Caracas (MR– Use of force by Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard has become a regular sight in corporate media, and those actions are used by foreign powers as justification for intervention.

With very real possibilities of another US-backed coup, Abby Martin interviews the head of Venezuela’s Armed Forces and Minister of Defense, General Padrino López. They discuss the National Guard’s control of food and medicine, condemnations over use of force, and the threat of US military intervention.

Head of Venezuela National Guard on Insurgency & US Threats – Video: teleSUR English/Empire Files

Images of the Venezuelan National Guard using force against protesters have been plastered across the front pages of media outlets around the world for months, with the United States and its allies using these images as justification for foreign intervention in Venezuela. But absent from this constant media coverage are the violent attacks on civilians and state forces perpetrated by the opposition.

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Most recently, on July 28th armed and masked opposition members issued a call via video for National Guard members to stage a coup against Venezuela’s democratically elected government. On July 30th there was a roadside bomb attack on a National Guard convoy. Through the lens of the corporate media the National Guard is oppressive and violent, but how much violence has the National Guard been responsible for and are they operating outside of the powers granted to them by their constitution?

Defense Minister/Head of Venezuela National Guard General Padrino López
Image: Empire Files

While in Venezuela investigating the country’s economic and political struggles, Abby Martin met and spoke with the head of Venezuela’s Armed Forces and Minister of Defense, General Padrino López. They discussed demands for him to be tried for crimes against humanity, the National Guard’s control of food and medicine distribution, condemnations over use of force including protester deaths and the threat of U.S. military intervention.

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According to General López, Venezuela’s constitution establishes three missions for the military which include military defense, maintaining order and, unique to Venezuela, engaging in active participation in the development of the country. He denies the accusation that military control of food and medicine distribution is evidence of a police state. The “control” is not via militarization or occupation, it is merely supervision. For example, the military supervises where medicine goes, confirming it is given to patients in hospitals rather than being hoarded to later be sold at exorbitant prices.

“The right to protest is printed in the constitution and we respect it very profoundly.”

The National Guard of Venezuela respects the right to peacefully protest. They are obligated, however, to become involved when the opposition engages in violence. There is a state duty to protect protesters and third parties. Unlike in the United States, where it has become commonplace for police and those in uniform to emerge unscathed from controversy involving death and violence against U.S. citizens, National Guard members in Venezuela engaging in violence or working outside of their given orders are held accountable.

Related: Venezuelan Opposition Threatens To Lynch American Journalist Abby Martin

“All we want is to be free, all we want is to be independent, all we want is to be a sovereign country. We just want to be a happy, united nation with it’s own national spirit. If that’s a threat to the United States, then we will be a threat.”

During Obama’s presidency, the U.S. government named Venezuela a top threat to U.S. national security. In fact, Venezuela has been referred to as the top threat to the U.S. in all of the Western hemisphere. The Trump administration is continuing the battle cries and has gone so far as to slap Maduro with sanctions on July 31st after a successful Constituent Assembly, referring to the process as a “sham.” How can a country like Venezuela possibly be a threat to a military and economic superpower to like the United States?

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This post was originally written by Emma Fiala and was published by Media Roots.