'A coup is a coup and violence is violence'

18 February 2019

'A coup is a coup and violence is violence'

SP Member of Parliament Sadet Karabulut argues that Het Parool's Bas Soetenhorst misrepresented her views on Venezuela in his recent column.

On Monday 4th February, Journalist Bas Soetenhorst devoted a column in this newspaper to my party's standpoint on Venezuela, a column in which he made a number of misleading statements.  

Soetenhorst criticises my use of the words 'attempted coup', because this suggests that the government there is legitimate. It's absolutely unclear why this usage says anything about the legitimacy or otherwise of the incumbent leader. History has seen countless coups and attempted coups against both legitimate leaders and leaders who had scant support amongst their country's people.

If I called it an attempted coup, one which is supported from outside the country, it's because there are indications that it is just that. When Guaidó appointed himself president, he was instantly recognised as such by the US, a country which, moreover, has a greedy eye on Venezuela's stocks of oil.

This was clearly a coordinated move. Since then all manner of appeals have been made to the Venezuelan army to turn against Maduro, while swingeing economic sanctions have been imposed, worsening the country's disastrous condition, something which Soetenhorst appears to want to ignore.

Litany of interventions

This comes on top of reports from the New York Times that the US held talks last year with rebellious Venezuelan soldiers in order to plan a coup d'état. The United States also supported the failed 2002 coup in Venezuela against the president at the time, Hugo Chavez. This leaves no room to doubt that American efforts in Venezuela are aimed at regime change.

This is probably the latest chapter in the litany of US interventions in Latin America. These are often followed by explosions of violence and repression, a danger which is now most emphatically in the offing. This has nothing at all to do with democracy and human rights, but everything with US oil interests.  

A further accusation in Soetenhorst's column is that I am critical of the opposition's violence in Venezuela, giving the impression that both camps are equally responsible for the enormous suffering there. In this you can even here, he said, an echo of Trump's statement, after right wing extremists in Charlottesville had driven into a counter-demonstrator and killed her, that both sides were to blame.

This is unjust. Anyone who wants to can see that I have loudly and clearly condemned the repressive actions and economic mismanagement for which Maduro bears the principal responsibility. It's a pity that no acknowledgement is made of my remark during a debate last week that Maduro does not deserve to be defended. Could this be any clearer?  

Human rights

It seems to me clear that alongside that I must condemn the violence of the opposition. This is on the basis of the position which my party always seeks to take in relation to international conflicts: to stand up for human rights, everyone's human rights. It says a great deal that Bert Koenders, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, stated last year that violence was also coming from the opposition, saying that the conflict in Venezuela was 'not a struggle between good and evil'.

In closing Soetenhorst suggests that his impression is that my condemnation of the action of Maduro is merely a routine duty and does nothing to dispel the possibility that I am protecting a dictator.

That is, to put it mildly, not terribly convincing. I have repeatedly called for fresh elections as a possible way out of the crisis in Venezuela – elections which Maduro would probably not win, because he has to a large extent, for understandable reasons, lost support amongst the people.

This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, in the daily newspaper Het Parool, on 8th February.


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