Maduro Accuses U.S. Of A Coup Attempt In Venezuela NPR's Michel Martin asks The Wall Street Journal's Latin America editor David Luhnow why the international push to topple Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is not an attempted coup.

Maduro Accuses U.S. Of A Coup Attempt In Venezuela

Maduro Accuses U.S. Of A Coup Attempt In Venezuela

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NPR's Michel Martin asks The Wall Street Journal's Latin America editor David Luhnow why the international push to topple Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is not an attempted coup.


We're going to begin the program today by trying to answer a couple of big questions that you might have been thinking about. In a few minutes, we're going to talk about the moral arguments for and against the border wall that President Trump and his allies want to build on the southern border.

But first, we want to talk about Venezuela, where the standoff continues between President Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, who has declared himself interim president. Guaido is backed by several Latin American neighbors as well as the United States, Canada and Israel. And more countries say they'll recognize Guaido if Maduro doesn't call new elections within a week. Maduro rejected that demand today, and he accused what he called the empire - the United States - of trying to launch a coup d'etat in Venezuela.

And that is language that at least a handful of Democratic members of the U.S. Congress and some progressive activists have been using to describe the situation. That includes Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who tweeted, quote, "a U.S.-backed coup in Venezuela is not the solution to the dire issues they face" - unquote. The Latin American editor of The Wall Street Journal, David Luhnow, weighed in on Twitter to say no, this is not a coup in the works. We have David Luhnow on the line now to consider the question.

Welcome. Thanks so much for talking to us.

DAVID LUHNOW: It's a pleasure.

MARTIN: So let me just say that you posted a long Twitter thread about this, and we don't have time for the entire thread. But if maybe you could kind of condense your argument using an analogy that you think maybe Americans would understand?

LUHNOW: Sure. Well, basically, what I'm saying is, you know, imagine living in a world where the U.S. president began to stack all the institutions like the Supreme Court just with political hacks instead of professional people. And the midterms came. Democrats won two thirds of Congress, and the president said, no, I don't recognize that, so I'm going to eliminate Congress with the courts, and I'll set up my own congress with my supporters. And then when it comes time for his re-election, he bars the Democrats from running. Any of the top politicians that the opposition party has are thrown in jail or forced into exile.

They run elections, and the president wins again, but no one recognizes the election as free or fair. And even the guy who's in charge of the voting - electronic voting system says there's fraud. So that's essentially what's happened in Venezuela.

And the real Congress there - the one that is the last democratically-elected body - is saying, hey, you know, our president's broken the Venezuelan Constitution many times. And that is the coup - not us, as the democratically-elected body trying to follow Venezuela's Constitution and saying, we no longer recognize the president. We are going to put the head of the National Assembly as interim president and call for new elections. So that, in a nutshell, you know, is trying to create an analogy where people might understand where the Venezuelan opposition is coming from.

MARTIN: So the bottom line for the United States, Canada and the Latin American countries that have already said that they support Guaido - their argument is that he is the last winner of an actual election, of a legitimate election.

LUHNOW: That's right. Maduro's re-election was recognized as a sham by 60 countries, including most of the world's major democracies. So his - this all started when he took his oath of office for his second term, which was essentially deemed an illegitimate term, in front of his fake Congress. And the real Congress said, not so fast. We think you're breaking Venezuela's Constitution.

MARTIN: The Associated Press has a story today about Guaido traveling secretly abroad, including to Washington, to gather support. I mean, how are people receiving that there? Does it look to them there that the U.S. is interfering in Latin American governance again?

LUHNOW: Yeah. I think it divides largely along sort of partisan or ideological lines. I think many in the Latin American left are saying, this is the U.S. interfering once again in Latin American politics. As we all know, there's a long history of U.S. interference in Latin American politics. But that history is actually quite old now. I mean, certainly in recent decades, there hasn't been much in terms of direct interference in democracy. But it's still viewed - there's obviously a history there and a legacy that creates - any situation like this paves the way for it to be viewed that way.

However, there are some - I think most of, from what I've seen, most of the people on the center and some on the left are saying, you know, hang on a minute, guys. If we for years argued against authoritarian dictatorships on the right, we have to be consistent and argue against authoritarian dictatorships on the left. It is sort of one of those quirks of history that right now, the three fully authoritarian governments in Latin America are all left-wing - Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. And they're very repressive regimes.

You know, back in the day, back in the '60s and the '70s, it was U.S. supporting these right-wing military dictatorships. And I think that image of the U.S. backing - you know, the old phrase, he's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch - well, you know, that's no longer the case.

MARTIN: That's The Wall Street Journal's Latin American editor David Luhnow talking to us from Mexico City.

David, thanks so much for talking to us.

LUHNOW: It's been a pleasure. Thanks to you.

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