Hands Off Venezuela

9:45 AM

Venezuela: its image conjures up without scenes of oil, crackdowns on dissent and international forces battling over its fate. 

By politics editor, Teotl Veliz

The fact of the matter is that the United States has been meddling in Venezuela’s affairs for decades, orchestrated its economic and political decline, and is currently attempting to undermine Venezuelan democracy. To comprehend this, one must look at the history and context of Venezuela, and explore the broader topic of American imperialism in Latin America.

In 1999 Venezuela democratically elected Hugo Chavez, breaking the long-established tradition of affluent Europeans dominating the political class. Chavez was a democratically elected Afro-Indigenous Socialist who sought to dismantle the elite classes grip on politics and was the first in a line of Presidents to allow complete unadulterated freedom of speech in the country. Chavez embodied the term “Man of the people” and upon his election, began to nationalize portions of the Oil industry to fund massive social programs to address national education, healthcare, and extreme poverty. In the course of Chavez’ Presidency “Unemployment had dropped from 14.5% 1999 to 7.6% in 2009, Extreme Poverty decreased in 1999, from 23.4% to 8.5% in 2011, and GDP per capita rose from $4,105 to $10,801 in 2011”. In an economic nutshell, the quality of life for poor Venezuelans increased immensely. 

This caused a massive outrage in the Venezuelan corporate class and the United States who had been profiting heavily off of the transnational Oil Monopoly for years. This is furthered by the fact that in, recent documents resurfaced by Wikileaks confirm that from the late ’70s through the 1980s, The United States’ Official interest in Venezuela was control of the Oil industry. This was in wake of the Bush administration, and the National Security Council was determined to find as many justifications as they could to deem Chavez undemocratic, even resorting to claims of connections to narcotics groups and international crime syndicates. These claims were utilized to justify a trade embargo, which has been ongoing since 1999 heavily affecting the Venezuelan people, most significantly, depriving them of medical supplies for Dialysis treatment. 

Before the years of Chavez, the United States had excellent relations with Venezuela, having controlled the oil trade in cooperation with a line of Military dictatorships. Chavez’s platforms triggered a response in Venezuela's corporate elite, who, in correlation with private media of Venezuela, declared journalistic war on the Government. The Private Media began to broadcast outrageously misinformed stories on Chavez, organized massive opposition, directly incited riots and orchestrated a coup. As a result of this, Chavez was ousted, and a provisional government was put in place by the Pro-American opposition. 

The coup was short-lived: it only lasted a few days until political pressure inflicted by massive protests at the National palace demanded Chavez back. Within a few days, the kidnappers of Chavez turned him back over to the military who brought him back safely, along with his original ministers and cabinet. 

During this time, there had been whispers of America backing of the coup, with the most significant accusation being alleged U.S. involvement in attempting to expedite Chavez by plane to an undisclosed location in the Caribbean. Following the coup, the government officially accused the US of organizing it (an accusation that was later partly redacted) and the nation began to decline economically as a result of increased sanctions.

Chavez’s death in 2013 made the political situation in Venezuela even more divided and fragile when Nicolas Maduro was democratically elected as his ideological successor. Since then, the U.S. has been on the diplomatic offensive unsurprisingly siding with the Venezuelan opposition. Unlike the previous National Security Council, the current National Security Advisor has recently opened up without an ounce of remorse about the United States’ intentions in Venezuela. In a Fox News interview in January of this year, current National Security Advisor, John Bolton stated: “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela”. In February, the United States, in coalition with the predominantly Conservative Lima group of Latin American countries and a number of western European nations, shockingly recognized Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition, as the true president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela despite never have being democratically elected for the presidential office or any office that could constitutionally challenge the head of state. Although he does not satisfy being a democratically elected head of state, he is a major proponent for the privatization of the oil industry which goes without saying has granted him the full undivided support from the western capitalist world. 

With this, the U.S. and the West have painted Maduro as a “Dictator”, despite being a democratically elected Head of State who has been proven time and time again by the international community to not have meddled with the Venezuelan election process. Another misconception about the Socialist Venezuelan Government is that it was its fault that a massive inflation rate has taken root there. In fact, it was a multitude of reasons orchestrated by American economic warfare. “U.S. sanctions against Venezuela [have] prohibit[ed] dealing in currencies and [have] stop[ed] US-based companies or people from buying and selling new debt issued by the state-run oil body, PDVSA or the government”. One can and must be critical of the use of force to maintain political power as Maduro has done, but one must also look at the infinite number of reasons a state would fight to maintain its own democracy in the face of Imperialism. 

Perhaps the most complicated and most shocking element of political crisis in Venezuela is the recent development of the United States’ and Colombia Government’s dispatch of Humanitarian aid across the Colombian border that has been refused by President Maduro. This decision has been portrayed in the general media as erratic and despotic but is actually severely misunderstood. What has been redacted by popular media is that Trump’s special envoy is being organized by Far Right Diplomat Elliott Abrams, a known collaborator in the Iran-Contra Scandal under the Reagan Administration and “a key Architect behind the Iraq War”. This envoy is being carried out in US Air Force craft supposedly to send aid on the Colombian-Venezuelan border. It is because of this, and the fact that the US did express priority of the well being of the Venezuelan people in the past in regards to medical supplies and other basic needs, that the United Nations and Red Cross have refused to send aid to Venezuela given its obvious political motivation to sponsor a coup. Despite this fact, Maduro has accepted Aid from other countries, on February 20th "300 tons of Russian humanitarian aid will be legally delivered to the international airport of Caracas." With the rejection of American aid, Venezuela along with other critics in the international community have accused the US of sparking the incident at the Colombian-Venezuelan border in which opposition and pro-government forces clashed in a feud of rubber bullets and Molotov cocktails resulting in the death of four people. CNN first covered the story and had said without a doubt that Maduro’s forces had thrown “incendiary devices” that killed the people and put the aid trucks on fire. It was then proven by independent Journalist Max Blumenthal and Dan Coen that it it was in fact the Pro-American protestors that had burned down the trucks. This story was then backed up in the New York Times which were also certain that it was the Anti-Maduro protests that had started the fires. Independent Journalists have also confirmed that the Government forces were not ordered to fire upon unarmed civilian and did not possess any live ammunition. 

When observing American intervention throughout the world it is important to analyze history and intention. Although the narrative maybe multifaceted and may not always fit the “Leftist agenda” it is the responsibility of those who believe in justice to observe the United States’ or any other political powers’ extension into a country especially when resources and wealth are present in that country. To look at interventionist international policy with a critical eye is the responsibility of everyone who believes in democracy and human rights.

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