Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Venezuelan crisis and the country's petrostate status

"Venezuela claims the world’s largest proven reserves of petroleum, an estimated 298 billion barrels of oil." - Michael Klare, The Desperate Plight of Petro-States Tom Dispatch 05/26/2016

"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

Venezuela's extended political crisis has been in yet another acute phase recently. The US and European mainstream media is generally hostile to the chavista government of Nicolás Maduro and generally uncritically reflect the position of the opposition, some of which is about as rightwing authoritarian as they come.

The political and economic crisis is real. And while Latin America is largely regarded by the foreign policy establishment as a boring backwater, the US is meddling in troubled waters, and troubling them even more. Oscar Laborde, an Argentine Peronist member of the Mercosur parliament Parlasur, reports on the situation in Venezuela en su laberinto Página/12 15.05.2017:

Luego de ganar las elecciones y gobernar por 4 años y medio el gobierno tiene que afrontar el problema, nunca resuelto, de no haber superado la dependencia de la renta petrolera, casi como única fuente de recursos, y generar una nueva matriz, donde se complementara esa renta con el desarrollo productivo, tanto en lo agropecuario, como en lo industrial. Es difícil de entender, por ejemplo, cómo un país fértil como Venezuela importa gran parte de sus alimentos, situación agravada con la caída estrepitosa del precio del petróleo.

[After winning the elections and governing for four-and-a-half years, {he} had to confront the problem, which had never been resolved, of not having overcome dependence on the oil rent as almost the only source of income and develop a new matrix in which this income is complemented with productive development, in agriculture as much as in industry. It is difficult to understand, for instance, how a country as fertile as Venezuela imports a large part of its foodstuffs, a situation aggravated by the resounding drop in oil prices.]
He describes the opposition plan, in which the US is at least partly cooperating, as employing three basic approaches: "Guerra económica, incitación a la violencia extrema y aislamiento internacional para el gobierno." ("Economic war, initiating extreme violence and international isolation for the government.")

He also mentions attacks on Venezuelan embassies abroad, including in Madrid. (Embajador Isea pide evitar traslado de violencia de Venezuela a España EFE/El Universal 17.05.2017) That would surely be an interesting thread for the press to tug on, if they were so inclined.

Laborde writes that the economic conditions were "stabilizing and beginning to improve," the opposition escalated their campaign against the regime. They had previously demanded a Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution, a demand to which Maduro has now acceded. But the opposition now rejects it. Instead, they demand advancing the Presidential election now schedule for 2018.

The opposition clearly seems to believe that they are close to succeeding and can soon force Maduro's government out. Or, alternatively, they see their opportunity for an immediate takeover starting to slip away and want to take advantage of the current chance.

Here is a report of 05/13/2017 from Aljazeera focusing on Venezuelan media coverage of the crisis, Venezuela: Protests, propaganda and self-censorship - The Listening Post 05/13/2017 (the first 11 minutes are devoted to the Venezuelan story):

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