In the past year and a half, the Trump administration has eagerly embraced the opportunity to be a symbol of the worst excesses and the most heinous sins of America’s worst impulses.
From the flagrant top-to-bottom corruption and corporate cronyism, the institutionalized racism and xenophobia, the blind eye to heinous crimes against humanity committed by our allies in Yemen and Israel, selfish trade wars and stunning arrogance in our diplomatic relations, there’s no line the Trump team won’t recklessly cross without a moment’s hesitation.
Which is why it sadly comes as no surprise to learn that the Trump administration has been caught plotting to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. The New York Times reports that over the past year, U.S. officials have met “repeatedly” with rebel elements of the Venezuelan military to “discuss” their plans to overthrow the President.
Though the Trump administration argued that it wanted to engage in “dialogue with all Venezuelans who demonstrate a desire for democracy,” their choice of coup partner says otherwise:
But one of the Venezuelan military commanders involved in the secret talks was hardly an ideal figure to help restore democracy: He is on the American government’s own sanctions list of corrupt officials in Venezuela.
He and other members of the Venezuelan security apparatus have been accused by Washington of a wide range of serious crimes, including torturing critics, jailing hundreds of political prisoners, wounding thousands of civilians, trafficking drugs and collaborating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.
The fact that the Trump team was plotting a coup with a commander with such a disturbing rap sheet, coupled with their unconcerned dismissal of increasingly authoritarian behavior in our Middle Eastern allies, makes it obvious that they don’t care one bit about “democracy” and just want to replace the socialist Maduro government with one friendly to American oil interests, no matter the human cost.
While the humanitarian and economic crisis currently afflicting Venezuela is indeed a serious catastrophe must be addressed, overthrowing the government by a US-backed coup is the worst possible thing that we could do. “I have grievously underestimated the stupidity and the incompetence of the administration,” wrote UMass Amherst political science professor Paul Musgrave in response to the news.
The new government would automatically have no legitimacy in the eyes of a nation who has seen the United States send their entire continent into hellish spirals of chaos and violence after dozens of interventions and coups of the Cold War, the arming of death squads, the toppling of democratically elected socialist governments and their replacement with murderous right-wing dictators.
Earlier this year, Nicolás Maduro accused the United States of fostering a military conspiracy against him and expelled a U.S. envoy; the State Department rejected his accusation and the media accused him of being an opportunistic liar.
Now Maduro, who has been using anti-American rhetoric to assure his voters that Venezuela’s dysfunction isn’t his fault, has had his narrative vindicated.
The United States’ appalling disregard for the sovereignty of the global south and the well-being of the people affected by the machinations of American capital interests has been one of the biggest drivers of violence and instability across the world, and it is deeply disturbing to see our unstable and dangerously ignorant president engaging in practices that evoke the very worst parts of our short, sordid history.