This coming September will mark 45 years since the US helped engineer a bloody coup against the Chilean government, a government seeking to break the chains of imperial dominance and capitalist enslavement. Today the US government is at it again, engaging its enormous power to destroy a liberating project of the Venezuelan people. In the interim, US dirty hands have been present in thwarting the self-determination of peoples throughout the world, in some cases multiple times. Afghanistan, El Salvador, Nicaragua, tiny Grenada, Panama– the list of the violated goes on and on– extending to more recently, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Honduras, and, at the moment, Venezuela.
It doesn’t matter whether the US is ruled by Republicans or Democrats. When the first whiff of national independence is detected by the global watch dogs, the alarm sounds and the political “leaders” fall in line.
Surely only the willfully blind fail to see a pattern. You don’t have to be a Marxist to grasp that the US is systematically and unilaterally reining in countries deemed by its corporate interests to be renegades. Nor do you have to study Lenin to see that this is the behavior that history associates with empires. Thus, the word “imperialism” should come easily to even those who have little or no knowledge of the scientific precision of the term.
And it is US imperialism that now holds Venezuela in a death grip.
Unlike with Chile, the facts are readily before us. In the midst of the Cold War, the US went to great lengths to disguise its intervention behind the cloak of the covert services. In the intense competition with the socialist countries, the US fought hard to appear on the world stage as a champion of democracy. US aggression hid behind the doctrine of “plausible deniability.”
But today, in the attempted subversion of Venezuelan self-determination, there are no masks, no cloaks, no double talk. The plan is out in the open. We can find public records of the millions of dollars allocated for phony human rights groups, for subversive NGOs, for opposition parties, and even for purveyors of violence. We can trace the escalation of sanctions through three administrations, sanctions designed to disrupt, cripple, and dismantle Venezuela’s economy and finances. Ironically, the Venezuelan people’s US CITGO operation once offered free home heating oil to the US needy. Today, the US government is attempting to steal CITGO from the Venezuelan people.
Oppositional electoral tactics, assassination attempts, and street violence failed to provoke the Venezuelan people into rejecting the Bolivarian process. The failures, the corruption, the leadership strife, and the foreign dependency of the opposition instead led directly to the sweeping electoral victory by President Maduro in the 2018 election.
In response to the divided and demoralized opposition, the US government rallied Maduro’s enemies behind a naked plan– a plan both desperate and extremely audacious– to depose the legitimate government with a virtual unknown, notable for his penchant for extremism and his malleability before his US masters. Urged on by notorious gusanos— Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez– US operatives met with the opposition in late December/early January, according to The Wall Street Journal, and began to concretely develop the plans for a coup based upon a parallel government. An administration official reported to the WSJ that “The opposition at this point believed, and told US officials, that they needed the international community’s backing to affect the political dynamic inside Venezuela.”
The plan went forward and weeks later Vice President Pence called the dutiful puppet and told him to proceed. The next day, the young graduate of George Washington University, Juan Guaidó, stood with a gaggle of his supporters and announced that he was, in fact, the President of Venezuela. This must have come as a shock to most Venezuelans who did not recall his name on the previous May’s Presidential ballot. Yet like abject toadies, government ministers in Latin America, Canada, and the EU immediately made anti-Maduro noises, called for new elections, or even threatened to recognize the unelected President. That is the reality of Jack-in-the-Box imperialism.
The US media, willing collaborators with the coup plotters, have for years deemed Maduro a dictator, a tyrant, a murderer, and worse. They eagerly returned to those themes with horror stories and accounts of deprivation and economic duress without a mention of the draconian sanctions that bleed the Venezuelan economy. After the call for January 30 demonstrations, NPR, a particularly vicious journalistic beast (“Stop the Maduro Genocide”), reported “Protesters filled streets across Venezuela on Wednesday in a show of strength for Juan Guaidó….” Accompanying the article is a picture of a handful of demonstrators, reminiscent of the infamous toppling of the Saddam statue in Baghdad.
The Wall Street Journal similarly recorded the Wednesday demonstrations (see below) with the apologetic caption: “Venezuelans opposed to Nicolas Maduro protested in Caracas on Wednesday. Larger antigovernment protests are expected Saturday.”
Quite a “show of strength”!
Similarly, Sunday morning’s CBS News website coverage of the opposition’s Saturday demonstration carried an impressive picture of a massive march. But curiously, the marchers constituted a sea of red, the colors worn by the Chavistas. By Sunday evening, the picture was gone.
The videos of the well-to-do marchers and the pot-bangers will bring back to many of us memories of the strident, orchestrated Chilean momias who served imperialism well with overwrought drama prior to the 1973 coup.
Showing their customary spinelessness, Democrats ignored, equivocated, or hailed the coup attempt. Illinois Senator Durbin was absolutely ecstatic. The so-called progressive wing was little better. Only Tulsi Gabbard courageously and emphatically spoke against the coup, despite the fact that her Presidential campaign has come in for brutal, unprincipled attack by the media. For a sampling of shameful vulgarity by most politicians, watch Max Blumenthal’s interviews of legislators commenting on the coup attempt.
This is the moment that requires unwavering, unqualified solidarity with the Venezuelan people and their elected government. If human rights mean anything, they must be universal; they must extend to everyone regardless of whether we share their beliefs or their politics. And at the top of the rights hierarchy, as its exponents agree, is the right of self-determination, the right to find your own way, even to make your own mistakes. If all of the loud, insistent Western human rights movements are to be more than cover for Western imperialism, if they are to be more than a bludgeon to thrash societies struggling to overcome the legacies of backwardness, disunity, and instability imposed by colonial and imperial domination, then they must stand against US intervention in Venezuelan affairs. They must demand that the US remove all sanctions, cease funding factions, and recognize the Maduro government.
Isn’t it odd that a liberal intelligentsia that can understand and vigorously condemn juvenile bullying cannot grasp that the most powerful country in the world by far is bullying a small country of 32 million mainly poor people?
It is not acceptable for self-described “progressive” Democrats to give a pass to US intervention by damning the Maduro government (or any other government out of favor with the US ruling class). Opining on Venezuelan politics by those who can’t name three Venezuelan cities may make for an entertaining parlor game, but it has no bearing on the question of US intervention. US intervention is immoral, illegal, and ill-advised, whether in Venezuela, Syria, or anywhere else.
Nor is it helpful for “leftists” to use this moment to lecture their friends and foes on the true revolutionary path while giving short shrift to solidarity.
One such pundit recently conceded that: “Leftist opinion on the crisis in Venezuela tends correctly to blame American meddling and the local bourgeoisie for trying to make the people ‘cry uncle’ as Reagan infamously described his intervention in Nicaragua.” But then he went on to devote thousands of words to his own pet theory of revolutionary change. His grudging statement of solidarity was lost in his windy exercise in self-indulgence.
Our left should do better.
It’s quite simple: Hands off Venezuela.