President Trump has recognised as President of Venezuela, a man who has never stood for the Presidential role but who presides over the Venezuelan national assembly: Juan Guaidó— a man who the New York Times (1/22/19) describes as “virtually unheard-of”—and who has now - at the behest of the Trump administration- proclaimed himself the country’s new leader. Guaido was elected President of the National Assembly of Venezuela in December 2018, and was sworn in on 5 January 2019. He appears to have strong links into the American neocon 'thinktank' and policy systems and strongly supports the United States re- taking more ownership of Venezuela's extensive oil reserves, (the largest in the world) and the privatisation of many state-run services which currently fund health and welfare in Venezuela. According to Consortium News, Within 48 hours, Guaidó quickly tried to seize control of Venezuela’s major US-based oil refiner and use its revenue to help bankroll his US-backed coup regime. Guaidó is attempting to fire the directors of Citgo Petroleum, which is owned by Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, and seeks to appoint his own new board......This plan would involve the creation of a “new hydrocarbons agency” that would “offer bidding rounds for projects in natural gas and conventional, heavy and extra-heavy crude." In other words, these are rapid moves to privatize Venezuela’s oil and open the door for multinational corporations.
The current President of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro who was re-elected in a disputed election in January 2019 . Maduro has used increasingly repressive measures to maintain his powerbase and repress opposition, whilst confronting increasingly violent opposition groups. Telesur (a news agency funded by the Government of Venezuela and other governments such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Bolivia ), notes that the 'National Assembly has been in a situation of contempt of court for almost two years. After the election of deputies in December 2015, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) candidates in Amazon State filed a complaint because their opponents had purchased votes to win the election. The court subsequently condemned the fraud and the Electoral Power Tribunal demanded that the election for these three seats be redone. Since the Speaker of the National Assembly refused to comply with the judicial and electoral authorities, the National Assembly was declared in "contempt of court." Decisions and votes emanating from the legislative power are therefore null and void as long as the speaker of the National Assembly fails to authorize the return to the polls."
The United States has implemented wide-ranging sanctions against the Maduro administration since 2014 , claiming that it is a dictatorial regime. The sanctions , along with declining oil prices and structural failures by the socialist Bolivarian presidents, Chavez and Maduro administrations , has resulted in an economic disaster for Venezuela, with rampant inflation and high unemployment . The working classes and peasants who formerly supported the Maduro government because of its extensive redistribution of state owned oil wealth and its health and social policies, appear now to be increasingly angry with the Maduro administration for the economic failures they have recently endured. Mainstream media in the West and many Western politicians are now able to insist that it is solely the socialist agenda of the Chavez/Maduro administrations that has caused this economic crisis, while ignoring the very deliberate attempts by the United States to de-stabilise the country over an extended period of years via sanctions and supporting an attempted coup in 2002, and using its pressure with other Latin American states to isolate the Venezulean administration.
The United States and its Western and Latin American 'allies' have a desperate need to invalidate the socialist wealth distribution policies of Venezuela; both to ensure its corporate elites continue to receive their 'rightful' incomes, but also to ensure that their home populations do not begin to understand that state ownership and wealth distribution is a very valid and effective method to ensure a sustainable and fair world. (where would we be -God forgive!!-if we had an equitable, efficient, sustainable and accountable economic process that ensured a country's assets actually returned to all of its population?)
The appointment of Elliot Abrams by the Trump administration to coordinate 'diplomatic' efforts to replace Mafuro is a clear indication of the regime change efforts of the United States. The contemptible Abrams was heavily involved in the coordination of terrorist activities by the Reagan era contras in Nicaragua and El Salvador, and would clearly be a key contender for long-term incarceration if there was in fact a neutral international War Crimes Tribunal. As the Guardian article on the 2002 notes: the crucial figure around the coup was Abrams, who operates in the White House as senior director of the National Security Council for 'democracy, human rights and international opera tions'. He was a leading theoretician of the school known as 'Hemispherism', which put a priority on combating Marxism in the Americas.
What Guaido and his American neocon advisors seem to fail to understand, is that his possible ascension to the Venezuelan presidency ( a re-run of the coup of the U.S. 2002 attempted coup ), while allowing the US regime to remove sanctions and its stranglehold over the Venezuelan economy, will inevitably lead to a nationalist backlash in Venezuela as it becomes clear that the majority of the country's resources are being sold off to US corporates and the IMF, with possible negative implications for the recently installed intellectually impaired Bolsonaro extreme right wing administration in neighbouring Brasil-as it becomes clear who is pulling the strings in that country.
In addition, as the centre of global power inexorably moves from the United States to China , Latin American states aligned to increasingly erratic and violent U.S. corporate and state imperialist ambitions, will find themselves isolated.
What is also equally disturbing is the alacrity which which EU nations have fallen in line behind the United States' sponsored coup in Venezuela. Their insistence on interference in another country's domestic issues and their pronouncements on who is the 'legitimate' ruler of Venezuela do not bode well for human rights and the international rule of law.
Postscript: Stansfield Smith at Covert Action lists a damning history of U.S. intervention in Venezuela