As U.S. President Donald Trump and his hawkish cabinet officials declared that "all options," including military force, are on the table in Venezuela after the White House on Wednesday formally recognized the country's opposition leader as the "interim president," Democratic lawmakers, pundits, advocacy groups, and other members of the self-styled "Trump Resistance" have gone almost completely silent on what has been denounced as an attempted coup d'état.
"No one in a democratic country, especially not the media, should be supporting Trump's unilateral action to declare Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela."
—Jodie Evans, CodePink
"There's a deafening silence from progressive Democrats on Venezuela," declared Lucia Baca, a research and policy associate at Colombia Diversa. "Democrats and Republicans may be diametrically opposed on domestic policy but they're cut from the same cloth when it comes to foreign policy."
With the notable exceptions of Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)—most congressional Democrats have yet to publicly condemn the Trump administration's announcement of official support for Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido, which prompted current President Nicolas Maduro to demand that all U.S. diplomats leave Venezuela within 72 hours.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected Maduro's demand in a statement late Wednesday, referring to him as the "former president" and threatening to take "appropriate actions" if the Venezuelan military does not protect American diplomats.
"We stand ready to support interim President Guaido as he establishes a transitional government and carries out his constitutional duties as interim president, including determining the status of diplomatic representatives in the United States and other countries," Pompeo said. "The United States does not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela."
In a statement on Thursday, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza disputed the idea that the U.S. government was "behind" the coup attempt in his country and accused Washington of being "at the front of it."
"They are its leadership and they don't hide it," Arreza said. "In Washington, they openly designed and executed the plan, giving orders to their governments and satellites around the world."
Shortly after Trump formally recognized Guaido on Wednesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) declared his support for the U.S. president's decision, calling the Venezuelan opposition "brave patriots."
In response to Durbin, Khanna disagreed with the Illinois senator and said that the "U.S. should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal, polarized conflict."
"Let us support Uruguay, Mexico, and the Vatican's efforts for a negotiated settlement and end sanctions that are making the hyperinflation worse," Khanna added.
With respect Senator Durbin, the US should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal, polarized conflict. Let us support Uruguay, Mexico, & the Vatican's efforts for a negotiated settlement & end sanctions that are making the hyperinflation worse. https://t.co/qoAb2ou95g
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) January 24, 2019
In a tweet on Wednesday, Omar stood with Khanna in opposition to U.S.-backed regime change in Venezuela:
Cosigned. We must stand for human rights everywhere, not just when it’s politically convenient. https://t.co/szNPLl9wdx
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) January 23, 2019
As progressive commentators were quick to point out, Khanna and Omar have been virtually alone in condemning the Trump administration's interference in Venezuela's internal affairs.
The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald was quick to compare the corporate media and Democratic Party's silence on or open support for the attempted coup in Venezuela to the praise Trump received from Democrats and prominent pundits after he bombed Syria for the first time in 2017.
It's the same thing as happened when he bombed Syria: "Donald Trump is a fascist, racist, demented, unstable monster who cares deeply for The Venezuelan People and is devoted to ensuring that they live under the freedom and democracy they deserve, not the tyranny he despises." https://t.co/nGC3fPXw1e
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— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 24, 2019
* We're horrified that Trump embraces a despotic monster like Gen. Sisi in the White House.
* We're horrified that Trump embraces a Saudi tyrant after he murdered a WashPost journalist.
* Thank you, President Trump, for bringing Freedom and Democracy to the Venezuelan People.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 24, 2019
Medea Benjamin of CodePink—which protested outside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. Wednesday night and is holding another demonstration outside the White House on Thursday—told Common Dreams that "Juan Guaido was never elected and has no legitimacy."
"This is a coup in progress and coups are unacceptable ways of making political change. Period," Benjamin added. "The Trump administration has no idea of the chaos that will follow if this coup is successful and Maduro is overthrown. As hard as the situation is now for Venezuelans, it will be infinitely worse and could well lead to a civil war. That's why we must pressure our elected officials to speak out against U.S. interference. The future of Venezuela is for the Venezuelan people to decide. Hands off Venezuela."
No matter what you think of the #Venezuela govt, you can’t support a coup! And the Trump administration should certainly not be taking sides in an internal affair. Besides, Maduro was elected president, Guido was not!!! #HandsOffVenezuela
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) January 23, 2019
"Adding to the horror of a coup in Venezuela, we are appalled that Trump has appointed himself dictator of world, empowered to decide who is president of a sovereign country," CodePink co-founder Jodie Evans said in a statement. "No one in a democratic country, especially not the media, should be supporting Trump's unilateral action to declare Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela."
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a call for peaceful talks and said any escalation of tensions must be avoided.
"It is absolutely essential to have dialogue, to avoid violence, and to avoid escalation," Guterres said.
Last week, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Arreaza appeared on Democracy Now!, where he accused "the bosses of the opposition" to Maduro—including the U.S. government, the Organization of American States (OAS), and internal right-wing forces—of wanting "a coup d'état in Venezuela" to overthrow the elected president.
"They want a war in Venezuela," Arreaza warned.