Spain’s ‘socialist’ government to US: ‘Coup against Maduro? We’re in!’


sOn February 15, 2003, in the face of the looming US-led war against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the Spanish state saw the biggest demonstrations in its history. Part of a worldwide anti-war outpouring, about four million people turned out on the day, with 1.3 million in Barcelona, a million in Madrid and half-a-million in Valencia.

Leaders of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) were among those at the head of these oceanic demonstrations, which directly targeted the conservative Spanish People’s Party (PP) government of prime minister José María Aznar.

Aznar, who had previously backed the failed December 2002 right-wing coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, was an enthusiastic partner in the “coalition of the willing” with US president George Bush and UK prime minister Tony Blair, and sent troops to Iraq. However, partly as a result of the immense February 2003 mobilisations, PSOE opposition leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero won the 2004 Spanish general election, replaced Aznar as prime minister and brought Spain’s soldiers back home.

On December 2, 2004, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, foreign minister of the new PSOE government, provided the foreign affairs commission of the Spanish congress with damning evidence of the Aznar government’s support for the coup against Chávez. The PP administration’s public pronouncements had not only reproduced the message of the coup-plotters, led by businessman Pedro Carmona, it had also described Carmona’s cabinet as a “transitional government”, when it was already indisputable that a coup was under way.

Carmona had spoken to Aznar personally during the coup attempt and in his dispatches to Madrid the Spanish ambassador to Venezuela, Manuel Viturro, had repeated the coup-plotter’s lie that Chávez had signed a resignation letter as president. The Spanish government, which had the European Union presidency at the time and knew that the coup had no constitutional basis, had produced a declaration calling on the “transitional government” of Venezuela to respect democratic values. It had also issued a joint statement with the United States “urging the Organisation of American States to help consolidate the institutions of democracy”. France, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina refused to co-sign this statement.

At no time did the Aznar’s government condemn the coup or call for the release of Chávez, who was being held in a military base in Caracas. It was the last player in the whole drama — after the United States and the OAS — to condemn the coup once popular mobilisation and army officers loyal to the Venezuelan president had defeated it.

It’s coup time again

Now fast forward to January 23, 2019 in Venezuela’s capital Caracas. It is the sixty-fifth anniversary of the 1954 overthrow of Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, traditionally celebrated with mass marches by the country’s different political formations. The Trump administration has decided the day has come to launch Washington’s next coup attempt against Venezuela’s Bolivarian government. It is guided by National Security Adviser John Bolton, who had helped build the myth of Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” as an under-secretary for George W. Bush.

Among the pressures urging this course of action on the Trump presidency is the chance to “make America great again” by reimposing imperialist domination in its “own backyard,” in a context of unfavourable developments in the Middle East (forced military withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan) and favourable developments in the “backyard” itself (election of the ultra-right Bolsonaro government in Brazil, adding to right-wing governments in Colombia, Chile and Argentina and the turncoat Ecuadorian administration of Lenin Moreno).

Thus, National Assembly speaker Juan Guaidó is picked by Washington as its president to replace elected president Nicolás Maduro and is urged by US vice-president Mike Pence to proclaim himself interim head of state before the crowd of opposition supporters. This is done on the spurious pretext that Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution allows the National Assembly speaker to replace a president who has become “incapacitated for office”. Within 15 minutes, usurper Guaidó is recognised as “interim president” by the US, to be followed by right-wing governments in Latin America and obedient US allies like Canada and Australia.

This new coup attempt became thinkable for Washington because of the dwindling mass support for the Maduro government. Venezuela has been in deep economic crisis, mainly because of the collapse of world oil prices since the heyday of Chavez’s rule, and partly because of economic policy mistakes generating hyper-inflation and a growing US-led economic blockade. People have also become increasingly angry with the corruption, real and alleged, associated with state officials and senior figures in the armed forces, and there’s a general atmosphere of repression created by the government’s handling of often violent anti-government protests.

This disillusionment was reflected in the decline in the vote for Bolivarian candidates. In the 2012 presidential election, with 80.49% participation, 8.19 million Venezuelans (55.07%) supported Chávez’s candidacy against 6.59 million (44.31%) for Henrique Capriles, the main opposition candidate. In the 2013 presidential election, with 79.68% participation, Nicolás Maduro, the chavista candidate after Chavez’s death, scraped home against Capriles by 7.59 million votes (50.61%) to 7.36 million (49.12%).

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