Echoes of the Past in Venezuela Crisis, but Heard More Lightly

Echoes of the Past in Venezuela Crisis, but Heard More Lightly

MEXICO CITY — The United States’ support this week of an opposition leader as Venezuela’s interim president seemed to follow a pattern familiar to Latin America, reawakening suspicions of Washington’s intentions in the region and calling to mind American interventions in recent decades.

“Don’t trust the gringos,” President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela said this week, listing United States-backed military coups in the region. “They don’t have friends or loyalties. They only have interests, guts and the ambition to take Venezuela’s oil, gas and gold.”

But where in the past the United States might have felt isolated in Latin America, this time it has company. Many of the nations in the region have denounced Mr. Maduro and instead recognized the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s legitimate president.

Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Guatemala, Chile, Canada and other nations have joined the Trump administration, concerned by the economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and its destabilizing effect on the region.

President Mauricio Macri of Argentina was one of several leaders in the region who publicly supported Mr. Guaidó.

“Argentina will support all efforts at rebuilding Venezuelan democracy and re-establishing dignified living conditions for all its citizens,” Mr. Macri wrote on Twitter.

And the argument that the Trump administration is motivated by greed for natural resources is undermined, analysts say, by the fact that the United States and Venezuela already have a mutual dependence in the energy sector.

The United States is Venezuela’s largest foreign customer for crude exports, buying half a million barrels a day, which accounts for the majority of cash that Venezuela gets for crude shipments. And Venezuela buys about 100,000 barrels a day of light crude from the United States, which it mixes with heavier Venezuelan crude to move it through pipelines to refineries and export terminals.

“You’ve got this groundswell of opinion among the majority of Latin American governments that, regardless of what the United States said, this is an opportunity to rid the region of a dictatorship that has been a blight upon the democratic record in the region over the last couple of decades,” said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington.

“The true objectives of actions against Venezuela are to control the vast resources of this sister nation,” the statement said.

Those nations have also been joined by Mexico, which until recently stood squarely among the regional governments pushing Mr. Maduro to institute democratic reforms.

In a separate message on Twitter, Mr. Vasconcelos, a member of Mr. López Obrador’s party, added: “Nothing will contribute more to the questioning of the legitimacy and credibility of Juan Guaidó than the support he is receiving from the United States. We are in Latin America and this should be understood by the White House.”

He then urged the Trump administration to “learn something from history.”

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