We don’t seem to hear much about Venezuela these days. The UK government, in a brief statement to parliament on the 12th January this year said:
On 30 December 2022 the 2015 National Assembly of Venezuela democratically voted to disband the interim government and the position of constitutional interim President held by Juan Guaidó, with effect from 5 January 2023. We respect the result of this vote. We continue to consider the National Assembly elected in 2015 as the last democratically elected National Assembly in Venezuela, and take note of the Assembly’s vote to extend its mandate for another year.
The UK’s government therefore believes that a body whose term expired in 2020 remains legitimate, despite fresh National Assembly elections in 2020, which the government deems illegitimate. And now it appears as if a body whose five year term expired three years ago can extend its life at will. But as Vijay Prashad wrote in Counterpunch on the 10th of January this year:
When I met the leaders of Venezuela’s two historic opposition parties in Venezuela in 2020—Pedro José Rojas of Acción Democrática (AD) and Juan Carlos Alvarado of Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente (COPEI)—they told me that the 2020 election was legitimate and that they just did not know how to overrun the massive wave of Chavista voters. Since the members of the new assembly took their seats, the 2015 assembly has not set foot in the Palacio Federal Legislativo, which houses the National Assembly, near Plaza Bolívar in Caracas.
I suspect that there may be many questions about the legitimacy of recent Venezuelan elections, but I do not know the facts. What is clear is that the UK government (and many other governments, including the US whom we slavishly follow) talk about ‘internationally recognised democratic standards’ only when it suits them. In Venezuela’s case, this enabled the Bank of England to sit on $2 billion of Venezuelan gold which de facto President Maduro claimed he wanted to help pay for his efforts combating Covid. That’s a real consequence of the UK government’s posturing over ‘democratic standards.’ If there were any consistency in these matters, the UK government would not recognise Putin’s government, nor many others. But Venezuela with a left wing government is in the US ‘back yard’ so has to be treated differently. It is unlikely that this hypocrisy will change with a Starmer government. Venezuela is too close to Corbyn’s heart for that to happen.
Presumably at some point the self-perpetuating 2015 National Assembly will choose another ‘interim president,’ surely they must if they want to be internationally recognised as an ‘administration.’ But who would they choose? Who would be the kind of figure that would earn the plaudits of Western leaders? Of the last ‘interim president' Noam Chomsky wrote (The Precipice, Penguin, 2021, p.210):
Maduro has been a disaster, and the best the opposition has to offer is the self-declared president Juan Guaidó. About him little is known, apart from his great admiration for the neofascist Brazilian president Jair Bolsanario whom Guaidó praised for his commitment to “democracy [and] human rights,” as illustrated for example by his criticism for Brazil’s military dictatorship-because it . . . didn’t murder 30,000 people as in neighbouring Argentina, the worst of the vicious military dictatorships that swept across South America from the 1960s.
Yes, the UK government would be happy with one of those.