Empire Files: An Ocean of Lies on Venezuela: Abby Martin & UN Rapporteur Expose Coup

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On the eve of another US war for oil, Abby Martin debunks the most repeated myths about Venezuela and uncovers how US sanctions are crimes against humanity with UN Investigator and Human Rights Rapporteur Alfred De Zayas.

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For the last few weeks the world’s focus has been on Venezuela, as Trump pushes for regime change. Almost every media outlet paints the same picture––that Venezuela is a brutal dictatorship and a starving nation, one that demands intervention. And that they finally have a solution to the crisis––a legitimate claim to power by an opposition politician, Juan Guaido.

Despite the faux dissent against Trump’s domestic policies, the corporate media has lined up to support his coup in Venezuela.

Tech giants like Facebook and Twitter are doing their part to shape the narrative too, recently removing 2,000 accounts for spreading “pro-Maduro messaging” to “influence people.”

Trump has said a military option is on the table, with coup leader Juan Guiado suggesting he will request it.

The latest cynical stunt is weaponizing aid to hold Maduro’s government hostage. In the latest war escalation, the US announced the delivery of so-called “aid” via military aircraft to the border.

From Iraq, to Libya to Venezuela, what usually preempts US military intervention is the pretext of a humanitarian crisis. And right now, pretty much everyone speaks with authority about the fact that there is a human rights crisis caused by the Maduro government.

What is surprisingly absent from the discourse is testimony from the Human Rights investigator designated by the UN to assess said crisis. Alfred de Zayas was the first UN investigator to go to Venezuela in 21 years. He has written 13 reports for the UN Human Rights Council, but his report on Venezuela was largely ignored. I spoke with Alfred to find out why.

This coup is painted as legitimate by the media and political establishment because of the international support from major US allies in Europe and Latin America. But let’s take a quick look around the world to see what that support really looks like.

As usual, the African continent is erased from the dialogue. There, 51 countries recognize Maduro. Only one––Morocco––recognizes Guaido.

Then there’s Asia and Oceania, where again, only Australia recognizes Guaido. The other 33 nations recognize Maduro.

Moving on to the Middle East, where staunch US ally Israel is the only country to recognize Guaido as the legitimate leader. The rest in the region continue to support Maduro’s presidency.

Next, the Americas and the Caribbean. Despite 17 countries across the continent recognizing Guaido, 19 countries still support Maduro. While the majority of US allied Latin American powers back Guiado, in the Caribbean, the Bahamas is the only nation to do so.

Lastly, Europe. Powers like France, Britain, and Germany have united behind the US to support their puppet in Venezuela. Even so, stark opposition to this coup exists within Europe, including Italy, Greece, Norway, Switzerland and the Vatican.

So by “international community” they really just mean a minority led by the white, imperialist and colonizer nations–erasing non-white nations as members of the “international community.”

The corporate media has dutifully parroted the Pentagon line that a guy who 80% of Venezuelans had never heard of before was a legitimate leader seeking to restore democracy.

So who is Juan Guaido, the lucky 35-year-old man just anointed king?

Well, before this coup attempt, Guaido was much better known in elite US circles than he was in his home country of Venezuela. He received graduate degrees from prestigious DC university George Washington, where he studied under a former IMF director, as well as attended private business school in Caracas.

Guaido’s roots are in the militant wing of the opposition as an organizer in the violent street protests known as guarimbas. Channeling energy from those protests, he founded right wing opposition party Popular Will, alongside opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Lopez has been martyred as a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International and is painted a hero across the Western media, allegedly banished for opposing the regime. In reality, he’s on mere house arrest for leading violent street insurrections that left dozens dead. He was also part of the US backed coup in 2002.

Both are deeply connected to US regime change front groups like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy. By 2010, international agencies were generously pouring up to 50 million dollars per year into funding the Venezuelan opposition movement.

With Lopez out of commission, Guaido has been groomed to replace him. Guaido even admitted that there is not a single thing he does without Lopez’s guidance.

According the the Wall Street Journal, Guido’s declaration as president was planned by Lopez and just 3 other opposition leaders, 2 of whom are not even in Venezuela–and came as a complete surprise to the rest of his coalition.

Even Guaido was reportedly hesitant to make the move, and it was the phone call from Mike Pence the day before that gave him the reassurance he needed.

As a White House official explained to the Washington Post “We have been engaged with the same strategy: to build international pressure, help organize the internal opposition and push for a peaceful restoration of democracy. “But that internal piece was missing. [Guaido] was the piece we needed for our strategy to be coherent and complete.”

Sounds like a pretty open and shut case of a US/CIA regime change plot. All their rhetoric is about the “restoration of democracy”. So let’s look at that claim.

Nothing about this is true. Let’s look at the facts conveniently left out. First, Maduro did not replace the Supreme Court with his own supporters.  

The terms of 13 Supreme Court justices were up in 2015. According to the Venezuelan constitution, it is the job of the National Assembly to approve new justices. So that’s what they did. The outgoing National Assembly approved judges aligned with their interests–which is exactly what happens in this country.

Second, Maduro did not strip the National Assembly of its power. The opposition took over a majority of the National Assembly in 2016. For the first time since Chavismo took power in 1999, the opposition finally had some political power–so one would think they would use it to push all their solutions to the crises they are always talking about!

Instead, they used the National Assembly as a tool of sabotage, to make Venezuela’s problems even worse. But while they weren’t punished for that, they ended up being in contempt of court, as Alfred de Zayas explained.

Now we get to the Constituent Assembly, widely condemned as a strangely-termed “self-coup.” I was in Venezuela during the run up to the Constituent Assembly election. It was widely considered as a call for peaceful dialogue with the country’s opposition.

And it was completely legal. Article 347 of the Constitution allows for the creation of the Constituent Assembly.

Here’s the truth: it was absolutely not “stacked with Maduro supporters.” It was a huge democratic process, in which all citizens were eligible to run. Not only was the opposition eligible to run, but highly encouraged by the government to do so. Over 8 million Venezuelans participated in the election of these delegates.

But the opposition called for a boycott of the election–and some factions even responded with violence. At least two Chavista candidates were assassinated by opposition militants.

And on election day, around 200 polling places were violently attacked to intimidate voters, leading to around 10 deaths.

Yes, the Constituent Assembly is now full of socialists–but only because they were the only ones who participated, and were democratically elected by millions!

Whether or not you agree with all of these actions, one thing is irrefutable: they are all legal according to the constitution written, developed and voted on by the entire Venezuelan population.

I’m not telling you you have to like the Socialist Party––I’m just saying you should respect their constitution. The basis of Guaido’s legitimacy is that there’s no democracy, therefore the sitting president is illegitimate.

The funny thing is, the opposition officials making that case got their seats in office through the same election system they say has always been rigged! So every election is stolen, except when they win?

The fact is, Venezuela’s voting system has more checks and verifications than most countries. A system of voter cards, finger prints and more make fraud near impossible. Every vote can be audited and verified, as they often are. Their elections are also heavily monitored by independent, international observers.

Surprisingly it was the opposition who asked the UN to not send observers to the 2018 election, which could prove alleged voter fraud.

The opposition could have actually won that election, but instead they boycotted it–nobody should run and nobody should vote. When opposition leader Henri Falcon disrupted the plan and filed his candidacy, the MUD opposition coalition expelled him, and the White House threatened to sanction him if he didn’t drop out.

In the end Maduro won with 6.2 million votes, which is 31 percent of eligible voters. This is the same percentage won by Barack Obama in the 2008 election!

Not only that, but the elections were verified by 4 different international organizations, with observers from over a dozen countries.

One of those observers is the former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who said “I do not have any doubt about the voting process. It is an advanced automated voting system.”

But since the opposition still deems it unfair, they’re now invoking Article 233 of the constitution, saying if Maduro wasn’t really elected there’s a “vacuum of power” that puts them in charge.

Article 233 defines a “vacuum of power” as one of these things: 1. the president’s death, resignation, or impeachment; 2. “permanent physical or mental incapacity”; 3. “abandonment of post”; or 4. recall election.

Maduro fits none of those definitions. But even if he did, Article 233 clearly states that it’s the Vice President, not the National Assembly president, who would replace him.

The entire thing is a concoction that is easily debunked.

The urgency of regime change by Washington and Guaido is masked in the notion that Maduro’s security forces are crushing dissent and wantonly executing peaceful protesters.

After Guaido declared himself president, he called for huge rallies in the streets of Caracas. Hundreds of thousands as far as the eye could see, heeded the call. These happened entirely peacefully and with no government interference, like I saw first hand in 2017.

But certain protests are violent, where armed wings setup flaming street barricades and confront security forces with molotov cocktails, bombs and guns.

Between January 22nd through January 25th 2019, 40 people had been killed. It was widely implied by the media that these protesters were all killed by Maduro’s forces, or even “government kill squads.”

The worst was from CBS news, which said:

“after last week’s mass unrest when security forces killed more than 40 people.”

CBS referenced no evidence for this bold lie and in fact contradicted itself in elsewhere, admitting the UN “believes” 40 died in “different manners” including 12 killed by incidents related to looting.

Such blatant misrepresentation of the facts comes as no surprise. Here at Empire Files we have already seen this playbook before, while in Venezuela during the deadly protests in 2017, where over 140 people were killed.

The majority of the deaths were caused by opposition protesters, either directly by assassinations, lynchings and other violence, or indirectly by the deadly guarimba barricades that cause many accidents.

Facts like these slip through the coverage of an obedient press.

The opposition against Maduro is broad and comprised of many factions––moderates, progressives, even some socialists. They oppose Maduro but respect the constitution and democratic process. But the faction currently trying to seize power is the extreme right.

Within just 48 hours of declaring himself president, Guaido tried to seize Venezuela’s oil production. According to S&P Global Platts, before the coup attempt began, Guaido had already drafted plans for mass privatization of the oil.

But civil war is sadly not the worst possible scenario here. The reality of a US military attack and invasion of Venezuela is very real.

And all under the pretext that the military MUST deliver the very same life-saving medicines they have been blocking from the country for years!

The beat of war drums is deafening. We’ve now learned US Special Forces have been sent to Puerto Rico, the usual staging ground for US invasions. The US threatened the Maduro government with invasion in secret negotiations. And on February 18 Trump again threatened an attack, telling Venezuelan soldiers to recognize Guaido now or there would be quote: “no easy exit, and no way out.”

There is no reason to take these as empty threats. John Bolton orchestrated the most catastrophic war of my lifetime. Elliot Abrams facilitated an actual genocide. And Trump is currently carpet bombing the Middle East. We know how far they’re willing to go for Big Oil and the war machine. Potentially millions of lives are at stake.

All people in the world who believe in sovereignty and peace have a role to play here: to do everything in our power to stop this from happening, and to shut it down if it starts.

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