Santiago de Chile
Though I do not believe in ghosts or an afterlife, I have always felt the presence of the dead among us, their voices never entirely erased from memory. Meditating in Santiago de Chile upon the recent call by Donald Trump to the Venezuelan military to overthrow Nicolás Maduro, who, despite his many faults and mistakes, is the constitutional president of his country, I imagined how Simón Bolívar, known as the Liberator of Latin America, would have responded from the grave to the current crisis in the land where he was born in 1783.
To the Commanders of the Armed Forces of the United States:
Why am I not asking you, in the name of the Latin America that I helped to free from the bonds of colonialism, to depose Donald Trump?
I would, after all, be justified in proposing such a bold move, given that your president has flagrantly intervened in the internal affairs of my Venezuela, demanding that its soldiers topple President Maduro or risk “losing everything.” Why, then, do I firmly reject the very idea that I could dictate, from outside the United States, what your duty might be as military men of honor?
It is true that the reasons for unseating Donald Trump are manifold, the very reasons that he has used to attack Maduro (for whom I have scant sympathy, no matter how often he invokes my name to justify his actions).
Trump has accused Maduro of being an illegitimate president. Trump should look in the mirror. Trump was elected with 3 million votes less than his rival, and he owes his victory, in part, to the incessant and illegal suppression of unfavorable news about his sexual and financial transgressions. It remains to be seen if he was also helped, as has been claimed, by the meddling of a foreign state.
Trump has accused Maduro of violating the Constitution. Trump should look in the mirror. He has consistently violated the Constitution, the latest example being the declaration of a nonexistent national emergency at the border, which flouts the separation of powers by attempting to use funds that were not authorized for that purpose by Congress.
Trump has accused Maduro of being corrupt. Trump should look in the mirror. His presidency is the most corrupt in the history of the United States, with collaborators indicted, scandals forcing Cabinet members to resign, and his companies and family enriched at the expense of the American taxpayer (emoluments clause be damned!).
Trump has accused Maduro of being a dictator. Trump should look in the mirror. The leaders he admires are all strongmen: Erdogan, Duterte, Al-Sisi, Orbán, Putin, and, of course, Kim Jong-un.
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Trump has accused Maduro of endangering the national security of the United States. Trump should look in the mirror. He has made the world much more unstable and prone to war by shredding the agreement with Iran and withdrawing from the nuclear missile pact with Russia. And he relentlessly jeopardizes the nation’s security and future by denying the effects of global warming, as he assaults every regulation or treaty that can save humanity from the apocalypse of climate change.
Even so, despite Donald Trump’s misdeeds and his desire to revive gunboat diplomacy in Latin America (“all options,” he has said, “are on the table.”), and even though I myself warned in 1829 that “the United States seem destined by Providence to plague our [Latin] America with miseries in the name of liberty,” I still resist the urge to wish upon your land the fate of our sad republics south of the border.
Regardless of the fact that so many of the military takeovers we endured over the Past century have been planned, financed, and assisted by the United States, I would not want your people to suffer the sort of pain and terror that a coup d’état occasions. The young United States was an inspiration to me and all the others who led the struggle for Latin American Independence in the early 19th century. As I stated in my Declaration of Angostura in 1819, “the North American people are a singular model of political virtue and moral rectitude.… That nation was born in liberty, was raised in liberty, and has prevailed only through liberty.” It would thus be a tragedy if your soldiers were to abolish the democracy they are sworn to defend. Our experience is bitter and should not be imitated: Once the armed forces have overthrown a government elected by the people—however foolish the people may be—there is no turning back: pain, death, torture, confusion, havoc, guilt, and mendacity are sure to follow.
The fate of Donald Trump needs to be decided by the citizens of the United States, without me or any other foreigner making the choice for you. There is no other way for the crisis in the United States—a nation now divided against itself—to be resolved without needless bloodshed and violence.
And if that is the case for the country of George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr., why should it not also be the case for the Venezuela that I called home and that deserves a better destiny than a civil war encouraged irresponsibly from abroad?
In the name of peace, this warrior salutes you from beyond death and wishes your country and mine a future of mutual respect and friendship,
General Simón Bolívar, El Libertador