05:06 GMT26 February 2021
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    US President Donald Trump inviting Venezuela’s self-proclaimed "interim president," Juan Guaido, to the State of the Union Address to be applauded by Democrats was a “very smart move,” Leonardo Flores, Latin America campaign coordinator for the peace group Code Pink, told Sputnik, as it reframes support for Guaido as a “bipartisan failure.”

    When Trump gave his annual State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Guaido, who has enjoyed US endorsement of his claim to be Venezuela's interim president since January 2019, was one of Trump’s guests of honor, receiving a huge ovation from both Republicans and Democrats when the president hailed him.

    “I think it was actually a very smart move by Trump to have Guaido at the State of the Union, because he knew that Democrats would stand up and applaud. Obviously, Guaido has been a total failure in Venezuela. He only really has support outside the country. So, if people start to consider Guaido to be a failure here in the US, then it’s now become a bipartisan failure and not Trump’s failure,” Flores told Loud & Clear hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

    “It’s hard to say what’s going on inside the White House. That’s been kind of a challenging issue in the last three years with regards to foreign policy, because there has been a lot of diplomats in Washington who don’t know where to go anymore. Because usually you deal with the State Department, and the State Department has very close ties to the White House, obviously, but in the last three years, that hasn’t quite worked,” he said. 

    “Initially, when you had Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, there was a divide between the White House and the State Department. So diplomats were complaining about: ‘Well, if I talk to Tillerson, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the White House is on board or vice versa,’ and now there isn’t that divide between the State Department and the White House. There is a divide within the State Department because there has been a lot of resistance to [US Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo’s leadership of the State Department. And Pompeo is obviously very close to Trump. So, now you have this separation within the home State Department, and people are at a loss of how to proceed and do diplomacy here in DC. It’s been an ongoing issue,” Flores added.

    The US has already instituted crippling economic sanctions on Venezuela. However, the US can still take additional actions to undermine the legitimate Maduro government. Maduro has repeatedly accused Guaido and Washington of collaborating to orchestrate a coup to take control of Venezuela's resources - with more than a little evidence surfacing to support the allegation.

    “One thing that is often underreported is that Chevron gets an exemption plea sanction, so Chevron continues to do business in Venezuela, and that provides a quite bit of oil production for the country. So we might see some of these licenses, some of these exemptions be rescinded if they [the US] really want to escalate the sanctions, but I think there is going to be a lot of pushback from Chevron and other interested parties … besides taking away a few licenses, there seems to be no way for the Trump administration to escalate without taking military action,” Flores added.

    In May 2019, the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC, was taken over by the unelected Venezuelan opposition, despite the fact that the Embassy Protection Collective movement, led by anti-war organizations including Code Pink, Popular Resistance and the ANSWER Coalition, protected the building from seizure for more than 30 days.

    “The takeover of the Venezuelan embassy was a complete violation of international law, specifically of the Vienna Convention. And that’s the strange thing, that they’re not even using it as an embassy. So, you have a fake ambassador here who doesn’t have an embassy, and that just underscores the fact that he is not a real ambassador. And the real losers in this are actually the Venezuelans in the US who cannot receive consular services,” Flores noted.

    Even though Guaido declared himself the interim president and Maduro to be illegitimate, Guaido’s support has steadily waned, shedding allies with each failed coup d’etat.

    “Right now, President Maduro is in a much stronger position now than he was a little over a year ago, before this whole Guaido gambit. The opposition itself is split. Guaido’s own party is split. The new president of the National Assembly [Luis Parra] is actually from Guaido’s party, and that shows how deeply divided the opposition is and how weak Guaido has become inside Venezuela,” Flores added.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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