When the US announced support for Venezuela’s self-declared ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido in January, European leaders heartily backed the move — but three months later, after a second failed coup attempt, they are suddenly shy.
With US backing, Guaido attempted to launch a second uprising on Tuesday, urging his supporters to take to the streets and calling on the military to seize power from President Nicolas Maduro. While both pro and anti-government demonstrators held rallies in Caracas, the military did not defect in great numbers and the coup attempt fizzled out.
In January, European leaders instantly fell in line with US talking points on Venezuela. Germany, France and Spain issued almost identical threats to recognize Guaido unless snap elections were held within eight days. UK officials also wasted no time in voicing strong support for Guaido, with little concern for the millions of Venezuelans who support Maduro and worry about the destabilizing effects of US intervention and devastating effects of US sanctions.
This time around, however, having realized Guaido is not as powerful as they expected, Europe has not been as gung-ho in its support for him. Having initially added to the chaos by encouraging the first uprising, suddenly the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was calling for the “utmost restraint” in order to “avoid the loss of lives.”
Lack of courage?
Venezuelan Ambassador to the EU Claudia Salerno Caldera believes the sudden European reticence shows thatEU leaders have “begun to realize that [Guaido] was losing influence, that he was no president at all.” With that realization, they “began to give up their positions” and “change their narrative” in order to make it “more realistic” and reflect the actual situation on the ground in Venezuela, she told Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
It is likely that the EU knows that the US stance toward Venezuela is “wrong, dangerous and illegal,” but it has “not got the courage to stand up and say so,” Dr Michael Derham, senior lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Studies at Northumbria University told RT. The EU “has to be seen to not advocate coups or violence” and it is not convinced by the US ultimatum against Maduro — but at the same time, Europe will “never go against the US, even if it were to invade Venezuela,” Derham said.
Another problem for Europe is that it is divided on the Venezuela issue. Therefore the ideological posture of the EU is“more and more obsolete” and “neutralized between contradictory positions” because it has never defined “common geopolitical objectives,” geopolitical analyst Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann told RT.
Hardline European supporters of Guaido underestimated Maduro’s “capacity of resistance” as well as Russia’s determination to prevent another US-led regime change operation, Thomann said, adding that “mainstream media never show this side of the story.”
At the same time, while the US is criticizing Russia’s posture on the Venezuelan crisis and is telling Moscow to stay out of affairs in the Western Hemisphere, the US and NATO have also been meddling and supporting uprisings in Russia’s own“zone of interest” in eastern Europe for years, he said.
While some European countries (France, Germany, Spain, UK) took bold stances in favor of Guaido, apparently believing the January coup would be a success, they are now less and less in a position to renew relations with Maduro, Thomann said.
But Derham said the fact that the UK in particular will need to expand its trade with Latin American when it leaves the EU, means the “venal and hypocritical” politicians in London will be prepared to crawl back to Maduro if he retains power.
Europe’s initial decision to fall in “lock-step” with Washington on Venezuela was not surprising, journalist and political commentator John Wight told RT, describing the coup attempts as “open imperialism that you’d associate with the 19th century.”
What’s more, the US sanctions which the EU supports in addition to its own sanctions on Venezuela, have “only served to heighten the suffering of the Venezuelan people.” To add insult to injury, if the coup attempt had been successful, it is not even Guaido who would be president, Wight said. It would be US National Security Advisor John Bolton who is running the coup effort from Washington and acting like a “thug in a suit.”
Ultimately, while the EU has now realized it “backed a losing horse in Guaido,” and its reactions to the Venezuela crisis have exposed it to be “a supine bloc when it comes to Washington — and lacking any kind of moral or ethical principles.”