Warning that U.S. military intervention could lead to a Vietnam War-style conflict, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said that while he's willing to open talks with opposition leaders he will not bow to the demands of foreign "imperialists" and accused the U.S. government and other right-wing forces—like was done in Iraq and elsewhere—of trying to get their "hands on our oil."
Maduro's latest comments, which came via interviews and a video posted online, arrived just ahead of planned street demonstrations by the nation's opposition on Wednesday and amid new threats via U.S. national security advisor John Bolton who continues to lead the charge for regime change on behalf of the Trump administration.
"If the U.S. intends to intervene against us they will get a Vietnam worse than they could have imagined."
—President Nicolas MaduroIn an interview with Russia's RIA Novosti published Tuesday, Maduro rejected demands by the opposition and the White House to step down or hold snap presidential elections. While the U.S. has recognized president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as "Interim President" of the country, Maduro said that while he believes new parliamentary elections should be held the next presidential election would not be until 2025, as scheduled. Though the opposition largely boycotted the 2018 presidential election last May—and they were criticized as fraudulent by some—Maduro won with more than 67 percent of the vote.
"Presidential elections in Venezuela have taken place, and if imperialists want new elections let them wait until 2025," Maduro told RIA. However, he added, "I'm willing to sit down for talks with the opposition so that we could talk for the sake of Venezuela's peace and its future."
In a video posted to Facebook early on Wednesday, Maduro accused the U.S. "empire" of conspiring with right-wing forces both within Venezuela and abroad of conspiring together to seize power, but warned that any attempt to overthrow his government by force could result in yet another overseas civil war instigated at the behest of the Americans.
"We will not allow a Vietnam in Latin America," Maduro declared. "If the U.S. intends to intervene against us they will get a Vietnam worse than they could have imagined. We do not allow violence. We are a peaceful people."
He added, "I ask that Venezuela be respected and I ask for the support of the people of the U.S. so there isn't a new Vietnam, least of all here in our America."
According to polling conducted inside Venezuela, an overwhelming majority of people—from across the nation's political spectrum—would oppose U.S. intervention and disapprove of the economic sanctions that the Trump administration has only increased in recent days. As Ben Norton reported for the Grayzone Project on Tuesday:
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More than eight out of ten Venezuelans oppose international intervention, both military and non-military, in their country, as well as the crippling sanctions imposed by the United States to force leftist President Nicolás Maduro out of power.
According to a study conducted in early January 2019 by the local polling firm Hinterlaces, 86 percent of Venezuelans would disagree with international military intervention. And 81 percent oppose the US sanctions that have gravely hurt the South American nation’s economy.
While the Trump administration continues to back opposition forces and threaten military action, progressives and policy experts—including people like Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action—argue that more peaceful and democratic alternatives exist to address the nation's very real economic and political problems.
"Imposing coercive economic measures has been a staple of American foreign policy for quite some time, despite their penchant for failure and the collateral damage often left in their wake," Rainwater wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams on Tuesday. "As for the military option, there’s no reason to think it would go better than the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan."
Instead, he suggests, the U.S. should end its threat and foster dialogue between Maduro, the opposition, and third-party actors who vow to put the interests of all Venezuelans first.
In addition to the United Nations, he wrote, "The Vatican as well several Latin American nations have brokered peaceful dialogue between the Maduro government and the opposition. Recently Uruguay and Mexico have called for resumption of talks and a 'new process of inclusive and credible negotiations with full respect for the rule of law and human rights' to prevent bloodshed."
The Trump administration and members of Congress, he added, should support the kind diplomacy that can deescalate tensions and avoid the possibility of war.
"We've seen the regime change movie before," Rainwater concluded, "and it doesn't end well. Let's take it off repeat, and speak up now to avoid another senseless, costly, ill-advised American war."