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Remembering the Venezuelan National Assembly vote lost by Guaidó in January 2019


The view of the US government and the pro-Guaidó faction of the opposition was summed up by a New York Times headline and subhead that on January 5 that said

Venezuela’s Maduro Claims Control of National Assembly, Tightening Grip on Power

It was the last political institution in opposition hands. Now President Nicolás Maduro’s has moved closer to total control of the state[1]

All one had to do was review the Twitter timeline of Luis Parra to see that he constantly called Maduro a “dictator” and the government a “regime”.  But the New York Times article simply echoed the US government line and declared Parra to be a “former member of the opposition” despite being vehemently anti-Maduro. The US soon slapped sanctions on Parra and other opposition legislators who did not back Guaidó.[2] So to sum up, the US, a country that has no opposition party itself on foreign policy, just two factions that debate how to overthrow foreign governments they don’t like, appointed itself judge of what counts as real opposition in another country.

This grim reality about the US political system was reflected in the New York Times article. Nobody was quoted (aside from the demonized Maduro government) that rejected the assumptions of the US establishment about Venezuela. That’s so dreadfully common in western news coverage that it’s very easy to become numb to it.

The article’s first sentence was

Venezuela’s authoritarian leader, Nicolás Maduro, moved on Sunday to consolidate his grip on power by taking control of the country’s last independent institution and sidelining the lawmaker who had staked a rival claim to the presidency.

The US is never “authoritarian“ to outlets like the New York Times.[3] Trump started off 2020 by threatening Iraq with sanctions after its parliament voted to expel US troops shortly after Trump ordered the assassination of Iran’s top general.[4] How much more “authoritarian” can one get than that, other than by giving yourself the authority to invade the country as George W Bush did?

The word “independent” is similarly abused in the first sentence of the article. It actually means “US-approved”. Guaidó is indisputably “independent” to the New York Times if he follows US orders.

The article stated

Michael Kozak, acting assistant secretary for the Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said Mr. Guaidó “remains Venezuela’s interim president under its Constitution.” He said that Sunday’s “phony National Assembly session lacked a legal quorum.”

Venezuela’s Supreme Court, not US officials, are legally authorized to rule on Venezuela’s constitution and the legality of national assembly votes. It should be stressed that Venezuela’s constitution also requires that the country’s “sovereignty”, “independence” “self-determination” and “territorial integrity” be defended. To put it another way, Venezuela is not constitutionally obliged (nor should any elected government be) to let itself be overthrown by proxies of a foreign power.  That’s an especially relevant consideration when the hostile foreign enemy is a superpower that deliberately harms Venezuela’s economy, openly incites military rebellion, and threatens invasion. [5]

Writing for FAIR, Lucas Koerner pointed to evidence that most legislators were present and that Guaidó had actually refused to enter the legislature “except in the company of fellow lawmakers whose parliamentary immunity had been revoked for alleged criminal offenses”.[6]

Francisco Rodriguez, who rejects the validity of Parra’s election as National Assembly president, estimated based on public statements and votes that Guaidó would have received the votes of 83 legislators versus 71 for Parra.[7] Rodriguez concluded that the US-backed opposition lost 29 votes in the assembly since 2015 “as a result of a combination of legal actions against it and its own mistakes in managing its coalition”.

Of those 29 “lost” votes, seven resulted from legal action which includes the three legislators disqualified due to alleged electoral law violations in 2015 . These seven were the ones not allowed or able to vote.  Six were lost as a result of expulsions in the wake of the Armando.info corruption allegations.  Another six deserted from the pro-Guaidó faction of the opposition even though their political parties continued to back Guaidó. Another four, from small parties, broke with Guaidó according to Rodriguez mainly over disagreement with electoral boycotts and US sanctions, both of which Guaidó supports.

In short, even in Rodriguez’ s account, despite Guaidó’s openly treasonous approach backed by a superpower, Guaidó’s position was primarily weakened by internal disputes and rivalries. Rodriguez told The Grayzone’s Anya Parampil that even the opposition-appointed Supreme Court in Exile had divided into two rival groups.[8]

The New York Times also told readers that

After Maduro backers elected their own man [sic] on Sunday to lead the National Assembly, Mr. Guaidó’s supporters gathered at a newspaper’s headquarters, and in a dramatic roll call vote, re-elected him to the leadership position.[9]

The newspaper the New York Times declined to name was El Nacional, a stridently anti-Maduro newspaper. Koerner remarked on FAIR.org that it is “deeply ironic that Western outlets would rush to declare the legitimacy of an irregular vote held in the offices of a local newspaper, given the lengths they have gone to deny the existence of press freedom in Venezuela.” [10] Indeed, Reuters appeared embarrassed enough by that fact to write, even more evasively than the New York Times, that the vote to elect Guaidó was held “elsewhere”.[11]

Before the irregular vote in El Nacional headquarters, Guaidó theatrically tried to scale the fence to enter the legislature. The stunt impressed western media, but didn’t prove that he couldn’t have walked through the proper entrance by himself.

For a Guaidó-equivalent in the US – a congressman openly backed by a foreign government that’s attacking the country – staying out of a grave would be the only concern, not entering Capitol Hill. Similar remarks apply to any newspaper that would dare support him.

NOTES:

[1] Venezuela’s Maduro Claims Control of National Assembly, Tightening Grip on Power, Julie Turkewitz, January 5, 2020,  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/05/world/americas/venezuela-noticias-maduro-guaido.html accessed January 15, 2020

[2] US Sanctions Venezuela’s New Parliament Leader, Senior Opposition Lawmakers, Jan 14, 2020,  https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14764 accessed January 15, 2020

[3] For one example of authoritarianism within the US see “Max Blumenthal Arrest Exposes Hypocrisy of Western Media and ‘Human Rights’ NGOs”, Joe Emersberger, Oct 30, 2019, https://fair.org/home/max-blumenthal-arrest-exposes-hypocrisy-of-western-media-and-human-rights-ngos/; For a list of journalists who actually applauded Blumnethal’s arrest see “Us Government drops case against Max Blumenthal  after jailing journalist on false charges”, Ben Norton, Dec 7, 2019,   https://thegrayzone.com/2019/12/07/us-government-dropped-charges-max-blumenthal-arrest/ both links accessed January 15, 2020

[4] Trump Pushes Iraq, Threatens Sanctions After Vote to Expel U.S. Troops, June 6, 2020 https://www.wsj.com/articles/iraqi-parliament-votes-in-favor-of-expelling-u-s-troops-11578236473 accessed January 15, 2020

[5] The article refers to the military coup that ousted Evo Morales on November 10, 2019 as “huge protests” that “pushed out the president of Bolivia”. Protester deaths under the US-backed (and Guaidó-backed) dictatorship in Bolivia were also ignored. Deadly protests in Chile and Ecuador were also positively spun as protests that “pushed leaders in Chile and Ecuador to respond to citizens’ demands.” No mention of protester deaths.

[6]For Western Press, the Only Coup in Venezuela Is Against Guaidó, Lucas Koerner, January 10, 2020,   https://fair.org/home/for-western-press-the-only-coup-in-venezuela-is-against-guaido/ accessed May 10, 2020

[7] See “¿Cuál es la verdadera relación de fuerzas en la Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela?”, Francisco Rodriguez, Jan 11, 2020, https://franciscorodriguez.net/2020/01/11/cual-es-la-verdadera-relacion-de-fuerzas-en-la-asamblea-nacional-de-venezuela/ accessed January 16, 2020; The 83 legislators is Rodriguez’s pro-Guaido estimate minus the three legislators disqualified in 2015 by the Supreme Court.

[8] US sanctions ‘carpet bombed Venezuela’s economy’: opposition advisor & economist Francisco Rodríguez interviewed by Anya Parampil, December 21, 2019,  https://www.reddit.com/r/venezuela/comments/eeg0db/us_sanctions_carpet_bombed_venezuelas_economy/ accessed January 11, 2020

[9] Venezuela’s Maduro Claims Control of National Assembly, Tightening Grip on Power, Julie Turkewitz, January 5, 2020,  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/05/world/americas/venezuela-noticias-maduro-guaido.html accessed January 15, 2020

[10] For Western Press, the Only Coup in Venezuela Is Against Guaidó, Lucas Koerner, Jan 10, 2020,  https://fair.org/home/for-western-press-the-only-coup-in-venezuela-is-against-guaido/ accessed January 16, 2020

[11] Venezuela’s Guaido readies for congress showdown after Socialist takeover, Angus Berwick, Brian Ellsworth and Rosalba O’Brien, Jan 7, 2020 https://web.archive.org/web/20200107140318/https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics/venezuelas-guaido-readies-for-congress-showdown-after-socialist-takeover-idUSKBN1Z6174 accessed January 16, 2020

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