Category Archives: Nicolas Maduro

Canada Openly Seeking “Regime Change” in Venezuela

Is there no voice in Parliament willing to denounce Canadian interference in another country’s electoral process?

The Trudeau government is engaged in a wide-ranging campaign to weaken Venezuela’s elected government. In a bid to elicit “regime change,” Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed sanctions, and supported the country’s opposition.

Recently, foreign minister Chrystia Freeland endorsed Peru’s decision to block Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from attending the mid-April Summit of the Americas in Lima. “As Venezuela slides deeper into dictatorship, and as Venezuelans continue to suffer, Maduro’s participation at a hemispheric leaders’ summit would have been farcical,” Freeland noted. But, Freeland has no problem with the presence of Brazilian President Michel Temer, who doesn’t have any pretence of electoral legitimacy. Nor has she opposed the participation of Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez who defied that country’s constitution in running for a second term and then ‘won’ a highly questionable election.

Since the summer Freeland has participated in five meetings of the Lima Group, a collection of foreign ministers opposed to Venezuela’s elected government. As part of this initiative she declared that Canada wouldn’t recognize the upcoming presidential election. Two months ago she tweeted out that “we reject this decision by the Gov of Venezuela to call these elections, as they do not give a reasonable amount of time to ensure free and fair elections” and then three weeks later Canada’s foreign minister “demand[ed] that presidential elections be called with sufficient advance notice.” When the opposition and government agreed to push back the presidential election from April 22 to May 20, Freeland responded by tweeting “Maduro regime’s decision to postpone Venezuela’s elections until May changes nothing.”

Another demand Freeland has made of the Venezuelan authorities is that international observers be allowed to monitor the election. Yet, the Venezuelan government’s vocal request for UN observers has been opposed by the country’s opposition alliance. Behind the scenes the US is undoubtedly lobbying the international body to reject Caracas’ request.

(Notwithstanding the partisan attacks, Venezuela has among the world’s most efficient, secure and transparent electoral systems. In 2012 former US President and head of the Carter Center Jimmy Carter stated, “as a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”)

The third condition Freeland has imposed for respecting the election is “that all Venezuelan political players be included in the election.” But, the Maduro government doesn’t have the power to release those found guilty of crimes and repatriate political figures who have fled the country to avoid criminal charges.

Alongside its impossible-to-meet conditions, Canadian officials have prodded Caribbean countries to join its anti-Venezuela campaign. At a Jamaica-Canada bilateral consultation three weeks ago Canadian officials brought up Venezuela and earlier in the year Freeland tweeted that “Canada welcomes signatures by Saint Lucia & Guyana to Lima Group declaration.” Last month Freeland met Costa Rica’s vice minister of foreign affairs to discuss Venezuela and Canadian representatives were part of a recent session dealing with that country on the sidelines of a Group of 20 finance ministers meeting. Canadian officials are set to join an upcoming discussion of Venezuela called by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Following Washington’s lead, Ottawa imposed two rounds of sanctions on Venezuelan officials in the Fall. Last week the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning the economic sanctions the US, Canada and EU have adopted against Venezuela. It urged “states to refrain from imposing unilateral coercive measures (and) condemn(s) the continued unilateral application and enforcement by certain powers of such measures as tools of political or economic pressure.”

As I, Anthony Fenton, Neil A. Burron and others have detailed, Ottawa has supported opposition groups inside Venezuela. In August outgoing Canadian ambassador Ben Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen: “We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

In line with its policy of amplifying oppositional voices, on March 7 the Canadian Embassy in Caracas gave a human rights prize to Francisco Valencia, director of the Coalición de Organizaciones por el Derecho a la Salud y la Vida (CODEVIDA). Numerous media outlets reported on the award given to an aggressive opponent of the Venezuelan government. “I believe that we are facing a criminal State”, Valencia told Crisis en Venezuela.

The Embassy’s human rights prize is co-sponsored with the Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos. The director of that organization, Raúl Herrera, has repeatedly denounced the Venezuelan government. Six months ago Herrera said, “the Venezuelan State systematically and repeatedly violates the Human Rights of Venezuelans and political prisoners.”

Clearly Ottawa is guilty of interfering in the electoral process of Venezuela. When Russia has been accused of (a much more mild) form of intervention every party in Parliament is quick to condemn them.

Has the NDP become so tied into the American Empire that it cannot point out this obvious hypocrisy?

 

Trudeau Government seeking to oust Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro

Alongside Washington and Venezuela’s elite, the Trudeau government is seeking to oust President Nicolás Maduro. While Ottawa’s campaign has recently grown, official Canada has long opposed the pro-poor, pro-working class Bolivarian Revolution, which has won 19 of 21 elections since 1998.

Following a similar move by the Trump Administration, Global Affairs Canada sanctioned 40 Venezuelans on Friday. In a move that probably violates the UN charter, the elected president, vice president and 38 other officials had their assets in Canada frozen and Canadians are barred from having financial relations with these individuals.

In recent months foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has repeatedly criticized Maduro’s government. She accused Caracas of “dictatorial intentions”, imprisoning political opponents and “robbing the Venezuelan people of their fundamental democratic rights”. Since taking office the Liberals have supported efforts to condemn the Maduro government at the Organization of American States (OAS) and promoted an international mediation designed to weaken Venezuela’s leftist government (all the while staying mum about Brazil’s imposed president who has a 5% approval rating and far worse human rights violations in Mexico).

Beyond these public interventions designed to stoke internal unrest, Ottawa has directly aided an often-unsavoury Venezuelan opposition. A specialist in social media and political transition, outgoing Canadian ambassador Ben Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen in August: “We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.” (Can you imagine the hue and cry if a Russian ambassador said something similar about Canada?) Rowswell added that Canada would continue to support the domestic opposition after his departure from Caracas since “Freeland has Venezuela way at the top of her priority list.”

While not forthcoming with information about the groups they support in Venezuela, Ottawa has long funnelled money to the US-backed opposition. In 2010 the foremost researcher on U.S. funding to the opposition, Eva Golinger, claimed Canadian groups were playing a growing role in Venezuela and according to a 2010 report from Spanish NGO Fride, “Canada is the third most important provider of democracy assistance” to Venezuela after the US and Spain. In “The Revolution Will Not Be Destabilized: Ottawa’s democracy promoters target Venezuela” Anthony Fenton details Canadian funding to anti-government groups. Among other examples, he cites a $94,580 grant to opposition NGO Asociación Civil Consorcio Desarrollo y Justicia in 2007 and $22,000 to Súmate in 2005. Súmate leader Maria Corina Machado, who Foreign Affairs invited to Ottawa in January 2005, backed the “Carmona Decree” during the 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez, which dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court and suspended the elected government, Attorney General, Comptroller General, governors as well as mayors elected during Chavez’s administration. (Machado remains a leading figure in the opposition.)

Most Latin American leaders condemned the short-lived coup against Chavez, but Canadian diplomats were silent. It was particularly hypocritical of Ottawa to accept Chavez’s ouster since a year earlier, during the Summit of the Americas in Québec City, Jean Chrétien’s Liberals made a big show of the OAS’ new “democracy clause” that was supposed to commit the hemisphere to electoral democracy.

For its part, the Harper government repeatedly criticized Chavez. In April 2009 Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded to a question regarding Venezuela by saying, “I don’t take any of these rogue states lightly”. After meeting only with opposition figures during a trip to Venezuela the next year Peter Kent, minister of state for the Americas, said: “Democratic space within Venezuela has been shrinking and in this election year, Canada is very concerned about the rights of all Venezuelans to participate in the democratic process.”

The Bolivarian Revolution has faced a decade and a half of Liberal and Conservative hostility. While the NDP has sometimes challenged the government’s Venezuelan policy, the party’s current foreign critic has echoed Washington’s position. On at least two occasions Hélène Laverdière has demanded Ottawa do more to undermine the Maduro government. In a June 2016 press release Laverdière bemoaned “the erosion of democracy” and the need for Ottawa to “defend democracy in Venezuela” while in August the former Foreign Affairs employee told CBC “we would like to see the (Canadian) government be more active in … calling for the release of political prisoners, the holding of elections and respecting the National Assembly.” Conversely, Laverdière stayed mum when Donald Trump threatened to invade Venezuela last month and she has yet to criticize the recently announced Canadian sanctions.

NDP members should be appalled at their foreign critic’s position. For Canadians more generally it’s time to challenge our government’s bid to undermine what has been an essentially democratic effort to empower Venezuela’s poor and working class.

Venezuelan Opposition “Consultation”: Playing Alone and Losing

A chavista campaigns for the upcoming Constituent Assembly elections (left) and opposition officials set fire to the voting records from their consultation

Sunday, July 16, was a significant day in Venezuela’s political history. The right-wing opposition MUD, backed by the United States, threw all its weight behind a “consultation” that they hoped would show that their (coup) attempts had a formidable public backing and trigger the “zero hour” of a new phase that would lead to the removal of the Bolivarian government. In the end the stunt backfired, leaving the opposition more or less stranded. The real surprise was the show of force from chavismo, which went out on the streets to rebuke the opposition’s stunt and take part in a dry-run for the July 30 Constituent Assembly elections.

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The opposition “plebiscite”, or “referendum”, which in reality was nothing more than a non-binding “consultation” without any legal status, was predicted as a major political earthquake that would instantly change the country’s landscape. Maria Corina Machado, one of the most extreme opposition leaders, likened it to the destruction of the Berlin wall, Mandela being elected or the toppling of Saddam Hussein (no subtlety there!)

The process would have been laughed into oblivion had it taken place anywhere else. No electoral records were used, expired documents were accepted and there was nothing stopping people from voting more than once. There was no monitoring and in the end all the evidence was burned, so no audit was possible. As for the ballot, it had 3 questions to be answered yes/no: whether people rejected the upcoming Constituent Assembly, whether they called the armed forces to intervene (i.e. a coup) and whether all public powers should be renewed, free and fair elections held, and a national unity government formed to restore order.1

The final result of 7,186,170 votes falls short of the opposition’s total in the 2015 legislative elections, and unlike what Henrique Capriles says, it would not be enough to recall Maduro, who received 7,587,579 votes in the 2013 presidential election, even with all the manipulation of figures.2 It also fell way short of not-so-wise predictions of 11M (Capriles) or even 14M votes (AD leader Negal Morales)!3

And it is worth mentioning that with 2,000 voting centres and 14,000 booths, this vote total would imply that every centre was full for 9 straight hours with a new vote roughly every 65 seconds. Given that the process implies walking up to the booth, showing ID, writing the name down on the electoral register, receiving the ballot, going to the booth and filling it, folding it, putting it in the box and walking away, this number raises a few eyebrows. And that is excluding people like Lilian Tintori who had to make a little speech before voting!

Opposition MUD press conference after releasing their consultation results

It is hard to understand the over-the-top statements of opposition officials and media. The turnout, while significant, was smaller than in previous elections, way smaller than the outlandish predictions, and that is giving a pass to all the dubious number manipulations. The demands have been heard for weeks and were echoed by leading figures even before the “results” were tallied. The entire show was irrelevant because “victory” had been pre-announced, and the corresponding massive chavista participation in an electoral dry-run (see below) was surely not expected. Jorge Martín summarised the current crossroads for the Venezuelan opposition:

We can therefore say that the opposition “referendum” backfired. At the time of writing, the opposition leaders have not yet come out to say what are the next steps they intend to take. Their rhetoric before July 16 was fiery. The consultation was to be the “zero hour” for a national uprising and the removal of the government before the July 30 Constituent Assembly elections. They might still try that, but now it looks less likely that they will achieve any such thing. Of course they will not stop trying. Both Spain and the US are already mulling over the idea of sanctions against Venezuela (perhaps targeted at selected officials) “if the Constituent Assembly goes ahead.

At a press conference on Monday the opposition announced a “civic strike” for Thursday, and that they would be nominating new supreme court justices on Friday, whatever that means. This is a far cry from the premonitions that the end of the “dictatorship” was near, and we will have to wait and see how the opposition intends to escalate further.

The Cubans are coming

A common theme amongst the Venezuelan upper classes and plain idiots (these two groups overlap very often) is this idea that chavismo’s ultimate goal is to turn the country into their hell-on-earth propaganda version of Cuba, or even that it is the Cubans who are running the show. Opposition leader Julio Borges said that “We don’t want to be Cuba”, while “patriot” Oscar Perez said that holding the Constituent Assembly means handing the country over to the Cubans.4

It must have taken all the opposition’s collective common sense to omit “Cuba” from the ballot. The media often tries to omit the more embarrassing aspects of the Venezuelan opposition, but the waving of the Cuban bogeyman is quite prevalent for the right-wing in Venezuela, and Latin America in general.

Several right-wing former leaders came to Venezuela for the occasion, as “observers”. People like Andres Pastrana and Jorge Quiroga, with enviable resumes of corruption and human rights abuses, flew down to lecture others on democracy. The most memorable moment was undoubtedly this tweet by former Mexican president Vicente Fox:

One can only wonder why he is addressing Diosdado Cabello, a leader of the PSUV, in English. And it is anybody’s guess what a “Halle Court” is. If Fox wants to showcase his multilingual usefulness to his imperial masters he should install a spell-checker on his phone.

Staggeringly dishonest media

The coverage of Sunday’s events in the mainstream press had all the usual bias and dishonesty. Rather than report the event for what it was: a non-binding consultation with no records, no monitors and no control on people voting more than once, the media just ran with the line that this was a big show of support that shook the government and refer to the event like it was a legitimate electoral process.

More than that, they resorted to their usual tactic of “Maduro said” to try and discredit the other point of view. So instead of this being a popular consultation with no verification or binding status, it was a poll that “Maduro said was meaningless”. This is akin to, for example, the US Food and Drug Administration finding something wrong with Burger King and the company making a “Trump does not like our burgers” publicity stunt.

As always, nobody can quite compete with the New York Times when it comes to dishonest reporting. The NYT starts by announcing that “Venezuelans Rebuke Their President by a Staggering Margin”. Imagine that… Anti-government supporters go to an anti-government initiative and, believe it or not, they “vote” against the government! Next they will be asking about the right of return of Palestinian refugees at a Zionist convention and be surprised at the staggering results.

The NYT follows this with a litany of falsehoods and distortions that would merit an entire article on their own. It says that the 1999 constitution has a provision authorising this kind of consultation (it does not), that the Constituent Assembly will do away with elections (it will not) and that Maduro will “appoint” “handpicked” members to it (they will be elected). The article also mentions that the government has postponed every election since the December 2015 legislative elections, but, in fact, only one poll was scheduled since then. That was the regional/governor elections that were due to take place last year and were postponed because they conflicted with the opposition recall referendum process, being finally set for December 2017. The NYT also misleads its readers by saying that the third question on the opposition consultation was about “free elections to pick a new “national unity government””, when, in fact, the question mentions a “national unity government” now, to “restore constitutional order”, and free elections later. The key is in the name. “National unity” governments are usually not elected…

Chavista response

Simultaneous to the opposition consultation, the Venezuelan electoral authorities ran a dry-run for the July 30th Constituent Assembly elections, to test the process and help voters familiarise themselves with the voting machines. This turned out to be a chavista show of force, with queues forming from early morning and the voting deadline extended in a few places. Photo galleries attest to this large mobilisation (see here, here or here).

People mobilise in Petare, a working-class neighbourhood of Caracas, to take part in the Constituent Assembly dry-run (photo by AVN)

The mainstream mostly ignored or downplayed the pro-government mobilisation, but some outlets stumbled on the pitfalls of their one-sided coverage. Spain’s El País published photos of people who were clearly chavistas, with the caption “chavistas were queuing to vote in the opposition consultation”. This was beyond ridiculous because people had banners supporting the Constituent Assembly, so the inconvenient photos were deleted and the blame assigned to EFE Agency.

Even with all the hardships and months of opposition political violence, the chavista bases have made it clear time and again that they are not going to sleepwalk into an opposition coup and have seized the Constituent Assembly as an opportunity to strengthen the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution and radicalise even further. Whether these impulses will be able to overcome the more conciliatory sectors of chavismo and the concessions to “patriotic businessmen” remains to be seen.

What is clear is that the opposition is not where it hoped it would be by now. With the exception of a rogue state’s attorney and a handful of opportunist former chavista officials, trying to position themselves as a “third way”, the opposition’s campaign has failed to cause breaks inside chavismo. Despite the constant appeals for a military coup, they have also not caused any movement inside the armed forces. And most importantly, they have not made significant inroads in getting the popular classes on their side, not even in getting them to demobilise.5 The upcoming Constituent Assembly is therefore a golden opportunity to strike a serious blow to the coup-plotters and their imperial backers.

• First published at Investig’Action

  1. In retrospect, the opposition might also have tried to frame this consultation as a vote for their “national unity” government, assuming they could ever agree on one. The US, its allies and the media might have started referring to it as the “legitimate representative of the Venezuelan people”, like they did with Syria. A few dozen puppets, nominated by the backers of the Syrian war (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, etc), living in Turkey, chose a “government” which was referred to as the “legitimate representative…” for a while, before it became clear that nobody cared about it.
  2. Perhaps aware of Maduro’s total, the opposition claimed the 7.1M corresponded to 95% of total ballots, and later came out with the total convenient figure of 7.6M. One wonders how a total can be updated after the ballots are burned. However, given that they claimed that 98.4% voted “Yes”, because 100% would not be as respectable, this brings the total of “Yes” votes to 7.48M, again below Maduro’s 2013 total!
  3. On Monday night, PSUV leader and mayor of Libertador Jorge Rodríguez revealed a phone conversation between two opposition leaders in Aragua who openly talked about cooking the numbers and adding 50.000 to the total for the state. He also claimed, but did not provide evidence, that the 7M+ VOTES did not correspond to the same number of VOTERS, but that the opposition was counting every voter 3 times, since the ballot had 3 questions. So the event would have had only around 2.5M voters and the opposition revealed the total number of “Yes” votes.
  4. On June 27 Oscar Perez stole a police helicopter, fired weapons and threw grenades at government buildings, and yet the Guardian referred to him as a “patriot” or a “government plant”!
  5. It is hard to convince the poor and working-class that you have their best interests at heart when your foot-soldiers are setting people on fire because they look chavista.

Project Mayhem

In the brilliant but flawed David Fincher film Fight Club, based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk, Tyler Durden’s (Brad Pitt) underground boxing club reconfigures itself into something called “Project Mayhem,” a skulking, surreptitious program to wreak havoc on the consumerist hive of corporate America. Typical projects included mandates to “destroy a piece of corporate art and trash a franchise coffee bar” in a single act and set skyscraper offices on fire to create a fiery smiley face when viewed from afar. Project Mayhem eventually has committee meetings for arson, assault, mischief, and misinformation. The overarching goal is to “break up civilization so [they] can make something better of the world.”

U.S. imperialism is Project Mayhem writ large—minus the populist conviction. The objectives are eerily similar: Washington’s imperialists, also called ‘globalists’, want to break up civilization so they can better exploit it. Arson (see Grenfell Tower), assault (see Iraq, Syria, and Libya), mischief (see color revolutions galore), and misinformation (see western media) all play key roles in the global vision of Project Mayhem. The ‘transnational cartel of capitalists, bankers, and landowners’ are monomaniacs, addicted to an ideology of full spectrum dominance. Planetary conquest, largely effected by despoiling the comparative calm in foreign lands, loosing mayhem on the streets, betrayal among elites, and environmental devastation in the soils. And like the Fight Club anarchists, but unlike the colonial empires, the globalists in recent years have had to shift their project underground, thanks to the quite visible wreckage of the Iraqi state, which has soured the public’s attitude toward humanitarian or pre-emptive wars. Better a covert CIA than a high-handed Raj.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has usefully called Project Mayhem an ongoing program of “managed chaos.” Since the Iraqi fiasco, the powers of the imperial north have been busily confecting fresh pathogens by which to infect the body politic of independent countries with the virus of imperialism. In parallel, the mainstream media have occasioned fresh storylines to justify the new lines of attack, invigorating a war-weary populace with a freshet of novel threats and lumbering ogres that must be vanquished to save western civilization. To paraphrase Paul Craig Roberts, the think tanks plan it, the media sells it, and the government does it.

Proxy armies, disinformation, and special forces

Today’s globalists have a historical precedent to help them glove their iron fist: In the aftermath of Vietnam, the country had no stomach for more imperial adventure. President Carter and his consigliore Zbigniew Brzezinski conceived of an ingenious plan to ensnare the reviled Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Brzezinski wanted to show Moscow what happens when an arrogant power bungles its way into some exotic Asian backwater. The U.S. certainly knew. The Carter administration, through backchannels and covert means, massively supported and expanded Islamic resistance to secular governance in Kabul. (Anything secular or quasi-nationalist during the Cold War was instantly branded as communist and targeted for destabilization by the paranoid clans of DC ideologues.) The Soviets took the bait and suffered their own Vietnam. Not surprisingly, the wanton jihadists we nurtured in Afghanistan have with the continual assistance of Saudi zealots bequeathed us new generations of battle-hardened terrorists spawned in the Afghan steppes.

President Obama, an astute observer of history, mimicked the Carter approach as he sanctioned a Syria strategy that flooded the secular nation with fierce and puritanical takfiri. Rather than invade with some gaudy Shock and Awe campaign designed to wow hearts and minds, Obama preferred to have his personal paramilitary, the CIA, organize and train terrorists that could be injected like a virus into Syria, on the sly. Saudi Arabia, always happy to fund extremism and any sort of violence that disturbs the cantankerous mullahs in Tehran, would pay the terrorists’ salaries. Turkey would fly them in from China and provide safe harbor for caravans of jihadists from Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya, as would Washington lapdog Jordan. Israel would treat their wounded and occasionally act as Al Qaeda’s air force. The profiteering American defense industry would build the weapons that the Pentagon would then ship to the Saudis for distribution among the terrorists. The mainstream media and State Department press flacks would characterize the terrorists as “moderate rebels”. Even ISIS terrorists would be called “militants,” not unlike descriptions of progressive political movements in the U.S., such as Black Lives Matters or various Bernie Sanders contingents. (Israel’s Yinon Plan is the closest strategic footing for the current destabilizing tactics employed by Washington in the Middle East, though divide-and-conquers strategies date to Philip of Macedonia.)

The strategy has largely worked out for the imperialists, minus the lofty regime change goal. Syria has been dragged into a devastating half-decade of slaughter and strife. Some 500,000 people have died. More than six million have been internally displaced and nearly five million are externalized refugees. The Syrian state has been fractured. And it is likely that northeastern Syria will wind up as a jihadist launching pad–micromanaged by Washington–for continued harassment of Syria but also a staging ground for eastward actions aimed through northern Iraq at Iran, the ultimate regional prize.

To help direct these proxy forces, Mr. Obama boosted the use of Special Operations Forces (SOF) by some 125 percent during his tenure. But this clandestine dragnet of military trainers and highly-trained soldiers was globally cast and not limited to the Syrian theater. SOFs are now deployed in 70 percent of the world’s countries. Their ranks include commandos and officers from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Navy Seals, Army Green Berets, among other highly trained…militants. Lightning commandos assail Shabab cells in Somalia. Special ops commanders advise and embed with Kurds in Syria. SOFs interrogate Houthi rebels on ships off the coast of Yemen. These shadowy legates of Obama’s covert legacy conduct counterinsurgency ops in such remote locales as Mongolia, Laos, and Tajikistan.

Our Little Backyard

But having SOFs direct terrorist armies from embedded command centers isn’t the only form of destabilization promoted by the Obama administration. There are other means. Latin America provides a particularly instructive incubator for the one percent’s gang of neoliberals to experiment with vulnerable economies. Empire Files host Abby Martin recently traveled to Venezuela to report on the “opposition” campaign to unseat Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian successor, Nicolas Maduro, and derail the Chavistas’ efforts to turn Venezuela’s mixed economy into a proper socialist one. Martin’s interview with Venezuela’s Minister of Economic Planning, Ricardo Menéndez, sheds some valuable light on the covert tactics employed by Washington to destabilize the country.

Washington isn’t deploying commandos to have socialists ”removed from the battlefield,” like the clumsy Reaganite neocons of the Eighties did with their merciless Central American contra wars. Instead, it has used international finance, commodity supply chains and hoarding, the black market, commodity price deflation, and mobilizing splenetic one-percent activists to debilitate the Venezuelan economy. Desired effects include essential-goods shortages, hyperinflation, and street violence.

Though working to diversify, Venezuela’s economy is still built on oil revenues. Thanks in part to Washington’s quid pro quo with Riyadh to deflate oil prices, the Venezuelan economy has plummeted 87 percent since last year. Runaway inflation, negative economic growth (predicted to be over 5.8 percent in 2017), a 40 percent drop in imports last year, huge food scarcities, a self-induced exchange rate disaster, and violence in the streets. Western media blames most of this on overdependence on oil and on socialism, which Washington is keen to undermine.

Of course, in Venezuela most companies are still privately owned. Hugo Chavez never fully socialized the economy, but generated a mixed economy that prioritized the needs of the majority. According to Menéndez, from 1998 to 2012, this model helped double the country’s consumption metrics. The economic ministry also lifted wages to account for rises in the consumer price index. Menéndez gave an interesting clarification: the Venezuelan constitution permits the state and private sector to exist one alongside the other. What it rejects is monopoly capitalism which, of course, is the capitalism practiced by the one percent.

The numbers from the Chavez era are impressive. Social investment during the Bolivarian era has grown from 39 percent to 74 percent of the nation’s total revenue. Part of that is vocational and university education. The number of working class citizens to receive state-funded education during the Chavez-Maduro tenure jumped from 900,000 to more than 4M. The number of people with college degrees quadrupled, without the suffocating debt that American degree holders face. The government claims that primary education increased from a pool of 500,000 to 2.8M today, that some 4M children are enrolled in the school food program, which has doubled primary school enrollment from 45 percent of children to 90 percent. Additionally, social pensions for the elderly increased from 370,000 to 3.2M. The Maduro government has built 1.6M homes in just the last four years and sold them into the population at affordable prices.

Currency attacks, extraction smuggling, opposition funding, and sanctions

But those kinds of social metrics are precisely what the globalists do not want to see—cue the dread domino effect, by which neighboring nations find themselves ineluctably drawn into the demented web of socialist experimentation. So death to the regime must be administered by a thousand small cuts:

  • State Department funding of fund violent opposition parties like those of Henrique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez, and numerous others; the street guarimbas, or violent protests, are inevitably blamed on the ‘authoritarian regime’ and also inevitably lead to crackdowns, as panicked federal forces resort to brutal violence themselves. The opposition refused to recognize the 2013 election outcomes despite zero evidence of fraud. They were effectively eschewing the ballot box, largely because they’d lost 15 of 16 elections since the Bolivarian Movement took power. Opposition, and its imperial backers, obviously see violence and destabilization as better path to power than the vote.
  • Not only this, but Washington, using its ages-old divide-and-conquer tactic, has rallied regional governments against Caracas. The deeply compromised Human Rights Watch is admonishing Brazil, of all countries, to advise Venezuela on human rights, one of the more farcical instances of the entire fraud.
  • Not only this, but the Trump administration is planning “a steady drumbeat of sanctions” against Venezuela, including unilateral asset freezes and travel bans, some of which are evidence-free.
  • Barack Obama’s repeated declarations during his presidency that Venezuela was a grave threat to the United States were an open threat to left-leaning governments in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Underscoring the apparent absurdity of these official pronouncements, Menéndez added that the Venezuelan army has not left the frontier since the time of Simon Bolivar. But Obama wasn’t talking about the military; he was signaling without say so that Chavez had turned Venezuela into an economic threat to the U.S. imperial project. Under Venezuelan influence, regional associations excluding the U.S. were formed, including ALBA, UNASUR, MERCOSUR, CELAC. Obama recognized Latin America was beginning to move past the neoliberal ideologies of the Washington Consensus and, as a trusty servant of the one percent, felt obliged to add Caracas to his hit list.

In Martin’s interview with Menéndez, he talked about financial tactics being employed by capitalist opposition to destabilize the country:

  • Bolivars are being physically removed from the country to produce inflation and debilitate the common consumer’s ability to make cash payments, something Menéndez calls “extraction smuggling.”
  • Not only is there an artificially induced shortage of cash, but there are consumer goods shortages as well. These are produced by denying supply chain access to base materials and by hoarding inventories. Menéndez notes that shortages tend to affect only critical lifestyle products like diapers, toilet paper, sanitary napkins for women, and so on, but not paper towels or other less crucial products. The government has tried to dodge this deliberate sabotage by producing a basket of essential goods and selling them directly into the population at considerable discounts from the inflated prices created by the induced shortages.
  • Likewise, international finance unavailable because the DC-backed opposition and the U.S. Treasury Department is advising international lenders to suspend making international financing available to the Maduro government–to Venezuela itself.

Perhaps Menéndez was fudging data and inventing stories just like our government and its supplicant media does. But there’s evidence for hoarding, deterring loans, and shortages of cash, though the latter also has plenty to do with the government’s mismanagement of the currency. But the economic war on Venezuela is real. Which is what Menéndez alluded to when he appeared to appeal directly to Washington, “Respect our sovereignty so we can apply our own model (of economic development).” But as the history of the region, in fact, the planet, shows, that is asking a lot of a global hegemon with planetary ambitions and an evangelical ideology hell-bent on planting the flag of its own model in every alien soil. Discrediting the media narrative that rationalizes predatory imperialism is essential, since it is media control that defangs democracy, sanding down its teeth to nubs that can neither bite nor chew. The hollowed infrastructures of the demos become vehicles of elite power. Yet they retain the mien of populism. This deceit, these conceits, must be opposed, win or lose. For, as author Chris Hedges said in Seattle two years ago, “Resistance is not about what we achieve, but what it allows us to become.” We are either servants of empire, however passive, or active dissidents, however outnumbered.