“MAKING THE ECONOMY SCREAM” IN VENEZUELA

10 02 2019

“We’re going to make their economy scream.”

Richard Nixon, on US plans to overthrow the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende in the early  1970’s

I am outraged about the way the US is treating Venezuela, a country whose worst crime seems to be spending its oil revenue to elevate the living standards of its poorest people, instead of feeding an oligarchy like The Great God Mammon intended.

Nicolas Maduro, and “the Bolivarian Revolution,” are just a few steps to the left of Bernie Sanders, and yet we have a bipartisan effort to overthrow them. Sanderistas, and all you other “Democratic Socialists,” please note: this is what Schumer and Pelosi really think of you.

Democrats who have fulminated for two years about “covert Russian meddling” in the US and styled themselves “the Resistance” to Pres. Turnip’s hard right agenda for the US have no problem openly colluding with a radical right politician in Venezuela, overtly sending him millions of dollars, confiscating Venezuelan state assets in the US and turning them over to this self-proclaimed, not particularly popular, “President” and US puppet, and coordinating a de-legitimization campaign against the legally, and honestly, elected government of a sovereign nation that, oh horrors, has been forthright in its criticism of US foreign policy, and, in the face of US sanctions, started selling its oil for Chinese yuan instead of American petrodollars.

Gee, I seem to remember, back during the Democratic primary debates, that Ms. Clinton accused Bernie Sanders of “supporting the overthrow of the legally constituted governments of Cuba and Nicaragua.” Apparently, she and the rest of her wing of the Democratic Party think it’s not OK to do that to legally constituted, highly oligarchic, US boot-licking dictatorships, like the Batista and Somoza regimes that once ruled over Cuba and Nicaragua. But hey, if it’s a legitimately elected, broadly popular socialist government, as in Venezuela or modern Nicaragua, or even faintly populist, like the unfortunate Mr. Zelaya in Honduras, why, go right ahead and kill it before it spreads. “Kill” is not a metaphor here. I’m assuming that’s why Elliot Abrams has been made the US government’s point man on Venezuela. He has shown no hesitation in his willingness to kill the poor in order to save the rich.

 

And saving the rich is definitely what is happening in Venezuela. The
“anti-government uprising” is largely a revolt of the middle- and upper classes, who have seen their standard of living slip as Chavez, and now Maduro,  do what they can to help the poorest members of Venezuelan society. And make no mistake about it–the upper classes in Venezuela are more European, i.e., whiter, than the lower classes, and despise Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez as “black Indians,” whose rule they resent the same way some white Americans couldn’t abide having even a lackey of the corporate system like Barack Obama as US President, because he was black. The reaction against Maduro is flat-out racist.

We Greens get a certain amount of pushback from people who think we ought to work within the Democratic Party. The Democrats’ hypocrisy around this Venezuela caper is a prime example of the kind of conduct we Greens are unwilling to tolerate. The Green Party rejects the Democrats’ hypocrisy of claiming to be opposed to racism at home, while supporting what amounts to white supremacy in Venezuela (and Palestine, too–but that’s a whole other subject.) We are an anti-imperialist party as well as an anti-capitalist party, and the Democrats’ willingness to join with the Republicans in bullying Venezuela is imperialism pure and simple–not to mention that the US government is clearly stating its intention to turn Venezuelan oil production, now managed by a mostly state owned company, over to multinational, um, “oiligarchs.” The Green Party is about freeing this country from oil addiction, while the Democrats are happy to mug one of our neighbors to make sure our oil fixes keep on coming.

I want to include a few caveats here. The first is that I, and most other supporters of Venezuela, don’t necessarily agree with every detail of their overall plan, and also can see ways in which the country’s rulers have not done a good job, even by their own standards. Nevertheless, I am broadly supportive of their intentions, which are, to quote Professor Greg Albo,

(to) deepen.. democratic proceduralism, indigenous and human rights and citizen initiatives. But it also embraced an alternate economic model in linking participatory democracy with cooperatives and worker self-management.

That’s exactly what The Green Party is about, and it’s also the program on which Bernie Sanders rose to prominence. So, when I said that those in control of the Democratic Party are willing to kill to stop democratic socialism, I think my concern is well-founded. I hope that adds to your understanding of why Greens cannot be Democrats.

The second caveat is that, of course there is corruption in Venezuela. The Bolivarian Revolution was, and remains, a political movement which pays little attention to psychological transformation. When you try to make change happen merely by passing laws, anyone who is more or less governed by the flaws in their personality–greed, jealousy, desire, selfishness, for example–will continue to do whatever they can to work the system for their personal advantage, especially when it is clear that the system is being stressed by outside parties, like the US, who want to destroy it, and that makes peoples’ lives difficult and uncertain.

The third caveat is that, from my point of view, the worst crime Venezuela has committed has been to extract all that oil….the same crime that the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and a whole lot of other countries are committing….but who’s gonna bell that cat? You can be sure our government has no intention of shutting down Venezuelan oil production for good. The administration has said outright that it intends to turn Venezuelan oil production over to US oil companies.

But of course, it’s not entirely about oil. Our government has also announced that Venezuela is just the first domino–they plan to go after largely oil-free Nicaragua and Cuba next–can Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, and any other non-submissive Western Hemisphere governments that remain be far behind? If a New Democrat-Green coalition takes over the government of Canada, will the US invade? Will British Prime Minister Theresa May negotiate the surrender of the Maduro government, and, on her return to England, tell the press that she believes her actions have brought “peace in our time”?

The economic war against Venezuela begin in 2014, when Pres. Obama expressed ‘grave concern” about Maduro’s alleged suppression of the rights of protesters against his government, declared that Venezuela was a threat to US security, and Congress passed “Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014.”

As Glenn Greenwald wrote at the time,

Today, one of the Obama administration’s closest allies on the planet, Saudi Arabia, sentenced one of that country’s few independent human rights activists, Mohammed al-Bajad, to 10 years in prison on “terrorism” charges. That is completely consistent with that regime’s systematic and extreme repression, which includes gruesome state beheadings at a record-setting rate, floggings and long prison terms for anti-regime bloggers, executions of those with minority religious views, and exploitation of terror laws to imprison even the mildest regime critics.

Absolutely nobody expects the “deeply concerned” President Obama to impose sanctions on the Saudis — nor on any of the other loyal U.S. allies from Egypt to the UAE whose repression is far worse than Venezuela’s.

The situation remains the same today. The Saudi government’s suppression of human rights continues, its murder spree continues, including murdering and otherwise seriously violating the “human rights” of the twenty-eight million people of Yemen. (Just for comparison, there are about thirty-one million Venezuelans.)

The United States has not declared economic war on Saudi Arabia for any of that. Far from it–this country is providing the Saudis with the weapons for these acts of state terrorism. Elsewhere, Egypt remains a brutal dictatorship, supported by the US, and Turkey has become one. The Chinese commit slow genocide against the Tibetans and the Uyghurs. There are dozens of other brutal, repressive dictatorships around the world, and a nearly equal number where a combination of climate change and capitalist economics have pushed millions to the brink of starvation. Is the US invading? No. Is the US even sending significant aid? Mostly not.

The only sort-of exception to this is Iran, where the US is also doing its best to “make the economy scream.” Iran and Venezuela have a few things in common. One of them is oil. The other one, I’ll discuss a little later.

When i posted the original version of this talk on my Facebook page, I got some good, challenging questions. I’m always happy when somebody disagrees with me in social media. I enjoy debate. It helps me understand my own perceptions better, and helps me understand where other people with different views are coming from. I don’t expect to change anybody’s mind.

One questioner wrote:

I’m not sure about the response of the US Government to this new development but I’d hardly consider Maduro an example anyone would want to follow. Because of his economic mismanagement inflation is out of control, people are starving and leaving the country in droves. Additionally Maduro has consistently been arresting any leader who looks like he/she might be competition. I agree that our foreign policy is s— but so is the current Venezuela government.

“Arresting any leader who looks like he/she might be competition” seems to be a reference to the arrest of two individuals involved with “The Popular Will Party,”  Juan Guaido’s party, who were taking a lot of money from the US government to foment unrest in Venezuela long before the current crisis. Journalist Max Blumenthal points out

….the Venezuelan opposition was receiving a staggering $40-50 million a year from US government organizations like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, according to a report by the Spanish think tank, the FRIDE Institute. It also had massive wealth to draw on from its own accounts, which were mostly outside the country.

While the scenario envisioned by Statfor (massive unrest leading to overthrow of Maduro) did not come to fruition, the Popular Will party activists and their allies cast aside any pretense of non-violence and joined a radical plan to destabilize the country.

It’s also worth noting that, while these individuals were initially sentenced to fairly long prison terms, they were quickly released.
The questioner might have been referring to Enrique Capriles, who, as a state governor, according to Venezuelanalysis,

reportedly signed international agreements with the British and Polish embassies without legal authorization, flouted mandated procedures in state contracting, and failed to present the 2013 state budget for approval by the regional legislature.

And then there’s Leopoldo Lopez, who has been arrested for leading intentionally violent protests against local elections. Given the amount of US financial support these people are receiving, I think it’s safe to assume that their violence and intransigence are dictated by their US handlers.
Another commenter wrote:
I would agree (with the comment I just discussed). Below is a good article about the apparent election fraud. 60 minutes did a segment on Venezuela that showed horrible and dire conditions in the county. I don’t suggest in any way that I support trump, but the EU has weighed in as well. Russia and China are on the Maduro train.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/d490f794-20e4-11e9…
The Washington Post article he cites does not particularly connect US sanctions with the country’s economic chaos, which is typical of corporate media reporting on Venezuela, who seem to push the narrative that economic chaos is what you get if you try socialism. This particular commenter is also a fervent Russiagate believer, and thus is inclined to be against anything and anybody the Russians support.
As for “election fraud” charges, Lucas Koerner of Venezuelanalysis reports

….an international observer mission led by the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America (CEELA), comprised of former top electoral officials from throughout the region, said the election was clean.

“Technically, up until today, we have not observed any element that could disqualify the electoral process,” said CEELA President Nicanor Moscoso in a press conference.

“We can emphasize that these elections must be recognized, because they are the result of the will of the Venezuelan people,” he added.

Prior to Sunday, CEELA observers participated in all fourteen of the pre-election audits conducted by the CNE in conjunction with all participating political parties, in addition to overseeing the “hot audit” of 54.4 percent of all voting machines mandatorily carried out on election day.

It’s also worth noting that turnout in this election, which was boycotted by most of the opposition, was 46%. The recent US midterm elections had a turnout of about 50%, and turnout for the “crucial” 2016 Presidential election was around 55%, without any formal boycott being declared. Nobody is questioning the legitimacy of those elections, however.

Here’s some other links I put into the discussion thread. This first one is about the opposition’s refusal to participate in local elections in 2017. Knowing what we now know about the US’s long-range plan to destabilize Venezuela, I think it likely that this strategy was adopted at the behest of the US, both to de legitimize the election and to hide the fact that these parties weren’t actually capable of winning a fair election.

  • This link is to a story about the 2012 election, which former US President Jimmy Carter monitored. He had high praise for the Venezuelan system. https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/7272
    Another commenter linked this Democracy Now story on the US government’s “Western Hemisphere domino strategy.” (my phrase)
      Phil Ochs “Cops of the World

    US meddling in Venezuela is profoundly misguided and unlikely to come to any good end. Look at our more overt efforts–Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan. Is that what we’re setting ourselves up for? In three of those four cases, the US transformed stable, relatively well-off countries (albeit not terribly democratic) into chaotic charnel grounds. The fourth, Afghanistan, was not so well off or stable, but the US has only made it worse.

    Or consider our less violent interventions, countries where we quietly meddled in their political/electoral processes in order to unseat socialists and replace them with neoliberals and reactionaries–Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Ecuador come to mind. In those countries, “austerity” has been introduced and social programs have been slashed–in order to send more money to the multinational/US banks to pay off the loans made by previous neoliberal rulers–Pinochet, the Argentine generals, etc.

    Or another case of US meddling–post-Communist Russia in the 90’s. Under US-friendly Yeltsin, whole branches of the Russian government were stripped of their Russian employees, who were replaced by Americans, who oversaw the privatization of most of the services and enterprises that had been state-run. Some of these were quite profitable. USAID passed out over a billion dollars in “vouchers” to help Russians buy these, and about three-quarters of a billion of those dollars fell into the hands of organized crime syndicates in Russia, who bought profitable state enterprises and made billions more. USAID knew this was going on and did nothing to stop it. The result was widespread crime and lawlessness, which led to the Russian people wanting a strong leader–which is what makes Putin so popular.

    Oh, yeah–the Russian crime syndicates needed to launder that money, and one way they laundered it was by buying lots of American real estate from a whole slew of people, one of whom was a guy named Donald Trump, who was well on the way to ignominious bankruptcy when the US-provided Russian wind filled his sails. How ironic that it was Bill Clinton who signed off on the Russian caper. (Seymour Hersch has a great piece in The Atlantic called “The Wild East” that tells this amazing story, minus the Trump part. Be sure and search for “The Wiild East, Part Two,” or you won’t get the whole article.)

    So, if you want to root for America interfering in other countries’ business, please be aware of the results it’s likely to produce. They probably won’t be as pleasant as promised.

    Finally, the biggest difference between Venezuela and the US’s other regime change efforts is this: The Bolivarian Revolution has been happening for a generation. It is thus not just extremely popular among a broad sector of Venezuelan society, it is also very well-rooted. The people who support the Bolivarian view are well-organized. The Venezuelan military is largely supportive of Maduro and Bolivarian socialism. When the US overthrew Salvador Allende in Chile, he was newly elected and did not have much backing in the military. When Elliot Abrams oversaw US “political cleansing” operations such as the state-sponsored terror in Guatemala, the army was swooping in on unarmed, isolated peasant villages. When  Henry Kissinger directed “Operation Condor,” the fascist governments of various South- and Central American nations conducted a covert campaign against civilian dissidents who, in spite of their high ideals, lacked the kind of organization that Bolivarianism has promoted in the barrios of Venezuela. Any coup is likely to fail, any invasion will meet stiff resistance, and either will plunge the country further into chaos.

    But perhaps civil chaos what the corporatocracy wants. That’s what they achieved in Libya. That’s what they achieved in Iraq. That seems to be what they are striving for in Syria. I guess they see it as preferable to a stable country that is resistant to US hegemony. Whether I am right about this or not, destabilizing Venezuela seems like an incredibly stupid, short-sighted move to make.

    In the longer term, all I can do is keep on applying Green values–non-violence and social and economic justice–in my own life, while I join with others to speak out against the madness that seems to have infected our political leadership.  It doesn’t matter whether I, or we, succeed. It’s about integrity, and integrity means pointing out that the US war on Venezuela is a shameless attempt to seize the world’s largest oil reserves and exploit them for the benefit of an already far-too-rich few, at a time when we have already exploited, and burned, far too much oil for our own good.

    To sum it up: the economic war on Venezuela is not about democracy, or human rights, or ending a “humanitarian crisis” (that the US created). The economic war on Venezuela is about who profits from exploiting Venezuela’s oil. It’s about reasserting American hegemony. It’s about championing the desires of rich, white people and putting down the aspirations of poorer, darker-skinned people. Greed, imperialism, classism, and racism. It hardly gets any uglier than that. I know where I stand. Which side are you on?

    If we as a species can’t behave any more wisely than this, we are headed for a rapid, and well-deserved, demise. But I say that in every post/on every show, don’t I? I guess I’m going to have to keep repeating it until we change course for the better, I pass from this life, or the course we’re on takes my ability to communicate with you away. I certainly hope it’s the first of those and not the last.

    Jackson Browne–“Soldier of Plenty

    Eliza Gilkyson “2153,”

    Dreamtime

 

 


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