By Matt Willgress
Recent developments in Venezuela have been the culmination of intensifying hostility from the US administration over several months. This aggressive agenda has included increasingly harsh sanctions aimed at putting Venezuela under siege, and comments from Trump himself, Vice- President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, among others, that have included threats of military action.
The Trump administration has also threatened to put Venezuela on the state sponsors of terrorism list and invoked the possibility of a right wing military coup, while recognising – as now has the UK government – an unelected president towards the end of February. This interventionist agenda has nothing to do about concern for human rights or democracy and is in reality all about ‘regime change.’
Following the ‘pink tide’ in Latin America after Venezuela turned left in 1998, the US lost much economic and political control in what has historically been seen as its backyard. But with the right wing gaining power through the coup in Honduras, then the ‘constitutional coup’ in Paraguay and, more recently, in Brazil with the emergence of the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, plus election victories in countries such as Argentina, the US is now also seeking to re-assert control in places such as Venezuela and Bolivia that remain outside their orbit of domination.
The fact that Venezuela has such large oil reserves is also a big incentive for the US to regain control, and the US-aligned right wing opposition has made clear it will reward the corporate giants with a privatisation bonanza if they are successful in overthrowing the Maduro government.
This means that the possibility of either a coup or military intervention is very real and, whatever views people hold on developments in Venezuela in recent years, there is no justification for backing this US attempt at regime change.
From a Labour left perspective, it has been welcome to see so many prominent figures in our movement and party speak out against Trump’s aggression, recognising that this could go the way of the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya.
Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that “The future of Venezuela is a matter for Venezuelans. Jeremy Hunt’s call for more sanctions on Venezuela is wrong. We oppose outside interference in Venezuela, whether from the US or anywhere else,” adding “There needs to be dialogue and a negotiated settlement to overcome the crisis.”
This followed a letter published with the support of numerous leading Labour figures including John McDonnell and Diane Abbott in the Guardian that read, “The far-right governments of Trump and Bolsonaro offer no hope to Venezuela or to the majority of people in Latin America,” concluding that “Instead, the way forward is the call for dialogue from the Mexican and Bolivian presidents.”
We have also seen the tabling of the early day motion by five prominent Labour MPs – Chris Williamson, Clive Lewis, Ian Lavery, Jon Trickett and Grahame Morris – which “rejects the US President Donald Trump’s approach to regime change, which violates international law; [and] further expresses its disappointment at the UK government’s decision to fall in behind the US administration’s actions towards Venezuela.”
These statements predictably faced heavy criticism from those in the Tory Party – and Tory-supporting media – who are slavishly backing Trump’s illegal ‘regime change’ agenda. Sadly, some Labour MPs were also willing to join in this chorus of misrepresentation, even joining Tory minister Alan Duncan in attacking the signatories to the aforementioned Guardian letter in the House of Commons.
It seems that while Jeremy Corbyn was twice elected Labour leader by a landslide, and increased Labour’s vote in the general election on the basis of a clear break from the policies of the Blair years of supporting illegal US wars, some MPs have not accepted this change.
The risk of a coup or military intervention in Venezuela is growing by the day and Labour must oppose the build-up to war.
Jeremy Corbyn is right. Labour must stand for peace and dialogue, as proposed by Mexico, Uruguay and others, not Trump’s ‘regime change’ agenda.
Join the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign at www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk/join