US president Donald Trump green-lighted an attempted coup in Venezuela on 23 January. And while cross-party support for the latest chapter of US imperialism has been unsurprisingly strong, many ordinary people have awaited a critical response from progressive politicians. But the response from leading progressive voice Bernie Sanders disappointed many. Fortunately, new member of congress Ilhan Omar was on hand to show Sanders how to really oppose US imperialism.
Sanders speaks up, but disappoints
On 24 January, US senator and likely 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders posted a Twitter thread on Venezuela. And his final comment was the strongest:
However, he began the statement with a particularly one-sided assessment of the current situation in Venezuela:
Sanders is, of course, right to outline that the US “must learn the lessons of the past”. But for many, his statement just wasn’t good enough.
Firstly, the critical issue at hand is the sovereignty of Venezuela. Since Nicolás Maduro’s “violent crackdown” (which happened during a conflict involving violent acts from sectors of the opposition) doesn’t excuse US interference, Sanders has his list of priorities the wrong way around. Because ultimately, criticism of US imperialism doesn’t require comment on the worthiness of its victim.
Secondly, Sanders vitally failed to mention Washington’s attempted coup in Venezuela in 2002. While US meddling in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic should be recognised, remembered, and condemned, the 2002 coup in Venezuela is vital context to what’s happening today. For Washington, toppling Venezuela’s government is unfinished business.
Thirdly, Sanders outlined that the “United States should support the rule of law, fair elections and self-determination for the Venezuelan people”. But as The Empire Files’ Abby Martin pointed out:
In short, Venezuela – and not the US – is responsible for the self-determination of Venezuelans.
Ilhan Omar shows Sanders how to do it
Following her victory in the 2018 midterms, Ilhan Omar became one of the first Muslim women to enter congress. And following the attempted coup in Venezuela, she showed Sanders what real opposition to US imperialism looks like.
On 24 January, she insisted:
The following day, she commented fearlessly on the relationship between US intervention and economic interests, tweeting:
She concluded that, if the US really cared about ordinary Venezuelans, it would immediately lift devastating economic sanctions:
Her comments followed commendable statements from fellow Democratic representative Ro Khanna.
Lead the way
Sanders has led vital efforts to end US support for Saudi Arabia’s catastrophic war on Yemen. Like Omar and Khanna, he must now lead the way in opposing US imperialism in Venezuela.
Featured images via Kristie Boyd and United States Congress