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An Open Letter to the United States: Stop Interfering in Venezuela's Internal Politics

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.

Code Pink protester Medea Benjamin disrupts a meeting of the Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), on January 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. The meeting was held at the request of the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States and Peru to consider recent developments in Venezuela. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The following open letter—signed by 70 scholars on Latin America, political science, and history as well as filmmakers, civil society leaders, and other experts—was issued on Thursday, January 24, 2019 in opposition to ongoing intervention by the United States in Venezuela.

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.

"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."

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.

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.

"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.

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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

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor (retired) at MIT. He is the author of many books and articles on international affairs and social-political issues, and a long-time participant in activist movements. His most recent books include:  Who Rules the World? (Metropolitan Books, the American Empire Project, 2016); Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire (with interviewer David Barsamian); Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions; Empire and Resistance, Hopes and Prospects; and Profit Over People: Neoliberalism & Global Order. Previous books include: 9-11: 10th Anniversary Edition, Failed States, What We Say Goes (with David Barsamian), Hegemony or Survival, and the Essential Chomsky.

Laura Carlsen

Laura Carlsen

Laura Carlsen  is director of the Americas Policy Program in Mexico City, where she has been an analyst and writer for two decades. She is also a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist. Email: (lcarlsen(at)ciponline.org)

Miguel Tinker Salas

Miguel Tinker Salas is professor of history at Pomona College. He is the author of The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture and Society in Venezuela (2009)

Greg Grandin

Greg Grandin teaches history at New York University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His most recent book isThe End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America. His previous books include, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman, The Empire of Necessity:  Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World and Fordlandia, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.

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