THE Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is under serious threat of armed invasion by the United States. The objective is to remove the democratically elected president Nicolas Maduro of the United Socialist Party (PSUV) who succeeded Hugo Chavez after his death in 2013 and install a puppet regime which will be subservient to U.S. interests. The justification for this is a fabricated humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and calling Maduro a dictator and his presidency as illegitimate. In the May 2018 presidential election in Venezuela, Maduro was re-elected as president with 68% of the vote with a voter turnout of 46%. The percentage of eligible voters who voted for Maduro was 31.7%. Compare this with the US President Trump who received only 27.3% of the vote and an even lower 26.8% for the Prime Minister of Canada Trudeau. Maduro was sworn in as president for the second constitutional term on January 10 of this year.
The opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has never been elected, declared himself the “interim president” of Venezuela on January 23, 2019. The U.S. and its allies in the “Lima Group” of 13 governments, which include several South American countries and Canada, refuse to recognize Maduro as the president. They criticize the elections as a sham and have supported Guaido. In addition the EU, Australia, Israel have voiced their support to Guaido. Guaido represents the class interests of the Venezuelan elite who are in cahoots with U.S. imperialism. Luis Vicente León, Venezuela’s leading pollster wrote, “These radical (extreme right-wing) leaders have no more than 20 percent in opinion polls”.
PSUV is the largest political party in Venezuela. In 2015, PSUV lost the National Assembly elections (the legislative branch of the Venezuelan government) to the opposition which is a coalition of about 20 political parties. PSUV has won almost every election that has been held since 1998, when Hugo Chavez the much revered leader was first elected as the president, except for the 2015 elections.
Long History of US Interference in Venezuela
Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 declared the right of the US to be “international police power” in Latin America. Every country in the western hemisphere has experienced U.S overt and covert attacks for more than a century. Interference with Venezuela goes back to the late 19th century and has been largely for oil. In 1908, US actively helped Juan Vicente Gómez become the president in a coup, his brutal regime granted huge contracts to foreign oil companies including Standard Oil (ExxonMobil today) and Royal Dutch Shell. It backed Marcos Perez Jimenez a brutal dictator from 1948-1958 whose regime worked only in the interests of transnational corporations. It was a severe shock to US imperialism when Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998 in fair and transparent elections. The government of Hugo Chavez used the revenue from the government controlled oil company PDVSA to implement many social programmes. The US incensed by the popular measures undertaken by the Chavez government has been meddling continually, the most obvious attempt was its support to the 2002 right wing coup that was thwarted by the Venezuelan people.
Foreign Policy magazine, a bourgeois mouth piece, in the US published an article in June 2018 shamelessly titled “It’s time for a coup in Venezuela” months before the recent offensive in January 2019. In addition to the open, violent threats by the opposition and its imperial supporters to unseat Maduro, crippling sanctions have been imposed by the US government. The ex-president Barack Obama’s executive order in 2016 declared that Venezuela is a “rare and extraordinary threat to US national security and foreign policy.” A bizarre accusation against a small country from the largest purveyor of violence in the world.
Harsh sanctions were imposed the day after Venezuelans re-elected Maduro for a second term in the May 2018 election. These sanctions, similar to the ones against Cuba, block access to medicines, food and other important items and interfere with trade. These sanctions stop payments and freeze financial assets of the Venezuelan government.
It is no secret that Venezuela has the most oil reserves in the world. Venezuela exports about 500,000 barrels of oil a day to the U.S. and 80-90-% of its nationalized oil company PDVSA’s income comes from what it sells to the US. National Security Advisor John Bolton went on TV and said “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” Naked brutal U.S imperialism once again.
The U.S has seized PDVSA assets worth 7 billion U.S. dollars. Bolton estimated the sanctions would block $11 billion in revenue to the Venezuelan government over the next year. In addition to these illegal U.S. sanctions, Bank of England has withheld 1.3 billion worth of Venezuelan gold.
Social Programmes and Impact
The Venezuelan people are experiencing hardships in the last few years since the collapse of the oil prices in 2014. After Hugo Chavez was elected as president in 1998, several social programmes were instituted which resulted in concrete improvements in the lives of the poor, Afro-Venezuelans and the indigenous communities.
Universal access to education was introduced in 1998 and in December 2005, UNESCO said that Venezuela had eradicated illiteracy. National health care system was introduced with help of several thousand medical professionals from Cuba. 7873 new medical centers were set up in Venezuela between 2005 and 2012. Venezuela has more than 1000 communes giving people the right to self-governance with the land given by the government. For example, the El Maizal commune comprises 9000 people of Lara and Portuguesa states. The commune has 2300 hectares, corn is grown in 600 hectares and 300 hectares are reserved for raising cattle. The El Panal commune in the heart of the capital Caracas is another successful commune with 3600 families, this has a sugar-packaging plant, the community grows yuca and plantains. The government has instituted Local Production and Supply Committees (CLAP). There are 30, 000 CLAPS, which provide rice, lentils, beans, oil, tuna, corn flour, sugar and milk. The mainstream media spreads lies that Venezuelans are starving while the CLAP programme is distributing foods at subsidized prices ensuring that the population receives the staple foods. As regards housing for the poor, the Venezuelan government has constructed 2.5 million homes in the last 8 years.
Contradictions of Building Socialism in a Capitalist State
Venezuela is largely reliant on oil exports, which vary from 95% to 65% of total exports depending on the price of crude oil. For decades, much before 1998, the economy has been extractive in nature and completely hydrocarbons dependent. This is the reason the latest round of sanctions target Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA. Trump administration claims that the sanctions “are expected to block $7 billion in assets and result in $11 billion in export losses over the next year for Venezuela’s government.” According to Latin American Geopolitical Strategic Center (CELAG), the previous economic sanctions have cost Venezuela approximately $350 billion in the production of goods and services (2013 – 2017).
Given the historically skewed extractive economy and continued influence of Venezuelan capitalists and MNCs, the government is dependent on them for basic goods and services. For example, Lorenzo Mendoza, the Venezuela billionaire who owns Empresas Polar that has $7 billion of annual sales, continues to play a major role. His firm controls the production of processed food – such as flour and condiments – and beverages. He is also a key supporter of the opposition and largely responsible for food shortages in Venezuela. While some of Polar’s food grain silos have been nationalized, the firm continues to flourish.
Before 2010, the Venezuelan government had taken a majority stake in several oil projects or seized some oil rigs. As a consequence, Exxon Mobil Corp and ConocoPhillips left Venezuela. Nevertheless, oil MNCs have not completely left Venezuela given that the country has the largest known reserves of crude oil in the world. The government has also formed several joint ventures with oil MNCs as Venezuela lacks capital and technical capabilities.
The Venezuelan government should have expropriated and taken control of the banking sector and distribution networks that the capitalists continue to manipulate. Between 1999 and 2012, the capitalists, by means of capital flight, have moved $134 billion out of the country. Now the country for five years in a row has the world’s highest inflation estimated at 25, 471% (from May 2017 to May 2018). It also has meager international reserves of $8.6 billion.
The US and its allies are definitely eyeing Venezuela as it has the largest known reserves of oil in the world. That is only part of what they want. They also want complete hegemony in Latin America; similar to the days when Latin America was their backyard. With major economies such as Brazil and Argentina under neo-fascist rule, they are trying to assert full control over the region. China and Russia have been increasing gaining a foothold in the region and that is not acceptable to the US. As part of its re-assertion of control of over the region it wants to harm the people of Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador.
'Hands Off Venezuela'- Protests in Venezuela and International Solidarity
There have been large marches and rallies in Venezuela protesting the coup attempts to remove the democratically elected president Nicolas Maduro. The Bolivarian Socialist Confederation of Workers (CBST) the largest trade union said, “We don’t want violence, war or tragedy, but we won’t let ourselves be humiliated either…Neither fascism nor imperialism will pass!”
Dairy workers, transport workers, oil workers have all carried out large marches in support of Maduro and denouncing right wing and US imperialist aggression. Peasant organisation La Via Campesina, has been organizing campesinos against the coup. According to an article in Venezuelanalysis.com , the military, has at least 235,000 frontline members, and there are at least 1.6 million in the “Defence Brigades” who will defend Venezuela against military intervention. Venezuela’s Communist Party (PCV) has expressed solidarity with PSUV. There has been outpouring of support from Afro Revolutionary Movement, from communes, and from LGBTQI groups.
Canadian Labour Congress, representing over 3 million members, supports Venezuela’s sovereignty and rejects foreign intervention in contrast with the disgraceful support to oust Maduro from the Canadian government. Some Yellow Vest protesters in France have carried Venezuelan flags or expressed solidarity with Venezuela at the embassy in Paris.
On February 23, 1 month anniversary of the U.S recognizing the unelected Guaido as president, huge rallies are being planned all over the US in solidarity with Venezuela’s right to self-determination. Martin Luther King in 1967 said “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world: My own government, I cannot be silent.” The poor, working class, Afro Venezuelans, peasants, indigenous communities in Venezuela and the international solidarity movement will not stay silent and is fighting back.
Oil Motive, Crimes Against Humanity: Trump Plans in Venezuela
DONALD Trump's neocon National Security Adviser John Bolton told an interviewer on Fox News: "We're in conversation with major American companies now...It will make a big difference to the US economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”
Trump has named Elliott Abrams, a man with a notoriously long record of subverting democracy and enabling death squads and genocide in Latin America, as US Special Envoy to Venezuela. Recently, Minnesota representative in the US House of Representatives Ilhan Omar questioned Abrams during a House Foreign Affairs committee hearing:
“Mr. Abrams, you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.”
She asked him, “Would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide if you believed they were serving U.S. interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua?”