“Veneziola, or “Little Venice.” So-named the stilt houses around Lake Maracaibo, the Italian explorer/cartographer, Amerigo Vespucci, in 1499. (He also lent his name to the whole of the “Americas.”)
Later, for the USA, the whole of the Caribbean became known (to those of a conquering mind-set) as “our lake.”
Just as Venice faces invasion from the Mediterranean, so does modern Venezuela face old, yet new forces of invasion. Many in the U.S. and Venezuela suspect President Trump, to detract from investigations, could raise the stakes, even to the point of an invasion. He has often inquired about that feasibility, slapping sanctions on Venezuelan goods. More recently he recognized Juan Gaidó, 35-year-old leader of the opposition, as “president-in-charge.”
The opposition has long boycotted elections and many feel it has no legitimate right to complain and is certainly “not entitled to pretend legitimately to command the government” (Dr. Miguel Tinker Salas, Pomona College, Oil, Culture and Society in Venezuela. Yet Trump, even the Australian government, has recognized Gaidó as president. A deadlock ensues.
Not just Fox, but more reputable media in the U.S. seem strangely complacent about that action, appearing to ignore a possible golpe de estado,or coup d’etat. Small wonder Maduro and other leaders in Latin America fear a return to “gunboat diplomacy” of the 20thcentury. Oddly enough, even the Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almargo, has jumped in on Trump and Gaidó’s side (Laura Carlsen, “OAS: Regime Change Enthusiast” Foreign Policy Focus, 25 Jan 19).
Aghast, his own party expelled Almargo, noting he has always “supported allies and punished adversaries” of the U.S., and faces serious corruption charges in Uruguay, for suspicious missing funds from aid to Honduras. (After a coup d’etat in that country in 2009, which the U.S. ignored, thousands fled the country as poverty and violence worsened.) Almargo, anticipating Trump, urged the military to intervene in Venezuela.
President López Obrador (AMLO) refuses to recognize the coup (and maintains cold relations with the authoritarian government of Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. As of now, it seems only a trilogy of the “Vatican, Mexico and Uruguay is leading the way” in opposing illegalities and proposing solutions to prevent the onslaught of civil war and violence (Amy Goodman, “U.S. Violates International Law”, Democracy Now, 24 Jan 19).
This group of hopeful peacemakers also opposes, of course, the “unthinkable”–another Latin American invasion by the U.S. There are at least nine million solid “Chavistas,” supporters of populist President (deceased) Hugo Chávez and his successor, the current President Maduro. He is not as charismatic, not as successful, and due to inept government and an uncontrolled economy, not as stable in power—an understatement.
But, the Chavistas are steadfast (poor but proud) and ready to resist a military coup; the attitude and loyalties of their own military is, as yet, unclear. More bloodshed on the edges of the Caribbean is not a welcome scenario. U.S. involvement would not make a pretty picture. Goodman quotes former United Nations Representative to Venezuela, Alfredo de Zayas, calling the U.S.’s actions an illegal coup, adding: “this reminds me of the run-up to the Iraq invasion of 2003.”
Since 2017, Trump has promoted invasion; he “liked” the invasions of Panama and Granada. Secretary of State Tillerson and National Security Adviser, McMaster, advised against it; they are no longer around. (Jon Queally, Trump Pushes Military Overthrow in Venezuela,” Common Decency, 4 Jul 18). Where is a voice of caution?
Relatively calm relations between our sister nations existed in times past, as long as Venezuela toed the line. Relations were diplomatically “normal,” since first established in 1835. The U.S. still imports ten percent of all its oil from Venezuela, accounting for 50 percent of all her exports. Petroleos de Venezuela even purchased Houston-based CITGO.
However, oil wealth always was fragile, depending on the market; it was squandered by both major parties. Under the old regime, even under Chávez, there was insufficient diversification. Relations deteriorated. The U. S. opposed Chávez and recognized a coup against him. He survived, returning in 1989. Relations worsened, especially during and after the “Summit of the Americas” in 2005. They never improved, even after his death. His chosen successor, Maduro, was and is no Chávez. Internal relations and those between the U.S. and Venezuela are now worse.
Little Venice (especially the capital, Caracas, named for its native tribe, now eradicated) faces a collapsing economy and further social unrest. Perhaps, ironically, the only thing currently staying Trump’s hand is Putin! Putin supports Maduro and opposes the U.S. and those who recognize the right-wing opposition. The Americas, specifically Venezuela, could survive, thanks to an unlikely addition to the “Vatican/Mexican/Uruguayan Trilogy” of Vladimir Putin and Russia’s interests and their (current) commitment to international law.