ACTIVIST TOOL KIT: US Hands Off Venezuela

This article includes talking points, graphics for use in social media, two articles about potential military action against Venezuela, and a sign-on letter initiated by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) signed by scholars and experts calling on the US government to support a negotiated, peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela. These resources are intended to provide local activists with all the information they need to organize opposition to the Trump Administration policy of illegal regime change in Venezuela.

US-Sponsored Venezuela Coup Talking Points

These talking points are presented to provide activists with authoritative information to use in letters-to-the-editor, social media forums, discussions in your communities or communication with elected officials. Thanks to Stan Smith as the primary author of these talking points.


Was the Venezuela 2018 presidential election open to opposition candidates?

The Venezuelan government did not block opposition candidates from participating, but encouraged it, and even agreed to push up the election date to meet opposition demands (from December 2018 to May 20, 2018). Nicolas Maduro received the votes of 6.2 million people, about 31% of the eligible voters, slightly more than what recent U.S. presidents received (Obama received 31% in 2008 and 28% in 2012, while Trump received 26% in 2016). The opposition candidates were Henri Falcón (who received 21% of the vote) and Javier Bertucci (who received 11%). Venezuela has an electoral system that is impossible to tamper with. Jimmy Carter once called it “the best in the world.”


Was the Venezuela presidential election of 2018 in accord with international standards?

The International Electoral Accompaniment Mission of CEELA (Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America) issued a report on the May 20 Venezuelan presidential election. CEELA made these conclusions:

  1. The electoral process for the Presidential and State Legislative Council Elections 2018 complied with all international standards and national legislation, particularly in the fields of audit and electoral administration.
  2. CEELA Mission is of the opinion that the process was successfully carried out and that the will of the citizens, freely expressed in ballot boxes, was respected.
    c. The results communicated yesterday night by the National Electoral Council reflect the will of the voters who decided to participate in the electoral process.Such results are duly certified through the citizen verification audit.
    e. The CEELA Electoral Accompaniment Mission upholds that the electoral process has consolidated and reaffirmed strengthening of the electoral institutionalism that supports the democratic system.


How do Venezuelans themselves feel about the US Sanctions and US military intervention?

The vast majority of Venezuelans oppose military intervention and US sanctions to try to remove President Nicolás Maduro from power, according to a very recent poll by the firm Hinterlaces.


Do you agree or disagree with the US economic and financial sanctions that are currently applied against Venezuela to remove President Maduro from power?
81% disagree
17% agree
2% not sure

Would you agree or disagree if there were international intervention in Venezuela to remove President Maduro from power?
78% disagree
20% agree
2% not sure

Would you agree or disagree if there were international military intervention in Venezuela to remove President Maduro from power?
86% disagree
12% agree
2% not sure

In general do you agree or disagree with a dialogue being held between the national government and the opposition to resolve the current economic problems in the country?
84% agree
15% disagree
1% not sure


What effect do the US, Canada, and European Union sanctions have on Venezuela?

The former Independent Rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council, Alfred de Zayas, presented a report on his mission to Venezuela, issued in August 2018. In a recent interview he said:  “Sanctions kill,” in an interview with The Independent, adding that they fall most heavily on the poorest people in society, demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change in a “sister democracy.”


The report he issued for the UN Human Rights Commission stated in part:


35.. On 23 March 2018, the Human Rights Council condemned unilateral coercive measures by a vote of 28 in favour, 15 against and 3 abstentions, 77 because economic sanctions demonstrably cause death, aggravate economic crises, disrupt the production and distribution of food and medicine, constitute a push factor generating emigration,78 and lead to violations of human rights.


  1. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that  economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them.

Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

  1. Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means.


  1. The solution to the Venezuelan “crisis” lies in good faith negotiations between the Government and the opposition, an end to the economic war, and the lifting of sanctions.


  1. While the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is undergoing a severe economic crisis, the Government is not standing idle; it is seeking international assistance to overcome the challenges, diversifying the economy and seeking debt restructuring. Sanctions only aggravate the situation by hindering the imports necessary to produce generic medicines and seeds to increase agricultural production. Sanctions have also led to emigration.


Eugenia Russian, president of FUNDALATIN, one of the oldest human rights NGOs in Venezuela, founded in 1978 before the Chavez and Maduro governments and with special consultative status at the UN stated: “In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect that the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States.”


On what basis did Juan Guaido appoint himself president of Venezuela at a rally on January 23?


Juan Guaido proclaimed himself president after receiving prior backing from the US and Canadian governments. He claims to be president based on Article 233 of the Constitution which deals with a situation in which the office of presidency becomes vacant before the new president is inaugurated. In summary it says: Because of “abandonment of his position” if “an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.” It is quite clear that Nicolas Maduro has not abandoned his position or become unavailable so Article 233 provides no justification for the US-backed usurper to claim the presidency.


Does the international community recognize Nicolas Maduro or Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela?

The corporate media and the US government claim “the international community” recognizes Guaido’s self-appointment as President of Venezuela. However, when the issue was brought to the Organization of American States January 24, it voted 18-16 to recognize Nicolas Maduro as president. When the issue came to the United Nations Security Council, the US again found the international community voted against the US position.


What is the Lima Group and does it represent the international community?

The Lima Group is Trump’s equivalent of George Bush’s “coalition of the willing.” Both were formed because the US was unable to convince the established institutions of international diplomacy like the United Nations Security Council and the Organization of American States to go along with the illegal overthrow of the government of a sovereign nation.


Is this US coup about Oil?

In an interview on Fox Business, Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton was open about the US-led coup in Venezuela is motivated by oil and corporate interests. Bolton said, “We’re looking at the oil assets…We don’t want any American businesses or investors caught by surprise. …we’re in conversation with major American companies now that are either in Venezuela, or in the case of Citgo here in the United States…It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela. We both have a lot at stake here making this come out the right way.” In other words, Bolton made it clear that the US motivation is to gain control of Venezuela’s oil. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world.


Is the Maduro government opposed to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call for dialogue?

The UN Secretary General has called for dialogue between the different parties to defuse the situation between the Maduro government and the US-Guaido opposition. This has been seconded by Pope Francis. Mexico and Uruguay are convening a conference February 7 to discuss dialogue. President Maduro spoke in favor of dialogue.


Is there opposition in the US Congress to the US backed coup?

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard did make a clear statement of opposition to US interference: “The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela. Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders–so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.”

Rep. Ilham Omar wrote: “A US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face. Trump’s efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay and the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue.”

Rep. Ro Khanna issued a statement that said in part: “The United States should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal, divided conflict. There is no doubt the Maduro’s economic policies have been terrible, and he has engaged in financial mismanagement and also political authoritarianism. But crippling sanctions and threats of military action are making life worse for ordinary Venezuelans, and the U.S. stands alone in its decision to impose economic sanctions against the Venezuelan government. We should work to support the efforts of Uruguay, Mexico and the Holy See for a negotiated settlement and end the sanctions that are making the hyperinflation worse.”

Bernie Sanders issued a more ambivalent statement, as if trying to please everyone. Barbara Lee later made a statement calling for a peaceful resolution.

But by and large, Democrats who have been outraged about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election, have remained silent or, like Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, have publically recognized Guaido and support Trump’s efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela.



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