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Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times

Photo by Joka Madruga | CC BY 2.0

The U.S. backing of Israel’s massacre of Palestinians and Donald Trump’s death threats to Kim Jong-Un prove that the United States’ imperialism is alive and well. The government has been taken over by sadistic Republicans and useless Democrats. Corruption abounds when it comes to the United States foreign policy, as oil giants have their hands all over the Trump administration. Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil ran the whole state department. Trump is obvious, we will give him that.

Of particular interest to the United States is Venezuela, who is full of oil. They want the oil and anyone who doesn’t give it to them is illegitimate. But there are people in Venezuela too. And they have been wonderfully resilient in response to U.S. power.

This was why it was such good news that Nicolás Maduro won reelection in Venezuela. The name Nicolas by the way means “victory for the people.” But when one listens to the U.S. government and media, you would think that Mr. Maduro is just the opposite. Across the country the press tells us that Venezuela is failing because of socialism. The U.S. left has not been much better, often painting the situation as a complicated two way fight to the bottom between the Venezuelan government and U.S. sanctions. While it certainly is fine to be critical of any government, it seems odd that journalists such as Abby Martin who have actually been to Venezuela are so often ignored.

The problem that is shared across the political spectrum is that it is consistently the Venezuelan government, not the U.S. sanctions upon it, that result in the so-called failed state. If one is a socialist, Venezuela is failing because Maduro is a capitalist. If one is a capitalist, Venezuela is failing because Maduro is a socialist. The reality is that under the crippling sanctions of the United States the Venezuelan government has a tremendously uphill battle, no matter who is in charge. And hey, look at the poll results. Venezuelens actually think Maduro is doing a pretty good job.

Maduro rightly called his victory a win against imperialism. The U.S. failed to get him out of office. Now further sanctions from the Trump administration will come. Trump is no worse than his predecessor Barack Obama who absurdly called Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to national security. Obama’s reasons for sanctioning Venezuela were: “erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to anti-government protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of anti-government protestors, as well as the exacerbating presence of significant government corruption.” All of these claims are blatantly anti-government and without basis. It was John Kerry who called Venezuela’s government a “terror campaign”.

If one were to look at the way the U.S. treats protestors and prisoners you could easily see the hypocrisy. And listening to Martin’s reporting one would find that the protestors in Venezuela get away with a whole lot more than U.S. protesters do. Sanctions against a government for corruption also seems completely backwards. Not only because of the obvious corruption in the U.S. and the (relative) socialism in Venezuela. On a broader note we must ask how exactly is weakening the government going to help fight corruption? Isn’t the whole point of a government to regulate, if not to control, the market? How is a government supposed to do its job when it is sanctioned? Does anyone think about what will happen to the people of Venezuela when making these decisions? Does anyone ever consider that sanctions kill people as easily as bombs do? Trump meanwhile is upping the ante after Maduro’s win with oil sanctions (a global drop in oil prices is another challenge for oil rich Venezuela). Trump is also banning the purchase of Venezuela’s debt.

But the U.S. sanctions and their support of the opposition to Maduro have the same goal: destabilize the government, privatize the state, divide the people. They want to get their way one way or the other. So when one hears that sanctions are used to hold a government accountable, one can immediately see how ludicrous this logic is. Sanctions weaken the government, encouraging corruption. Just starve the people out until they take whatever leader the U.S. wants to put in. But despite promises of increased sanctions, the people have not given in.

Abby Martin’s reporting in Venezuela contradicts many of the corporate media’s myths. She notes that the opposition was quite violent and often comparatively quite well of in comparison to Maduro’s base. The food shortages, to the extend that they exist, have more to do with the sanctions and private market than the failures of Maduro. The U.S. has close ties to the opposition, including notably the death squads in Columbia. But these things are ignored. By both the left and the right here in the U.S. We do not seem to want to grapple with the fact that the U.S. remains at the heart of the problems in Venezuela.

Although I would argue that it is not allegiance with imperialism that is the left’s number one blinder when it comes to Venezuela. It is the remarkable pessimism we have in the U.S. that clouds us from the truth that a community of people can actually organize and rebel. Despite all the zeitgeist about “revolution” and such, the left here simply cannot believe that the revolution that happened in Venezuela can be sustained. The United States, on the left and the right, is a divided, narcissistic, and angry culture that cannot grasp that a communal revolt is possible. Ironically it is those most opposed to U.S. imperial power that are in denial of the fact that this power can and has been countered. This is why the U.S. left is blind to Russia’s imperialism and why it fails to recognize that U.S. hegemony can be countered in Venezuela.

Many leftists do recognize that the U.S. has no right to interfere in Venezuela. On the right and center there is a deep hypocrisy when they whine about the Russiagate scandal, there is no doubt about that. What Russia did in the U.S. is nothing compared to what the U.S. has done in Venezuela (or Russia, for that matter).

But being against intervention shouldn’t be enough. We should also be honest about what is going on in the region. There is so much timidity behind the “it’s complicated” narrative that pervades. Maduro may not be perfect, but he remains the best option, clearly. He remains, if one follows at all what is going on, the people’s choice, clearly. Is it that hard to be pro-government? All governments are at different processes and at different stages. One who is sanctioned this hard should be given proportional expectations.

There should be expectations proportional to the U.S. involvement in Venezuela, which is high.  From 2000-2016, 90 million has been funneled into the opposition. Did I mention we love oil? A working government is the last thing the U.S. wants in Venezuela. It is remarkable then that Maduro scored such a huge victory. People in Venezuela knew they would be punished for supporting Maduro, but they did so anyways.

Dating back to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has been a bright light of people’s triumph against U.S. control. Maduro may not be Chavez, but he is also quite simply the winner of this democratic election. There will continue to be problems in Venezuela, largely because of the U.S. In fact, Venezuela’s disobedience will make the sanctions against them worse. But what else is there to do but resist United States control? What Venezuela’s election proves is that democracy is possible and that imperialism can be resisted. With a Maduro win, the Venezuelan people have spoken. It is time for the companies, government and people of the U.S. to give Maduro and all Venezuelans a fair shot this time around.

When it comes to government back home, it may be healthy to take a different approach. As long as the United States government spends more on military than social programs, it makes a whole lot of sense to be against the United States government. Democrats and Republicans alike head a regressive world order that must be stopped. Proof of the duopoly can be found in Maduro’s words. When he was asked about Donald Trump he said: “He won’t be worse than Obama, that’s all I dare say. Obama has left the world plagued by terrorism. In Latin America, he will be remembered for three coups.”

Sadly, Americans are still focused on condemning the governments of other countries when ours remains the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. If we could overcome our own pessimism and self-absorption we would find that a people’s resistance is possible. We should look to Venezuela for guidance. For once, there is good news. Will Americans of all stripes continue to grumble or will we use Venezuela as a source of inspiration and hope in these dark times?

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Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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