Will you support genocide in Venezuela?: Congress member Ilhan Omar challenges notorious coup-monger Elliott Abrams

US Congress member Ilhan Omar asked Trump’s new Venezuela special envoy Elliott Abrams if he would oversee genocide and war crimes as he did in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

By Ben Norton

US Rep. Ilhan Omar boldly challenged infamous Iran-Contra felon Elliott Abrams in a House of Representatives hearing on the Donald Trump administration’s policy in Venezuela.

“Would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, if they believe they were serving US interests, as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua?” asked Omar, a progressive Democrat representing Minnesota.

In January, President Donald Trump appointed Abrams as his special envoy for Venezuela. The Trump administration has been leading a right-wing coup attempt in the oil-rich South American nation, seeking to topple its elected leftist government. Abrams is notorious for overseeing an array of atrocities in Central America. In 2002, under then President George W. Bush, Abrams also supported a brief military coup in Venezuela. In the hearing, which took place on February 13, Omar continued grilling Abrams over his involvement in US crimes in Central America. Omar said: In 1991, you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee, or the American people, should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful. … On February 8, 1982, you testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about US policy in El Salvador. In that hearing, you dismissed as ‘communist propaganda’ a report about the massacre of El Mozote, in which more than 800 civilians, including children as young as 2 years old, were brutally murdered by US-trained troops. During that massacre, some of those troops bragged about raping 12-year-old girls before they killed them. You later said that the US policy in El Salvador was a ‘fabulous achievement.’ Yes or no, do you still think so? Bold new foreign policy voice in Congress Omar, a freshman in the US Congress, has shown leadership in challenging the bipartisan foreign policy consensus. This February, she was smeared as “anti-Semitic” for calling attention to the influence of the Israel lobby and right-wing Israel-backed groups in Washington. Abrams is a longtime ally of the Israel lobby, and was directly involved in the failed coup attempt against the elected Hamas government of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Elliott Abrams’ crimes in Central America In her comments during the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Ilhan Omar referred to the role Elliott Abrams played in backing the military junta in Guatemala in the 1980s. Under the sponsorship of the United States, Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt carried out a campaign of genocide against the local Indigenous community, in a bloody attempt to crush any shred of communist and socialist resistance. Abrams lobbied for the US government to send more and more weapons to Ríos Montt’s regime. He attacked human rights activists and actively downplayed US-backed atrocities. Abrams even insisted that the Guatemalan junta “brought considerable progress” on human rights, progress that needed “to be rewarded and encouraged.” Abrams was also deeply implicated in the notorious Iran-Contra scandal, in which the United States used the money made in secret arms sales to Iran in order to fund far-right death squads in Nicaragua, known as the Contras. In the 1980s, Abrams even smuggled weapons to the Contras by hiding them in supposed “humanitarian aid” shipments.

 

Activists from the women-led peace group CODEPINK interrupted Abrams’ congressional hearing.

“Don’t listen to this war criminal!” protester Ariel Gold chanted. “Venezuela needs negotiations, not a coup or military intervention!”

 

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.