Cries of “Viva Venezuela!” rang through the crowd outside City Hall on Thursday evening at a protest against U.S. involvement in Venezuelan politics.
Roughly 25 organizers and protesters gathered in frigid temperatures, carrying signs emblazoned with the slogan “US out of Latin America!” to pressure the U.S. government to stop its attempts to influence politics in Latin America. The event was organized by representatives of Unidad Latina en Acción — New Haven–based immigrant-rights group — the local chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and ANSWER Coalition — a national anti-war movement.
“As people who live in the United States, it is our role to ask the government to stop the intervention in Latin America!” John Lugo, co-founder of ULA, shouted through a loudspeaker.
The political upheaval in Venezuela has come to a boiling point in recent months in light of the presidential contest between socialist Nicolás Maduro and relative centrist Juan Guaidó. In May 2018, Maduro — who first assumed the nation’s top office in 2013 — won re-election despite widespread concern over the process’ legitimacy. Due to the boycott of the election by multiple opposition parties and extremely low voter turnout, many claim that the Venezuelan elections were neither free nor fair.
On Jan. 23, Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela’s legislative body, declared himself acting president of the country, condemning the election results. This move was supported by U.S. President Donald Trump, who officially recognized Guaidó as the interim Venezuelan president immediately after Guaidó’s declaration. The Trump administration has also tightened sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company in recent weeks.
“The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime,” Trump tweeted Jan. 23. “Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.”
Norman Clement, an activist of the PSL, claimed that the United States’ support for Guaidó was part of a government scheme to both profit from oil and dismantle socialist ideologies in Venezuela. He saw U.S. criticism of Maduro’s government as an attempt to twist perceptions of socialist governments and to dissuade American citizens from supporting socialism.
“Our government interferes in the elections and government of every country in the world,” Clement told the News.
Clement characterized the U.S. government as hypocritical for requesting Maduro to step down while simultaneously criticizing Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
ULA member Mary Claire Whelan ’19 emphasized the importance of voicing disapproval of the U.S. government’s actions.
“I think it’s too easy to hear all the horrible news and stay complacent,” Whelan said Thursday. “I’m standing in solidarity with people who are standing in capitalist oppression worldwide.”
Lugo discussed the tangible effects of American interventionist policies on local undocumented immigrants. He said that every person he encountered seeking aid from ULA denounced the impact of U.S. policies in Latin America.
“This is just the beginning. I’m hoping we can bring more people on the streets and have more people speak up,” Lugo said.
Venezuela’s National Assembly was first elected in 2000.
Meera Shoaib | firstname.lastname@example.org