Biden Makes a Farce of Democracy

December 8th, 2021 - by Kenny Stancil / Common Dreams & Sameena Rahman / Liberation

Biden slammed for inviting the head of a Trump-backed coup attempt
targeting Venezuela’s elected president to a “pro-democracy” gathering.

Biden Invites Venezuelan Coup Leader
Juan Guaidó to US ‘Summit for Democracy’

Kenny Stancil / Common Dreams & Sameena Rahman / Liberation

 (December 1, 2021) — US President Joe Biden was nearly the victim of a right-wing coup on January 6, but that didn’t stop him from inviting Venezuela’s right-wing coup leader Juan Guaidó to the United States’ so-called “Summit for Democracy” — a development that critics say illustrates the “cynical, hypocritical, and completely counter-productive” nature of the upcoming meeting.

On Tuesday afternoon, David Adler, general coordinator of Progressive International, argued during an appearance on Al Jazeera that the Biden administration lacks the credibility to lead an international effort to protect democracy for a variety of reasons, including the United States’ past and present support for authoritarian leaders who further capitalist class interests.

Around the same time, Biden, whose 2020 electoral victory was almost overturned by a pro-Trump mob and lawmakers from the increasingly anti-democratic GOP, invited Guaidó, a key player in the unsuccessful Trump-backed effort to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in 2019, to the Summit for Democracy hosted virtually by the White House from December 9-10.

“Surreal,” is how Adler responded after news broke that Biden had asked Guaidó — an unelected and unpopular opposition figure who participated in a failed coup attempt — to represent Venezuela at an ostensibly pro-democracy gathering, just weeks after Venezuelans reelected Maduro in a contest that US legal observers called fair.

Notably, in the wake of the deadly January 6 insurrection, Maduro’s government issued a public statement that condemned then-US President Donald Trump’s brazen attempt to hold onto power, expressed sympathy for victims of the assault, and criticized Washington for routinely supporting efforts to subvert democracy abroad. 

US lawmakers from both major parties, by contrast, gave Guaidó a standing ovation when Trump, during his 2020 State of the Union Address, erroneously described the self-anointed leader as the “true and legitimate president of Venezuela.”

The US has an extensive history of imperialism, and in his Al Jazeera appearance Tuesday, Adler pointed to its ongoing abuses of power throughout the world, as well as the fact that its policies rarely reflect the will of the majority, to explain why Biden’s summit is “cynical, hypocritical, and completely counter-productive.”

Although US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has promoted the Summit for Democracy, he plays a key role in facilitating corruption in countries across the globe, said Adler. “We are the central node, for example, in a network of illegal, kleptocratic finance that passes through our financial system en route to financing those autocratic regimes… rising around the world.”

In addition, Adler questioned why only 100 world leaders were invited to Biden’s table. “We’ve been here before,” Adler said, alluding to the fact that the world was divided into supposedly good and bad camps during the Cold War, with disastrous effects that persist today.

In a co-authored essay published by The Guardian in December 2020, Adler and Stephen Wertheim, deputy director of research and policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and research scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, argued that because it is “animated by an antagonistic impulse, the Summit for Democracy is liable to make the world less safe.”

“It risks hardening antagonism with those outside the summit, reducing prospects for truly broad collaboration,” the pair wrote. “The coronavirus, this generation’s deadliest foe to date, pays no heed to whom the US deems its ally or its adversary. The same is true of a changing climate.”

In addition, Adler said Tuesday, the US has a “systematic inability to pick good allies abroad.”

Adler went on to repeat points that he and Guillaume Long, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and former foreign minister of Ecuador, made last month in an essay introducing Progressive International’s new global observatory to defend democracy.

“The Biden administration continues to put the US on the wrong side” of what Blinken has called a “democratic reckoning” in the Americas, the pair wrote in The Guardian.

For example, the pair noted, Blinken recently “lavished praise” on the right-wing presidents of Ecuador and Colombia, who have engaged in anti-democratic repression. Moreover, the US remains a “leading member” of the Organization of American States, which has facilitated multiple anti-democratic interventions in Haiti and played a decisive role in the far-right coup in Bolivia in 2019.

Guaido, Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez, and VP Mike Pence.

On top of those foreign policy failures, Adler said Tuesday that Biden’s “betrayed campaign promises” at home exemplify the absence of substantive democracy in the US

Many voters cast ballots for the president based on his pledge to ban the sale of new fossil fuel leases on public lands and waters, Adler pointed out, and yet his administration has approved drilling permits at a faster rate than its two immediate predecessors and last month held the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in US history, just days after Biden vowed at COP26 that he would address the climate crisis.

In light of the current barrage of voter suppression laws being enacted and gerrymandered maps being drawn by state-level Republicans nationwide, an annual study published last week for the first time characterized the US as a “backsliding” democracy.

Although Biden has acknowledged that US democracy is under threat, he has yet to make a strong public push for repealing or reforming the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster rule, a prerequisite to passing voting rights legislation.

In their essay, Adler and Wertheim argued that “rather than fixate on the symptoms of democratic discontent — the ‘populists, nationalists, and demagogues’ whom Biden has pledged to confront — his administration should attack the disease.”

“He can start with political and economic reforms to make democratic government respond again to the popular will,” they wrote. “Second, the United States should make peace in the world, rather than wage its endless wars… Finally, the United States should reinvent a system of international cooperation undivided by the ‘democratic’ fault line that the summit seeks to impose.”

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Pro-revolution Candidates Sweep
Venezuelan Elections Judged Open and Fair

Sameena Rahman / Liberation

(November 24, 2021) — The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) led by President Nicolás Maduro landed a decisive victory in local and regional elections Nov. 21, sweeping 20 out of 23 governorships and winning the crucial mayorship of the capitol city. Several states that had been controlled by the right wing opposition were won by PSUV candidates, for instance Freddy Bernal’s victory in the strategically key state of Táchira along the border with Colombia. This vote in support of the country’s Bolivarian Revolution is a clear rejection by the people of the US government’s campaign of economic warfare against the country and constant regime change coup attempts.

The elections saw 42% turnout this year — over 8 million people — who voted to elect 23 governors, 335 mayors, 253 regional lawmakers, and 2,471 councilors. The PSUV ran in the election as part of an alliance called the Simon Bolivar Great Patriotic Pole, which includes other parties supportive of the Bolivarian Revolution’s socialist project. 

It is important to note the hypocrisy in the western corporate media’s reaction to the election result. Many of these outlets cited “low” voter turnout as an indication of corruption and lack of democracy in Venezuela while at the same time ignoring the much lower turnout in US local elections. Turnout in the United States typically ranges between 15 and 27 percent — about half the turnout in Venezuela! 

The elections were observed by over 130 international election observers from 55 countries and institutions including the European Union, the United Nations, and the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts. Disappointed that the United States’ opposition puppets performed poorly, Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrogantly proclaimed that the elections “were neither free nor fair.”

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Felix Plasencia countered that the elections shows the Venezuelan people’s “commitment to democracy and their right to live in peace, despite the multi-form aggression and violation of international law by the supremacist government of the United States.”

For several years, the US-backed opposition has pursued a strategy of boycotting elections, hoping to delegitimize the government and pave the way for its violent overthrow. These coup attempts include the right-wing riots organized in 2017 and Juan Guaidó’s self-proclamation that he was the country’s president — along with constant terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage against vital infrastructure. But these efforts failed, and the opposition finally relented and agreed to rejoin the electoral process after negotiations earlier this year with the government. 

The right-wing opposition has shamefully collaborated with the United States to step up sanctions that suffocate the people of Venezuela and cut off their access to vital goods and services. This has especially targeted the country’s critical oil industry, where US sanctions have prohibited foreign buyers from importing Venezuelan fuel and a blockade on essential industrial goods has dramatically reduced production.

Since the Guaidó coup effort in 2019 Venezuela has faced even more severe actions, like the illegal seizure of $2 billion of gold reserves held in the bank of England and the arrest of diplomat Alex Saab. And all along the way, the supposed plight of the opposition was cited as justification for these acts of aggression, supposedly carried out in the name of “protecting human rights.” 

In face of all the attacks on Venezuelan sovereignty, this landslide victory for the Bolivarian Revolution is a show of defiance against the hardships, suffocating sanctions and inhumane blockade imposed by the government of the United States.

After Right-Wing Coup Effort in DC, Venezuela Offers
Sympathy for US Suffering What ‘It Has Generated’ Elsewhere

Scenes from two coup attempts in Venezela and the US.

Kenny Stancil / Common Dreams

(January 6, 2021) — While Democratic and Republican lawmakers, political pundits, and angered US citizens of all stripes rightly condemned Wednesday’s violent coup attempt by a pro-Trump mob in the nation’s capital, at least one foreign government offered its sympathy to the victims of the assault while also pointing out that US-backed efforts to subvert democracy abroad are all too common.

In the wake of the day’s deadly mayhem at the US Capitol building, the Venezuelan government issued a public statement expressing “concern with the acts of violence that are taking [place] in the city of Washington, D.C.”

“Venezuela condemns the political polarization and the spiral of violence that only reflects the deep crisis that the political and social system of the United States is currently going through,” the statement continues. “With this unfortunate episode, the United States is suffering the same thing that it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression.”

Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition figure who in 2019 oversaw a failed US-backed coup attempt after the reelection of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, became a flashpoint for commentators eager to shed light on the hypocrisy of US lawmakers from both major parties who gave Guaidó a standing ovation when the self-anointed leader was erroneously described by President Donald Trump during his 2020 State of the Union address as the “true and legitimate president of Venezuela.”

Alluding to a viral photo of a Trump supporter triumphantly raising his fist in the US Senate Chamber during Wednesday’s anti-democratic insurrection, journalist Max Blumenthal of The Grayzone News said, “Imagine if a foreign power recognized this guy as president and you’ll know how Venezuelans feel.”

The Grayzone’s Anya Parampil noted that Maduro opponent Carlos Vecchio “was welcomed in D.C. as Juan Guaidó’s ambassador,” not long after “encouraging violence and attacks on government buildings in Venezuela.”

The main difference between the Venezuelan opposition that has tried to violently overthrow Maduro since he was reelected and the so-called #StopTheSteal rioters who stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday in an attempt to strip President-elect Joe Biden of his legitimate victory, Parampil added, is that corporate media “recognizes the danger in these actions when they’re taking place in their own capital.”

Others also drew links between the efforts of the pro-Trump mob and Washington’s anti-Maduro forces, sardonically suggesting that some of Wednesday’s actions may have been inspired by Guaidó.

Critics lambasted Guaidó for having the audacity to denounce Wednesday’s attack on democracy in D.C., reminding the “self-proclaimed puppet” of Washington of the similarities between his unsuccessful, anti-democratic power grab in Venezuela and the chaotic events that unfolded in the US on Wednesday.

Like Guaidó, right-wing pundit Yascha Mounk also deemed it appropriate to opine on the coup attempt in D.C., denouncing “groups of armed nihilists attempt[ing] to destroy federal buildings that are key to the maintenance of the rule of law.”

The only problem, journalist Ollie Vargas pointed out, is that when “this exact set of events (fascist mobs seizing public institutions) took place in Bolivia,” Mounk celebratedthe military coup that replaced then-president Evo Morales with a brutal right-wing regime, calling it — in true Orwellian fashion — a victory for democracy.

In an interview with teleSUR, political analyst Arnold August explained that while Wednesday’s terrible events are relatively unprecedented in the US, “unfortunately, these scenes are not unprecedented when it comes to US foreign policy.”

“The chickens have come home to roost,” August said. “It is not unprecedented in US foreign policy to carry out coups far more violent than the one that is going on in Washington, D.C. at the moment.” He listed several recent examples of countries, including Paraguay, Brazil, Venezuela, and Bolivia, whose leaders were overthrown after pursuing policies that run counter to the interests of the US ruling class.

August suggested that US lawmakers disturbed by the attempt of pro-Trump forces to undermine the democratic process in this nation should not support regime change “elsewhere in the world.”

Officials in the Maduro administration concluded their statement by saying that “Venezuela hopes that soon the violence will cease and the American people can finally open a new path towards stability and peace.”

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.