We Cannot Declare Foreign Leaders

27/01/2019

Since Juan Guaido has placed himself in a position to begin a coup in Venezuela, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has desperately tried to urge leaders around the world to side with the US in their backing of the change. As in my last piece on Venezuela, it does not matter what you think of the country or its current leadership, the idea that foreign groups and leaders can simply declare who they will recognise as head of state sets a dangerous precedent. Worst of all, it has absolutely no bearing on the wellbeing and self-determination of the Venezuelan people.

The US was always going to back a coup attempt in Venezuela. For over 100 years they have interfered, often violently, in Latin American politics, not to spread ‘freedom and democracy’ but to further US interests in the region. Central and South America has the ubiquitous nickname “the USA’s backyard” for this reason; violent overthrows of dissident governments and the extortion of labour and resources has marred relations between the US and Latin America (just as it has pretty much everywhere else in the world too).

European powerhouses (the UK, France, Germany, and Spain) have all joined to call the Maduro government illegitimate, with the UK saying it will recognise Guaido if new elections are not carried out immediately. I believe it is absolutely necessary to run free and open elections in Venezuela, given the murky happenings that have left the original results questionable. Maduro has increasingly shown himself to be more self-serving as time goes on, and the people deserve better.

But better means of their own choice in clear elections – the right for them to determine who they wish to elect. I, sadly, doubt Maduro will take the advice of the UK to carry out elections – he has been quite adamant that this coup attempt is proof of his legitimacy, due to his anti-US stance – but there is a bizarre irony in threatening to recognise Guaido. If it is truly fair elections they are after, with the intentions of the populace in mind, then having foreign powers interfere directly by backing what is, quite obviously, a US puppet would be quite contradictory.

That is, of course, if the intentions and wellbeing of the populace is their concern. Imagine if this logic was directed in the opposite direction. If the world decided that Trump was not fairly elected (plenty of proof of that as well, no investigation needed) and moved to declare recognition of a Democrat as President, there would be international outrage, not least from the US themselves. Or if one were to declare recognition of Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister over Theresa May for the good of the UK, regardless of what the people thought.

The point is, even if Guaido was actually a decent replacement for Maduro, it is in no way appropriate for another state to declare recognition of a leader. Pressure to bring about a free election, absolutely. And then abide by that result (I’m looking at you, US and Israel denying Hamas’ results in 2006). It’s the people, not the international community (read “elites”), whose voices matter. Let them be heard and listen. We all deserve better than the leaders we have.

 

Liked this? Read Venezuela Kicks off Coup, US Backs It

Previous piece: “Invasion Day” Protests Across the Country

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