Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Zero hour" in the Venezuelan crisis?

The situation in Venezuela is starting to look more and more like a US-driven regime change operation.

The basics haven't changed:

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

Now the New Cold Warriors are publicly linking Venezuela to Russia. And the Cuban anti-Communists groups sometimes collectively referred to as "Miami" are pushing the idea of a US oil boycott aimed against Venezuela. They long since adopted Venezuela as a target for regime change efforts. Familiar names pop up among the Republicans prominent in the latest push to overthrow the Maduro government: Congressman Carlos Curbelo, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Sen. Bob Menendez, Sen. Marco Rubio. And also one of our bestest Democratic friends, the paydown loan industry's BFF, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. New York Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks is also joinning the (anti-Maduro) party.

Mazzei and Daugherty in the report cited below make it sound like a more recent development, although they may be referring to a recent intensification of the effort, "The fight for a free Cuba — a fight carried in their bones, transcending all politics — has fueled Cuban-American lawmakers for decades in their campaign against Fidel and Raúl Castro. But President Donald Trump has already taken a tougher line toward Cuba, as the legislators wanted. So, the unfolding Venezuela crisis has become Cuban Americans’ new crusade."

Venezuela's national oil company PDVSA has an American subsidiary, Citgo. One of the state-owned Russian oil companies, Rosneft, has 49.9% of Citgo pledged to it as a collateral for a $1.5 billion loan late last year. The Venezuela regime change lobby is raising this as a security danger of come kind for the US. Why that would be isn't entirely clear. But when do American excuses for overthrowing disfavored regimes in Latin America.

The Ulmer and Parraga report cited below does describe an effort by Rosneft to use their Citgo holdings as a way to evade US sanctions.

President Nicolas Maduro is planning a Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution for Venezuela as a way to end the crisis and pacify the country. Alex Daugherty writes:

[Marco] Rubio, a Republican who’s spent years in Congress criticizing Maduro, says he’s been in regular touch with Trump and especially Vice President Mike Pence about how to sanction Venezuela if Maduro moves forward with a planned July 30 election. That vote would create a constituent assembly empowered to rewrite the nation’s constitution, effectively replacing a democratically elected legislature with Maduro loyalists.

“The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” Trump said in a statement Monday, released as Rubio made similar remarks on Twitter. “If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions.”

Aljazeera reports on the position of pro-Washington Latin American governments in support of the Venezuelan opposition, South American leaders offer to mediate Venezuela crisis 07/22/2017:

Aljazeera's reporting that I've seen has tended to be sympathetic to the opposition. Their Inside Story program recently presented this report, which also talks about threats of new US sanctions, How long can Nicolas Maduro cling to power? 07/19/2017:

Aljazeera reports that the opposition is calling the current moment "zero hour."

Atilio Boron blogged in May that any analysis of any country in Latin America that doesn't mention the United States even once is "irredeemably erroneous." Because of the enormous role US business and government interests play in Latin America. He notes that Venezuela's proven oil reserves are the largest in the world and the Caribbean Basin area is one that the US considers as practically an internal lake.

He also writes, "Sólo si la Casa Blanca y sus agencias estuvieran pobladas por imbéciles o por individuos completamente irresponsables, desconocedores del interés nacional norteamericano, podría el gobierno norteamericano ser indiferente o mantenerse al margen de lo que ocurre en Venezuela." ("Only if the White House and its agencies were populated with imbeciles and by completely irresponsible individuals who disregarded the American national interests, could an American government be indifferent or maintain itself on the margines of what goes on in Venezuela.") He was writing in May, at a time when those conditions are fulfilled. But the Trump Family Business Administration and bipartisan troublemakers in Congress are nevertheless very interested in events in Venezuela.

Boron claims that the opposition president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Julio Borges, met with the head of US Southern Command, Kurt Tidd, to ask the US to intervene militarily on behalf of the opposition. Christopher Woody reported in April:

Regional groups and international actors have worked in recent months to bring the government of President Nicolas Maduro and the political opposition to the table and a resolution.

Those efforts have thus far achieved little, and Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, chief of US Southern Command, raised the situation to the US Senate in his most recent posture report, delivered last week.

"Venezuela faces significant instability in the coming year due to widespread food, and medicine shortages; continued political uncertainty; and a worsening economic situation," Tidd said in written testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee. "The growing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela could eventually compel a regional response."

Efforts by outside parties to shepherd Venezuela toward a resolution have been complicated, especially because Maduro has in the past used the specter of international interference to blunt criticism at home and abroad.
Boron, as one of a series of contributors to "Encrucijada venezolana" cited below, sees the current opposition efforts to create turmoil in Venezuela as part of what he calls the "Libya model," i.e., the way Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown by internal opposition forces allied with foreign intervention. And he warns that if the counterrevolution actually succeeds in overthrowing the Maduro government, Venezuela would face being a "51st state" of the US for the indefinite future.

Mark Weisbrot writes about current US efforts to destabilize the Venezuelan government:

According to the U.S. State Department, Washington "provided training, institution building, and other support to individuals and organizations understood to be actively involved" in the 2002 military coup against former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that ultimately failed. And since the coup, Washington has provided tens of millions of dollars to the Venezuelan opposition.

In 2013, when the opposition initiated violent protests to overturn the results of a democratic election, Washington supported the protesters. The same was again true in 2014.

Today, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., openly threatens governments in the region, including those of the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Haiti, with punishment if they do not cooperate with Washington's abuse of the Organization of American States to delegitimize the government of Venezuela.
And for some perspective, he observes, "recent U.S. involvement in Venezuela's domestic affairs has dwarfed anything anyone has even accused Vladimir Putin of doing here."


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