US and World Politics

U.S. Media Lies Help Trump’s Venezuela Warmongering 

By Jacob Sweet

As most of the world knows by now, the United States government intends to organize regime change in Venezuela.

Attempts to this effect have been made in the past—most notably in 2002, when its economy and standard of living was exemplary in the region—but not so brazenly as now. Today, the country wrestles with an economic crisis. At the same time, the U.S. Secretary of State openly threatens Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro with military action. The U.S. government provides material and political support to opposition forces. It also continues to tighten the sanctions that caused much of the misery to begin with.

That the Trump regime is openly meddling in an oil-rich, Latin American nation that resists U.S. corporate hegemony is unsurprising. The U.S. has “intervened thousands of times in Latin America” since 1800, according to historian Alan McPherson. Thus, the U.S.’s Venezuela policies are merely part of a long-standing pattern. 

But while these facts are well known, less known is the role of U.S. media coverage in building the official pretext for the ongoing sabotage and possible invasion of this struggling country. A series of misleading claims about the issue are being published by ostensibly objective U.S. news sources. Those same claims are being used by the political apparatus to make the case for engaging in imperialist operations in Venezuela.

One misleading claim is that Juan Guaidó, a practically unknown Venezuelan politician until this year after he asserted himself to be the interim leader of the country, at least arguably has a legitimate claim to power. For example, the New York Times called the issue of presidential legitimacy “a messy dispute,” a question for which the answers “are not at all straightforward.”

In fact, the answer to whether Guaidó is the legitimate leader of Venezuela is as straightforward as the answer to whether Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the legitimate leader of the United States. There’s absolutely no constitutional or legal basis for the deposing of Maduro and installment of Guaidó. Noah Feldman, a leading constitutional law expert from Harvard, called the legal case for Guaidó’s legitimacy “weak” and “implausible.” He concluded that “the constitutional argument that Maduro isn’t really president is nothing more than a fig leaf for regime change.”

The argument could be made that the Venezuelan public now prefers Guaidó to Maduro. Granted, it’s true that polling—if it’s to be believed in such a chaotic situation—indicates Guaidó recently has more popular support. But polling also consistently indicates Sanders has more popular support than President Trump. Thus, there’s a simple test for determining whether the polling legitimizes the West’s “recognition” of Guaidó as leader: ask the press if Venezuela has the right to recognize Sanders as President and threaten violence to make it official. Note that one needn’t bother actually administering this test to know what the press’s response would be: namely, uproarious laughter. After all, obliviousness to hypocrisy has never disqualified journalists from covering foreign policy in the U.S.

The election

Another claim, related to the one above, is that Maduro didn’t win a fair, democratic election. In a May 1st article, the Washington Post uncritically reported that the 2018 election “result was decried internationally as fraudulent.” In a more blatant misrepresentation, the Post also claimed that Maduro’s second term was the result of an “election riddled with fraud.”

This pervasive claim isn’t supported by the evidence. Of course, the government and the opposition have gone back and forth on the question of the election’s legitimacy. To be sure, each side has made questionable claims about the voting process. But it’s the opposition which made it impossible to get an objective verification of election results. The Maduro administration fought for transparency.

It was the opposition who boycotted the 2018 election entirely, presumably to make the election appear less convincing and save face in case of a loss. The opposition also opposed allowing the United Nations, the foremost authority in electoral monitoring, to monitor the election. The Maduro administration, on the other hand, invited the U.N. to observe. In the end, the U.N. sided with the opposition and refused to send an electoral team for reasons which can only be speculated. But the question remains: why didn’t the opposition want a nonpartisan body of investigators to prove their assertion that the election was fraudulent—unless they had reason to believe it wasn’t actually fraudulent?

Refusing foreign aid?

Another deception is that Maduro’s government is refusing foreign aid into the country. An article by the Miami Herald reported that “the socialist administration” of Venezuela is “refusing offers of food and medicine from its neighbors and aid agencies.” That article was published in February 2019. This was the same month USAID trucks supposedly attempting to deliver aid at the Colombian border were set on fire, an incident which the U.S. media loudly blamed on Maduro’s military but, later, admitted anti-Maduro opposition forces were responsible.

The USAID incident’s phoniness has almost become general knowledge. But the meme pushed by the Herald and others—that Maduro’s government refuses aid—continues to spread despite its outright falsity. In reality, Maduro’s government repeatedly accepted aid both before and after the February hoax, through agencies including the Red Cross, the United Nations and the European Union. 

Notwithstanding, it’s certainly true Venezuela has steadfastly rejected aid from the U.S. government’s USAID program. But this is perfectly understandable to anyone with an inkling of knowledge about the history of U.S. “humanitarian aid” in Latin America. For example, the Reagan administration delivered weapons to anti-government terrorists in Nicaragua circa the 1980s under the guise of “humanitarian aid.”  Thus, it’s perhaps unsurprising that both the U.N. and Red Cross refused to join in the USAID effort in Venezuela, deeming it politically motivated.

Furthermore, it’s not unfair to investigate whether the U.S. has shown any kind of consistency on the issue of aid. Alas, a scant examination of the recent record reveals that it has not. In 2005, as over 1,000 U.S citizens died and thousands more suffered in the midst of one of its worst humanitarian catastrophes ever, the U.S. rebuffed a generous offer of water, food, fuel and other provisions, even as hungry people sat in homes and hospitals without power, because the aid was from an enemy state. 

That humanitarian catastrophe was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The name of the enemy state? Venezuela. If the U.S.’s rejection of Venezuelan aid didn’t entitle Venezuela to conspire to overthrow the U.S. government, then there’s no reason the U.S. is entitled to do likewise to Venezuela—unless we are to believe the United States has no moral obligations at all and is always justified by mere virtue of its military and economic might. Given the kind of commentary the U.S. foreign policy press publishes about Venezuela, one suspects that’s exactly what they believe.

Of course, there’s still another, even more obvious objection. If the U.S. is sincerely dedicated to aiding Venezuela, why hasn’t it ended its brutal sanctions and blockade? These policies ensure the economic crisis can’t be solved. As Edgardo Lander, Venezuelan sociologist and Maduro critic, argues: “it’s absolutely cynical that the U.S. government is claiming to be worried about the humanitarian situation of Venezuelans, offering a few million dollars, when billions of dollars are being kept away from the Venezuelan government’s capacity to respond to the deep crisis.”


Perhaps the most deceptive of all the media’s claims about Venezuela is that the Maduro administration’s “socialist” policies are the sole driver of the current crisis. This claim is repeated ad nauseam in various forms. In a particularly odious example, ran a column in January stating “socialism turned Venezuela from the wealthiest country in South America into an economic basket case.”

In truth, the deadliest contributor to Venezuela’s crisis is U.S. policy. Former U.N. rapporteur Alfred de Zayas deemed the sanctions and blockade illegal and possible “crimes against humanity.” According to one study, they are responsible for the deaths of at least an estimated 40,000 people. This vicious, inhuman economic war could be halted overnight if the U.S. had the slightest concern for suffering Venezuelans. The refusal to do so proves the insincerity of the U.S.’s stated humanitarian motives.

Additionally, much of the political turmoil erupting across the country is the result of an opposition fostered and supported by the U.S. government. As media outlets have detailed, the opposition has received substantial funding and political support from Washington for years. The investment has begun to bear its fruit. Recently, the opposition has engaged in “benevolent,” “democracy-spreading” activities like publically setting a Maduro supporter on fire, murdering police and trying to burn down the Venezuelan Supreme Court. Suffice to say that, contrary to the media image of a peaceful reform movement resisting unwarranted aggression by the state, the U.S. has developed and funded a right-wing rebellion rife with violence and contempt for democracy as it fights to destroy the social reforms started under the late Hugo Chavez.

And so it goes. The pattern continues right up to the very present. On April 30th, the media was flooded with reports that Guaidó was leading an imminent overthrow. CNN ran video of Guaidó standing in a “liberated” air force base, flanked by soldiers, and claimed he was rallying “thousands of supporters” to join him in finally ousting Maduro. But the video was a hoax. It was recorded from a bridge, not an airbase, and with no crowd of “thousands of supporters.” The media had helped Guaidó disseminate staged propaganda.

“Godfather” style policy

Worse yet, all of these falsehoods and misrepresentations of fact are utilized by the U.S. government. From deeming Guaidó the legitimate leader, to asserting Maduro refuses to accept foreign aid, to playing along with the airbase hoax, U.S. government officials use each of these media myths to build a case for plunging Venezuela further into chaos and destroying its political system.

The U.S. is playing a standard, mobster-like game. It’s a game instantly recognizable to anyone remotely familiar with what Chomsky called the U.S.’s “Godfather”-style of foreign policy. Their intent is to install a right-wing government that will submit to U.S. economic interests. It’s the same game it has played with countless nations throughout its history. And during virtually all of these ventures, the press dutifully served its true role of rallying the support of the American public. They appear determined to do it again.

Jacob Sweet is a writer and political activist from Ohio.