Warring for Peace

Jun 18, 2019

By Earl Bousquet

The battle for respecting Venezuela’s Bolivarian dignity and sovereignty is part of the continuing fight against almost 200 years of The Monroe Doctrine’s ‘Big Stick’ policy in ‘America’s Backyard’ -- and for the Caribbean to remain a true Zone of Peace and 21st Century Development.

Part I: A Peaceful Zone

The Caribbean Sea was always peaceful – until Christopher Columbus and the European conquistadors arrived in 1492.

The long period of colonization that followed featured wars of conquest and battles for ownership and control of lands and people, destroying indigenous civilizations and cultures, introducing slavery and turning the islands and mainland territories in the conquered new world into producers of the riches that built financial empires in Britain, France, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and other European nations that ruled the seas.

The battles between the European conquistadores for control of the ‘West Indian’ islands before and after abolition of slavery in 1836-38 featured the first disturbances that bloodied the Caribbean Sea.

Dumping of millions of African slaves overboard kept the waves churning with blood, flesh and bones, as men died fighting in countless naval battles for European nations to gain or keep strategic control over lands not their own and the native people who’d inhabited them for centuries.

For example, between 1674 and 1814, Britain and France fought fourteen (14) wars for the well-fortified island of Saint Lucia, during which time the few peaceful seven miles of shared waters between it and French-owned Martinique was, for all of 140 years, a tumultuous war zone featuring battles between British and French naval and land troops that could be seen from each island’s shores.

The Caribbean Sea was also a war zone during the First and Second World Wars, even though the main battles were in Europe and The Atlantic.

During the World War II, for example, the islands all became part of the respective European warring nations’ battle plans, each island fortified according to size and strategic values.

The Caribbean was also bubbling underwater during the Second World War, as German submarines often bombed British naval and merchant vessels in English-owned West Indian island ports, often operating out of French-owned Martinique and Guadeloupe during the reign of France’s Vichy regime.

During that period as well, the Caribbean – as a whole -- also became much busier as a war zone, as a result of a British-USA World War II agreement (between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Dwight Eisenhower) that saw the US give the British eleven (11) battleships in return for construction of naval and air bases on the various British islands, from Jamaica in the north to Trinidad & Tobago in the south.

Following the wars of conquest and occupation, the European and American nations with common political, military and economic interests in the wider neighboring Latin American region continually included the Caribbean in their strategic military plans.

During the Cold War era, the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) member-states with Caribbean colonies continually paraded their military might across Caribbean waters in the name of demonstrating their capacity and willingness to protect and defend their colonial interests.

The Independence era (1960s to 1980s) in the wider English-speaking Caribbean did not lessen the size or frequency of the European and American military presence on the ground, at sea and in the Caribbean’s airspace.

The NATO member-states with post-colonial Caribbean connections continued to engage the new island nations in various arrangements to guarantee defense and security and gained technological and other control of the region’s developing national security machineries by providing the needed arms and ammunition for police forces, vessels, engines and equipment for naval units.

The English-speaking Caribbean region’s waters were troubled like never before in October 1983, when US navy ships were dispatched to Grenada in an invasion that led to a long period of occupation of the island, to effectively bury the corpse of a Revolution that had already died days earlier when its Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was killed.

But in the post-Grenada period the normally peaceful Caribbean Sea featured even more in US and NATO military planning in and for a region many in Washington still consider to be ‘America’s backyard’.

Since 1984, a continuing series of annual naval exercises have been carried out in the Caribbean’s waters, led by the US Navy’s Southern Command and involving all the Caribbean nations that participated in the invasion and occupation of Grenada, as well as (of late) an increasing number of Central and South American nations.

Named ‘Operation Trade Winds’, these military manoeuvers help augment the capacity of the US and allied forces to coordinate joint action between their naval units, led by the US, in mainly naval drills for possible invasive military actions that the US and NATO may contemplate as part of their overall strategic security planning in the name of defending the region from invisible external threats.

The annual military drills involving Caribbean states’ marine units and selected ground forces are hosted in different countries, but are mainly coordinated out of Barbados, with the 2017 one interestingly extended to include drills in the Gulf of Paria separating Trinidad & Tobago from Venezuela. 

Calls for the Caribbean to be declared a Zone of Peace accelerated after the increased US military presence in the Eastern Caribbean at all levels, following the Grenada invasion.

In the late 1970s, the police forces in the British West Indian islands were gradually transformed from the traditional police service to more military-type units armed and clad by the US.

By the turn of the century, the US Southern Command had virtually become the new rulers of the waves in the wider Caribbean Sea, with a permanent presence, along with NATO allies with regional interests, intercepting drugs and patrolling according to and in keeping with the US and the Alliance’s different and common security plans for the region.

The long history of US military interventions in Central and South America (from the 1800s) and the Caribbean -- Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico and elsewhere -- also contributed to the sustained calls over the years for respecting the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.


The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1965 intervention in the Dominican Republic, the 1983 Grenada invasion and the 1989 invasion of Panama all demonstrated just how much US intervention in the region is always never a last option when Washington considers the stakes high enough.


The Venezuela situation today begs, now more than ever, for the voices defending the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace to be heard even louder.


Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments have since Grenada in 1983 consistently called for and voted at regional and international for a for the Caribbean to be respected as a Zone of Peace – a call made by Grenada, Jamaica and Guyana at the United Nations (UN) in 1980 and repeated in other regional bodies, from the British Commonwealth to the Non Aligned Movement and the Organization of American States (OAS).


Part II: Circling the Wagons


Energized by the failure of the Mueller Report to prove he colluded with Russia to win the White House, President Donald Trump is in steaming hot pursuit of presidential vengeance. He’s in backlash mode and fully on the attack and with Venezuela square in his sight.

The Commander in Chief of US Armed Forces spent the first quarter of 2019 quickly circling the wagons of war around Venezuela.

Corridors are already assembled on Venezuela’s borders and the US Vice President went to Colombia in April to up the stakes, then taking America’s anti-Maduro charge to the UN Security Council.

The Russian Ambassador’s immediate response to the attack on Venezuela left no doubt that Moscow will not stand aside and let Venezuela be treated ‘like a banana republic’.

President Trump also took the unprecedented step in April of declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as ‘a terrorist organization’, resulting in a reciprocal declaration by Tehran against American forces in the Middle East.

Washington also quickly returned to use of bellicose language against North Korea, the US Secretary of State calling the DPRK President a ‘tyrant’ and ‘a dictator’ -- and announcing US sanctions will resume.

The US President has also stated his intention to impose US $11 Billion worth of more sanctions against EU states and threatened to punish Turkey if it buys arms from Russia, while playing hardball with Mexico and announcing new threats against Cuba.

Interestingly, the states Washington lashed out against this week, including the EU, are all against military intervention in Venezuela.

China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, North Korea and Cuba have made clear their positions of readiness to defend Venezuela should it be attacked.

However, not all South American nations support direct interventionist, with the likes of Mexico making it clear their territories will not be used to facilitate direct US military aggression against Venezuela.

Images of the ongoing consequences of US and other external interventions intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria still linger on the minds of many leaders worldwide.

The unbearable humanitarian crisis also continuing to unfold in Yemen -- with heavy external involvement supported by the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and others – also worries many.

Memories of Washington’s failure to deliver on promises made by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 to Caribbean nations in return for support for the US invasion of Grenada still haunt today’s CARICOM leaders, many of who now take neutral positions on Venezuela for fear of angering President Trump and earning his deadly wrath.

Against that landscape, Washington eagerly seeks to enlist more Caribbean wagons to widen the encirclement and isolate Venezuela ahead of the final charge.

Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia (whose leaders met Trump at Mar-a-Lago) are at different stages in keeping Venezuelan at bay regarding the status of diplomatic ties.

Jamaica has ‘temporarily’ closed the Venezuelan Embassy in Kingston, while new ambassadors appointed by Caracas to The Bahamas and Saint Lucia are still are still waiting to present their diplomatic credentials.

The quickly-changing positions adopted by Saint Lucia and the Mar-a-Lago Caribbean quintet is not going un-noticed in Caracas, where President Nicolas Maduro last weekend again called for activation of the Montevideo Mechanism (involving Uruguay, Mexico and CARICOM) in search of a peaceful solution and indicating his administration’s clear willingness to engage with all contending political forces.

The deepening division within CARICOM and its continued exploitation by Washington will definitely be ratcheted-up in the days and weeks ahead, as the war mongers in Washington press for confrontation instead of the peaceful dialogue necessary to prevent what could ultimately result in the start of a costly Third World War.

Bent on achieving regime change in Venezuela by any and whatever means possible, President Trump is ‘keeping the military option on the table’ while increasing the pace and ferocity of US sanctions that continue to bite Venezuelans even harder, especially  following Washington’s recent appropriation of more than US $80 Billion worth of Venezuela’s financial assets in the US and elsewhere.

Since January, some Caribbean nations that once stoutly defended foreign policy principles of respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of nations at both CARICOM and OAS levels (the Mar-a-Lago quintet among them) have now opted to individually support Washington’s policy of directly attacking Venezuela’s sovereignty.

Saint Lucia, a member of the Lima Group (which essentially implements Washington’s Venezuela agenda in the region), earlier took more quiet positions on Venezuela, using careful language to avoid being labelled anti-Caracas.

But Castries has so far this year moved much closer to implementing the Lima Group’s political and diplomatic agenda at home.

Saint Lucia and the other four Mar-a-Lago invitees earlier this week voted at the OAS to support Washington’s call for replacement of the official Venezuelan Ambassador to the regional body, sending red-flag signals to Caracas about the future of current Venezuelan diplomats in the respective Caribbean countries.

Saint Lucia will take over the Chairmanship of CARICOM when it hosts the upcoming July 3-5, 2019 annual summit -- some time away, when measured against the pace of the circling of the wagons.

Until then, it can be expected that the Lima Group will anxiously expect to eventually gain even more traction within the regional grouping from a fully loyal member holding the chairmanship of CARICOM – and for a full year thereafter.

The alarm bells are now definitely and deafeningly tolling that much louder for Venezuela.

Time will tell surely -- sooner than later -- where Saint Lucia and other CARICOM member states’ wagons will be hitched to, together or alone, when the US Commander in Chief gives the final order.

Meanwhile, the dark clouds and smoke signals continue being replaced by loud beats of thundering drums of war, as Washington continues to feverishly enlist more Caribbean wagons for the final charge on Venezuela.

Part III: War of Mass Destruction?


By the end of April 2019 it was quite clear that another Playa Giron or Grenada Invasion was in the making for Venezuela, while the US was also using financial and economic sanctions to squeeze Cuba and Nicaragua for supporting Venezuela’s right to choose its own path.

An article published April 13, 2019 by teleSUR entitled ‘US Forces Ready to attack Venezuela, says Head of US Southern Command’ quoted U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton as saying that ‘President Trump is determined not to see Venezuela fall under the sway of foreign powers.’

The article noted that Bolton ‘has a custom of referring to the racist Monroe Doctrine, which considers Latin America to be the U.S. own backyard where it can do as it pleases.’

It went on to note: ‘This is, however, the first time that a member of the U.S. military leadership has spoken out about a possible military intervention against Venezuela.’

The article also quoted U.S. Southern Commander Craig S. Faller as saying that the US military is "on the balls of our feet" as it awaits instructions from the Commander in Chief President Donald Trump. 

Faller also referred to Syria and Libya, saying: ‘The crisis in Venezuela could approach that degree by the end of this year, if Maduro still remains in power.’

At the same time, the United States government also approved a set of aggressive sanctions aimed at economically choking Venezuelans and isolating the country. 

But Venezuela has never been the only target of Washington’s unending efforts to derail regional governments that do not do its bidding.


Following serious electoral reverses in Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador, sights were again fully re-set on Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia.


The prime US target was (and still is) Cuba, which was proportionally elevated alongside Venezuela at the target levels and in April too – a month during which right-wing US-backed Venezuelan forces annually try their best to violently effect regime change – top US officials confirmed they were targeting Cuba for ignoring US sanctions and continuing to import oil from Venezuela.


The US ordered on April 17 the lifting of the suspension of Helm-Burton law’s Titles III and IV, which would basically allow anyone in the USA to file lawsuits against foreign companies operating in or doing business with Cuba.


Bolton announced the new norms during a meeting with remaining mercenaries in Miami who participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17, 1961, which was roundly defeated two days later on April 19, following heroic resistance by the Cubans in defense of their two-year-old revolution.


Through Title III, US citizens could sue against those who "traffic" with institutions in Cuba that were nationalized after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959. 


Interestingly, since President Bill Clinton’s administration (1993-2001), successive U.S. administrations have avoided implementation of Title III by issuing “temporary” six-month suspensions, as full implementation could also affect US, European Union (EU) and Canadian companies already doing legitimate business with Cuba. 


The Trump administration, however, announced that, as of April 19, 2019 it would allow lawsuits to be filed against more than 200 Cuban companies included in a unilateral list of sanctions.

But long before it happened, lawyer Robert Muse had already told the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina (PL) earlier in 2019 that. as far as he could see, everything indicated that President Trump also intended to implement Title III of the Helms Burton Act against foreign companies operating in Cuba -- and to also apply Title IV, which would allow the US to deny visas to foreign businessmen investing in nationalized properties in Cuba.

Muse told PL he also felt Bolton could push for a tougher restriction on travel by US citizens to the island through the imposition of spending limits; or the inclusion of Cuba in the Department of State’s list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

Reacting to Bolton’s announcement, the European Commission (EC) said it was "prepared" to protect the interests of EU companies in and doing business with Cuba.

"The EU is prepared to protect European interests, including European investments and economic activities of individuals and entities in their relations with Cuba, if they were to be affected," Alexander Winterstein, the EU Commission spokesman, said.

He also said the EU strongly opposed the "extraterritorial application of unilateral restrictive measures which are contrary to international law."

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini also warned that the bloc could sue the US before the World Trade Organization (WTO) if Washington implemented those measures.


The EU had indeed already sued the US at the WTO in 1996 when the Helms-Burton law was passed, but withdrew its complaint once the White House agreed to suspend Title III.

The latest US measures against Cuba came into force as of May 2, 2019, when the last suspension of Title III expired.

"Any person or company doing business in Cuba should heed this announcement," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned.

Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodriguez roundly condemned the latest US aggression against his country – and Havana also reminded the US of two decisions taken by Cuban courts demanding hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of compensation from the US for its nearly 60 years of aggression.

As it turned out, within days of the threats against companies doing business with Venezuela, Washington issued similar threats against counties and companies doing business with Iran, after having earlier designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as ‘Sponsors of Terrorism’.

But the moves by Trump to militarize the Caribbean’s seas and skies and use all other means to push war over pace has not escaped the attention of those in the US itself who know, more than many, the perils of war.

The only US president to complete his term without war, military attack or occupation, Jimmy Carter, said in response to Washington’s escalation of international tensions in the first quarter of 2019, that the United States is “the most warlike nation in the history of the world.”

Brett Wilkins, an independent journalist and activist based in San Francisco whose work covers issues of war, peace and human rights, in an article in teleSUR, shed much light on the U.S. role in waging and promoting wars around the world.


According to his article entitled ‘Jimmy Carter Lectures Trump: US Is ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World', he noted that during one of his regular Sunday school lessons at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, ‘Carter said the US has been at peace for only 16 of its 242 years as a nation.’


According to the article: ‘Counting wars, military attacks and military occupations, there have actually only been five years of peace in US history — 1976, the last year of the Gerald Ford administration and 1977-80, the entirety of Carter’s presidency.’

Carter referred to the US as “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,” a result, he said, of Washington “forcing other countries to adopt our American principles.” 

The writer noted that the US has also invaded or bombed dozens of countries and supported nearly every single right-wing dictatorship in the world since the end of World War II, overthrown or attempted to overthrow dozens of foreign governments since 1949, actively sought to crush nearly every single people’s liberation movement over that same period and has also meddled in scores of elections, in countries that are allies and adversaries alike.

The US is, again, as always since its promulgation, using the Monroe Doctrine to recalibrate its efforts to try to maintain full hegemony over the geopolitics and natural resources of the Latin American and Caribbean region and again applying all the mechanisms stored in its large treasure chest of punitive actions against friends and foes not willing to bow to Uncle Sam.

It’s also being used to justify military plans against Venezuela by claiming that Russian military technicians in the country through bilateral agreements as encroachment by a European power in America’s backyard.

Similarly, Pompeo, Bolton and others are using the same tactic of resorting to open lies to justify their tightening of sanctions on Cuba: claiming Cuba has 20,000 soldiers in Venezuela and that Cuban doctors in the Bolivarian Republic are trading medicines for votes for President Maduro at election times.

Bolton told the remaining Bay of Pigs mercenaries in Miami that their failed mission will be accomplished this time around and with the White House committed to keeping the military option on the table, there’s increasing acceptance of the gruesome reality that a terrible war of mass destruction can indeed take place in the Caribbean, even before the end of 2019.

The threat (of a new war in Latin America and the Caribbean region) is very real, as seen in the way this U.S. administration has been waging, supporting and threatening wars through NATO in the Baltic region, in the South China Sea, in the Persian region – and in Yemen.

Part IV: The Caribbean’s Peace Dividend

The peace dividend has paid well where it’s been strong (like against the Vietnam was in the US), but has never been allowed to play or pay-out in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The pronouncement of the Monroe Doctrine (by President James Monroe during his 7th Message to the US Congress in 1823) opened the way for the United States to forever see and treat all of ‘The Americas’ (including what we now know as Canada, all of Latin America and the English-speaking Caribbean island chain) as ‘America’s Backyard’.

Implementation of this this policy, originally to prevent ‘European interference’ in America’s Backyard, in  the name of ‘protecting US interests’ has been repeatedly used to justify and excuse direct and indirect US military intervention in any part of the Hemisphere it considers its own – and for more than only geopolitical reasons.

After the Doctrine was disclosed and adopted, the US intervened militarily to support or oppose regime change in so many countries in the region south of its border that there’s hardly ever been a period of peace (with the US not involved in a war) except during the four-year Carter presidency.

The following historical recount tells many stories:

MEXICO: In 1846, the US invaded Mexico and captured Mexico City in 1847, later capturing Mexican territory that’s now the Western United States; and invaded again in 1865, to support the Benito Juarez government.
PANAMA: In 1903, the US engineered Panama’s independence from Colombia and gained sovereign rights over the zone where the Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific shipping routes.
CUBA: In 1903, following the Spanish-American war, the US signed a treaty with Cuba that gave it rights over the Guantanamo Bay and surrounding areas.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, NICARAGUA and HAITI: The US intervened in the Dominican Republic in 1904, in Nicaragua in 1911 and Haiti in 1915, as part of several incursions in Latin American and Caribbean states in pursuit of US interests during the first quarter of the 20th century.

The first and second world wars saw active US and European cooperative military action in the region – again in US interests – World War II ending with a heavier and permanent US military presence in the English-speaking Caribbean islands than ever before – from Jamaica in the North to Trinidad & Tobago in the south.

Following the two world wars, in 1954, the US intervened in Guatemala and in 1961 supported the Bay of Pigs mercenary invasion of Cuba and encircled Cuba in 1962 with support of OAS countries during the so-called Missile Crisis. Then, in 1964 the US intervened in Brazil to overthrow the leftist Goulart regime, initiating a long period of rule by successive military dictatorships.

The decade of the 1970s saw the realization of Operation Condor, in which Argentina, Chile and several other South American US allies targeted left and progressive forces to stall and reverse their political gains, including the 1973 overthrow and assassination of Chile’s President Allende and the installation of the brutal Augusto Pinochet regime that ruled through terror for decades thereafter.

The decade of the 1980s saw continuing US intervention in the region, starting with the invasion of tiny Grenada by US-led troops in October 1983, continuing with ‘Contra’ operations against the Nicaraguan Revolution and in support of the El Salvador regime (back then involving the infamous John Bolton and Colonel Oliver North), ending with the brutal invasion of Panama in 1989.

In 1994, the US invaded Haiti to restore the government of Jean Bertrand Aristide, only to return ten years later (2004) to depose him.

Direct US intervention in South America continued into the 20th century, first with the support for the Venezuela coup against popular president Hugo Chavez in 2002, followed by the 2009 US-backed coup against President Zelaya of Honduras.

The Obama administration adopted a softer political line to Cuba after Fidel Castro resigned, resulting in President Obama actually visiting the island while easing on travel, money transfer and communications restrictions.

But under Obama too, there was no loosening of the tough and crippling US military and diplomatic sanctions, or any direct steps to reverse of ease the crippling US Embargo that continues to deprive the country of hundreds of billions of US dollars in earnings over the nearly six decades they have existed.

The Trump administration, from Day One at the White House in 2017, rekindled the fires and fanned the flames of war, starting with Venezuela, where President Trump indicated, within months of taking office that as far as Venezuela was concerned, “All options are on the table, including military.”

Washington continued to back the opposition under Julio Borges and the MUD Alliance throughout the period leading to the 2018 presidential elections in Venezuela -- and was even able to get Borges to surprisingly withdraw from participating in that year’s election while participating in a pre-election negotiation meeting in the Dominican Republic, even after all the opposition’s preconditions had been met.

The Venezuela poll came on May 18, 2018 and passed without as much as a squeak of a complaint by the three major opposition candidates, all of whom conceded defeat.

None of the observer missions complained either.

Trump had been observing from the perch in early 2017 while trying to put his foreign policy in order under Rex Tillerson and the US supported the opposition’s staged global Venezuelan Referendum against the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) proposed by Maduro to replace he clearly hostile and obstructionist, opposition-controlled National Assembly.

The MUD Alliance boasted it had secured seven million votes against the proposed NCA in an un-supervised or monitored international poll in which anyone anywhere claiming to be an eligible Venezuelan voter could vote.

Interestingly, following the controversial and heavily publicized international Venezuelan poll, the MUD announced it had mysteriously burned the ballot boxes and votes.

But in the later national poll in Venezuela, the NCA -- as proposed by Maduro and the SUV backed by a wide array of popular forces -- secured over 8 million votes.

In the beginning of 2018, the US and its EU backers quietly facilitated the exit of Borges into the diplomatic field with an EU Human Rights award and an ambassadorial appointment or sorts with the LIMA group.

Borges was replaced by Juan Guaido, a 34-year-old legislator more open to publicly identify with the direct interventionist stand of Pompo, Bolton, Abrams and the other war hawks in Washington.

Interestingly, Guaido was mysteriously abducted by intelligence officers in early January 2019 on his way to an opposition protest and temporarily held for one hour after which he was released, resulting in the arrest and trial of the 12 officers involved, on charges of abusing their authority.

From there on, Guaido was catapulted into the spotlight -- and despite heavy intelligence and other official guard presence, was also mysteriously able to communicate directly with former opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was serving a jail term under house arrest, resulting in Guaido officially taking over the leadership of Lopez’s Popular Will party and elected to replace Borges as the new leader of the intensely politically obstructive National Assembly that had already been ruled out of legal order by the country’s Supreme Court.

With Guaido in place and promising to say and do the right things, Washington announced its first actual coup attempt in favour of regime change on January 23, 2019 by declaring it had withdrawn recognition of elected President Nicolas Maduro and recognized ‘Interim President Juan Guaido’.

The second US coup attempt came on the morning of April 30, 2019 when Guaido and his Washington backers – the US President, Vice President, Secretary of State, National Security Advisor and Special Envoy on Venezuela -- simultaneously announced the launch of ‘Operation Liberty’.

The operation launched in the early hours of April 30 was to have seen the Venezuelan army overthrow Maduro, with promised US support. But that operation, like the Bay of Pigs landing in Havana in 1961, also failed miserably.

As it turned out, the events of April 30 revealed that Guaido’s communications and connections with Lopez while under house arrest was facilitate by the former head of National Intelligence, SEBIN, who fled Venezuela and sought refuge in Colombia after it became clear that his own subordinates were closing-in on him.

But before fleeing his post, the SEBIN head arranged Lopez’s release, which allowed the latter to appear alongside Guaido in a doctored videotape with a handful of soldiers cropped into the crowded shot.

The appearance of the two together before dawn suggested to Guaido supporters that the army had in fact capitulated, but when it became clear that was not so, Lopez sought refuge at the Spanish embassy in Caracas – and Guaido was left standing alone.

It would also turn out that Guaido had misled Washington’s top brass into believing that apart from the renegade intelligence chief who was surely on board, he would also have delivered the Army Chief, the Militia Chief and the Head of the Supreme Court as part of ‘Operation Freedom’.

President Trump may have been singing the Blues after Pompeo, Bolton, Abrams and Guido failed to deliver – yet again – on Venezuela.

But the US Commander in Chief isn’t about to sing peace songs, or smoke the peace pipe.

In his effort to mend damaged fences with Russia over the shenanigans associated with the Mueller Report on supposed Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election to support his campaign, Trump only had good things to say about Russia’s ‘intentions’ in Venezuela following a 90-minute telephone call with President Putin in early May.

But even while the US President was sounding more like a squeaking dove on the line to Moscow, his howling hawks – especially Pompeo and Bolton – were spewing words and statements and taking actions that only reiterated their continued and continuing intent to do all possible to use US military might ‘to return democracy to Venezuela’.

For example, as Trump spoke warm words to Putin, Bolton ratcheted-up the latest US offensive against Iran at the diplomatic level, while Bolton boasted he had singlehandedly ordered the ‘USS Abraham Lincoln’, one of the largest US aircraft carriers, to the Middle East, followed by Patriot Missiles and B-52 bombers dispatched to the region to combat unidentified ‘Iranian threats’.

Trump would blow both hot and cold on Iran, but he eventually dispatched 120,000 US troops to the area in preparation for combating a threat Washington preferred to keep secret from its allies, while quickly arming them to prepare for.

Thirsty for a war on any front, the Bolton-Pompeo military bloc is basically behaving like they are looking for a Gulf of Tonkin type of staged provocation that could spark a war, as was the case in Vietnam.

Two ships owned by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were reported as having been ‘attacked’ by undisclosed forces in the area near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, seen in many circles as unsuccessful attempts to seek justification for a ‘responsive’ attack on Iran.

A week later, the US ordered its troops out of a supposed danger zone in Iraq, which mysteriously came under attack later – and again efforts to blame Iran.

Iraq, which is both a friend and neighbor of Iran, but, dependent on the US for security support, it is also stuck between a rock and a hard place and instead of taking sides, offered to be a facilitator between Washington and Tehran.

The threats and responses in the new theater of war in and around Iran largely stole the media spotlight from the failed US-backed Venezuela coup attempt.

But all the time, President Trump and his neocon supporters at the White House were keeping ‘the military option’ on the table against Venezuela, while air, naval and land forces of the US Southern Command remained on alert and awaiting orders from the High Command.

Maduro having the reaffirmed support of an army of two million loyal soldiers, plus other national military and paramilitary forces -- and with or without Cuban, Russian and other support -- Trump’s more sane political and military advisers are naturally concerned.

They therefore warned Trump about the inescapable political and electoral consequences of media reports of American casualties of any war involving the US abroad, resulting in coffins and body bags returning to the US from any attack on Venezuela (or Iran) ahead of the 2020 US presidential elections.

But given that the US obsession with Venezuela has more to do with oil than anything else, the determination for regime change in Caracas is still the ultimate objective, thereby forcing the war hawks to more eagerly propose a mercenary invasion using Venezuelan and Latin American mercenaries, to be paid with part of the billions of dollars of Venezuelan deposits in US banks seized by Washington, as part yet another new set of crippling sanctions leading to the April 30 failed coup attempt.

One proposal is to use ‘a private Spanish-speaking army’ of paid fighters – like with the Bay of Pigs in 1961 – this time to reduce or eliminate the cost of human lives in the quest to achieve the ultimate US objective of overthrowing the Maduro regime, reversing the Bolivarian Socialist revolution and installing a US-backed regime, whether under Guaido or not, to supervise the transfer and return of control ‘the world’s most certified reserves’ of oil (much more than Saudi Arabia) to US oil interests like ExxonMobil and the Seven Sisters that have ruled the roost at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for decades.

The US has no peaceful designs for Venezuela, what with Chavez having tried to cut the region’s dependence on the US and OPEC by making cheaper fuel available to South American and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations through the multilateral trading PetroCaribe mechanism.

Chavez was seen as leading the charge by South American nations and their smaller Caribbean counterparts to reduce dependence on us hegemony of trade and energy in the region and the creation of the ALBA-TCP trade, economic and financial body backed by the ALBA Bank raised red flags in Washington long before the charismatic leader became mysteriously ill and died in March 2013.

Chavez took the fight to George Bush Jr at the United Nations in New York and defied the US from breaking his will to work with PetroCaribe and ALBA to create a new Free Trade Zone in the Latin American and Caribbean region and to keep the Caribbean Sea as a Zone of Peace.

But perhaps the proverbial straw that broke the Empire’s back was the move by Chavez, with Venezuela in the lead and support from Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and other nations, to reduce and eventually cut dependence on the US dollar for trade by introducing a new ‘Sucre’ currency backed by regional reserves.

Following Chavez’s death and the declining thrust behind creation of the ‘Sucre’, the heightened US pressure through sanctions aimed at Venezuela’s oil industry resulted in the creation by the Maduro administration of the ‘Petro’ as a new oil-backed reserve currency; and entered into an agreement with China to do oil business on the world market through the Chinese currency.

Russia also increased its investment stake in Venezuelan oil and India also agreed to purchase more, while daily shipments continued to Cuba.

But all that only deepened the will and quickened the pace of the efforts by the US oil lobby to promote and back, if necessary, whatever moves Washington may decide to use to ‘secure US interests in Venezuela – including the prime target of taking over Venezuela’s vast oil reserves, especially now that Saudi Arabia has become jumpy about the US allowing its citizens to sue the Kingdom over its alleged role in the fatal September 11, 2001 (9/11) ‘Twin Tower’ bombings in New York.

The US failed twice – under Obama (through Joe Biden in Washington in 2015) and under Trump at his March 2019 Mar-a-Lago meeting – to ‘wean’ the CARICOM nations from ‘dependence’ on Venezuelan oil and encourage the 13 Caribbean governments to collectively switch to US natural gas.

Most CARICOM nations owe Venezuela for PetroCaribe oil shipments at cheap prices over long repayment periods and many fear a US-backed administration in Caracas can eventually hold them to ransom, especially if such debts are passed on to new private American owners of Venezuela-based oil companies.

But, entirely dependent on US tourism and investment and largely without natural resources in the quantity to allow them to let their politics suit their geography and economics in a region  America still regards as its ‘backyard’, most CARICOM nations find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place on Venezuela today.

From their experiences in Grenada in and after 1983, they have agreed that never mind all the hallowed promises, they always turn hollow, with never anything to show after supporting US military intervention.

Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana are the Venezuela’s two nearest CARICOM neighbors, the latter sharing the Gulf of Paria with the Bolivarian Republic, while Guyana has a century-old territorial dispute with Venezuela.

The Trinidad & Tobago government led by Dr Keith Rowley is one of three CARICOM nations responsible for helping search for a peaceful solution to the Venezuela who were sidelined by President Trump at Mar-a-Lago -- and surely did not approve of Washington’s approach to Venezuela, opting to abstain on votes sponsored by the US aimed at isolating Venezuela at the OAS.

Guyana has referred the age-old land dispute relating to Venezuela claim to two-thirds of its territory to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but both Caracas and Georgetown have over the decades relied on international mediation and arbitration instead of armed confrontation in the search for a lasting solution acceptable to both sides.

Exxon-Mobil is now deeply involved in Guyana in a 60%-40% arrangement to drill, find, extract, refine and export Guyana’s vast underwater oil reserves and there have already been at least one major skirmish involving a stand-off between the Americans and the Venezuelan navy, the former being accused by Venezuela of violating its territorial limits through illegal naval incursions.

Citing earlier historical examples like the Gulf of Tonkin event that led to the Vietnam War, some regional observers warned of fear that Washington may very well be praying for an opportunity to accuse the Venezuelans of ‘putting American lives at risk’ -- and opening the way for US military intervention in the name of ‘protecting American lives’.

But President David Granger, a progressive ex-Brigadier General of the Guyana Defense Force (GDF), though in declining health, is well aware of the wider political implications -- and not seen by those who know him well enough as yet wishing his legacy to include facilitating a US invasion of Venezuela from Guyanese soil, after having in 1975 supported use of Guyana as a vital transit point for Cuban troops heading to Angola.

The Venezuela issue has sorely divided CARICOM with Trump isolating the wider grouping in favor of only those governments that support Washington’s brazen policy of openly attacking and isolating Venezuela, while ignoring the wider grouping’s collective protestations against external intervention in Venezuela.

CARICOM also engaged with Mexico and Uruguay, with backing from the Office of the UN Secretary General, to pursue peace through the Montevideo Mechanism, a four-point plan for a road map to peace for Venezuela.

The regional group of mainly English-speaking former British colonies has also been largely sidelined by Washington, even though the Lima Group was able to facilitate introduction of Guaido to CARICOM Foreign Ministers in Barbados one day after Trump met the mentioned leaders, after Guaido had earlier made it clear when approached on the issue that he wasn’t interested in the initiative because ‘The time for talking is over!’

The failure of the April 30 coup exposed much that Washington would have preferred to have kept under wraps, including its continuing application of the Monroe Doctrine through direct intervention -- in this case deciding to delegitimize an elected government, identify and anoint an unelected successor, ‘make the economy scream’ through sanctions, deny the government the ability to purchase medicines for hospitals, create social and economic grounds for mass migration, close Venezuela’s air space and blockade its sea lanes, all to set the stage and back Guaido’s eventual calls for a coup by the army.

Three small CARICOM nations – Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Surinam – stood squarely against the US’ interventionist positions at the OAS, each time voting against Washington-sponsored resolutions against Venezuela, insisting that the sovereign right of the government and people of the Bolivarian Republic be respected by all, including the US and the OAS.

Cowed into submission by the fear of US retaliation, the majority of CARICOM nations opt to ‘abstain’ or register ‘absent’ when such votes take place at the OAS, which in 2018 and 2019 succeeded in erasing the balancing vote usually represented by the 13-member CARICOM group within the 36-member OAS, now tilting the scale in favor of the pro-US and anti-Venezuela side, as in the April 9, 2019 vote to give the vacant Venezuela seat to a Guaido representative.

Following the actual use of the OAS as an instrument of Washington’s aggression against a founding member-states, the Bolivarian government (like Cuba after the OAS was used to blockade Cuba in 1962) gave the necessary two years advanced notice to the OAS Secretariat that it would vacate membership as of April 27, 2019.

The hurried vote called on April 9 in Washington to vote to ‘expel’ Venezuela’s ambassador from the OAS 16 days before his departure -- after having already packed to leave and said his goodbyes -- was therefore more of a side show than an achievement.

The Mar-a-Lago Caribbean Quintet may have cozied-up to Trump with high hopes that despite a history of being short on delivery, US promises of aid for support against Venezuela will be delivered.

But if delivery by the US is to follow delivery by the CARICOM leaders, those not invited to Mar-a-Lago remain concerned, if not suspicious, about the promises and undertakings made by Trump, which were never publicly revealed.

The likes of The Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia voted for Guaido’s representative at the OAS (alongside Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and in other ways also toeing Washington’s line on Caracas, as being pushed by the Lima Group: in March, Jamaica ‘temporarily’ closed down Venezuela’s embassy in Kingston just about a day after the US did the same in Washington, while The Bahamas and Saint Lucia did not activate mechanisms to facilitate the appointment of new Venezuela ambassadors appointed by Maduro to Nassau and Castries.

With Trump apparently opting to play his cards closer to his chest and settle for a longer haul on Venezuela than the Washington war hawks had been pressing for, signs and sounds started emerging suggesting the US President may actually have been counting on one more trump card to be able to present a royal flush on the CARICOM table.

On July 4 (US Independence Day and also CARICOM Day) Saint Lucia – the only member representing the Lima Group at the Mar-a-Lago meeting -- will assume the Chairmanship of CARICOM, which many CARICOM leaders feel quite uncomfortable about, for obvious reasons.

Besides, Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has amazing chemistry and character similarity with the US President: both are sons of business magnates and each running government ‘like a business’.

Chastanet is also often referred to by his regional critics as ‘Tropical Trump’.

But CARICOM continued to work with Uruguay and Mexico on the Montevideo Mechanism, even while the Lima Group had been able to get Chile involved in negotiations on Venezuela within the International Contact Group that also involves Canada and the EU.

The search for a peaceful solution in Venezuela will continue alongside the continuing efforts by the neocon war hawks in Washington and their backers in Latin America and the Caribbean, with weak and helpless onlookers donning wooden goggles and hoping to emerge unhurt or unaffected if and when sparks start to fly.

The peace movement is alive in the Caribbean, but not yet strong enough to sway public opinion or hold back the US’ hand.

Not that Caribbean people do not naturally prefer peace over regime change by war and violence, the lessons from Grenada 35 years ago still very much alive in the minds and memories of the majority of the region’s political directorate.

Caribbean troops (mainly representative groups selected from small defense and police forces on the islands) were laced to US troops’ jackboots for the invasion of Grenada after the OECS gave President Reagan the fig leaf of an invitation to launch the invasion of Grenada in 1983, under the guise of ‘a rescue mission’ six days after the revolution turned on itself, resulting in the death of its leader, Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.

The Venezuela situation under Maduro and the Chavista-led Bolivarian Socialist Revolution has all the hallmarks of the Grenada experience under Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and the NJM, Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega and the FSLN and Chile under Salvador Allende.

Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Mexico have continued to get special attention from Washington for supporting Venezuela’s sovereign right to choose its leaders and its future, while Trump will combine ‘The Art of The Deal’ with naked political pressure on those Latin American and Caribbean states that do not play their cards his way.

Some analysts believe the hotel-and-casino-owner-cum-President may be playing his cards close to his chest while counting on jokers in the Caribbean pack.

But with the military option still on the table as his trump card, the Commander in Chief of US Armed Forces obviously feels he still has quite a lot of leeway, with leverage, to play with.

Unfortunately, this is no simple card game and instead the Caribbean leaders involved will actually be gambling with the lives of their people and the future of this entire region, if they really believe they can outfox the determined neocons who shuffle the stacked decks out of Washington.

But, even if their loudest cries may be treated like squeaks by cowering mice before a roaring lion, Caribbean leaders and their South American counterparts of like mind and circumstances must urgently review their positions to date and loose themselves from their recoil by standing for principle and no longer agreeing to support the US doing to Venezuela what none would like done to them in similar circumstances.

Pursuit of the Monroe Doctrine in the Caribbean in 2019 -- a full 196 years after its proclamation and nearly two centuries of implementation -- is nothing less than a grave threat to peace in the Caribbean and Latin America, as Uncle Sam continues to see and treat this entire region south of its southern border as part of America’s Backyard; and will always use the Big Stick over the heads of those leaders and nations that don’t accept its Carrots.

Venezuela is badly wounded from constant application of varying forms of bruising Big Stick punishment, but is also still up-and-alive, thanks to the loyalty of the army, the support of the majority of Venezuelans and the solidarity of the majority in the international community.

The continuing quest for peace in Venezuela and for the Caribbean region to continue being a Zone of Peace are one and the same; and the future of a peaceful wider region focused on its development in the 21st Century will only be possible if the war for peace continues as it must, on all fronts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Earl Bousquet is a Saint Lucia-born veteran Caribbean journalist. With over four decades of practical experience, he was in 2016 honored by the Government of Saint Lucia with a top national award, the Saint Lucia Medal of Honor (GOLD) ‘for his sterling and lasting contribution to journalism and media development in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean.’

May 28, 2019