Washington, Heal Thyself

Photograph Source: Senior Airman Amanda Bodony, D.C. National Guard – Public Domain

Since the riot at the Washington Capitol on 6 January 2021, we hear incessantly from US politicians and media that their state institutions, elections and constitution are considered sacred. There is more than a touch of hypocrisy in this given the dismissive way the USA treats similar institutions in other countries.

The insurrection in Washington was planned, instigated and celebrated by none other than their own ex-president who continues to admit that he lost the election. The unbelievably inadequate security at the Capitol and general lack of preparedness were strong indications that there was inside planning behind this attack. As the world watched, the supreme irony was that the USA was the victim of the same monsters – the lies, the denigration of the political process, the refusal to accept election results – that it visits upon the governments it wishes to replace with politicians of its choosing. As Tom Lehrer sang in the sixties about US diplomacy: ‘Might makes right, until they’ve seen the light. They’ve got to be protected, all their rights respected, ‘til somebody we like can be elected’. The sequence is: lies are spread about an election to delegitimize the government, leading to violence, leading to overthrow. In this case, the mob was unsuccessful. A coup planned by idiots would best describe it, yet it was still an attempted coup to overturn legitimate elections and perpetuate a Trump presidency.

No person of good will could have been happy to see such mayhem, violence, injuries, deaths, and the parade of terrifying neo-fascist and antisemitic symbols and slogans by rampaging white supremist extremists. The whole riot was deplorable, but as well, comically inept but not comic in its consequences.

The USA applies a policy of “regime change” against those nations (poorer, weaker, non-nuclear, of course) that will not kowtow to its interests. It is not so much their ideology that the USA finds offensive – though the word ‘socialism’ does seem to stir the blood – but the desire of these nations to be independent, to make key decisions without the interests of USA as their foremost concern. And so are they are demonized and even stigmatized as “harbouring terrorism” and plans are set afoot to install a more pro-USA government. Democracy and the rule of law be hanged.

How the USA authorities and pundits have celebrated so many “freedom fighters” who protest elections in countries they disliked! These were not called domestic terrorists no matter what mayhem they caused: in the “colour revolutions” of Eastern Europe, in the “fight for democracy in Hong Kong”, in overthrowing the “socialist Indian” Evo Morales by white supremacists, and nowhere, outside Cuba, has the USA unleashed such venom as against Venezuela, a country that has done no harm to the people of the USA.

In Venezuela, outrages were committed to state institutions, to people, to the constitution, by groups paid with hundreds of millions of dollars that Washington gifted to extremist opposition parties and paramilitaries who denied that legitimate elections had taken place. They anointed a third-rate CIA trainee, an obscure petty politician, as an alternative, unelected president. All this was driven not by a desire to ‘restore democracy’ but to appropriate Venezuelan oil, gold and other resources. They set up a make-believe government with no elections, no popular standing, only the US dollar to back him. Their alternative president turned out to be no better than a gangster, cavorting with murderous narcotraffic hoods, taking whatever Venezuelan funds he could lay his hands on and thus becoming the most hated man in Venezuelan politics, a political cadaver that even opposition members realize is a crook.

The USA is now tasting the bitter fruit of its own tactics: “spin” turned into vicious lies, outliers considered “freedom fighters”, political opponents treated as “enemies”. Their own president swallowed the poison and decided to use lies and force to overturn an election so that he could stay in power. Is Trump not a “strongman”, an “autocrat, an ‘authoritarian”, a wannabe “dictator”? It has been so easy for Washington to throw these epithets at President Maduro: who – please note – has never tried to overturn elections even when the governing party, the party to which he belongs, has lost.

EVERY country’s Constitution and laws are sacred, that is the basis of international law. You cannot pick and choose. All nations have the right to self-determination which is fundamental to maintain international peace. Why cannot the USA with its CIA, FBI, Military, State Department, realize this? How can it not understand that if you deliberately undermine democracy in another country, you are undermining your international credibility and claims that you respect democracy and the rule of law? More than that, you are violating the human rights of entire populations and threatening their very lives and livelihood. And you never know who is going to emulate you – even your own domestic white supremacists learn by example.

Let us count the ways in which the USA has desecrated the state and people of Venezuela:

LIES: Refusing to accept the elections that have taken place, despite many hundreds of international observers attesting they were transparent and orderly with no evidence of fraud.

DENYING the LAW: Insisting that President Maduro step down and there be new elections even though that would violate the Venezuelan Constitution and annul the votes of the millions who voted for government and opposition candidates.

THEFT: Looted Venezuelan assets worth $30 billion these last 4 years, and stolen outright its CITGO petroleum company.

ALTERNATIVE FACTS: Set up a bogus alternative president, with no elections nor basis in law, in the figure of an obscure, small-time con man, Juan Guaido, giving him stolen Venezuelan assets worth millions, and getting USA ally Canada to set up a bogus ad-hoc “group of Lima”, an alternative OAS, of no legal standing to harass Venezuela.

LAWFARE: Supported – politically and financially- a seditious National Assembly that declared itself “in rebellion” to the Executive and Judicial Branches of the government, in full violation of the Constitution.

VIOLENCE: Backed armed mercenaries who have viciously assaulted and killed, created turmoil, and attempted twice to assassinate President Maduro. Allied itself to the lackey government of Colombia to continuously attack with paramilitaries the border with Venezuela.

ECONOMIC WAR: Waged a financial war that collapsed the Venezuelan currency. This has gravely affected agriculture and consequently, the county’s food and medical supply.

ILLEGAL SANCTIONS: Implemented criminal, unilateral, illegal, sanctions affecting persons, shipping, planes, banking transactions, causing the loss of 95% of government income, causing thousands of deaths, as they prevent the buying food and medicine. The sanctions have been inhumanly intensified during the pandemic.

The USA today is in the midst of an undeniable domestic crisis. It is facing one of the most serious health crises in its history due to government indifference and incompetence. The pandemic has caused more than 400,000 deaths, a deep social and political divide that has laid bare racial injustices and an economic crisis with massive unemployment and inequality while enriching the very richest.

Internationally, it has insulted its traditional allies and denigrated key international organizations, especially the United Nations and World Health Organisation. If this insurrection by the USA’s rogue expresident goes unpunished, the abject failure to defend their own democracy from right wing extremists and deniers will be thrown in the face of any Washington politician that tries to interfere, intervene, or bully any other nation. And that will not be a bad thing. As events of 6 Januaray 2021 have clearly shown, Washington is not an exception; it is as vulnerable as any other nation to the malign forces of fascism. However, it is time for the USA not only to look itself in the mirror, but also to examine the devious tactics it has deployed around the world to exert its influence by force and stealth. Especially it must recognize that “American exceptionalism” is an illusion they have maintain at their own – and the world’s peril- because other nations consider their own laws sacred also, and just as worthy as the overly-hyped US Constitution.

President Biden, in his naivité proclaims that the USA “is back” ready to assume world “leadership”. On whose say so? Why proclaim yourself an unsolicited “leader” when what this multipolar world needs is an honest team player not a self-appointed chief. The recent blunders and damage done by the USA to itself and to others shows not simply the corruption of its president, but more importantly, the weakness of its institutions. President Biden’s rhetoric seems too close to a new Cold War mentality. It seems that conflict with China and/or Russia is on the agenda. For Latin America this brings the danger that Washington will draw the region into that Cold War. Washington has not and does not want to recognize the particularity, the cultural identity and the political independence of the Latin American nations. For the USA the region is a means to an end: to square off with China or Russia and to pillage its resources.

The hope is that President Biden can realize that he cannot “go back” to the Obama era, that he has to face the new Latin American realities: that the Venezuelan government is democratic, working with opposition parties, and is highly popular; that Cuba is a stable, respected nation that has heroically helped numerous countries with their health needs, that Nicaragua has suffered enough and its government deserves respect, that Bolivia and Argentina have progressive left-leaning governments soon to be joined in the next elections by those of Chile, Brazil and Ecuador. And as for Colombia’s lackey government, atrocities and genocides have put it in a precarious position. Their rampant violence and sheer indifference and incompetency during the pandemic makes many believe that a significant social explosion is on the horizon such that even the USA military bases in that country will not be enough to prevent the reckoning.

The destiny of Latin America is not in the hands of the USA but of Latin Americans. It will be up to President Biden to decide whether to enter into a new relationship with the region based on respect for international laws and negotiate in peace, or continue with the well-trodden “gringo” way of threats, illegal sanctions, demonization, blackmail, coups and violence. There is no middle way.

María Páez Victor, Ph.D. is a Venezuelan born sociologist living in Canada.