Although America’s latest attempt at regime change revolves around Washington recognising a self-declared Venezuelan “President” as the legitimate head of state, Donald Trump has curiously refrained from saying a great deal on the matter. Instead, yesterday Trump took to Twitter in order to criticise Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who had delivered a report on what the US intelligence community views as the most serious threats to US national security. Notably, Coats stated that the supposed nuclear threat from Iran is not a danger as Coats affirmed that Iran remains in compliance with the terms of the 2015 JCPOA (aka Iran Nuclear Deal).
This clearly infuriated Trump who took to Twitter to to lambaste Coats’ report. According to Trump:
“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but…….a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”
Although almost twenty-four hours later, Trump returned to Twitter to offer support for Venezuela’s pretender “President” Juan Guaido, his sparse remarks about Venezuela have been notably more anodyne than his “fire and fury” infused statements regarding Iran. As it is clear that Donald Trump is allowing his neo-con National Security Advisor John Bolton to take charge of the Venezuela issue whilst preferring to talk mostly about his domestic opponents, his infamous wall and his well known dislike of the Islamic Republic of Iran, there is likely a highly strategic domestic tactic at play which can explain why Trump has allowed others (mainly Bolton) to go front and centre over Venezuela.
Whilst the Iranian immigrant and Iranian-American population in the United States is comparatively small and generally opposed to the Islamic Revolution, the vast Latino-American population of the United States has historically resented Washington’s colonial mentality that it has taken against the peoples of Latin America for over a century and in the specific case of Mexico, for nearly two centuries. Compounding these historic trends, no recent issue has galvanised Latino-American opinion in the United States against Donald Trump more than the issue of the frontier wall that the US President plans to build on the Mexican border.
Leftist, centrist and and socially conservative Latino-American groups have all largely united in opposition to Trump’s border wall. And yet, when Venezuela, a country which defines itself as a progressive champion of all Latin Americans and has even given free oil to poor Central American nations, is threatened with political instability from Washington – the Latino-American activists who raised their voices loudly against the Wall have become notably less vocal when it comes to Venezuela.
Instead, those in the United States arguing against Washington’s meddling in Venezuela are mostly found among traditional anti-war activists who define themselves in terms of ideology rather than in terms of a cultural or ethnic identity. As such, while there are Latinos in the US anti-war movement, there are also, European Americans, African Americans and many others in an anti-war movement that in 2019 is numerically smaller than the Latino-American activists who had been galvanised into protests against Trump’s proposed border wall.
In this sense, by allowing neocons like Bolton who are experts on regime change, but more or less removed from domestic politics including the border wall, to take charge of the regime change Twitter Coup against Venezuela, Trump has been able to show that the Latino-American activists of the United States can be divided by war just as easily as they can be united against a border wall.
Even amongst the most identiterian politically aware communities in the United States, anti-war activism is becoming increasingly taboo in the age of Trump. In this sense, groups which normally take the self-described progressive stance on most social, cultural and racial issues, grow notably silent when it comes to opposing the neo-imperialist wars which happen to be primarily authored by white male neocons (this was true even during the Obama administration). Thus, whilst the activists of the US left tend to deride anything that looks and sounds “white and male”, when it comes to very white and very male wars, there is little that is being said to oppose pushes for war, regime change and meddling in the sovereign affairs of other nations.
A major example of the great wall of silence when it comes to Venezuela, is that of newly elected member of the US House of Representatives, Alexandria Occasio-Cortez. Occasio-Cortez is a self-defined progressive, something of the self-appointed leader of America’s left wing youth politics, is a Latina-American who frequently references her background from a Puerto Rican family in the context of activist politics and is on record calling Donald Trump a racist. Yet when it comes to yet another US act of aggression against yet another Latin American country, Occasio-Cortez has gone silent, preferring instead to talk about other issues that are not related to the life or death situation that a civil war in Venezuela could rapidly become.
Whilst Latino-American activists in the US are arguably Trump’s largest collective set of opponents, Trump has found a way to skilfully divide Latino-American activists by exposing their lack of solidarity with the UN recognised and ultra-progressive government of Venezuela. In this sense, Trump has found the Achilles’ heel of Latino politics in the US – all he had to do is distract from discussions about a wall by replacing them with John Bolton’s discussions about a potential war.
It is therefore not only curious but is supremely ironic that Latino-Americans who tend to champion socio-economic policies that are on the same end of the political spectrum as those of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, have nothing to say when white, male neocons actively seek his extra-judicial removal from power in a sovereign Latin American state. It is all the more ironic that whilst many Latino-American activists likewise show specific solidarity with Mexico, they have largely neglected to act on the fact that Mexico’s own progressive President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is one of the few Latin American leaders to openly show solidarity with Venezuela’s President Maduro. It turns out that just as Washington has divided the leaders of Latin American nations, so too has Washington divided Latino-Americans over the same issue.