United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the days of foreign intervention in Latin America are “long ago gone,” expressing hope that no foreign forces would enter Venezuela, after US President Donald Trump repeated his threats of taking military action against the South American country.
“I was very encouraged by the demonstration last Saturday in which the demonstrations took place without violence,” the UN chief also said in an interview with the US government-sponsored broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) at the United Nations in New York, referring to rallies in Venezuela.
“Our strong appeal is to avoid all forms of violence that, of course, serve no purpose and benefit nobody,” Guterres added.
Venezuela has been in political turmoil in the past couple of weeks, with the opposition, holding widespread anti-government protests, blaming the country’s President Nicolas Maduro over an ailing economy, hyperinflation, power cuts, and shortages of basic items, urging him to resign.
Political crisis further deepened considerably in the South American country on January 23, when opposition figure Juan Guaido, a lawmaker who leads the defunct National Assembly, proclaimed himself the “interim president” of the country until new elections and accused Maduro’s government as being illegitimate. Trump was quick in officially recognizing him as such, a move that infuriated Caracas.
The American president has time and again said that US military force is an “option” to use against Venezuela, but has not specified under what circumstances he would dispatch troops there to remove Maduro from power.
On Sunday, Venezuelan authorities found a large shipment of US-made weapons aboard a cargo plane that had taken off from Miami, Florida, and had landed at the Arturo Michelena International Airport in the city of Valencia. The case is still under investigation to identify the precise source of the weapons.
However, Maduro on Monday ruled out the possibility of “war” and direct “military intervention” in Venezuela from outside, but stressed this “does not mean that we do not prepare to defend our land” from any US military invasion.
Maduro, 56, accuses Trump of concealing his real motive of stealing Venezuela’s vast natural resources behind his regime-change posture, because the Latin American country does not “have weapons of mass destruction” and is not a “security threat” to the US.
The White House has called on other countries to follow suit in recognizing Guaido. It has further placed tough sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA and certified the authority of Guaido to control certain Venezuelan assets held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other US-insured banks.
Canada and a number of right-leaning Latin American countries have already offered official recognition to Guaido. In a coordinated move on Monday, 17 countries of the 28-member European Union (EU), including France, Spain and Britain, also officially announced their support for Guido.
However, other countries, including Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran, have expressed support for the elected government in Venezuela and condemned outside interference in the country.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Guterres announced that he had offered the UN’s “good offices” to both sides in Venezuela. He also stressed that it is up to the Venezuelans to negotiate a solution.
“I think it’s important that the UN reaffirms the availability of its good offices to support any negotiations between the two parties for a solution to be found. The Venezuelan people need it and deserve it,” he said. Early this month, Guterres stressed that he would only cooperate with Maduro’s recognized government.
Maduro was sworn in for a second term on January 10, after an election win — gained last May — that faced an opposition boycott and allegations of vote-rigging, which the government has denied. The US, Canada, most Latin American, and many European countries have labeled Maduro’s May win as fraudulent.
Despite the pressure exerted from the outside, Venezuela’s army has remained loyal to Maduro. Last month, he visited several military bases, where he denounced Washington for openly leading a coup against his administration by recognizing Guaido as “acting president.”`
The US has a long record of sponsoring “regime change” campaigns in Venezuela and other countries. In 2002, Chavez was ousted for two days in a US-backed coup that was ultimately defeated.