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Venezuela's President Maduro Has Surprising Allies In Opposition To U.S. Involvement

Feb 13, 2019
Originally published on February 14, 2019 11:29 am
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The Trump administration's efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and back opposition leader Juan Guaido are the latest in a long history of American interventions in Latin America. As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, that history has left even Maduro's fiercest enemies wary of U.S. actions.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Maduro continued his colorful rhetoric this week against the U.S. and specifically President Trump, who he says is a war monger masterminding a coup against him.

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VENEZUELA NICOLAS MADURO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "I believe the extremist sector of the white supremacists of the Ku Klux Klan leads the United States," Maduro said in an interview with the BBC, specifically singling out President Trump and adding this refrain that wins favor in sectors of Latin America and beyond.

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MADURO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Say no to intervention. Tell the United States, hands off Venezuela," he said. President Trump has said that military intervention there is an option but for now is going with a non-military and multilateral approach, pleasing some skeptics.

JOHN FEELEY: I am surprised that I find myself approving what the Trump administration has done.

KAHN: John Feeley is a former State Department diplomat who resigned as U.S. ambassador to Panama soon after Trump took office. He says it's a difficult balancing act the U.S. plays when it comes to pushing for Maduro's ouster. It can't be seen as leading the charge.

FEELEY: Because precisely the history of U.S. intervention in Latin America is such that it always seems to engender worse backlash than the original objective mattered to American interests.

KAHN: It's an interventionist past widely taught throughout Latin America.

ENRIQUE KRAUZE: It's a long history that starts in Mexico.

KAHN: Enrique Krauze is a Mexican historian. He begins that history with the Mexican-American War, the brutal two-year conflict in the middle of the 19th century that ended with Mexico losing or, as many Latin Americans say, robbed of half its territory. From there, Krauze continues his list decade by decade well into the 20th century.

KRAUZE: It would be hard to name a country where the United States didn't have some kind of intervention.

KAHN: Among some of the more stinging U.S. moves in the region - ousting a democratically elected government in Guatemala in 1954, a Brazilian leader a decade later and the events in Chile 1973, recounted in this ABC News documentary from the same year.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: On September 11, the Chilean military moved to overthrow the Allende government.

KAHN: Chile's Salvador Allende was deposed from office by CIA-backed opponents. Historian Krauze continues, adding the U.S. invasions of the Dominican Republic, Panama and Grenada.

KRAUZE: The whole specter, the shadow, the - of American intervention has been a constant source of fear, resentment in the whole of Latin America.

KAHN: He, too, says the U.S. is wise to work with a coalition of countries towards Venezuela giving that fraught history. He says, however, the world has waited far too long to stop what he calls the slow genocide of the Venezuelan people. Mexico's former foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda, also not a proponent of President Trump's policies toward Latin America, says the U.S. cannot take too large a role in Maduro's ouster. He fears that would rally Latin America's left to Maduro's defense.

JORGE CASTANEDA: By not having the United States play a leading role - it's not so much that it should be leading from behind. It shouldn't be leading period. It should be doing what it is doing but not more - not less but not more.

KAHN: Former U.S. diplomat John Feeley worries the repercussions of a U.S. intervention in Venezuela would undermine recent progress made in the region.

FEELEY: I think that the last 25 years of U.S.-Latin American diplomacy have actually gone a long way via trade agreement, via people-to-people diplomacy to pushing back against that legacy.

KAHN: And Feeley says he would hate to see those advances ruined. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.