Statement on Attempted Coup in Venezuela

Uniformed soldiers and police have blocked off the streets. People are fleeing the city center, and gunfire sounds. The now-infamous coup is underway. While jets come screeching down and bombs drop, rebel soldiers take control of what remains of the presidential palace. The coup has succeeded. The president is dead. A general has taken power and declared martial law. Now soldiers patrol the streets, rounding up hundreds of citizens they see as loyal to the fallen government and to its party. People are forced in masses to the nearest football stadium for an unspecified time of confinement.  

This is not Venezuela. This is Chile on September 11, 1973, but the path the US government is now on feels far too similar to what happened then. We’ve been down this road countless times before, and the consequences have always been devastating.  

Chile’s violent coup came with the encouragement and endorsement of the Nixon Administration, who opposed the popularly elected and socialist government of Salvador Allende. In the lead-up to the overthrow, the U.S. funded a vicious media campaign meant to sow division and paint the Allende government as incompetent, corrupt, and irresponsible. The U.S. also imposed brutal sanctions, contributing to skyrocket inflation, fallen markets, food shortages, fear, and discontent. After the coup, Washington and London directly supported a fascist dictatorship responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and disappearances, the liberalization of the Chilean economy that brought huge profits to Western companies and their local acolytes, and brutal austerity for the poor, which helped cause the great income gap that plagues Chile to this day.

Today Venezuela finds itself in a similar situation. The nation is deeply polarized, divided along racial and socioeconomic lines, and falling global oil prices have spelled further disaster for a country whose main economic driver is oil. An already challenging dynamic has been exacerbated by US-imposed sanctions, a negative international media campaign, a virulent right-wing insurgency committed to overthrowing the governing party, and the threat of a military intervention from Washington. If Chile’s history has taught us anything, it’s hard to deny the likelihood of CIA involvement in the conservative opposition to Venezuela’s current government.

Recently, members of the Trump Administration including John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Mike Pence, along with legislators like Senator Marco Rubio, have implicitly called for the violent overthrow of the Maduro government and recognized, as president of Venezuela, a relatively unknown and unelected politician named Juan Guaidó.

As post-9/11 veterans, this isn’t the first time we’re seeing the parallels between past and present US policies. It’s not lost on us that sanctions preceded US military occupation in Iraq or that oil was a resource in question. Washington, Ottawa and European partners have aligned with local elites, a fragmented opposition, and regional right-wing governments to do everything in their power to oust the current government in favor of one that will serve their interests. And as it has before, we know this policy of US-backed regime change — rather than self-determination — could help lead to the destabilization of an entire country, if not the entire region, with grave consequences to the people of Venezuela for generations to come.

Through our military experience, we’ve witnessed firsthand the impacts of foreign interventions undertaken with little consideration for the civilians being affected. We’ve seen the chaos and destabilization that reverberates. Knowing that the people of Venezuela will continue to organize for their rights and for self-determination — whether or not they support Maduro — we oppose a US intervention that history proves would only serve to worsen, rather than advance, that cause.

We know unequivocally that the interests of the Trump administration do not align with the well-being of the majority of Venezuelans. As they do domestically, Trump’s interests instead lie with a wealthy minority and with international investors and corporations, eager to extract and exploit the region’s natural resources. If the Trump Administration is truly concerned with the plight of the Venezuelan people, we call on them to lift US-imposed sanctions on Venezuela, allow the opportunity for economic recovery without foreign manipulation, and to encourage a diplomatic — not military — solution to the ongoing situation.

Statement of Solidarity with No Cop Academy

About Face: Veterans Against the War is an organization of thousands of post-9/11 veterans and service members taking action to end a foreign policy of permanent war and the use of military weapons, tactics, and values in communities across the country. As people intimately familiar with the inner workings of the world’s largest military, we use our knowledge and experiences to expose the truth about these conflicts overseas and the growing militarization we’ve witnessed in the United States.

Because we see the connections between violence abroad and at home, it doesn’t surprise us to learn that AECOM, the company that recently won the bid for Chicago’s potential new Cop Academy, is the same company that’s received billions in contracts from the Department of Defense (DoD). From Iraq to Afghanistan, AECOM has profited from the endless wars that have cost trillions of dollars and, more devastatingly, millions of lives. And in Chicago, AECOM is now looking to profit from a project whose beneficiaries — the city’s police — have a highly documented, proven record of brutal abuse of communities, excessive force, and a decades-long lack of oversight.

It’s no secret that the DoD’s history is full of examples of illegal torture, assassinations, and indiscriminately targeting civilians, just as its contracts are rife with waste and overspending. AECOM is no exception. In fact, an investigation conducted by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that 14% of costs AECOM claimed — or more than $4.2 million — could not be supported or justified. As veterans and servicemembers whose families and communities are constantly impacted by a lack of access to health care, education, and housing, it disgusts us to see resources put towards and wasted on wars that have destroyed so many lives.

Now, AECOM is set to win a $95 million contract for Chicago’s new Cop Academy, at a moment when Chicago public schools are continuing to close and critical social services — including mental health — are continuing to be cut. For vets, this pattern is one that feels all too familiar to cuts to the VA as budgets for weapons and deployments rose. It’s a pattern that treats people as disposable in the pursuit of larger profits and extreme militarism, benefitting a few at the expense of many.

We endorse the No Cop Academy campaign, and we join their call to defund the city’s already-bloated police budget and to direct these resources towards fully-funded public schools, accessible mental health clinics, living wages, and more. Moreover, we stand with all the young people across Chicago working to break this pattern, demanding that we divest from what does most harm and instead invest in what communities need most — at home and abroad.