Friday, May 10, 2013

The US and the Venezuelan election

Tom Hayden has some sensible observations about the US policy toward Venezuela as shown in the Obama Administration position toward the recent national elections there (Obama Refuses to Recognize Venezuela Election Peace and Justice Resource Center 05/07/2013):

President Barack Obama’s unwillingness so far to accept the two percent victory margin of Nicholas Maduro as Venezuelan president, endorsing instead the Venezuelan opposition’s demand for an audit, hints at the permanence of a US desire for hegemony over Latin America. In an undiplomatic but revealing remark, Secretary of State John Kerry’s, at an April Senate committee hearing, said, "the Western Hemisphere is our backyard," summing up the lingering legacy of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine at a time when all of Latin America is striving for peaceful development on an equal basis with the United States.

Obama could have sent Vice President Joe Biden to the Hugo Chavez funeral on March 17, a somber event attended by Latin American and world leaders. Obama could have continued the quiet exploratory talks with Hugo Chavez’s successor, Nicholas Maduro, but chose to publicly criticize the Venezuelan electoral system instead. Obama could have accepted the April 14 Venezuelan election results, as did the same cross-section of world leaders, but preferred instead to question the legitimacy of the outcome.
He also makes an important point about how dubious American "democracy promotion" programs have become, which is true not only in Latin America:

In addition to coveting Latin America’s resources, recent US governments have advanced a strategy of "democracy promotion" through which opposition parties and protest movements receive funding, training and more, often in quiet tandem with covert political operations. It was a "democracy promotion" mission that Alan Gross was undertaking when Cuban authorities arrested the USAID operative for illegally smuggling communications equipment to Cuban civic society groups in 2009. It was “democracy promotion” that eight allied pro-Venezuelan nations denounced this year as a plot against their sovereignty and control of natural resources. Such "democracy promotion" includes $2.8 billion spent annually by the US in teaching campaign, organizing and media skills to grass-roots groups – for the base, for example, of the Venezuelan opposition.

The polarization is global. Russia has expelled US aid groups after they spent $3 billion on everything from election monitoring to drafting the country’s post-Communist constitution and tax code. Iraq rose in bloody insurgency when US operatives like Paul Bremer and a cadre of free-market Republicans imposed their “regime change” on Baghdad, including the privatization of all publicly owned enterprises. The same “democracy” program is being installed in Afghanistan, mostly out of delusion, or perhaps in hope of cultivating kinder, gentler warlords. Now fifty countries have written laws to control or expel US and foreign funded civic groups.
During the Cold War, the US had the excuse - occasionally based on reality - of "Soviet subversion" in intervening in the political processes of other democracies, including in Western Europe. Now it's more blatantly nationalistic interference for narrowly-conceived US interests.

As he notes, there are legitimate ways that the US and American citizens can encourage democracy and respect for human rights. But not everything labeled "democracy promotion" is automatically good. Not least because of the involvement of what Hayden calls "the secret pools of spies, mercenaries and provocateurs making foreign policy transparency impossible."

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