Columnist Marty Nathan: What the political climate in Venezuela means in the larger climate conversation

  • Juan Guaidó, head of Venezuela’s opposition-run congress, declares himself interim president of Venezuela, during a rally demanding President Nicolas Maduro’s resignation in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 23. AP Photo/Fernando Llano

Published: 2/7/2019 8:04:11 AM

The oceans are warming, and the Greenland ice sheet is melting, both occurring faster even than expected. Australia is the hottest it has ever been, and scientists worry that rare, isolated species of plants and animals may be permanently lost due to the heat crisis. The world’s greatest scientists, having pooled all available research to date and analyzed it as thoroughly as can be done, have told us that we face an emergency and have only 12 years to drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

How does the Trump administration respond? By claiming that the recent Midwestern cold weather disproves global warming. Meanwhile, his administration moves ahead to open up the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling for more oil to burn. Public lands are now fair game for mining and extraction of fossil fuels. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department are both headed by former fossil fuel industry lobbyists who are ravaging the regulations that protected our air, water, lands, public health and climate. We are in a fight for our future against rapidly worsening climate change, and the federal government is firmly on the side of the polluters and their profits.

But this week my attention is glued to the coup (and perhaps invasion) being launched against the government of Venezuela. President Trump declared Juan Guaidó, the appointed president of the National Assembly, the real president of the country, instead of twice officially-elected Nicolás Maduro.

The United States has been trying to topple first Hugo Chavez, then his successor Maduro, for 17 years. It orchestrated an attempted right-wing coup in 2002. Guaidó was one of a corps of right-wing student leaders groomed since 2005 by those in the pay of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an international regime-change agency erected in the Reagan years. Guaidó participated in the U.S.-backed violent street opposition to Chavez in 2007 and 2009 and was a founder of the fanatically reactionary party “Popular Will.”

Playing off the severe drought of 2010, which brought Venezuela’s hydropower-based electricity to its knees, and benefiting from the $40-50 million a year from U.S. government organizations like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, Guaidó and his right-wing compadres are believed to have been plotting the Venezuelan government’s overthrow starting with a meeting in Mexico in November 2010.

You are probably wondering why these precious paragraphs of a monthly climate change column are being spent on events in Latin America. Well, would it surprise you to know that that 2010 conference was allegedly funded by oil industry leaders? Or that the socialist country in the sights for Washington-backed takeover controls the largest oil reserves in the world, and is the fourth largest oil exporter to the United States?

Trump last week declared military intervention in Venezuela still on the table. Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo have been condemning the elected Maduro as a dictator and cheerleading for Guaidó. Onerous sanctions have been placed on the country, harkening back to the strangulation of Iraq. How many times and in how many countries have we visited the same scenario: U.S.-attempted or successful overthrow of a legitimate government for access and control of its valuable resources. Most recently, involving fossil fuels, it has been the invasion fiasco in Iraq and support of Saudi Arabia’s massacre in Yemen. Back in the 1950s, we overthrew a democratic government in Iran, and now we’d love to do it again.

Why? To control, exploit and burn the very fossil fuels that are killing our climate and our biosphere. Democracy be damned. No matter what one thinks of the May 2018 election in Venezuela (which the opposition boycotted), Guaidó never campaigned nor was elected to a national office. The welfare of the Venezuelan people? There is certainly mismanagement of the economy by Madura, but it has been hammered by U.S. sanctions, resulting in widespread hunger and misery.

This illegal enterprise makes a mockery of the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in our elections. Putin and Trump’s exploits to interfere in American democracy pale in comparison.

So Venezuela (and Brazil, where a Trump-supported certifiable fascist is hacking and burning the Amazonian rainforest lungs of our world) means a lot to environmentalists and to all of us who value a livable climate.

Nowhere in mainstream media do you find this fairly obvious assessment of Trump’s intentions. Believe me, I looked. So I will sleep better tonight having written this column, particularly if, when you finish this read, you call your congressperson and senators and demand Hands off Venezuela!

Other things help me sleep. On Monday, Feb. 25, a vibrant new group will be introduced to the Valley. At 7 p.m. at the Climate Action NOW meeting at First Churches in Northampton, the Regenerative Farming, Food Systems and Forests Alliance will talk to us about the need to protect forests and to farm and eat more sustainably and healthily. There is work to do all around us.

Marty Nathan, MD, is a physician, mother and grandmother and serves on the steering committee of Climate Action NOW and the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. She may be reached at

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