Tuesday much of cable news TV was dominated by pictures of the unrest in Venezuela’s capital city Caracas. This article is being written early Friday evening with the outcome of the events unknown. If you are looking for a prediction or expect analysis of Venezuelan politics you are in the wrong place. If you want to read about two thoughts that came to my mind as a result of this then let’s explore.
While the situation is unclear and a good bit of disinformation is coming out of Trump’s three principle spokesmen on this matter (John Bolton, Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo) the following is rather clear. Nicolas Maduro was President of Venezuela. There was an election. Maduro claims to have won and has stayed in office. Juan Guaido is head of the legislative branch, claims the election was tainted and that under the Venezuelan constitution he is the interim president. Maduro is supported by Cuba and Russia while most of the rest of the world, including the United States, supports Guaido’s claim. Cuban forces are in Caracas supporting Maduro.
There are reports that Russian forces are also in Caracas but, as of this writing, I’m not certain those reports are accurate. If you are an American and you are looking for clarity from your government good luck. Bolton, Pence and Pompeo have all issued statements and they don’t exactly dovetail. However, I wouldn’t consider any of the three a credible source anyway.
As for President Trump himself it is even more perplexing. Trump had a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin where they discussed Venezuela – among other topics including the “Russia hoax” – afterword Trump told the press he believes Putin only wants a peaceful outcome and is not interfering. At least this time Trump didn’t waste taxpayer money traveling to Helsinki.
During the course of Trump administration rhetoric about the situation the three stooges maintained that the actions of the Guaido supporters did not constitute a coup because his was the rightful government. To back up their conclusion they asserted that since the election was tainted Maduro really wasn’t the president. Furthermore under the Venezuelan constitution if the position of President is vacant the head of the legislative branch (in this case Guaido) is the interim president until a new election can be held. That got my nerdy mind thinking.
Extending that reasoning to the 2016 American election and the current president and vice president (they are elected as a ticket) should Nancy Pelosi be sitting behind the big desk in the Oval Office? Even the redacted version of the Mueller Report establishes significant Russian interference in the 2016 election; certainly enough to bring the result into question. By the standard the Trump administration is applying to Venezuela both Trump and Pence are illegal occupants of the office of president. Under our order of succession the Speaker of the House is next in line and using the Trump administration’s reasoning Nancy Pelosi would be president until at least noon on January 20, 2021.
Here comes the scary part. One of the many things I love about America is the peaceful transition of power we have after elections. They are not always happy times but we move on. George W. Bush and Donald Trump both took office despite losing the popular vote. The 2000 election had to go to the Supreme Court. Regardless, with the exception of some relatively minor protests on Inauguration Day Americans accepted the results and hoped for the best. Although Trump has never reached the 50% approval mark we went on. Bush actually received tremendous support immediately after 9/11. Tuesday we saw protestors that took to the streets confronted by military and paramilitary forces which is typical of many other countries.
I’m not predicting it, but several people who know Donald Trump well have predicted that if he loses the 2020 election he will refuse to leave office on Inauguration Day 2021 and may try to use force to remain in office. On more than one occasion Trump has predicted that his backers would take to the streets. As I watched the images broadcast from Caracas on Tuesday I did not want to mock the Venezuelans as some third world people who were unable to obey and maintain the rule of law. Instead I feared that the streets of Washington, DC could look like that in January of 2021.
I don’t know what will ultimately happen in Venezuela I just wish the people of Venezuela well. Closer to my heart I hope that we can again have a peaceful transition of power in 2021. As if that wasn’t enough I’ll leave you with a three questions to ponder. When is a coup a coup? Who is the legitimate head of a government after a tainted election? If an American administration imposes a standard on another sovereign nation should it also live up to that same standard?
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