by Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/ Staff Writer
Last week, President Donald Trump came to FIU’s main campus to talk about the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Everyone from our student body to the pundits on cable news channels broadcasting the event had something to say about the matter.
On our end, crowds from opposing sides gathered to argue. Protests formed by both FIU students and outsiders angry about the President’s policies and behavior, covering everything from Trump’s haphazard declaration of a national emergency over funding of the border wall, to his interest in sending military intervention to end the Venezuelan crisis once and for all.
As what happens with every minority population previously ignored by American media driven into controversial spotlight because of something involving the US (see Puerto Ricans after hurricane Maria), Venezuelans have become subject to uninformed and unsubstantiated analysis from all sides of the political spectrum.
We are seen as exploits used for Trump’s financial and political gain, or as a monolith that can be swayed and persuaded by the right.
It comes at a cost because Venezuela is not at danger of a US military backed coup driven by a lust for petroleum as many sources would want you to believe.
Venezuelans are merely trying to rid themselves of a dictatorship that abuses the rights of their people in countless ways, by seeking constitutional democratic elections.
This is a dictatorship responsible for the mass exodus of three million Venezuelans to different parts of the world since 2014. It is a dictatorship responsible for appalling food and medical shortages and a yearly inflation of 80,000 percent. It is a dictatorship that persecutes its political opponents and kills its citizens just for expressing freedom of speech.
Juan Guaidó didn’t just declare himself president.
He was elected by the public as president of the national assembly and is acting as interim president until democratic elections are held. These are the steps mandated by the Venezuelan constitution when a president and vice president are deemed illegitimate.
Nicolás Maduro and Delcy Rodríguez have, in fact, been deemed illegitimate. Through the social and political cycle of divisiveness that permeates our conversations in 2019, our culture of hyperbole has led to the devaluation of words like “illegitimate” and “tyrannical.”
But Maduro really is illegitimate, both in practice and under definition of the Venezuelan law. This is more than #NotMyPresident. He is an actual dictator who has abused his power in the most blatant ways in order to oppress his people.
In 2015, the opposition won control of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s equivalent to our Congress, making it the only government institution led by an opposition majority.
For those of you who know your checks and balances, this was the only thing destabilizing Maduro’s power over all other branches of government.
Because of that, Maduro’s hand-picked Supreme Court nullified the National Assembly in 2017, and then created the Constituent Assembly, which was cherry-picked by him and made to overtake the attributions of the democratically elected National Assembly.
The illegitimate Constituent Assembly then called for early presidential elections which were held in May 2018, but many members of opposition parties were banned from running.
Maduro was declared winner, even though countless members of the international community and the National Assembly did not recognize the results on account of a corrupt and illegitimate election process.
When he was unlawfully sworn in as president early this year, the National Assembly declared him an usurper and appointed Juan Guaidó as interim president, as instructed in the country’s constitutional guidelines.
If you’re having trouble following, imagine if Trump decided to nullify the House of Representatives because it’s dominated by Democrats and made up his own body of government in which he filled every seat with Republicans only, rather than letting the public vote.
Now imagine if this unconstitutional, newly made up body decided to throw snap presidential elections and banned the Democrats, along with any other opposition party with even a slight chance of winning, from running.
There would be uprisings of people protesting against this totalitarianism, just as there have been in Venezuela.
After the nullification of the National Assembly in 2017, countless protests took place in disapproval of Maduro’s blatant exploitation of power. Protestors were arrested, tortured, gassed and murdered on the streets by authorities acting in compliance with the regime.
Under Maduro there is no freedom of speech or the press. This is what happens when you challenge your oppressor, peacefully or combatively.
Interim president Guaidó isn’t a right-wing politician either, but a liberal representative in Congress.
This, his rise from a lower-middle class upbringing and his commitment to helping the Venezuelan working class would likely have resonated with leftist groups such as FIU’s Young Democratic Socialists of America (who were among those protesting Trump’s involvement in Venezuela last week), were it not for their malalignment with Maduro in an effort to undermine everything that Trump says and does.
What non-Venezuelans appropriating the crisis as anti-Trump fuel don’t understand, is that they are hurting Venezuela and its people further by opposing US military intervention.
Venezuelans—many of whom detest Trump—are in favor of his proposition if it means putting an end to a brutal and violent dictatorship.
This isn’t about Trump, nor is it an issue of left vs right. By making it seem as such, American media, US politicians and the think tanks on our campus are harming Venezuelans and oversimplifying our struggle.
We would appreciate it if you stopped.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.
Photo by Andrés Gerlotti on Unsplash