On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced that he would be recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela, instead of the current president and dictator Nicolas Maduro. In a reaction posted to Facebook on Thursday, the Florida Party for Socialism and Liberation proclaimed “There is a right-wing coup underway in Venezuela orchestrated by the Trump White House and the CIA along with its junior partners– the so-called Lima group.”
Trump’s decision to support one leader over another is not a “right-wing coup” and to call it that is misleading.
Juan Guaido’s Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) party is not conservative or even right-wing. Politically, it describes itself as center-left and its national opposition coalition is made up almost entirely of centrist, center-left and left-wing parties. The party actively aligns itself with Socialist International, a multi-national association of political parties seeking to establish Democratic Socialism.
The Lima Group is similarly being unfairly attacked.
The group’s goal is to find a peaceful solution to the massive political, social and economic crisis in Venezuela. Their mission statement expresses support for democratic and free elections and the group offers humanitarian aid. Many of the countries like Argentina, Colombia and Panama are also directly impacted by the more than 3 million fleeing refugees.
Next, Oxford defines a coup as “a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government.” While an argument might be made that the U.S. is making a move to destabilize Venezuela, choosing to support one political figure over another hardly constitutes a “violent” seizure of power.
Trump is not putting boots on the ground. If he does, the conversation will change drastically, but, until that moment comes, this move is one that supports international democracy and should be applauded.
Maduro’s regime has been one of violence, corruption and economic failure. Hyperinflation has destroyed Venezuela’s currency and the poverty rate in 2018 reached nearly 90 percent. Reuters reported that the average Venezuelan lost 24 pounds due to the food shortages that plague the country.
In the country’s most recent presidential elections held in May, Maduro banned the two most popular opposition leaders from running and threatened to take away government food subsidies for anyone who voted against him.
“I give, you give” Maduro would say at campaign rallies, directly referencing the food subsidy ID cards, used by most to buy basic groceries, and tying it to voting. People who went to polls run by Maduro’s party were required to show these cards when they cast their votes.
After Trump’s statement, thousands of people in Venezuela went to the streets to rally and protest against the government. They were met with tear gas. The BBC reported four confirmed deaths on Wednesday as a result of clashes with the police.
Venezuela is a country in shambles. Immediate change is necessary, even change as simple as recognizing a democratically-elected leader. Internationally, recognizing Guaido as interim president was a good move and a start. It is now up to Venezuela to determine for herself what she wants and where she is going. Buena Suerte, Venezuela.
Aida Vazquez-Soto is a senior majoring in political science and economics.