An open letter to US Democratic Socialists from Venezuelan expatriates

Adriana Kohlhofer
Jan 30, 2019 · 4 min read

January 29th 2019

Attention: Senator Sanders, Congresswoman Cortez, Congresswoman Omar, Congressman Khanna and the entire Democratic Socialist wing of the Democratic Party.

As Venezuelan expatriates, we humbly ask you to support the interim president Juan Guaidó. He speaks for the vast majority of Venezuelans, and represents our only chance for a peaceful transition of power and free democratic elections.

Democratic socialists are about bringing empathy into American politics. We are concerned about a number of online and spoken statements made by many of your most visible figures, calling the rise of Juan Guaidó’s as Interim President of Venezuela a “US sponsored far-right coup”. This couldn’t be further from the truth: Juan Guaidó is the Speaker of Venezuela’s legislative body, the National Assembly. President Guaido comes from a working-class background, and his political party, Voluntad Popular, is a member of the International Socialist movement which has also condemned the Maduro regime as dictatorial.

The National Assembly was democratically elected to a ⅔ opposition majority in 2015, but the Maduro Regime, including the judiciary unduly controlled by regime loyalists, immediately prevented the National Assembly from effectively exercising its constitutional powers.

The Maduro Regime has violated the civil and human rights of Venezuelans, killing hundreds of peaceful protesters in the streets, jailing political activists and even murdering opponents and destroying the Venezuelan economy with unprecedented graft and mismanagement. This has led to the largest human exodus in Latin America’s history, as millions of Venezuelan refugees now flood into neighboring countries searching for the livelihood that the regime denies us in our home country. It is estimated by the UN that 5 million people have emigrated the country. These numbers are of Syrian war proportion.

In this context, in violation of the Venezuelan Constitution and electoral laws, with a loyalist electoral body and with the main opposition figures either in jail or banned from running for office, the Maduro Regime set sham elections in May 2018. The Maduro Regime did not allow any credible electoral observers during such event, and neither the vast majority of Venezuelans nor the international community recognized the elections as free and fair. Still, despite failed attempts at political dialogue for new credible elections, Maduro simply swore in for a new term in January 10th before judiciary, one more time violating Venezuela Constitution, which requires such swearing in process to be done before the National Assembly.

Under Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, in the event of absence of an elected president, the Speaker of the National Assembly should rise as Interim President and call for elections in 30 days. This is exactly what Juan Guaidó is doing by calling for an end to the usurpation of power, a transition government and free and fair elections as soon as possible. The Maduro Regime has responded with heavy repression: killing over 30 people since January 22nd, imprisoning over 800 people (an alarming percentage of which are under the age of 18), harshly censoring the local media and forcing internet blackouts to prevent online communications — the only way of accessing truthful information for people in Venezuela. Still, the support and recognition of Juan Guaidó as Interim President by most neighboring governments, including Trump’s government and Trudeau’s government, have been a blessing in preventing even more brutal retaliations against political opponents risking their lives just to defend the constitution and the rights of Venezuelans to be free and happy in our home country.

It is in this context that we find your recent statements regarding the reference of Guaido’s presidency as a coup, the new US sanctions announced this week, comparing our situation to Chile, Guatemala, Brazil and the Dominican Republic, and lastly your call to support negotiated settlements and take the same position as Uruguay, Mexico and the Vatican are misinformed and insensitive. By retreating to your political faction in the face of the grotesque abuses and pains observed in Venezuela, you are using Venezuelans as collateral of a US-based ideological and political agenda. There’s no virtue in doing that. There’s no empathy for the pain and the hopes of the Venezuelan people. Just cynicism, expediency and calculation.

Your remarks may have been due to misinformation, and triggered by a general opposition to President Trump and by the complicated history of US-Latin America relations. That’s understandable, but that also has to stop. If your party’s narrative of empathy for those who suffer is not just a political slogan, we humbly ask -with urgency- that you get properly inform yourself about our situation and reconsider your position on Venezuela. Your current statements are causing more disinformation in an already complex and confusing crisis.

We urge you to join the current bipartisan support of Venezuela’s interim president Juan Guaidó, for him to guide the country towards a peaceful and democratic transition, ending the usurpation of power and the misery that the Maduro regime put in the lives of all Venezuelans, setting up a transition government that allows for free and fair elections as soon as possible. Socialist Democrats’ hope for “a society in which people have a real voice in the choices and relationships that affect the entirety of our lives… — a vision of a more free, democratic and humane society”. We Venezuelans also aspire for the noble causes of freedom, democracy and humanity. The Maduro regime has stripped them from us. We want your help to get them back.

Venezuelan expatriates

Adriana Kohlhofer, Aurora Kearney, Boris Barrios, Diego D’Sola, Jose Miguel Belloso, Jose Ramon Morales, Monica Kohlhofer and José Alejandro Clavijo Michelangeli

You can contact your representatives to get our message across on behalf of the Venezuelan people:

Bernie Sanders at (202)–224–5141, 800–339–9834, 800–862–0697 or 800–339–9834

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at (202)-225–3965 or 929–388–6141

Ilhan Omar at (202)-225–4755 or 612–333–1272

Ro Khanna at 404–436–2720 or 202–225–2631

*This has been lightly edited for clarity and tone

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