Thursday, April 17, 2014

Venezuela and the US

"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

This piece by Tom Hayden on the ongoing Venezuelan political crisis is from nearly two months ago, but he has some observations that are worth keeping in mind in this situation, The Urgency of Venezuela Peace Exchange Bulletin 02/25/2014:

Call me naive, but I do not believe President Obama wants to see President Maduro overthrown. Chaos would follow. The US would be blamed. Relations with Latin America would freeze below zero. The president probably thinks Maduro should thrash in his own domestic contradictions.

But there's another US "government", a secret network that works tirelessly to undermine any Latin American threat to the dominance of American capital and military power. They understand that the president must be provided with "plausible deniability", and so they keep Obama out of the loop. Sometimes they operate through the CIA, sometimes under Republican-Democratic "democracy promotion" programs, sometimes through third parties. Democratic Party political consultants and pollsters have worked for Venezuela's opposition. It's difficult even for a president to keep a grip on it all. And that being the case, transparency disappears for the US Congress and public.
"Democracy promotion" sounds like something constructive, peaceful and even idealistic. But the more I hear about the current programs, the more I worry that some of them are cynical fronts for the cold power politics of "regime change" directed at governments, even duly elected government, that Washington for some reason finds inconvenient.

For instance, the EFE news agency is reporting on the formation of a new group that was announced in Miami, the Alianza Democrática Internacional (IDEA). El Informador 17.04.2014 and MSN Latino Noticias 04/15/2014 carry the report, both with the headline, "Crean alianza por lucha cívica en Venezuela, Cuba, Ucrania, Irán y Siria."

The group describes itself as "una iniciativa a favor de la 'resistencia cívica' y en defensa del respeto a los derechos humanos en Cuba, Venezuela, Ucrania, Irán y Siria" ("an initiative in favor of civic resistance and in defense of respect for human right in Cuba, Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran and Syria"). All countries currently in particular focus for US foreign policy, except for Cuba, which is a perennial topic of interest for rightwing Cuban and Cuban-Americans groups in Miami.

Last month I quoted from an article by Luis Bruschtein, Miami Página/12 22.02.2014 about the outsized influence that the opinions of the wealthiest in Latin America have on American reporting and opinion-making on Latin American affairs in particular, focusing on the anti-Castro refugees from Cuba who have played a significant role in US policy since the early 1960s.

Bruschtein frames the general attitude as follows (my translation):

[For the United States, any government that doesn't accept its {the US'} policies for the region is Communist, populist or some other "-ist" that can be invented. Or look at it this way: for Washington, it is undemocratic to be in disagreement with its interests, and consequently any attacks it inflicts on the disobedient one would be justified. This is not a theoretical or ideological elaboration, but the history of Latin America. It is known that Washington financed the truck drivers' strike against Salvador Allende in Chile and the Contra army in Nicaragua against the Sandinistas. The list is much longer in this history of wars provoked, of invasions and military coups, and even the murders of popular leaders, promoted, instigated or financed from the United States.]
He lists countries making up most of Southern America - Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela - as the countries in Latin America perceived currently by the United States to be deviating from the preferred neoliberal economic model. "Venezuela era el peor de todos" ("Venezuela was the worst of all"), he writes, due to its large oil reserves combined with its extreme maldistribution of income.

The EFE story notes that the formation of the IDEA group, with its focus on very disparate countries, was announced at a conference at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) of the University of Miami.

Tom Hayden also reminds us how human rights claims, even accurate ones, can be used for warmongering:

The American Congress and public are becoming used to street protests overthrowing elected governments regardless of the issue of national sovereignty. "Humanitarian intervention" in the affairs of other nations means willfully ignoring sovereignty where egregious human rights abuses are at stake and no negotiations are possible. The argument is somewhat attractive up to the point where it revives the Law of the Jungle. In the case of Venezuela, not only sovereignty but representative democracy are at stake, in a region which only recently began to shed the US-supported rule of oligarchs and generals.
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