The US and its imperialist allies are doing everything they can to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. Trump has declared that Maduro is no longer president. He has also stated “that all options are on the table”. Trump wants a puppet regime that will take orders from Washington.

Trump has formally recognised Juan Guaidó, leader of the defunct National Assembly, as interim president. Guaidó was, until his election to the assembly and Trump’s endorsement, almost completely unknown in Venezuela. Trump has stated that the assembly is the “only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people”; he and the domestic opposition parties claim there is a constitutional crisis.

Maduro has called for his supporters to resist this coup at all costs. Diplomatic relations between the countries have been severed. The Lima group, a pro-US bloc of 14 states in the American hemisphere, have called for “a democratic transition in Venezuela”, i.e. regime change. The attempt to oust Maduro is also supported by most EU member states.

Venezuela is surrounded by hostility. With the rise to power of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the election of a right wing neoliberal government in Peru and the demobilisation of FARC in Colombia, a proxy war or direct military intervention by the US is possible.

The opposition in Venezuela may have won international endorsement, but in Venezuela they are deeply divided and are mostly a dangerous rabble of right wing self-seeking opportunists. The right in Venezuela are emboldened. They have for the last 20 years done everything they can to de-stabilise the pro-worker governments of Hugo Chávez and Maduro, resorting to extreme acts of violence, terrorism, drone attacks, assassination of government supporters and even an attempt on Maduro’s life. They have destroyed food, sabotaged social programs and burned people alive. 

Only days after Guaidó declaring himself president, an illegal cache of machine guns, assault rifles, radios and phones was shipped from Miami to Valencia in Venezuela. The opposition, if it were in government, would carry out savage attacks and repression against the left in probably the same way general Pinochet did in Chile in 1973.

This has not prevented supposed leftists from seeking a seat at the table of the opposition. Marea Socialista met with Guaidó to offer their services to legitimise the opposition and call for a consultative referendum on Maduro’s presidency and to restore the constitution. 

Such an approach, given the threat of war, is a terrible mistake. A referendum would simply further US interference in Venezuela’s affairs. While Guaidó has claimed he has acted according to the constitution, it clearly states an interim president can take power only if there is an “absolute power vacuum”. It also clearly states the post belongs to the vice-president, who is Delcy Rodriguez – one of Maduro’s closest supporters.

The opposition do not care for the constitution or democracy. Guaidó’s US-backed National Assembly has passed a “Democratic Transition Statute” that gives Guaidó unlimited legislative power – if he were able to exercise it. What the international media fail to note is that there have been numerous democratic elections in Venezuela. Maduro was elected president on 20 May last year.

The opposition claims that the elections were fraudulent and the mainstream media repeat this lie ad nauseam. Maduro was elected with 68 percent of the vote, and carried 31 percent of all eligible voters. Compare this to Trump, who carried just 26 percent of eligible voters in 2016, and Barack Obama, who won 28 percent of them in 2012.

Four international election monitoring missions ratified the Venezuelan result. The opposition mostly boycotted the election, refusing to unite behind their main candidate, Henri Falcón. We should not be fooled: Venezuela’s “fraudulent elections” are like Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction”.

Jorge Jorquera in a recent Red Flag article, “The battle for Venezuela”, wrote: “Democratic and left forces worldwide must lend every effort to oppose the imperialist intervention and help give Venezuelan workers every chance to bring their might to bear on the government and crush the opposition’s coup attempt”. He then outlined that the main source of discontent in Venezuela results from “corrupt reformist forces” within the government, which he describes as a puppet of an “insidious capitalist bureaucracy”. 

Such a narrative feeds into the claims of the opposition – that the government is corrupt and undemocratic. It conflates all the problems the country is facing with the economic policies of the government. 

But it is what is omitted from the article that is more problematic. The corporate media around the world blame the crisis in Venezuela entirely on Maduro’s government. Maduro’s real crime is that he presides over a country with the largest reserves of oil in the world. The US wants that oil. As John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, stated on Fox News: 

“It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

That is why for the last 20 years it has waged an economic war on Venezuela. Hyperinflation, due to black market activities, has rendered the currency, the bolivar, worthless, destroying the purchasing power of Venezuelans. Hoarding by the Venezuelan bourgeoisie – which is aligned with the opposition – has added to this crisis, denying Venezuelans basic necessities.

The economic blockade initially imposed by Barack Obama, who declared Venezuela “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”, has been strengthened by Trump. It is never mentioned. Venezuela’s development and democratic norms are judged as if the blockade never existed, as if the country could freely develop, despite the crippling obstacles it faces. This is despite US hawks such as Bolton using the economic situation to justify intervention.

The sanctions have led to billions of dollars, gold and other assets being stolen from Venezuela and stored in US and European trusts and banks. The sanctions deny the ability of Venezuela to trade in US dollars. More than 7 million barrels of crude oil are held in tankers at sea with no destination. Just like a siege around a medieval castle, these sanctions starve and kill its inhabitants; they are an act of war. However Venezuela is governed, there is no avoiding the impact of these sanctions.

When UN special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas visited Venezuela, he said, “Canadian and European Union ‘economic warfare’ has killed Venezuelans” and noted: “The sanctions fall most heavily on the poorest people and demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change”.

In such a situation, without extensive international solidarity from more technically advanced and wealthier nations, the advance of the Bolivarian revolution in terms of achieving workers’ power is impossible. All activities of the government are subordinate to the national defence and the distribution of goods to meet the basic needs of its people, who are engaged in a daily struggle for survival.

At such a critical conjuncture, when the country is facing invasion, it is not our role to appraise what the government should or shouldn’t do. We should support the principles of self-determination and respect Venezuela’s sovereignty. We should do what we can to prevent imperialist aggression. We should, irrespective of any criticisms we may have of Maduro, mount a campaign against our own government here in Australia, which has refused to recognise the legitimate presidency of Nicolás Maduro and has aligned itself with the warmongers of US imperialism.