International news from Colorado?
In a move that has sent a few minor shockwaves through Colorado, Governor Jared Polis has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the new president of Venezuela, despite massive evidence of the move being *another* US backed, illegal, Latin American coup. Tellingly, the Venezualan military stands with the elected presidennt, Maduro, and has refused to recognize Guaidó. NBC reports that, “Venezuela’s top military brass pledged their unwavering support for embattled President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday, delivering vows of loyalty before rows of green-uniformed officers on state television.” In fact, 27 soldiers who helped start the coup and posted a video calling for public support were immediately arrested in Caracas, according to France24.
The situation has also attracted Russian interest, with the New York Times reporting that, “President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia telephoned Mr. Maduro and ’emphasized that destructive external interference is a gross violation of the fundamental norms of international law,’ according to a statement on Mr. Putin’s official website.” Which is to say, Governor Polis is dragging Colorado into an international crisis with dubious evidence of legality and indeterminable benefit to our state.
We would expect state leaders to let international crises play out and resolve themselves before diving into the fray, a policy Polis’ team has obviously not considered. Being “excited to support his efforts to restore democracy and human rights to Venezuela,” without simultaenously discussing the history of oppression and isolation of Venezuala by the United States and our allies, nor the history of US war crimes and violations of international law with regard to US foreign policy in Central and South America is a very bad look, which history will not support.
Many Coloradans appear to disagree with the governor’s stance:
There was, however, an equal amount of support for the move:
President Trump, in recognizing the coup leader as president, said, “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”
“A senior American official briefing reporters in Washington warned that if Mr. Maduro used force against opponents, the United States could impose new sanctions, and did not rule out the use of military force to stop him. It was not the first time the Trump administration has warned of a ‘military option’ for Venezuela,” reports the New York Times. The Trump administration has also been found to have held secret communications with the coup leaders, indicating more than straighforward US collusion with the illegal coup, another reason Polis should stay away from the topic.
Presidente Maduro’s response to the ongoing US coup attempt was blunt: “I am the only president of Venezuela,” Mr. Maduro said. “We do not want to return to the 20th century of gringo interventions and coups d’état.”
While it appears that Maduro has taken his country in the direction of increased authoritarianism, as Trump is doing here in the US, the fact that he was elected – in widely condemned-as-unfair election – should inform the perspective of those of us in the United States, supposed democratic international super power. In the 2018 Venezuelan presidential election, held in Venezuela on 20 May 2018, incumbent Nicolás Maduro was re-elected for a second six-year term. He was inaugurated on 10 January 2019.
While there are US based claims of electioneering and opposition suppression, not unlike in the US election system, US intervention in Venezuala appear less about ensuring democracy than securing pretext for Trump’s first Latin American war and securing the resource base in Venezuala – a known oil, gas, and gold behemoth – for US consumption. It should be noted that we support free, fair, and open elections worldwide, especially here at home where we’re often denied it.
The major question is, given that the situation is still unfolding, what’s the point of our governor making this move? Might Polis’ aim be to ween Colorado off of our own local oil and gas dependency by increasing oil imports and trade from Venezuela? Regardless of the reasoning for supporting the coup, an opposition leader should never, in a free and democratic county, be allowed to “declare” themselves president – in the streets, no less – and be respected by any democratically elected person, even a state governor in Colorado. It’s shameful enough that President Trump has validated the coup be recognizing the usurper. Governor Polis should not, in our estimation, have followed suit.
We have reached out to Governor Polis and will update this article if we receive a response.