The U.S. secretary of state, speaking at the University of Texas stated that: “In the history of Venezuela and other South American countries, the army has often been the agent of change when things get so bad that leadership can no longer serve the people.” Any allusion to military coups backed by U.S.imperialism on the continent is no mere coincidence, it has been the reality for decades.
In a clear reference to the long history of military coups in Latin America, Tillerson said that according to his experience, “when things are so bad that military leaders realize that they can no longer serve the citizens, they will negotiate a peaceful transition.” The Secretary of State uses the word “peaceful” to refer to the history of coups it has supported across the continent, and have included the recent coup against Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, and other “institutional coups” like those organized against Dilma Rousseff in Brazil or Fernando Lugo in Paraguay.
The current political tensions in Venezuela stem from Maduro’s announcement of early presidential elections, which would take place before April 30th. To a student’s question about why the United States would support Juan Orlando Hernández as president-elect of Honduras despite even the Organization of American States refusing to recognize him as the winner while at the same time harshly criticizing an election that has not yet taken place in Venezuela, Tillerson responded that that “there is no comparison” between the two.There is no shortage of chutzpah in the State Department.
The United States recognized Hernández as President of Honduras in December despite the opinion of the OAS observation mission, which had issued a comprehensive report that cited “irregularities, errors and systemic problems before, during and after” the elections, which coupled with the “narrow margin of results,” prevented “certainty” about the winner.
Before launching his tour of the four member countries of the so-called “Lima Group,” Rex Tillerson delivered a speech focused on U.S. strategy toward Latin America, during which he focused specifically on Venezuela. A senior State Department official presenting Tillerson’s February tour of Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Colombia stated that “the Secretary will continue to advocate for increased regional attention to the multiple crises in Venezuela. With our partners, we anticipate continuing to press the corrupt Maduro regime to return to democratic order. ” The statements of Rex Tillerson, spoken on the eve of his Latin American tour, reveal the motivation for his trip drumming up support for the White House’s aggressive policy toward the Venezuelan government.
Tillerson’s strong statements reflect the hawkish political turn of the Trump Administration, a turn which will depend on cooperation from its allies, including Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri, Peru’s Pablo Kuczinsky, Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto and Brazil’s Michel Temer. Latin America may not be a central axis of U.S. foreign policy, but the White House is making clear its intention to intervene in the crisis in Venezuela through its pawns in the region.
Tillerson counts on the support of President Mauricio Macri, among other presidents in the region, for his plans of intervening in Venezuela’s internal affairs in favor of the right-wing opposition to Maduro. The Argentinian president as well as the Colombian president, Santos, have already declared they will not recognize the presidential elections announced by Chavism.
Tillerson began his tour in Mexico and will be heading to the Southern Argentine town of Bariloche, a destination intended to be provocative. As Diego Dalai stated in previous article, this tour is loaded with “significant symbolism and political provocation. Bariloche is one of the most important cities of the Argentine South, a region where major landholders and imperialist monopolies have been appropriating the nation’s wealth and waging a veiled war against indigenous peoples in order to grab more land and resources. This policy of theft and dispossession has escalated since Macri’s ascension to the presidency in December 2015. It is in this context that the State Department announced that while in Bariloche, Tillerson will touch upon subjects including “scientific exchange and conservationist practices at Nahuel Haupi National Park.”
An mportant goal of the tour is to establish the right conditions for Trump’s visit for the Summit of the Americas in April, which will surely serve as another stage for the imperialist attack against Maduro’s government.
The interventionist policies of U.S. imperialism, aided by its lap dogs within the right-wing governments of several Latin American nations, must be openly rejected and condemned. We must equally reject the coup-supporting policies advanced by the new Secretary of State as part of the Trump administration’s militaristic orientation and as a sad part of Latin American history. We must demand the boot of U.S. imperialism be lifted off the necks of Venezuela Venezuela and Latin America and we must condemn the visit of Trump’s Secretary of State to our continent.
Translated by Arielle Concilio and Juana Velasco