


John L. Hammond, Professor of Sociology, CUNY


Mark Healey, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut


Gabriel Hetland, Assistant Professor of Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies, University of Albany


Forrest Hylton, Associate Professor of History, Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Medellín


Daniel James, Bernardo Mendel Chair of Latin American History


Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice


Daniel Kovalik, Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh


Winnie Lem, Professor, International Development Studies, Trent University


Dr. Gilberto López y Rivas, Professor-Researcher, National University of Anthropology and History, Morelos, Mexico


Mary Ann Mahony, Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University


Jorge Mancini, Vice President, Foundation for Latin American Integration (FILA)


Luís Martin-Cabrera, Associate Professor of Literature and Latin American Studies, University of California San Diego


Teresa A. Meade, Florence B. Sherwood Professor of History and Culture, Union College


Frederick Mills, Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University


Stephen Morris, Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Middle Tennessee State University


Liisa L. North, Professor Emeritus, York University


Paul Ortiz, Associate Professor of History, University of Florida


Christian Parenti, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, John Jay College CUNY


Nicole Phillips, Law Professor at the Université de la Foundation Dr. Aristide Faculté des Sciences Juridiques et Politiques and Adjunct Law Professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law


Beatrice Pita, Lecturer, Department of Literature, University of California San Diego


Margaret Power, Professor of History, Illinois Institute of Technology


Vijay Prashad, Editor, The TriContinental


Eleanora Quijada Cervoni FHEA, Staff Education Facilitator & EFS Mentor, Centre for Higher Education, Learning & Teaching at The Australian National University


Walter Riley, Attorney and Activist


William I. Robinson, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara


Mary Roldan, Dorothy Epstein Professor of Latin American History, Hunter College/ CUNY Graduate Center


Karin Rosemblatt, Professor of History, University of Maryland


Emir Sader, Professor of Sociology, University of the State of Rio de Janeiro


Rosaura Sanchez, Professor of Latin American Literature and Chicano Literature, University of California, San Diego


T.M. Scruggs Jr., Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa


Victor Silverman, Professor of History, Pomona College


Brad Simpson, Associate Professor of History, University of Connecticut


Jeb Sprague, Lecturer, University of Virginia

Kent Spriggs, International human rights lawyer

Christy Thornton, Assistant Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University


Sinclair S. Thomson, Associate Professor of History, New York University

Steven Topik, Professor of History, University of California, Irvine

Stephen Volk, Professor of History Emeritus, Oberlin College


Kirsten Weld, John. L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of History, Harvard University


Kevin Young, Assistant Professor of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Patricio Zamorano, Academic of Latin American Studies; Executive Director, InfoAmericas

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