Over two dozen people gathered across from the UK Prime Minister’s residence to denounce a visit by Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaidó. The protest was arranged at the last minute by the Hands Off Venezuela (HOV) campaign following the announcement that Guaidó would be speaking to members of the Venezuelan diaspora in Bethnal Green later on 21 January.
The Eventbrite page setup for the Bethnal Green discussion refers to Guaidó as the President of Venezuela, notwithstanding the fact that Nicolás Maduro was elected president in an election which four groups of international observers signed off as “clean” in 2018.
Jorge Martin, who founded HOV following the failed 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela, described Guaidó as a “puppet of the US administration”. He said that the men and women who attended the protest don’t think the British government should be meeting Guaidó.
He also explained that after Guaidó declared himself interim president in February 2019 “he decided to lead a failed military coup against the democratically elected president of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro”.
“This person should be arrested and put on trial in Venezuela for having attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government”, he argued.
Jorge Martin (@marxistJorge), of @HOVcampaign, explains that demonstrators gathered across from Number 10 today to denounce a visit by Juan Guaido who they say should be tried for leading a "failed military coup against the democratically elected president of #Venezuela". pic.twitter.com/C1wFW2BLVQ— M. A. E. (@MElmaazi) January 21, 2020
“[Guaidó] has no power whatsoever. In fact he actually lost the elections this year as president of National Assembly”, Carolina Graterol, a Venezuelan freelance journalist added. “He shouldn’t be here anyway, because he’s nothing anymore in the Venezuelan parliament, let alone supposedly ‘interim president’".
Juan Guaido "has no power whatsoever [in Venezuela]. In fact he actually lost the elections this year as president of the National Assembly", says Caroline Graterol (@Moncaro) during a protest against a visit by Guaido, across from Number 10. pic.twitter.com/1yZC9rgJ5S— M. A. E. (@MElmaazi) January 21, 2020
US sanctions against Venezuela have created a “terrible situation” for the country, Graterol added. She pointed out that Guido has supported the sanctions against his own country which are “stopping the government from buying medicines, from buying food… they are strangling the economy” she said.
British Sudanese journalist Ahmed Kaballo was also covering the demo. Kaballo was in Venezuela for six weeks covering the initial coup attempt in February 2019 for Press TV.
“Both [the opposition supporters and pro-government supporters] understood that there was an economic crisis in the country. However the reasons why there was an economic crisis… was what they disagreed on”, Kaballo explained. “Those that supported the government recognise it to be the result of economic terrorism, economic sanctions. Those that oppose the government blame Nicolás Maduro and the government for absolutely all of the countries woes, and attributed none of this to the sanctions”, he said.
Ahmed Kaballo (@AhmedKaballo) explains that when he was in #Venezuela during the failed coup attempt in February 2019 he noticed a clear division between supporters of the government who blamed US sanctions for the economic crisis & opponents who blamed the govt for their woes. pic.twitter.com/9XC7Pdf9UT— M. A. E. (@MElmaazi) January 21, 2020
The Washington based Center for Economic and Policy Research published a report in 2019 which found that 40,000 Venezuelans died as a result of US imposed sanctions between 2017 and 2018. The report warned that the situation would only worsen as the Trump administration increased the severity of the sanctions.