Thu | Jun 4, 2020

Norris McDonald | Venezuela and the windmill-chasing Napoleon Juan Guaidó

Published:Sunday | March 24, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó (right) has declared himself interim president of Venezuela.
Norris McDonald

Venezuela’s political crisis appears to have heated up, with the world seeing a so-called “humanitarian crisis” on the Colombia-Venezuelan border.

A self-styled president, Juan Guaidó, has emerged, backed by America and some Western countries as Venezuela’s new “interim president”.

President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s ruler, was ordered by President Donald Trump to hand over power to Juan Guaidó or “you will be removed from office”.

“We now recognise Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s true president,” Trump said.


This was followed up by President Trump, the great Twitter maestro, with a ‘twittervention’, tweeting:

“I ask every member of the Maduro regime: End this nightmare of poverty, hunger and death. LET YOUR PEOPLE GO. Set your country free! Now is the time for all Venezuelan Patriots to act together, as one united people. Nothing could be better for the future of Venezuela.”

One would think it was God, in the Holy Bible, tweeting a command to oppressive Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten:

“Let my people, the children of Israel, go!”

Venezuela was hit with brutal financial and economic sanctions. Over US$7 billion belonging to Venezuela has been seized by the West. This includes earnings that came from oil export and, the Venezuelan-owned CITGO gas station chain.

The Bank of England also refused to turn over Venezuela’s US$1.2 billion gold reserves.

Overall, sanctions created a loss income of about US$20 billion in 2018, President Maduro said.

It is cynical, therefore, for President Trump to impose harsh sanctions and financial embargo – that create hunger and inhumane suffering in Venezuela – then complain about “the hunger and suffering of the Venezuelan people”.


There are several legal questions that neither America nor her coup-prone allies have answered on the Venezuelan crisis.

Among them, how is this “humanitarian intervention” covered by political-legal norms, under international law? and, what are the attitudes of the United Nations (UN) and the International Red Cross (IRC)?

Sheldon McDonald was a Jamaican international jurist. He wrote on international legal principles that – from a moral and legal standpoint – in my opinion, ought to guide Jamaica and CARICOM’s foreign policy position.

McDonald identified the following relevant, legal principles:

- The principle of non-use of force in international relations;

- Non-intervention in the internal or external affairs of states;

- Principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and;

- Good faith in international relations.

(Sheldon McDonald, Fordham Law Journal, Vol. 27:930, 2003).

Jamaica and CARICOM’s attitude to the Venezuelan crisis ought to be governed by these principles that Sheldon McDonald outlined.

Regarding the UN and the IRC, both refused to support the so-called ‘humanitarian intervention’.

“Humanitarian actions need to be independent of political, military, or other objectives,” the UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said.

Threats of military intervention in Venezuela are illegal under international law. Moreover, no country ought to tell another what kind of political system they ought to have.

One more thing.

President Hugo Chávez created many political reforms, including a recall provision that was placed in the Venezuelan constitution. Then he was subjected to a recall vote on August 15, 2004. Chávez won this recall vote.


How then, if the Venezuelan constitution has recall provisions, can any right-minded person support Napoleon Juan Guaidó, with his self-styled declaration, as the Venezuelan president?

One would have to go back as far as the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte, with his 1799 coup d’état and self-declaration of presidency of France, to find a political prototype such as ‘Napoleon Juan Guaidó’s’ own flourishing self-styled declaration.

This brings me to another point.

There is a very crucial lesson to learn about these so-called ‘humanitarian interventions’. They usually do not work out well for the countries that are ‘saved’ since their national wealth tends to mysteriously disappear.

In both Libya and Iraq, billions of dollars have mysteriously disappeared from the Western banks that kept and managed these funds.

In 2016, the Libya Sovereign-Wealth Fund sued the Wall Street firm Gold Mann-Sachs to recover billions of dollars in missing funds. Libya lost this case, so poof! This money is gone!

The Iraqi Parliament, also, is trying to locate US$17 billions of Iraqi oil money it says disappeared “after the 2003 US-led invasion”. They have asked the UN to help them track down the money, Waleed Ibrahim of Reuters said, in a June 19, 2011, report.

I think America and their new Venezuelan hero ‘Napoleon Juan Guaidó’ badly miscalculated.

With America and Juan Guaidó not able to get the Venezuela army to shift loyalties, this attempted coup d’état seems like a true ‘comedy of errors’.

Does Juan Guaidó’s quixotic, self-declaration of president put him into the glorious pantheon of hall-of-famers such as Napoleon Bonaparte or maybe Don Quixote?

Napoleon Bonaparte, at least, commanded an army. Where exactly is Juan Guaidó’s army?

Miquel Cervantes’ hero Don Quixote, on the other hand, wanted to conquer the world, so he went chasing windmills!

‘Napoleon Juan Guaidó’ appears, in my opinion, to be acting like Don Quixote, only, he seems to be chasing the mythical Venezuelan presidency as if it is a fantastic Bolivarian windmill, blowing gloriously in the wind!

That is just the bitta truth!


- Norris McDonald is an economic journalist, social researcher and political analyst. Email feedback to and