We are being told by President Obama that Venezuela is a national security threat to the United States of America. Some say it is necessary for this to be claimed so that Obama can legally take punitive actions against Venezuelan officials. Pause for a moment and let the phrase sink in. “National security threat”.
As you let this statement marinate in your mind, consider the abstract idea of working backwards to reach a conclusion. A child determines that vegetables are poisonous. The vegetables aren’t poisonous because they are poisonous but because the child has decided that he or she does not want to eat the vegetables. A reason is needed to justify an action – in this case, the illogical idea that the vegetables are not to be eaten because, well, it doesn’t matter why. So, the vegetables have conveniently become poisonous and the child screams to his or her mother that “They are poison! I will get sick and go to the hospital and turn purple and orange and green if I eat them!” Clearly, none of this is accurate, but a pretext is needed to justify the action of not eating the vegetables. Is this rational?
So it is with Venezuela. There is no national security threat to the United States. Period. As the child who claims the vegetables are poison, so President Obama has decided that the Bolivarian Republic is a national security threat to the United States to justify an escalation in what has become a perpetual war against the socialist revolution that began over a decade.
The ruling United States regime – backed in its mission against Venezuela by the nominal opposition party – has made various claims regarding Venezuela since “We don’t like that the Revolution has been democratically elected for 15 years” is not the most politically tenable reason for claiming a national security threat.
Chief among the claims are that Venezuela has cracked down on dissent, imprisoned opposition leaders, allowed impunity for murderous national police and is engaged in corruption. While these questions have been refuted, it should be stated once again why they are not only incorrect but are hopelessly hypocritical – if they were correct – in light of United States’ policy regarding Venezuela’s neighbors.
First, the crack down on dissent is a very long running complaint lodged by the United States against Venezuela. Dating back to the mid-2000s when Venezuela did not renew a public airwave license to racist media outlets that peddled derogatory imagery and views, the accusation has been leveled that Venezuela is censoring the media and opposition views. Rarely mentioned by the mainstream media however is that these same stations – with their racist and violent programming – were never banned in Venezuela (despite some saying they should have been) nor were any of the program directors or company executives imprisoned for their legal, yet detestable, views. The outlets were simply not provided with an extension on having free public airwave space. Instead, the government made a decision to provide this public airwave concession to local community organizations. This, in the twisted logic of US imperialism is a “crack down on dissent”.
Tied to the idea of a “crack down on dissent” is the claim of imprisonment of opposition leaders. This claim, while factually correct, leaves out the most salient point which is the fact that there are prisoners who are opposition leaders…who were involved in planning of violent protests that led to the deaths of over 40 people – the majority of whom were either pro-government civilians or national police who were killed, in part, by snipers. So it is factually correctly that opposition figures are in prison but it is mendaciously disingenuous to leave the discussion at that without clearly noting that any country would imprison a citizen who provoked, plotted and carried out numerous acts of violence including bombings while plotting a violent coup that included attacks on journalist. Ironic how the opposition backed by US propaganda and money claims to be repressed in the media and then proceeds to plot to violently attack the media. It should be noted as well that among those in prison include instigators of the 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez at which time the media was shut down during the less-than-48 hours coup.
Regarding the claim of impunity for police responsible for civilian deaths during last year’s protests, one would only need to go to Venezuela’s prisons where police are currently imprisoned on suspicion of murder. Of course, this too is absent from the media’s discussion of Venezuela. There are no claims that these police are political prisoners or jailed for their beliefs. Unlike the sanctified opposition who were responsible for crimes against the people’s democracy and for the abovementioned violence and death, these police officials – who, it should be noted, were subjected to “protestor” abuse and violence – are unknown. But impunity there is not.
Regarding the last claim of corruption, there is undoubtedly corruption within the Venezuelan state – but unlike previous regimes that doubled down on corruption and spread the wealth with foreign allies, the current government under Nicolas Maduro has admitted that bureaucratic practices that lead to corruption and corruption itself are issues that are present and need to be rooted out. Note also that the actions that would be needed to root out the corruption in Venezuela – strongly tied to the remains of bourgeois capitalism – would involve steps that would engender further attacks on Venezuela for “repression of the opposition” and “crimes against free enterprise and freedom”. For the United States – and indeed the West in general – the specter of “corruption” is a cudgel held over political opponents to justify rhetorical and physical attacks. Yet which state in the world is free of “corruption”. “Corruption” is a term nebulously defined and present everywhere to varying degrees. While needing to be opposed, it is something that will never be defeated completely. One might as well call for a war to eradicate “sin”.
All of this brings us to the issue of Western hypocrisy, a topic that could fill tomes. Without boring the reader with tomes, one needs merely to ask how Venezuela is castigated as a corrupt, freedom-repressing nation (both patently false) when neighbors such as Colombia has a slight issue with assassinations and Mexico to the north has been wracked with one massacre with impunity after the next. Yet somehow Colombia and Mexico are considered allies despite their glaring problems – problems that have been exacerbated directly by the respective governments.
But the “threat to national security” is Venezuela.
Perhaps Venezuela is a threat, however. Perhaps. Indeed, Venezuela is a threat – not to the United States, but to United States influence and hegemony. Venezuela is a threat when the residents of the South Bronx receive affordable heating not from their own government but from humanitarian aid from Venezuela. When a small Black child in the Bronx goes to sleep with heat and is not shivering in their apartment, the Bolivarian Revolution can be thanked. President Obama? No thanks.
This is the threat that Venezuela poses to the United States. A threat that people will see a state based on the value of socialism providing for them when their own leaders fail. A threat that people will see socialism transforming people’s lives in Venezuela and lifting the masses out of poverty. When people are forced into homelessness because of rents in New York City, the Venezuelan threat provides free homes to own for its people. Transformative, revolutionary socialism that does not bend a knee to the gringo imperialists. What is capitalism and American supremacy to the child crying in a homeless shelter? Venezuela is building new houses for its poor. And this is the threat.
The threat in Venezuela is the breaking of the stranglehold of the private elite that dictates to the masses what their dignity will be. The elites, with their allies in Miami and Washington dictating to the masses. “Your dignity? It does not exist.” The deprecations of poverty are not seen. Out of sight, out of mind, out of media. But the Revolution changed that. This is the threat of Venezuela – the threat of exposure of injustice. But not mere exposure, but castigation and revolution. A true changing of power.
An impoverished man named Hugo Chavez, of African and native ancestry, upended Latin America and transformed the region and brought dignity and power to the people. It was a revolution so damnable to the powerful and Washington for it was democratic. It was voted on. The people willingly voted for Revolution and defended it with their arms. Washington could not say “They did not vote for it! We demand elections!” No, Venezuela has voted for 15 years for Revolution and this is impudence to the important people. And now, the bus driver-turned-President Nicolas Maduro leads the people. Impudence. The threat of impudence – or the triumph of a revolution of love and justice.
But this Revolution is not merely a hippie love-in where people hope for justice then sit back and drink their Cafe Americano. The Revolution, as it is driven by a society-state-military coalition – with each complementing the other, the societal dignity of the citizen as the motive force – does not see Revolution as reform or a pacifist attempt to moderate capitalism’s excesses. While driven by a firm sense of love of one’s fellow man and woman, it recognizes the relevance of power. Power never concedes anything without a struggle. Just as there was an initial struggle to wrest power from the traditional capitalist class, the struggle continues – both in continued seizure of power and defense of the power that has been seized.
The liberal and pacifist classes are scared of a power change undertaken by the masses – especially one in which the military is of the people and aligned with the demands of the people. For it is that the liberal class – which traditionally has not ruled the military – cannot accept that an armed force will defend the gains of the working class against the liberal class’ traditional power. For the conservative class, the military has had a mixed legacy in Latin America – at times it has been the force controlling the working class, at other times the force that has guaranteed the working class’ rights. Recall that Comrade Hugo Chavez was from the military and led a failed coup that ended up propelling him to national recognition and the presidency through the democratic vote.
And perhaps this too is the threat of Venezuela – the concrete establishment of a socialist society that boldly declares its independence and it not cowered into refusing legitimate means of power to defend the stated will of the people. The West allows reformism by its “lesser brothers” – as long as it is within the context of accepted Western norms. Reformism guided by the wise hand of progressive thinkers of the West that pontificate in classrooms and international conferences. But revolution? And revolution from the bottom up? And revolution when the bottom declares its power? Revolution where the people of the bottom – the “disposable” – do not simply ask for rights but they seize power? This is the threat.
As it was in Cuba, the mental ideology of revolution is as great, if not greater, than the revolution itself. Once a people have decolonized their minds, everything else will fall into place in time. Power may be re-seized, but the people, once liberated, will not return to subjugation under the heel of either bare-toothed imperialists or the paternalism of Western progressives and faux-allies. The fire of freedom will continue to burn.
Perhaps then, in a way, Venezuela is a threat.
The threat lives. The threat of freedom and justice.
Andrew Kahn edits the Voice of America Blog.