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The U.S. and Venezuela: a Long History of Hostility

The U.S. has long been hostile to Venezuela.

As the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, and holding the largest reserves of oil outside of the Middle East, Venezuela, as of 2004, was one of the four (4) top oil suppliers to the U.S. “Before (Hugo) Chavez was elected, two political parties representing the white elite and their U.S. friends ruled Venezuela for 40 years. Torture, disappearances and corruption were rife. Only 24 per cent of revenue from its nationalized oil reached state coffers. Consequently, 80 per cent of the country’s population (who are mainly people of African and indigenous descent) were living in poverty despite its oil wealth.”[1]

In 1998 and 2000, Hugo Chavez was elected by large majorities. During his early tenure, the nation’s constitution was re-written. “The new Constitution opposes discrimination, recognizes the rights of indigenous people, strengthens workers’ rights and, uniquely, recognizes women’s unwaged caring work as productive, entitling housewives to social security. These reforms have strengthened grassroots movements inside the country, creating a ‘participating democracy’ where people themselves act rather than delegate power to a wealthy minority.”[2]

What does this ‘participating democracy’ look like?

“The base of the Venezuelan political system are the communal councils. Various political structures designed to organize people at the grassroots level have evolved into a system of communal councils, organized on a neighborhood level, which in turn build up to communes and communal cities. These are direct-democracy bodies that identify and solve the problems and deficiencies of their local areas with the direct support and funding of the national government.”[3]

The very foundations of the U.S. gave the rights of governing to wealthy, white, male landowners. Some changes have been made since the U.S. Constitution was written, but the U.S. hasn’t achieved anything close to Venezuela’s democratic practices.  And so Venezuela, which hasinstituted something close to true democracy, must not be tolerated. The U.S. government has tried repeatedly to overthrow the government.

One attempt was a U.S.-backed referendum to oust Chavez in 2004. “The referendum to be held on 15 August (2004) in Venezuela on whether to oust Hugo Chavez from his Presidential office is the latest attempt by the U.S. Administration and the corporate interests they represent to overthrow a truly popular democratic government.”[4] The U.S. was unsuccessful in thwarting the will of the Venezuelan people at that time.

Upon the death of Chavez in 2012, Nicolas Maduro, then the vice-president, became president. In an election held shortly thereafter, Maduro was victorious, albeit by a small margin. He was re-elected in 2017.

While Venezuela certainly faces challenges, Maduro is the democratically-elected leader of that nation. The U.S., however, in January of 2019, recognized Juan Guaido, the President of the National Assembly, as the president of Venezuela, claiming that he is the legitimate leader.

With that, the U.S. then issued heavy sanctions against Venezuela, crippling the economy. The United Nations has agreed to send in ‘humanitarian aid,’ which the Maduro government has, as of this writing, resisted. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza described the situation as follows: “’Let’s not be so hypocritical in this conversation,’ Arreaza told a news conference at UN headquarters. ‘There isn’t a humanitarian crisis. There is an economy that is subject to a blockade.’”[5] In explaining this further, Arreaza said this: “A government that is threatening you with use of force, with invasion, with a blockade, that gives orders to other countries for them to block you, do they really want to provide you with humanitarian aid? This is a hostile government that is killing you and then they want to help you out.”[6]

One must wonder how the U.S. government would have reacted in 2016, when Donald Trump was elected president despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3,000,000 votes, if the leaders of other nations recognized Hillary Clinton as the ‘legitimate’ president of the United States. Yet the U.S. government has no problem in recognizing someone other than the duly-elected leader of Venezuela as that nation’s president.

This, for the United States, is nothing new. The U.S. has overthrown the democratically-elected government of dozens of countries, if those governments were too far to the left for U.S. right-wing tastes. The fact that millions of people were transitioned from living in freedom and prosperity to oppression and abject poverty isn’t important to the U.S. government. Not leaning to the left is.

One could look at Syria today, where the people of that nation have suffered horribly because the U.S. doesn’t like democratically-elected government of Bashar al-Assad. One could also consider Libya, once a prosperous peaceful nation until the U.S. bombed it; it is now considered a failed state, and is in a state of anarchy, and has been for several years. We could look to Chile, Nicaragua, Indonesia, and many, many other nations, to see the bloody footprint of the United States.

As of this writing, the U.S. government has said it is willing to end sanctions against Venezuela, on the condition that Maduro leaves the country. But why should he?

Once again, the U.S. is interfering in the internal affairs of a truly democratic nation. It is difficult to believe that, should the U.S. succeed, the people of Venezuela will fare any better than people did under U.S. puppets in any other nation.

Notes.

[1] Nina Lopez, “Dance with Democracy: Renewed US Attempts to Remove President Hugo Chavez from Office,” New Internationalist, August 2004.

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/01/sorting-through-the-lies-about-venezuela/. Accessed on February 18, 2019.

[4] Lopez; op cit.

[5] https://www.france24.com/en/20190212-venezuela-un-says-no-aid-crisis. Accessed on February 18, 2019.

[6] Ibid.

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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