By Scott Taylor
I must say that I find it quite disturbing that Canada has positioned itself at the forefront of what appears to be an imminent regime change in Venezuela. I say this not because I am a supporter of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, but rather because I consider myself a proud Canadian.
We were born out of a British colony and as such we do not have imperial legacies like those of the U.K. and France. We are also not a military superpower like the U.S., Russia, or China and we rightfully condemn all three of these nations when they flex their martial might to expand their territory or invade sovereign states.
That is what makes the actions of Global Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland so troubling. As the co-chair of the Lima Group – which is essentially a subset of the Organization of American States (OAS), and is comprised of a total of 14 North, South and Central American countries – Freeland held a meeting in Ottawa on February 4th.
The consensus from this Lima Group summit was that Juan Guaidó must be recognized as the interim President of Venezuela. The basis for Guaidó to claim top office is lodged on a clause in the Venezuelan constitution that in the event of a power vacuum created by a vacant presidency of the country, the President of the National Assembly is to act as interim President.
That all sounds good, but the vacuum they described remains filled with the bulky frame and a very much alive and defiant Nicolas Maduro.
The Lima Group’s stated support for that of the 35-year-old Guaidó was quickly echoed by the U.S. State Department. A bit of a stumbling block to our choice of Guaidó is the fact that the Venezuelan military is still loyal to Maduro.
Technically, Maduro won the Presidential elections last May in what were admittedly dubious circumstances. The opposition boycotted the polls and much of the international community - including Canada - denounced the results as fraudulent. That said, Canada had no problem accepting the failed results of no less than three farcical Presidential elections, which the U.S. staged in Afghanistan.
When no result could be verified, we simply stuck with the puppet of choice and sent in our soldiers to prop up the corrupt Afghan regime in Kabul. In the case of Venezuela, Maduro can still count on the support of his own troops – for now.
Canada has led the chorus of the international voices calling upon Venezuelan troops to switch their allegiance to Guaidó, because he is the man of our choosing.
We have been told repeatedly that the Russians rigged the U.S. election, which made Donald Trump great again. Despite this, no one could imagine a scenario where a Freeland-led Lima Group announces that we recognize Bernie Sanders as the interim U.S. President, and we urge the U.S. service members to disavow their oath of allegiance to the Commander-in-Chief.
For the record, Guaidó, like Sanders, never ran in a Presidential election and was only named President of the National Assembly on January 5th. In other words, just in time to declare himself the interim President. Members of Venezuela’s National Assembly were not elected through a national vote, but rather by regional committees.
Again, I am not stating any implied support for Maduro, and history may yet prove that Guaidó is the answer to the Venezuelan’s problems. The question remains why Canada feels it must take the lead on this?
On January 29th, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton publically stated that things will be better off for all involved once U.S. oil companies are back in Venezuela.
It is true that Venezuela has the largest proven and unproven reserves of oil, and the sixth largest reserves of natural gas. Prior to the current crisis, Venezuela was pumping over 3 million barrels per day, and in the period following the U.S. invasion of Iraq (2003-2004) oil was trading at well over $100 USD a barrel.
The plummet in oil prices certainly crippled Venezuela’s economy but so too did the U.S. ban on Venezuela importing the diluent chemicals necessary to thin the viscosity of the thick Venezuelan oil. Without this diluting agent, Venezuela is now producing barely 1.5 million barrels per day.
The standard written media line on Venezuela’s present bankruptcy is that Maduro’s regime is a kleptocracy and that their over ambitious social programs to alleviate poverty have bankrupted the treasury.
Whatever the reality, this is not something Canada should be entering into with the same old shop-worn cliché that we are doing this for the Venezuelan people.
Carrying the humanitarian torch on high seems a tad hypocritical when it aligns us in this case with the ultra-right nationalist government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. It also runs counter to Bolton’s honest admission that all will be well again once the U.S. companies set that oil flowing again.
All hail Juan Guaidó!