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Crisis in Venezuela

Crisis in Venezuela

Capitalist Success, Not Socialist Failure

Once among Latin America’s richest countries, Venezuela has been in a downward spiral for years now, with political discontent, skyrocketing inflation, power cuts and shortages of food and medicine. Since 2014, some three million Venezuelans have left the country in search of better living conditions. The situation has further deteriorated with a deep political crisis that has hit this South American country recently as two individuals claim themselves as the president of the country and the international community is also divided over the prevailing situation. Countries like Russia, China, Turkey and Iran are backing Nicolás Maduro as he was re-elected in May 2018 elections whereas the United States and most European countries have recognized Juan Guaidó, who has proclaimed himself president arguing that Maduro had not been legitimately elected, as Venezuela’s interim President.

Political tensions in crisis-stricken Venezuela have reached boiling point after opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself as the country’s “acting president.” Alongside several other countries, the United States immediately recognized Guaidó as the Latin American country’s rightful interim leader, ramping up the pressure on President Nicolás Maduro. The US President Donald Trump has repeatedly called this crisis a result of socialist policies, and he blames Venezuela’s ideology of socialism for all the mess. In his State of the Union address 2019, Trump blatantly said: “We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom — and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.” Trump detests socialism and he clearly showed that when he said, “There’s nothing less democratic than socialism, which always gives rise to tyranny,” calling the system “a failed ideology” that “shut down free markets, repressed free speech and destroyed the rule of law.” Furthermore, in an address at Florida International University, Trump predicted: “The twilight hour of socialism has arrived in our hemisphere and frankly in many, many places around the world. The days of socialism and communism are numbered, not only in Venezuela but in Nicaragua and in Cuba as well.”

Isn’t it an irony that a “democratic” US government elected by a minority of the vote is now calling for democracy in Venezuela by attempting to overthrow its government, which was recently elected by a more than two-thirds vote after a highly-fragmented political opposition abstained from participation (on US instructions) because it lacked popular support and felt that it was unlikely to win. The point man for the regime change operation is Elliott Abrams, whose biography tells us everything we need to know to evaluate the alleged democratic intentions of the Trump administration.

A fire-breathing fanatic for imperial Israel who championed the invasion and destruction of Iraq, Abrams was formerly Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights for the Reagan administration, and famously called US/Salvadorean death-squad operations that produced tens of thousands of mutilated civilian corpses (1979-1994) a “fabulous achievement.” He also claimed that the Nicaraguan contras, famous for torture, rape and murder in a campaign to overthrow the socialist government of Nicaragua, would one day be fondly remembered as “folk heroes.” Today, he is a member of the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy, which was created to be a continuation of CIA skullduggery by other means, and currently finances Washington’s destabilization efforts not only in Venezuela, but also in Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba. Convicted of lying to Congress about Iran-Contra, Abrams called his prosecutors “filthy bastards,” dismissed the proceedings as “Kafkaesque,” and denounced the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee as “pious clowns.” After hearing Abrams’ testimony, then Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton expressed a common reaction: “I want to puke.”

So much for Washington seeking democracy, as though we didn’t already know. For the plain fact is that there is more democracy in Venezuela now, where members of the vast poor majority can be routinely found in animated political discussion of the events that shape their lives, than there has ever been in the United States, where the poor are deliberately excluded from representation or even consideration, and have, therefore, long since dismissed politics as a sensible concern.

But if not democracy, what then is the US’s motivation in Venezuela? Well, Venezuela has large gold and nickel reserves, along with the largest oil supply in the world. Gaining control of such resources is an attractive prospect for any US president, but especially for one under siege from multiple investigations and constant media questioning of his legitimacy. Making America great again by plundering Venezuela oil supplies would be an imperial achievement that the entire US political class would admire. Witness Nancy Pelosi reaching across the aisle to tweet support for the coup right off the bat, to wit: “America stands by the people of #Venezuela as they rise up against authoritarian rule and demand respect for human rights and democracy.” Who says Trump and the Democrats can’t get along?

Though the current coup in Venezuela has roots going back to 2002 (when President Chavez was kidnapped and nearly killed by the US-backed “opposition”), long before any economic crisis was even on the horizon, giddy triumphalists of American Empire stridently declare that the Venezuelan crisis proves nothing more than the “failure of socialism.” Ignoring the deliberate US policy of sowing economic chaos, they denounce the Bolivarian Revolution as a sham on the grounds that its supposed beneficiaries are now allegedly suffering mass starvation due to lunatic Marxist policies run amok.

Except that there is no mass starvation, the mass Chavista base remains intact, and the Venezuelan economy is overwhelmingly in private hands.

In other words, the entire thesis of “socialism has failed” is a propaganda offensive, not a news story. And those who try to make Venezuela a news story by getting out the real facts on the ground are regularly threatened with being burned alive by the US-led political opposition now claiming it wants to re-establish democracy in Venezuela. In recent years, it has attacked and killed dozens of poor black Chavistas in the streets (often torched), attempting to provoke police responses that can subsequently be denounced as socialist “authoritarianism.” Imagine the reaction in the United States if a foreign power were sowing arson and murder in the US in an effort to force Trump out of office for having lost the popular vote in 2016. US would launch a nuclear war.

There are, of course, real economic issues, such as hyper-inflation and food shortages. However, the shortages are often of staple items produced by a handful of companies that withhold them from the market as a form of class warfare. In any case, the crippling sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on the ludicrous pretext that Venezuela represents a national security threat to the United States have made the situation worse, not better (as intended).

With the Trump administration now extending the sanctions to the energy sector, a solution could become outright impossible. About one-third of Venezuelan exports are to the United States, and Venezuela meets about 40 percent of its economic needs through the foreign exchange it earns by exporting. If it can’t export to the US, it suffers a huge loss of income that previously went for purchasing imports. This is the heart of Washington’s longstanding “make the economy scream” strategy previously successfully employed in Chile (1973) to overthrow a socialist government and install a dictator (Augusto Pinochet), who promptly initiated a bloodbath.

To make a long story short, the current crisis has been meticulously planned, nurtured and yearned for, for years by US imperial strategists, who are now perfectly delighted, not appalled, by the crisis. For them to call the situation a failure of socialism is like Jack the Ripper pronouncing his strangled female corpses a failure of feminism.

There is nothing to discuss with the Venezuelan opposition, which is obviously only interested in the complete eradication of the Bolivarian Revolution, the detested policy of meeting the needs of Venezuela’s poor black and Indian majority with Venezuelan oil revenue. It would be nothing less than treason to collaborate with these right-wing demagogues. At the same time, however, it would be suicidal to pretend that the US is not exploiting real popular disenchantment with Chavez and Maduro’s economic policies, especially Maduro’s exchange controls.

But let’s let Venezuelans solve their problems for themselves, not force them to submit to imperial ultimatums.

What happened?

Nicolás Maduro was re-elected to a second six-year term in elections held in May 2018 which most opposition parties had boycotted. So, Maduro’s re-election was not recognised by Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly. It was following his swearing-in ceremony that the opposition to his government was given a fresh boost. The National Assembly argues that because the election was not fair, Mr Maduro is a “usurper” and the presidency is vacant. Citing articles 233 and 333 of Venezuela’s constitution, the legislature says that in such cases, the head of the National Assembly takes over as acting president. This is a line that is being pushed in particular by the new president of the National Assembly, 35-year-old Juan Guaidó.

What Maduro Says?

President Nicolás Maduro is alleging that the United States orchestrated a coup to remove him from the helm of the embattled nation.

Why is the current crisis unique?

Guaidó’s claim to the presidency is unique, in large part because it has been recognized abroad as legitimate. It means Venezuela has been thrust into a situation whereby it has an internationally-recognized government — with no control over state functions — running parallel to Maduro’s parliament.

What happens next?

What happens next appears to hinge on the actions of the country’s military as both sides in the political dispute are vying for its support. For now, high-ranking officials remain supportive of Maduro’s government as, presently, there have been no high-ranking defections in Venezuela. More than 20 national guardsmen broke with Maduro, seized an arsenal and declared themselves in rebellion, but were quelled by other units. Guaidó has promised an amnesty to all members of the military who abandon Maduro.

Given this situation, it is possible that international community would encourage lower-ranking officials to turn against Maduro’s government.

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