President Maduro launched his Petro crypto coin in late 2017 with the aim of circumventing US trade sanctions and easing the pressure on the ever-sliding bolivar. Photo: Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has welcomed Beijing's support of his country. Photo: Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins

A failed coup attempt against the Venezuelan government in the middle of the global Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront a recent proposal by President Nicolas Maduro to the Non-Aligned Movement that it should take a leadership role in battling this crisis.

While Covid-19 went on killing tens of thousands of people and wrecking economies all over the world, leaving millions jobless, a gang of mercenaries and dissidents allegedly backed by certain governments attempted on May 3-4 to invade the independent, sovereign state of Venezuela. Organized and trained in neighboring Colombia, they landed on the coast at Macuto Bay, close to the Venezuelan capital Caracas.

The invasion was foiled by the Venezuelan military and police with the support of local people. Several of the invaders were killed and some captured. One of those detained, an American, confessed on Venezuelan TV that their aim was not only the overthrow of the legally constituted government but also the kidnapping of Maduro.

Though the invasion was thwarted, the detainees made it clear that the ouster of the Maduro government was an ongoing operation.

It will be recalled that a year ago, there was a coup attempt led by an opposition political leader that failed miserably. In April 2002, a coup against the president at that time, the late Hugo Chavez, succeeded momentarily but the people through mass mobilization restored him to his seat of power. It was a most dramatic expression of genuine “people power.” 

Coups against leaders who are determined to preserve the independence of their nation and defend the sovereignty of their people orchestrated and engineered by the Deep State in the United States, often with the connivance of their allies in the region, is the sad saga of Latin American politics.

A number of governments have been subjected to this manipulation over the decades. One of the most infamous was the ouster of president Salvador Allende of Chile on September 11, 1973. The most recent was the overthrow of the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, in November 2019. There is no need to repeat that the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro was the target of numerous such attempts during his long stewardship, all of which failed spectacularly.

Cuba, like Venezuela, is the victim of all-encompassing economic sanctions initiated and imposed by the US. As a result, both economies and the Cuban and Venezuelan people have suffered immensely. It is remarkable that in spite of the sanctions, both countries have managed to protect their people in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, they have done far better than the nation that has punished them with sanctions, and which incidentally has the highest number of fatalities and infections in the world.

Cuba has not only maintained a low number on both scores but has also extended generous assistance by way of medical personnel and equipment to numerous countries, including in Europe, as they fight the pandemic. Apart from help from Cuba, Venezuela has also benefited from the supply of equipment and the cooperation of medical personnel from China and Russia.   

The success of this cooperation is one of the factors that emboldened Maduro to propose at the recent virtual Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement chaired by the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, that NAM help to organize the distribution of medical equipment and medicines among its member states.

NAM, he suggested, could even set up an international humanitarian fund for this purpose – an idea first mooted by Chavez years ago. The fund’s primary goal would be financing not only the purchase of medicines and equipment especially for NAM’s poorer members but also sponsoring doctors and nurses if the need arises. 

If NAM were directly involved in a concrete program of this sort in an emergency situation, the citizens of its member states would be able to identify with the movement. The Venezuelan proposal should be pursued until it becomes a reality.

It is actual manifestations of cooperation that will bring people together in the post-pandemic era and establish the basis for a new just and compassionate global civilization. 

Chandra Muzaffar

Dr Chandra Muzaffar is the president of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), an NGO based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.