The Trump administration’s recent announcement that it would recognize National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the “interim president” of Venezuela raises the stakes in already out of control crisis and increases fears of potential U.S. military intervention to back what can only be seen as an attempted coup against Venezuela’s elected president. It is clear to all serious observers of the situation in Venezuela that the Trump Administration is working closely with the right-wing opposition to find extralegal, non-electoral means to forcibly remove President Maduro from office.
The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) as always stands in solidarity with the oppressed masses, the poor, the working class, the marginalized communities in all of Latin America. And as always, we oppose efforts to impose a future on the people of Latin America by their economically, politically and militarily powerful neighbor to the North. It is a bedrock principle of our organization, as it has been for over 30 years, to oppose U.S. imperialism in all its forms. We do so again at this moment calling on the U.S. government to do the following:
- End all threats of and preparations for military intervention in Venezuela
- Cut ties with and support for (financial and political) the right-wing opposition currently attempting to thwart the democratic process in Venezuela
- End all sanctions against Venezuela
- Ensure humanitarian aid and protection for Venezuelan refugees
US efforts to undermine the Venezuelan regime over the last 20 years have brought needless hardship and deprivation to the Venezuelan people. It is time to stop.
That said, as people of faith we cannot turn a blind eye to the immense suffering of the Venezuelan people under the current administration of Nicolás Maduro. We cannot ignore the violations of human rights (both political and economic) and the Venezuelan nation’s slide into authoritarianism. In all our shared faith traditions, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim, we are called to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, to see the image of God in every man and woman. In this spirit we cannot ignore the brutal reality of extreme, deepening poverty, desperation and state violence that has become the norm for the vast majority of Venezuelans in the last several years. The current government’s inability to address the economic and political crisis that has led to mass starvation and mass migration has created a situation that is unsustainable. The Maduro government has met these challenges with violence and repression rather than solutions. As a result, the gains made by the Bolivarian Revolution nearly two decades ago are rapidly eroding. Conditions for the most vulnerable in Venezuela are now as bad if not worse than they were before the Revolution.
We are all too familiar with how migration is the most glaring symptom of a broken system. We see it today in Central America. We are also seeing it in Venezuela. 1.5 to 3 million Venezuelans have fled their country and are living in desperate, appalling conditions in neighboring nations. It must be noted that the vast majority of these recent Venezuelan refugees are the poor and malnourished, not the elite of Venezuelan society, not the self-imposed “exiles” of the early days of the Bolivarian Revolution. It is these masses who suffer most as the old elites attempt to reassert their power through an attempted coup, and the new elites who amassed power and wealth through manipulation of the bureaucracies born of the revolution use state violence to maintain their control. It is these same masses who are already victims of U.S. interference in the politics of Venezuela and will die by the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands if the U.S. resorts to military force to restore its hegemony.
Solutions to the current crisis can only come from the Venezuelan working class and poor whose creativity and resilience launched a revolution that gave hope to millions, not only in Venezuela but across Latin America. Only from these marginalized sectors can a path to a future beyond the poverty and violence that now engulfs their nation be defined. We here at CRLN we will continue to listen to the voices of these people. We will continue to look for genuine representatives of the Venezuelan masses with whom we can ally ourselves and make common cause. In the meantime, we must call out both the Trump Administration and the government of Nicolás Maduro for denying the dignity and worth of every Venezuelan.