If Australia really wants to help the Venezuelan people, it must urge the US to lift sanctions, rule out military intervention and end coup drive

January 31, 2019 – The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network is calling on the Australian Government to demand the United States lift its sanctions on Venezuela, rule out any military intervention in the South American country and end its coup drive against President Nicolas Maduro if there is to be any hope for a peaceful and democratic solution there.

Federico Fuentes, a, AVSN national co-convenor, said: “It is well known that Venezuela is passing through the worst economic crisis in its history.”

“While focus has been placed on falling international oil prices and economic mismanagement by the Nicolas Maduro government, little attention has been paid to the devastating effect that US sanctions have had in deepening the misery of the Venezuelan people.”

“If we only take the sanctions imposed by the Donald Trump administration in August 2017, which made it illegal for the Venezuelan government to obtain financing from US institutions or individuals, studies clearly indicate that its effects have been to deprived Venezuela of US$6 billion – 5% of the government’s nominal GDP.”

“The biggest effect of these sanctions has been to cripple the Venezuelan state oil company – the country’s main source of income for importing food and medicines.”

“The Trump administration has now announced a new round of sanctions that will see Venezuela lose another US$11 billion in exports this year alone while freezing another US$7 billion in assets.”

“These are criminal actions, of which the biggest victims are the already suffering Venezuelan people.”

Fuentes continued: “On top of this, the Trump administration’s has said it won’t rule out a military intervention in Venezuela and is openly supporting a coup attempt led by Juan Guaido, who has self-proclaimed himself Venezuela’s ‘interim president’.

“These actions have only deepen political turmoil in what is already one of the most polarised countries in the world and are a clear violation of Venezuela’s national sovereignty.”

Turning to the Australian Government, Fuentes said: “By refusing to denounce these actions, and instead going along with them, Australia has squarely placed itself on the side of those urging violence and greater suffering to generate instability for their own political ends.”

“If Australia is serious about playing a positive role in the crisis, it must start by immediately withdrawing its recognition of Guaidó, an unelected and unconstitutional ‘interim president’.

“Instead, it should call on the US to lift its sanctions, end its coup drive and categorically rule out any military involvement in Venezuela,” Mr Fuentes concluded.

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If Australia is genuinely interested in peace and democracy in Venezuela it must withdraw its support for Guaidó’s coup presidency

Solidarity activists have called on the federal Minister for Foreign Relations Marise Payne to withdraw Australia’s support for Venezuela’s National Assembly president, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s “interim president”, describing the government’s move on January 28 as “reckless” and “extremely dangerous”.

They will be organising a protest outside the US Consulate in Martin Place, Sydney, on Thursday, January 31, at 5.30pm.

Federico Fuentes, a national co-convenor of the solidarity group Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, said: “Minister Payne reveals a deep lack of knowledge of the situation in Venezuela and her decision to recognise a Venezuelan opposition MP as ‘interim president’ places Australia squarely on the side of those using violence to generate instability for their own political ends.

“This shows that the Australian government is less interested in democracy and more motivated by political calculations, in line with the United States. It shows it does not have a genuine interest in helping resolving the current crisis in Venezuela.”

“Minister Payne claims that Venezuela’s constitution allows Guaidó to appoint himself ‘interim president’. This is not the case, and in any other country, such a move would be described for what it is — an attempted coup.”

Guaidó cites Article 233 of the constitution as justification for his self-proclamation.

That article reads: “The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serveby reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.”

Mr Fuentes continued: “But President Maduro has neither died, resigned, been recalled, been removed by the Supreme Court or abandoned the position of president.”

“Minister Payne admits as much when she states that the Australian government urged President Maduro ‘to refrain from assuming the presidency on 10 January,’ despite Maduro being re-elected to the post in 2018.

“Given the opposition’s boycott of last year’s election — which was brought forward at its request — and the Australian government’s refusal to send official observers to scrutinise its validity, it is a flagrant disregard of Venezuela’s democracy to now turn around and declare Guaidó president.

“It is not up to Australia, or any other country, to decide who Venezuela’s president is: this is a right solely reserved for the people of Venezuela.

“Yet, this is what Australia and the Lima Group, a makeshift alliance of predominately right-leaning countries in the region, have done. In doing so they have come out in support of an unelected and unconstitutional ‘interim president’ who has rejected calls for dialogue, called on the army to carry out a coup and ruled out any possible elections for at least 8-10 months.

“Australia should instead follow the lead of the majority of countries that, at emergency meetings convened by the Organization of American States and the United Nations Security Council, supported non-interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs and called for dialogue and negotiations as the only way out of the crisis.

 “If Australia is serious about playing a positive role in the crisis, it must start by immediately withdrawing its recognition of Guaidó,” Mr Fuentes concluded.

Solidarity activists will be holding a protest outside the US Consulate in Martin Place, Sydney, on Thursday, January 31, starting 5.30pm.