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Lecturing Venezuela

  • 30 January 2019


Think of how it grates with the non-interference doctrine enshrined in the UN Charter. Article 2(4) makes it clear the principle prohibits the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. Such interference, goes the canonical text Oppenheim's International Law, 'must be forcible or dictatorial, or otherwise coercive, in effect depriving the state intervened against of control over the mater in question'.

But many countries, most purporting to be of the liberal democratic mould, have been very happy to make Venezuela the exception. President Nicolás Maduro must go, and the Venezuelan opposition leader and President of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó, appointed in his stead. The latter's own bogus theory on usurpation is to claim he is merely dealing with a usurper himself. 'I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure and end to the usurpation.'

On 15 January, the president of the National Assembly was permitted space in The Washington Post to claim his country was witnessing something without precedent, a point that should immediately cast some suspicion on any claim. 'We have a government that has dismantled the state and kidnapped all institutions and manipulate them at will.' Various US publications, in traditional imperial voice, have also been supportive.

But even Guaidó had to concede that his case for Venezuela was not conventional: it could not, for instance, be said that his country was your classic run-of-the-mill dictatorship with packed prisons and death camps. 'The regime may have ties to drug trafficking and guerrilla groups, but we also have a functioning, democratically elected parliament, the National Assembly.'

It did not take US President Donald Trump long to acknowledged Guaidó's declaration as legitimising an interim presidency, one that will ensure a transition of loyalty to the United States. 'The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.' Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Argentina have similarly pitched in, accepting Guaidó as the appropriate interim replacement. More to the point, it is an acknowledgment that the mood is proving increasingly friendly to Washington in these circles.

Other states in Europe have also shown a brazen tendency to lay down timelines and advance demands in favour of Guaidó. 'Unless elections are announced within eight days,' suggested France's unpopular President Emmanuel Macron, 'we will be ready to recognise @jguaido as "President in charge" of Venezuela in