Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The OAS, the US Cuban Right and the crisis in Venezuela

"Venezuela is Latin America's biggest exporter of crude oil and has the world's largest petroleum reserves." - Brian Ellsworth and Andrew Cawthorne, Venezuela death toll rises to 13 as protests flare
Reuters 02/24/2014

Mark Weisbrot reminded us last month in US support for regime change in Venezuela is a mistake Guardian 02/18/2014

It took a long time for the opposition to accept the results of democratic elections in Venezuela. They tried a military coup, backed by the US in 2002; when that failed they tried to topple the government with an oil strike. They lost an attempt to recall the president in 2004 and cried foul; then they boycotted National Assembly elections for no reason the following year. The failed attempt to de-legitimize last April's presidential election was a return to this dark but not-so-distant past. It remains to be seen how far they will go this time to win by other means what they have not been able to win at the ballot box, and how long they will have Washington's support for regime change in Venezuela.
Weisbrot also notes that it's clear the Obama Administration is expressing sympathy for the opposition in the current conflict, and almost certainly not passively: "Of course we all know who the US government supports in Venezuela. They don't really try to hide it: there's $5m in the 2014 US federal budget for funding opposition activities inside Venezuela, and this is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg – adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars of overt support over the past 15 years."

In a more recent piece, The truth about Venezuela: a revolt of the well-off, not a 'terror campaign' Guardian 03/20/2014, Weisbrot expressed high skepticism about whether the militant opposition to the Venezuelan government extends much beyond wealthy neighborhoods. "The only place where the opposition seems to be garnering broad support is Washington."

And although I just called the Organization of American States (OAS) US-dominated in my previous post, that doesn't mean the US always gets our way:

When it comes to Venezuela, John Kerry knows which side of the class war he is on. Last week, just as I was leaving town, the US Secretary of State doubled down in his fusillade of rhetoric against the government, accusing President Nicolás Maduro of waging a "terror campaign against his own people". Kerry also threatened to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the OAS against Venezuela, as well as implementing sanctions.

Brandishing the Democratic Charter against Venezuela is a bit like threatening Vladimir Putin with a UN-sponsored vote on secession in Crimea. Perhaps Kerry didn’t notice, but just a few days before his threats, the OAS took a resolution that Washington brought against Venezuela and turned it inside-out, declaring the regional body’s "solidarity" with the Maduro government. Twenty-nine countries approved it, with only the right-wing governments of Panama and Canada siding with the US against it.

Article 21 of the OAS's Democratic Charter applies to the "unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order of a member state" (like the 2009 military coup in Honduras that Washington helped to legitimize, or the 2002 military coup in Venezuela, aided even more by the US government). Given its recent vote, the OAS would be more likely to invoke the Democratic Charter against the US government for its drone killings of US citizens without trial, than it would be to do so against Venezuela. [my emphasis]
Tom Hayden commented on the US politics of the Venezuelan crisis of the moment in US-Venezuela Crisis Escalating Peace Exchange Bulletin 03/13/2014:

Secretary of State John Kerry offered support for US sanctions against Venezuela in Congressional testimony yesterday, playing into the hands of right wing Cuban Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who introduced sanctions legislation on the same day. Just last week the House of Representatives gave near unanimous support for a resolution condemning Venezuela offered by the right-wing Cuban representative from Miami, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Frustrated with its declining power, the Cuban Right is seeking to destabilize and topple the Venezuelan government, which would threaten Havana with the loss of its vital supply of subsidized oil from Venezuela. A coup in Venezuela would additionally impact Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and the bloc of nationalist countries seeking independent economic development. It would also complicate the improving rapprochement between the US and Cuba, a staunch ally of the Caracas government.

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