The world may be grappling with a global pandemic disrupting every element of our lives, but that has not stopped the U.S. government from continuing its regime change efforts abroad. Recent escalations with Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela, are merely another attempt at the expansion of American influence, with encouragement from both party establishments.
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges against Maduro accusing him of narcoterrorism, drug trafficking and corruption. They claim Maduro ran an international drug ring, funneling cocaine into the United States to gain power and money. The U.S. Department of State has further stated that if Maduro were to leave the country, they would offer a $15 million reward for information leading to his arrest. During an April 1 press briefing, President Donald Trump also implied that these foreign cartels are attempting to exploit the current pandemic for their own gain, prompting U.S. Navy ships to situate themselves on the Venezuelan border.
These escalations are merely the most recent in a long string of offensive moves by the United States. The United States has previously put crippling economic sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, despite the fact that the Venezuelan economy was already in chaos. Furthermore, the United States backed the regime change by supporting Venezuela’s former national assembly president, Juan Guaidó. Following elections in 2018, which the opposition protested, Guaidó attempted to appoint himself interim president after planning the act with the U.S. government. He attempted to justify his actions through broad interpretation of the Venezuelan Constitution, while claiming a technicality to avoid the line of succession that would have empowered Maduro’s vice president.
It is important to keep all of this information in context. This kind of hostile influencing, whether backing coups or imposing sanctions, are not isolated incidents. The United States has systematically overturned foreign governments for decades, spreading its neoliberal influence around the Western Hemisphere. In 1954, the United States. backed a coup against Jacobo Arbenz, a leftist leader of Guatemala, in order to benefit U.S. companies. In 1964, the United States backed a coup against Joao Goulart, a leftist leader of Brazil and instilled a brutal military dictatorship that lasted until the 1980s. These are just a few incidents, and I mention them to show how U.S. actions have far-reaching consequences. The government has the blood of every single person murdered, tortured and starved from these dictatorships on its hands, and we cannot be shocked if it happens again while we remain willfully ignorant.
One would hope our politicians would be fighting for change, but this is not the reality. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democrats, actually tweeted his support of Juan Guaidó and regime change in Venezuela. Our political leaders have done next to nothing to truly rein in the power of the presidency. When it was the Bush administration that orchestrated an illegal war in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, Republicans rallied to the military and Democrats did nothing to stop it. When former President Barack Obama expanded U.S. interventions abroad and continued the war in Afghanistan, Democrats rallied to the military and Republicans did nothing to stop it. Now, Trump is pushing to expand U.S. aggression once again. Republicans increase funding for more tanks, while Democrats put up a fuss on the floor of Congress. But when the vote comes, they all fall in line. Congress isn’t this tug of war between two opposing parties — in actuality, Congress is made up of one party: the business party. Whether it’s corporate bailouts, increased defense funding, loosening banking regulation and so on, Congress does not look out for the best interest of anyone except those that fund their campaigns and super PACs. On one side, there’s Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Exxon Mobil and many more multinational corporations and on the other side, there’s the suffering people of Venezuela without money for bread. And yet we wonder, better yet are surprised, when politicians in Washington, D.C. favor the companies. This is not an accident, but how the system was designed. The U.S. empire does not start and end with Trump. It goes from the top down. The choice between a war criminal and a worse war criminal is no real choice at all.
Our politicians have failed us. Democrats and Republicans have both worked diligently to expand U.S. power. We must question the status quo. We must question war profiteering. We must question the media. It wasn’t Maduro who put Venezuelan warships outside of Chesapeake Bay.
Seth Gully is a sophomore triple-majoring in philosophy, politics and law, economics and French.