Archive | January 25th, 2019

US VP Pence Urges Venezuelans to Oust Maduro, Caracas Says ‘Yankee Go Home’

The comments from Trump’s number two come as Venezuelans of both political bands are set to stage demonstrations on Wednesday, January 23.

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US Vice President Mike Pence (L) claims that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) is a “dictator” (Wikipedia).
US Vice President Mike Pence (L) claims that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) is a “dictator” (Wikipedia).
By Paul Dobson

Merida, January 23, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – President Nicolas Maduro has ordered a complete review of US-Venezuela relations after US Vice President Mike Pence published a video urging Venezuelans to overthrow the government.

The video comes as both Chavista and opposition citizens take to the streets on a holiday commemorating the overthrowing of the Perez Jimenez military dictatorship on January 23, 1958. The Venezuelan opposition has claimed the date will be “historic” this year and a key step in the “transition” efforts.

In his message, Pence formally backs Venezuela’s National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who is challenging the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency. Guaido stated last week that he was “prepared to assume the interim presidency” should a transition government be formed.

“The US supports the courageous decision of Juan Guaido… to assert that bodies constitutional power, declare Maduro a usurper and call for the establishment of a transitional government,” Pence said.

The US Vice President went on to claim that “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power,” and that Maduro “has never won the presidency in a free and fair election.”

In accordance with Venezuela’s Constitution, Maduro was sworn in January 10 for his second six-year mandate after defeating three other candidates in the presidential elections of May 2018. The elections, which were boycotted by some sectors of the opposition, were declared to be free, fair, and transparent by independent international electoral observers in the country at the time.

Embedded video

Vice President Mike Pence

@VP

As the good people of Venezuela make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say: estamos con ustedes. We are with you. We stand with you, and we will stay with you until Democracy is restored and you reclaim your birthright of Libertad.

In response to Pence’s remarks, Maduro ordered his Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza to begin an “absolute” review of relations with Washington.

“What the US government, through Vice President Mike Pence, has done is to give the order to carry out a fascist coup d’état (…) Never before has a high-level official said that the opposition should overthrow the government… this has no historic comparison in the 200 years of US-Venezuela relations,” Maduro claimed.

Pence’s counterpart in Venezuela, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, also took aim at Pence’s video, stressing that it was “imprudent and interventionist.”

“Yankee, go home,” she told Trump’s number two.

Prospect of violence at the marches?

Caracas also accused Pence of working with opposition activists to sow violence in Wednesday’s marches, and later blame it on the government.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez linked Pence’s efforts, which included a recent phone call to Guaido, to Monday’s unsuccessful mutiny and arms robbery by a number of national guardsmen. During the robbery, 51 weapons were stolen, Rodriguez stated, of which 40 have been recovered.

Rodriguez alleged that preliminary investigations have shown that the remaining weapons were “given in to civilians belonging to a terrorist cell of [Juan Guaido’s far-right] Popular Will, so that they may carry out violent actions, cause injuries and deaths in the opposition protest January 23. Why? To fulfil Pence’s orders.”

Authorities also announced that they had dismantled a similar plot in west Venezuela Tuesday, in which three citizens have been detained.

“We presume that the members would have infiltrated the march on January 23, making use of military dress to generate violence and create false positives, threatening the peace and tranquility of our people,” local military commander Fabio Pabon explained from Zulia state.

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Military weapons, uniforms, and explosives confiscated in Zulia state Tuesday (@Fabio_ZavarseP)
Military weapons, uniforms, and explosives confiscated in Zulia state Tuesday (@Fabio_ZavarseP)

US Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a vocal Maduro critic and one of the leading proponents of US sanctions, took to Twitter Tuesday night, predicting violence at Wednesdays marches and preemptively pointing the finger at the government’s intelligence agency, the SEBIN.

Marco Rubio@marcorubio

officials in should reconsider the plan they have for tomorrow before it’s too late.

You are about to cross a line & trigger a response that believe me you are not prepared to face.

You still have time to avoid this.

You still have time to avoid this.

However, Rubio offered no details about this “plan,” nor any evidence to back his claims.

In light of the threats of violence, President Maduro looked to lower tensions.

“I call for calm and good sense, maximum consciousness and maximum popular mobilisation to defend the homeland, democracy, and the Constitution,” Maduro proclaimed Tuesday. A large Chavista march is set to depart from three points in Caracas Wednesday before joining close to Miraflores Palace.

For his part, Guaido urged his followers to “not fall into the trap of provocations,” whilst at the same time promising that on January 23 “we will expose concrete elements which will achieve a transition… We will throw the tyrant out.”

Fellow opposition leader Maria Corina Machado also promised her followers that “This time is different.” Venezuela’s opposition has frequently left followers unsatisfied in the past by unfulfilled promises that the Bolivarian government is about to be overthrown.

Pockets of violence in Caracas

A small number of violent protests continued in the capital Caracas on Tuesday, with government symbols falling victim to right wing attacks.

In La Pastora sector, a subsidised PDVAL supermarket was looted and a monument to Venezuelan liberation fighter Jose Felix Ribas destroyed.

“The fascists looted and destroyed the PDVSAL in Puerta Caracas, stealing the fridges, computers, and cash. These is the only thing the ultra right knows how to do, bring about destruction, violence and death,” stated Caracas’ municipal chamber President Nahum Fernandez.

Equally, a community centre and library built to commemorate socialist Deputy Robert Serra, who was assassinated in 2014, was torched Monday, with Culture Minister Ernesto Villegas describing it as a “cultural crime.”

There were also disturbances in some sectors of Caracas, with small groups of protesters raising burning barricades, and security forces responding with tear gas and rubber bullets. Several sectors also saw “cacerolazos,” with people banging pots to express their discontent with the government.

In the Catia sector of west Caracas, there were reports that 16 year-old Alixon Pizani died after being shot in the abdomen on Tuesday night, with opposition members pointing the finger at FAES, the special forces branch of the National Bolivarian Police, who were dispersing an opposition group throwing firebombs at a Nino Simon Foundation, dedicated to youth welfare. It is not clear at this time if Pizani was part of this group.

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Is a Foreign Military Intervention in Venezuela Imminent?

James Jordan examines the US’s interventionist move towards Venezuela alongside Colombia’s recent history.

By James Jordan – Alliance for Global Justice

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Map of Colombia and Venezuela (Archive)
Map of Colombia and Venezuela (Archive)

According to conventional wisdom, there should be no serious talk of foreign military intervention in Venezuela. But these aren’t conventional times. The conventional playbook would adopt a strategy of foreign coordination of the Venezuelan opposition, economic sabotage, infiltration of the military, and manipulation of popular movements against the elected government. All this is being done, however, so far, not successfully. The frustrations of the Bolivarian movement’s enemies is palpable. Does this mean intervention is imminent? And what would such an intervention look like?

We know that the Trump administration met with Venezuelan coup plotters in 2017 and the Venezuelan opposition speaks openly of its coordination with the United States government. Officials in the U.S. and internationally have repeatedly called for the Venezuelan military and business people to take power, denouncing and refusing to recognize legitimate elections, and even having the audacity to “recognize” a “new president” in Venezuela who was not elected and who has no legitimate claim to office. Recent events have included the first ever attempted coup-by-drone, in August 2018; and the January 22nd mutiny by 27 National Guard troops led by a sergeant. One might infer a sense of desperation among the enemies of the Bolivarian government.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton called Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua a “Troika of Tyranny”, but the real triple threat faced by Latin America is the alliance of ultra-right administrations from the United States, Colombia, and Brazil of Donald Trump, Iván Duque, and Jair Bolsonaro, respectively. These Oligarchs of Overthrow have Venezuela in their sight, and military intervention is clearly an option on the table where they are seated.

Important circumstances have changed that had previously served as effective obstacles to intervention. Military engagements in the Middle East and Central Asia had made intervention in Venezuela untenable. In Colombia, the kind of military invasion advocated by former President Álvaro Uribe was impossible because the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were committed to defending Venezuela from within should war break out. Today the FARC has transformed into a political party, the unarmed Revolutionary Alternative Common Force (still called FARC). Meanwhile, President Trump has announced troop withdrawals from both Syria and Afghanistan. Trump is not a man of peace, and he has openly expressed his support for a violent intervention in Venezuela.

Certainly, there is a long-standing connection between the Colombian military and the war in Afghanistan. Colombia has sent advisors, trainers, and special operations troops to Afghanistan, and there is a history of U.S. troop transfers between the two countries.  In fact, the application in Afghanistan of lessons learned from decades of protracted war in Colombia is an oft-mentioned theme among military officials. Regarding Syria, Venezuelan expert on unconventional warfare, Jorgé Negrón Valera wrote in October 2018 that, “A hypothesis of a direct conflict cannot be discarded. But all indications are that the the first thing on the Pentagon’s table will be Syria….” But as we enter 2019, the situation has changed. Should U.S. troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan and Syria, they could be well-suited for redeployment in a Colombia-based conflict with Venezuela.

Does all this mean that an invasion of Venezuela is imminent? Not at all. But it also doesn’t mean an invasion is not imminent, or that there are not scenarios that include other forms of military intervention. The US Empire and its Latin American partners want to use Venezuela as an example and put the nail in the coffin of socialist and popular advances in the region. They want it so badly that they are willing to consider options that had previously been unthinkable.

Back in the early 2000s, when then Colombian President Álvaro Uribe wanted the US to back him in a military assault on Venezuela, even an enthusiastic proponent of war like George W. Bush felt constrained to put the brakes on Uribe’s adventurous inclinations. At that time, traditional voices still were confident they could put together the coalition to force regime change. Nineteen years later, one cannot be surprised if some of that confidence has waned.

Until recently, talk about military intervention in Venezuela was roundly criticized and dismissed. Neither Wall Street nor the traditional right wing had any stomach for the disruption that would follow. But that was then, and this is now. Bess Levin makes this point in a September 2018 article published in Vanity Fair:

“Approximately one year ago, Donald Trump said that he was considering a ‘military option’ in Venezuela. At the time, virtually no one in Washington thought this was a good idea….

What has changed, alarmingly, is that now there are some people in Washington who have actually come around to the idea. Last month, Senator Marco Rubio said that… there is now a ‘very strong argument’ that the situation… could very well necessitate U.S. military involvement. Bloomberg notes that ‘security hawks with an interest in Latin America are taking positions in the administration, adding to a sense that Washington may be warming to intervention.”

There has been a series of statements by world and national leaders concerning military intervention in Venezuela. President Trump famously declared “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option”. In September 2018, Trump said that, Venezuela, “…frankly, could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military decides to do that.”

Likewise, in September 2018, Luís Almagro, General Secretary of the Organization of American States said, “With regards to a military intervention aimed at overthrowing the regime of Nicolas Maduro, I think we should not exclude any option.” Latin American opposition to military intervention is widespread, and a subsequent vote to denounce Almagro’s comment was passed by the Lima Group, specifically tasked to find a solution to the Venezuelan crisis. Nevertheless, it is notable that Canada, Colombia, and Guayana refused back this censure.

Since then, the situation on the diplomatic front has only worsened. The OAS’ Almagro, all thirteen members of the Lima Group, and the U.S. government have released statements that they would not recognize the election of Nicholas Maduro as Venezuela’s President. Both Almagro and the U.S. State Department, in an act of brazen violation of Venezuelan sovereignty, have instead recognized the little-known Juan Guaidó, leader of the right-leaning National Assembly (as opposed to the more popular Constituent Assembly). While President Maduro was reelected overwhelmingly in May 2018, Guaido has not even run in a national election.  Former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and current Secretary of State Michael Pompeo released a statement on January 23 2019 saying,

“The United States recognizes Juan Guaidó as the new interim President of Venezuela, and strongly supports his courageous decision to assume that role pursuant to Article 233 of Venezuela’s constitution and supported by the National Assembly, in restoring democracy to Venezuela. As President Trump said, “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”

On the Colombian front, indications from President Iván Duque have been contradictory. Not only did Colombia refuse to censure Almagro’s comments, but its ambassador in Washington DC, Francisco Santos has insisted that “all options are on the table”. Nevertheless, Duque, in contrast with his mentor, Uribe, has said that the military option “is not the way.” On the other hand, Duque has called for increasing spending on Colombia’s air force and issued an order to put the air force on high alert. Following on the heels of Pompeo’s announcement, Duque declared his recognition of Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.

As mentioned earlier, the disarming of the FARC is a factor we must consider.

In a 2005 interview (while the FARC still existed as an armed force) conducted by Dick Emanuelsson and Ingrid Storgen, political analyst Heinz Dieterich makes the following points:

“There are 20,000 soldiers in the rear guard of an eventual military conflict between Colombia and Venezuela…. If these forces were not to exist, I am absolutely sure that today we would have the scenario that the Sandinistas had on the northern border with Honduras (in the 80s)…. Objectively, by its mere existence, they fundamentally make impossible whatever strategy of military or paramilitary destruction by the forces of the United States or Uribe.”

Similarly, in February 2005, the FARC made exclusively clear their position when FARC commander Raúl Reyes declared,

“In case of an invasion of our Venezuelan brothers by the United States War Hawks, the FARC would condemn it energetically and will offer its unconditional solidarity to the Bolivarian process of the country that saw the birth of our Liberator. In Bolívar we find everything.”

Now the FARC are demobilized and Raúl Reyes himself was killed in a camp in Ecuador, working out terms for the release of prisoners of war.

With this absence of the FARC, the presence and activity of Colombian paramilitaries has grown and intensified. As previously mentioned, on August 4 2018, Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduros was targeted in an assassination attempt using drones. Venezuela says it has evidence that Colombian paramilitaries were involved. In October 2018, the Venezuelan military captured three Colombian paramilitaries in the state of Tachira along the border, citing evidence that the paramilitaries were in coordination with Colombian police and military. On November 5 2018, at least three members of the Venezuelan National Guard were killed in confrontations with Colombian paramilitaries in the state of Amazonas. On December 24, 2018, Venezuela captured nine Colombian paramilitaries entering the country to carry out a “mission in Caracas.” Maduro maintains that as many as 734 Venezuelan and Colombian mercenaries are preparing to commit false flag operations attacking military units on the border in order to escalate and confuse popular opinion, and to justify a potential intervention.

Negrón Valera instructs,

“Finally, we must understand that within the doctrine of Non-Conventional Warfare, aggression will not come in the traditional army against army form…. It will be the Colombian paramilitaries operating on the border, the U.S.’s armed wing in the region. Only this time it will have the full logistical and military support of Washington and the support of Colombia on the ground.”

Negrón Valera also notes the construction of wells in Colombia by the U.S. Army near the border with Venezuela as a possible precursor to intervention. He writes that,

“Let’s turn our attention to the tweet of the Commander of the Colombian National Army, Ricardo Gómez Nieto, who in the framework of the UNITAS naval exercises, speaks of his gratitude to the U.S. Army for its help in the ‘construction of a drinking water well’ in the community of Rumonero.

The same ‘altruistic’ strategy has been used by the US army in Afghanistan to consolidate itself in the territory.In any case, the important thing to highlight is that it was precisely in this part of Guajira that Colombia established in 2015 the Task Force on Combined Medium Arms (FUTAM), equipped with armored combat weapons, artillery, infantry, logistical support and army aviation. Only by looking at the map where the ‘water wells’ are built do we understand why Venezuela has a right to be concerned.”

Nevertheless, we must consider that there remain strong arguments that military invasion and other forms of intervention are not likely. It behooves us to soberly assess both Empire’s voices for and against such a war before we jump to any conclusions.

The main argument is that such an invasion or other interventions would be far too disruptive not only to their targets, but to all those involved. Such efforts would throw the economy into yet further crisis and fuel a flood of refugees. A coup or invasion would also likely spur a civil war that, in the absence of a strong Venezuelan military component, would depend on foreign troops to stabilize. That in and of itself would be so offensive to most Venezuelans that, be they supporters of the Bolivarian government or not, many would defend their national soil on patriotic grounds.

And that underscores the lack of popular backing for the Venezuelan opposition. Uruguayan journalist and Telesur cofounder Aram Aharonian observes,

“A Hinterlaces poll revealed that more than 64% of Venezuelans have an unfavorable opinion about the actions of rightwing leaders….There is another fact that stands out in the poll: 62% of Venezuelans prefer President Maduro to solve the economic problems of the country, while 34% prefer an opposition government. 61% blame economic problems on agents external to the government, such as the economic war, the fall of the price of oil, price speculation, and U.S. financial sanctions, while 37% attribute them to economic policies implemented by the government.

….However, it is clear that the US hawks may push for intervention: we must not let our guard down.”

Another factor that makes military intervention less plausible is the reality that the Venezuela military would not resist a military intervention alone. There are 1.6 million armed and trained civilian militia members ready to take to the streets to fight coup attempts and foreign invaders. At the same time, with the failures of the Colombian peace process, many former FARC insurgents are returning to the hills to join other armed groups and to perhaps form a new insurgency. The National Liberation Army (ELN) is still armed and several thousand strong. The ELN has claimed responsibility for a January 17 car bombing in Bogotá. Would the ELN be a pro-Bolivarian force within Colombia in the event of an invasion?

With or without an armed Colombian insurgency, there is a popular movement that can be expected to take the streets in Colombia in protest to any invasion. Colombia has a very large and well-organized opposition that could paralyze its streets with protest, should its people rise up to resist this war.

Internationally, countries such as Russia, China, and Cuba could be counted on to come to Venezuela’s defense, perhaps even with arms. On December 10, 2018, Russia openly sent two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela. Likewise, Mexico’s newly elected President Manuel Lopez Obrador has announced that Mexico will not participate in or support destabilization plans toward Venezuela.

When we weigh all the factors, it is not possible to say with any kind of certainty that there will be, or that there will not be, a foreign military intervention, invasion, or otherwise foreign directed coup in Venezuela. But Empire has been waiting a long time and faced failure after failure, so patience may be running thin. More, the prize of regime change in Venezuela, even with all the disruption and chaos that would entail, is that it would existentially threaten popular governments and movements throughout Latin America. We must not underestimate that temptation.

What is required of all those who stand in solidarity with Venezuela, and of all those who oppose Empire and its wars, is this: that we be ready for all eventualities on the table, including the military option. The best way to end a march toward war is to make sure that war never happens. To do that requires those who love peace to mobilize.

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Repeated History, US Backs Another Coup in Venezuela

Image result for Coup in Venezuela CARTOON

Eugene Puryear interviews VA’s Lucas Koerner about the US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela and the illegitimacy of Juan Guaidó’s claim to the presidency of the Caribbean nation.

By By Any Means Necessary
00:00/18:13

In this special segment of “By Any Means Necessary” is joined by Lucas Koerner, writer at Venezulanalysis.com to talk about the ongoing attempts at a US-backed coup in Venezuela, the illegitimacy of Juan Guaidó’s claim to the presidency and the role of right-wing Latin American governments in supporting the efforts to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro.

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Imperialism’s Direct Intervention in Venezuela

The US imperialist power, it seems, is determining issues like legitimacy and people’s representation in another country while it is passing through a government shutdown, observes Farooque Chowdhury.

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Virtually unknown before being selected as National Assembly president, Juan Guaido swore himself in as president of Venezuela on January 23 and was immediately recognized by the Trump White House
Virtually unknown before being selected as National Assembly president three weeks ago, Juan Guaido swore himself in as president of Venezuela on January 23 and was immediately recognized by the Trump White House. (AFP)
By Farooque Chowdhury 

The first phase of imperialism’s direct intervention in Venezuela has started.

The US has “officially” recognized a self-proclaimed president of Venezuela as the country’s president while the rightists are trying to create chaos on Caracas streets. Guaidó, the self-proclaimed president, have been recognized by Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay and Peru, the countries collaborating with the US imperialism, which followed the imperialist power within two hours of the US move. The Organization of American States (OAS) has also recognized Guaidó as president. Canada and France have extended its support to Guaidó. European Council President Donald Tusk expressed hoped the EU would “unite in support of democratic forces.” The imperial alliance is active.

Guaidó, an obscure lawmaker a few days ago and head of the National Assembly, called on the armed forces to disobey the constitutionally formed government of Venezuela. However, Venezuela’s defense minister has condemned Guaidó, a former student leader who participated in protests against former socialist President Chavez.

US President Trump, in a statement, described Nicolas Maduro’s leadership as “illegitimate.” Trump’s statement said: “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”

Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn-in as president of Venezuela earlier this month, has declared the breaking of diplomatic and political relations with the US. The measure is in response to Trump’s recognition of Guaidó. Venezuela has given the US diplomatic staff 72 hours to leave Venezuela. Maduro has declared all US diplomats persona non grata, after the imperial power recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected Venezuela’s move to cut ties with the US. Pompeo said the US did not recognize Maduro as leader of Venezuela. He said the US would conduct relations “through the government of interim President Guaidó” although there is yet to exist any such thing as a “government of President Guaidó.” Pompeo also urged Venezuela’s military to support efforts to restore “democracy,”  and said the US would back Guaidó in his attempts to establish a government.

These developments are a continuation of a long drawn out imperialist intervention plan. The imperialist power, it seems, is determining issues like legitimacy and people’s representation in another country while it is passing through a government shutdown.

Maduro has accused Washington of trying to govern Venezuela from afar, and said the opposition was seeking to stage a coup. “We’ve had enough interventionism, here we have dignity, damn it!” President Maduro said in a televised address from the presidential palace while a huge assembly of people joined in solidarity to Maduro in front of Miraflores Palace, the presidential house in Caracas.

Venezuela’s foreign minister lashed out at “subordinate clowns” who he said followed the “owner of the imperialist circus.”

Bolivia declared, as tweeted by President Evo Morales, “solidarity with the people of Venezuela and brother Nicolas Maduro” in resisting the “claws of imperialism” in South America. Bolivia pledged full support to Maduro.

Mexico and Cuba also have expressed support for Maduro.

Maria Zakharova, spokesperson of the Russian foreign ministry, said the US “handpicking” of a government in Caracas perfectly illustrates the true Western sentiments toward international law, sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of states.

Therefore, Caracas is hot with imperialist intervention. More moves that are imperialist will follow. The moves will appear originating from within Venezuela although those were seeded externally.

Already there has appeared the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflicts. More such organizations and “opposition voices” will be organized and heard. They will provide figures – numbers of dead and wounded, numbers of incidents of looted market places, numbers of incidents of arson, and similar many others.

There will appear voices of “conscience,” a part of which will be comprised of elements claiming to be “left” and “progressive.” These “left-progressive” elements will turn dear friends of and reliable sources of information for the mainstream media.

Neither the mainstream nor the “progressive-lefty friends” will ever raise the following questions:

  1. Who has appointed the imperial power to determine the question of legitimacy in another land?
  2. Shall the imperial power allow this practice – determining the question of legitimacy related to the imperial power or a state subservient to the imperial power by another state – to others?
  3. Which state shall allow another state to issue a call to the state’s armed forces to rise in rebellion?
  4. Is the self-proclaimed president above the constitution of Venezuela?
  5. Shall this incident be cited as a precedent in cases of other countries whenever imperialists will feel that that country is moving away from their orbit?
  6. Is it going to be norm/practice in the area of international relations?

It’s a dangerous precedent set by imperial powers. It’s dangerous not only for the people of Venezuela, but for other countries also, because imperialists can arrange a similar set up of opposition claims to the seat of power in cases of other countries trying to move in a dignified way through a road fitting to the country’s needs.

The incident shows:

  1. Imperialists don’t consider the constitutions of other countries.
  2. Imperialists consider they are the guardians of political practices and norms of all countries, and they stand above all constitutions of all countries.
  3. Imperialists know best – which political system is best suited for people of any country; leading imperialists claim rights above rights of people.

Who knows when which country will face imperialist wrath? Do the “progressive” and “lefty” “friends” looking at political incidents in countries through a black or white lens know? They examine the Bolivarian revolutionary process through that black or white lens, and they turn frustrated as they fail to find “great” bourgeois “democratic” practices there. They deny looking at the reality and limitations – essentially contradictions – in the society struggling for transformation. Thus they, at times, miss imperialism’s role there, as in other countries, while they appear as great crusaders for “democracy.” But the holy hearts don’t question: Why imperialism denies targeting them, the “brave fighters,” but target Venezuela, Chavez, Maduro?

Today’s direct imperialist intervention in Venezuela has not been organized overnight. So-called democratic forces were organized, trained, financed and armed slowly and clandestinely over a long period. Simultaneously, tarnishing the image of Venezuela/Chavez/Maduro/the Bolivarian Revolution was carried on unceasingly, and a negative impression was constructed among wider international audiences while an economic war against the Revolution was organized. The Venezuelan people’s sufferings due to imperialist intervention were portrayed as failures of the Revolution. There are cases of cancer patients – young, promising, old, infirm – facing death due to lack of essential drugs/equipment, which was due to imperialist economic war against the Revolution. Nevertheless, those stories go missing in the MSM.

So, one of the burning questions today is: Shall this imperialist intervention succeed? The broad answer: It depends on the Revolution’s capacity to mobilize the people in the land of Bolivar. To be specific: Venezuela is not Chile at the time preceding murderer Pinochet’s coup backed by the imperial power. Today is not the days of imperialism’s Libya intervention. Today is not the days of betrayer Gorbachev.

The imperial power has its own deeper and wider problems, however. This condition of imperialism may move it to resort to provocative acts – hot intervention, which is directly sending armed persons – to divert attention of people in its country. Or, with a cautious attitude, imperialism may try to mobilize proxies to intervene in Venezuela after creating a serious bloody situation – a lot of deaths, a lot of cases of arson, use of petrol bombs and homemade firearms, a serious law and order situation.

So, now is the time to stand in solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, handle non-hostile conditions in non-hostile way, and not to step into traps of provocations. And, it’s time to call upon the “brave, lefty, progressive friends” not to forget imperialism.

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Historian: Venezuela Is “Staging Ground” for U.S. to Reassert Control Over Latin America

NOVANEWS
 Image result for venezuela photos
 GUESTS

While Mexico and Uruguay are calling for dialogue to address the crisis in Venezuela, much of Latin America has sided with the Trump administration by recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s new leader. We look at what this mean for the broader region with professors Alejandro Velasco and Steve Ellner.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Still with us is Alejandro Velasco, associate professor at NYU, where he’s a historian of modern Latin America. He has just returned from Venezuela on Tuesday. And in Washington is Steve Ellner, former professor and associate managing editor of the journal Latin American Perspectives.

I wanted to ask Alejandro on this whole issue of the pretty open U.S. involvement in trying to do regime change in Venezuela. A colleague of mine from Puerto Rico, Jesús Dávila, has been reporting now for several months, going back to October, that there’s been ongoing meetings. There was a meeting, supposedly, according to Dávila, in October of Venezuelan leaders in Puerto Rico, where they met and developed a manifesto to justify the overthrow of President Maduro. And supposedly, according to that report, that John Bolton, from the White House, specifically approved of it. And then, in early January, Jesús reported—Jesús Dávila reported that the coup was already scheduled, supposedly from between the 10th and the 15th of this month. It happened actually about a week later. But the only delay appeared to be that the opposition itself could not agree who would be the official leader of the coup. And now we know it’s Juan Guaidó. Could you talk about the conflicts within the opposition and how open the U.S. has been in trying to institute regime change in Venezuela?

ALEJANDRO VELASCO: Yeah, no, that’s—it was astonishing, actually, on January 23rd. I don’t think anybody really expected the rapid cascade of events. I mean, first, in the morning, the United States announces that it would possibly recognize Guaidó as a legitimate president. Then, about 15 minutes later, exactly that is what Guaidó said, that he was swearing in as president. And then, minutes after that, you had the confirmation from the White House, then the Organization of American States with them, with Almagro, who’s been incredibly aggressive throughout these last few years vis-à-vis Venezuela, and then a cascade of other countries coming out. So, the level of coordination suggests powerfully that this could not have just been very spontaneous. This must have had, you know, prior levels of consent and agreement.

But it’s not just that it comes from the last two weeks, or even in January. This is now about a year-and-a-half’s worth of—really, as we look back upon it in hindsight—of laying the foundations and the groundwork precisely for what happened on January 23rd. So, after the election—after 2017, when there was a massive protest that happened against the government of Maduro, people like Almagro and the United States explicitly took to calling anybody in Venezuela who would try to negotiate or to run in the presidential elections a “traitor.” This is the word that they used, which powerfully suggests that the center of gravity of the opposition around 2017 and 2018 shifted from the domestic plane to the international plane. And although the conditions on the ground continued to get worse, in part because of the sanctions that Steve mentioned, but also because of tremendous degrees of corruption and mismanagement on the government itself, that lays the groundwork for that international pressure, especially from more radical expatriate communities, to be able to say, “Well, the only solution here,” as, in fact, Pompeo said at the OAS, “was that the time is up. There’s no room for debate. If you do not recognize Guaidó as president, we, as the United States, will not recognize you and your dealings with Venezuela.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Steve Ellner, this whole issue of the problems within the opposition, could you talk about that, as well? I mean, there was people like Antonio Ledezma, María Corina Machado, Leopoldo López. These have all become known as major opposition figures, but very—but most of them don’t have a deep following among the population in Venezuela.

STEVE ELLNER: Well, Juan, for one thing, the opposition in Venezuela is extremely discredited. That’s something that the media, the mainstream media, really hasn’t reported. It’s true that Maduro’s popularity has decreased. His popularity, acceptance may be between 20, 30 percent. But the opposition also is very unpopular, and that’s because the opposition lacks a program—at least it hasn’t publicized its program. It has a program. It’s a neoliberal program. But that hasn’t been its message. Its message all along has been to oust Chávez, and now it’s to oust Maduro. So the opposition is very unpopular.

You speak to people on the ground, people who would never vote for Maduro, and they tell you that they very much dislike the opposition leaders because they have vacillated so much. Firstly, they don’t have a program. They don’t stand for anything. And so they’re considered opportunistic. And secondly, because they vacillate so much. For instance, they promoted the demonstrations that Alejandro referred to, in 2017. And then, overnight, when the National Constituent Assembly, the ANC, called for gubernatorial elections in October of 2017, they ceased calling for demonstrations, they dropped the protests, and they participated in the elections. So, they’ve gone back and forth, and they’ve been very much discredited.

Now, the opposition, as Alejandro also stated, is divided. And there is a hardcore, you know, radical opposition that is led by María Carino Machado, and there’s a moderate opposition. Even though the entire opposition supports neoliberalism, the moderates support dialogue with the government. For instance, two presidential candidates, ex-presidential candidates, and candidates of the major—the two major traditional parties, AD and COPEI—that is, Eduardo Fernández and Claudio Fermín, who were presidential candidates in 1988 and 1993—they supported participation in the presidential elections, that most of the opposition boycotted. And they support recognizing Maduro and promoting dialogue. So the opposition is divided. What the Trump administration has done has been to radicalize the situation in Venezuela and pull the rug out from under the moderates and favor the more radicals in the opposition.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to President Trump’s remarks before the U.N. General Assembly last September.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Currently, we are witnessing a human tragedy, as an example, in Venezuela. More than 2 million people have fled the anguish inflicted by the socialist Maduro regime and its Cuban sponsors. Not long ago, Venezuela was one of the richest countries on Earth. Today, socialism has bankrupted the oil-rich nation and driven its people into abject poverty. Virtually everywhere socialism or communism has been tried, it has produced suffering, corruption and decay. Socialism’s thirst for power leads to expansion, incursion and oppression. All nations of the world should resist socialism and the misery that it brings to everyone. In that spirit, we ask the nations gathered here to join us in calling for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s President Trump in September. And then, over the next months, the troika of John Bolton, the national security adviser, Vice President Pence and the Secretary of State Pompeo, as everything is going on in Washington, and most recently with the shutdown, are consistently making statements on Venezuela, threatening statements, in fact, talking about, for example, coining the term, like we knew “axis of evil” from George Bush before he invaded Iraq, “troika of tyranny.” Alejandro Velasco, can you respond to what President Trump has said, and also talk about the role of the United States in this coup that is taking place?

ALEJANDRO VELASCO: Yeah. I mean, as Arreaza said to you last week, this is—U.S. intervention in Venezuela is nothing new. Back certainly in 2002, the United States supported the coup against Chávez. And ever since, under Bush, and then less so to the extent that Obama was less involved in Venezuela because it was at the height of the pink tide and left-wing governments, but nevertheless there was still significant pressure coming from the United States. So, the idea that the U.S. is interfering in Venezuela by backing certain sectors of the opposition is not new.

What is new is, as you mentioned before, just the openness and the brazenness with which it’s been happening, over certainly the last year in particular. And even though Bolton and Pompeo and Mike Pence certainly are the visible faces of it, the real driver behind this policy is actually Marco Rubio, senator of Florida, where there’s a significant amount of very radical expatriates who have come not just over the last year and a half or two, but back from 2001 and 2002, Venezuelans have settled in Miami. And they have now significant kinds of weight, the same kind of weight that Cuban exiles used to have. And so, Marco Rubio has really been the one to whom Trump basically outsourced Venezuela policy.

And I should make one thing clear vis-à-vis Venezuela’s role in—the United States’ role in Venezuela. On the one hand, yes, of course, there is this—you know, there is this intervention that has taken place. But on the other hand, the play, the larger play here, I think, is not actually Venezuela. What is happening vis-à-vis Venezuela in terms of the United States, in Pompeo and Bolton’s vision, is reasserting control over the agenda in Latin America, basically reasserting hegemony that had been lost, really, under the pink tide. So, this is—you know, Venezuela is the staging ground, but really this is a much larger sort of continental move, that has drawn players like Piñera in Chile, like Bolsonaro in Brazil, like Macri in Argentina, to say, you know, we are now turning back to the pre-pink tide days, where it was the United States that primarily set the agenda for what happens in Latin America.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, but I’d like to follow that up with Steve Ellner, because even though many of the pink tide countries have now been replaced by a more right-wing government, Latin America is not the Latin America of old. It’s no longer the U.S. backyard. Clearly, China plays a much bigger role in Latin America now as a financier of projects and an investor. And just yesterday, President Putin warned the United States not to intervene in Latin America. So, even Russia is exercising a much more sort of aggressive position toward what used to be called the U.S. backyard. I’m wondering if you could talk about that.

STEVE ELLNER: Sure. Juan, there are some experts on the right side of the political spectrum who claim that the pink tide is over. There was an article that Jorge Castañeda, the former foreign minister of Mexico, that was published in The New York Times, that stated—that was headlined “The Latin American Left Is Dead.” But the fact of the matter is, as you stated, that the pink tide, those governments, those progressive governments, some more leftist than others, but governments that ruled—in Brazil with Lula; the Kirchners in Argentina; in Uruguay, which—the Frente Amplio, which is still in power; Bolivia; Ecuador with Correa; etc.—they framed certain issues in terms of state intervention in the economy, in terms of economic nationalism, which had been a banner going way back in time, specifically the case of Venezuela.

The Venezuelan economy of the 1990s, in the age of neoliberalism, at the height of neoliberalism, the Venezuelan economy ceased to be Venezuelan practically. The privatization meant that foreign capital bought out state companies, in the case of steel, in the case of telecommunications, and that was happening with the oil industry, and the private sector, as well, in the case of cement, two of the most important banks in Venezuela, the cement company and also the chocolate company Savoy. So, Chávez came along, and he promoted economic nationalism. He renationalized those companies that had been privatized, that had been bought by foreign capital.

And so, it seems to me that this is a banner. Now, it’s true, as some of the people in the opposition state, that some of these state companies had been mismanaged. But the fact of the matter is that they represent a symbol. The nationalization, the economic nationalism represents a symbol, just like the nationalization of oil in Mexico in 1938 represented a symbol, even though Pemex, the state oil company in Mexico, was poorly managed after that. But still, it stands out as an important development in 20th century Latin American politics. Same thing with the social programs. The social programs have promoted participation, integration, incorporation of the marginalized sectors of the population, and a sense of empowerment.

So, those goals and those achievements of the pink tide governments will not be just wiped away. And the idea that the pink tide is out of the picture completely, I think, is really overstating things. What’s going to happen in Venezuela, we don’t know. But Morales is in power in Bolivia. The pink tide is in power in Uruguay. López Obrador was just elected in Mexico last year. So that the situation is definitely in flux.

AMY GOODMAN: Steve—

STEVE ELLNER: Let me also say—

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, and then we have to break.

STEVE ELLNER: Yeah, sure. Let me also say that the alternative to the pink tide, which are the governments that are now in power, the conservative governments, these are not the traditional political parties that have—that used to have large backing. These are right-wing parties. Bolsonaro in Brazil, Piñera in Chile, these are very wealthy politicians. They’re not the standard politicians of the old days. And so, it really remains to be seen whether they can consolidate power in the short-term future.

AMY GOODMAN: Steve Ellner, Venezuela-based scholar and author, I want to ask you to stay with us, along with Alejandro Velasco, associate professor at NYU. We’re going to break, and we’ll also be joined by Medea Benjamin, who just interrupted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he addressed the Organization of American States. Stay with us.

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Bolivia: Before and after Evo Morales

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Image result for Evo Morales PHOTO

Poverty has been reduced, rights expanded, and the economy continues to growBy Ana Laura Palomino García | Granma

Many years ago, the man who has taken the Plurinational State of Bolivia to first-rate statistics in the economic and social arenas, was jailed on a military base in Copacabana, a town in the department of La Paz, close to the border with Peru.

This was in 1995, and Evo Morales endured insults and interrogations, for defending his rights and those of coca growers. But the most hateful way his captors referred to him was “indio” – a word that served as an offense for them, but is one of his most valued attributes.

Now that “Indian,” Evo Morales, is loved by his people and continues to dignify his indigenous roots, struggling tirelessly to eradicate the social ills that in the past left his nation without a future.

Nonetheless, some far removed from this reality, at different latitudes, or in the comfort of their homes, criticize his decision to run for a fourth term as President, denying the broad support he enjoys among the people and the figures that confirm this fact.

BOLIVIA BEFORE EVO

An opportune comment appeared in the Mexican newspaper La Jornadarecalling how, in the not so distant past, a few owners of significant capital fiercely exploited the Aymara, Quechua, Guarani, and other original peoples of Bolivia’s universe, whose elemental rights were ignored.

The paper points out that 90% of the rural population lived in poverty, making Bolivia, Honduras and Haiti a trio of countries facing uncertain futures, with the worst human development indices in the region. At the same time, publicly owned companies were privatized by oligarchic governments beginning in 1952, and Presidents took turns auctioning off the people’s welfare and the assets they were elected to protect, not embezzle.

Nonetheless, as expert Darío Restrepo points out in a study conducted by the National University of Colombia, a new program was implemented with the arrival of the Morales administration, very different from that of the previous 20 years.

“Instead of exclusively representative democracy, power was redirected to indigenous, rural, and popular communities, peoples, and organizations; instead of the President calling for a modern, Western, liberal Bolivia, he expresses the aspiration for a multi-national Bolivia, criticizes the ‘colonial state’ and liberal, bourgeois democracy,” Restrepo states.

BOLIVIA WITH EVO

According to Chilean newspaper La Tercera, in the last 12 years the Bolivian economy has grown 4.9% annually, far exceeding the regional average of 2.7%, and tripling its GDP from 11.5 billion to the current 37.77 billion.

This publication also reports that, according to the country’s National Institute of Statistics (INE), inflation rose by just 2.7% in 2017, the lowest figure in ten years, while the labor market strengthened.

On the other hand, in an interview with the Bolivian leader by BBC Mundo, Evo described, as another of the battles of his government, the fact that for three or four consecutive years his nation has shown the highest economic growth in all of South America. “That has never happened since the founding of the Republic,” he reaffirmed.

Another achievement of his Presidency is the reduction of poverty. According to teleSUR, in 2017 Bolivia made considerable progress on this front, with the poverty rate falling to its lowest level in history, at 36.4%.

The minimum income has increased up to 127%, and the minimum wage of workers is the second best in Latin America.

But the population has not only benefited economically. As the Bolivian President says in the interview, “The most humiliated and marginalized sector, which was that of women of all social and indigenous classes, now has a place in the Plurinational State.”

“We all have the same rights and duties,” he stressed.

According to analyst Hugo Siles, “The contemporary history of Bolivia is divided in two: before and after Evo Morales.” In addition, he stresses in La Nación, “Bolivia has changed substantially in the last decade, there is a before and after with Evo Morales. It is a very different nation socially, economically, and politically. The arrival of Morales implied a 180-degree turnabout on issues such as the management of natural resources and the inclusion of indigenous peoples.”

At the same time, Siles recognizes that much remains to be done, especially on issues related to reforms or changes in the judicial system, and greater recognition of the LGBT+ population.

This modest man, from a humble family, who worked as a bricklayer, baker, and trumpeter to pay for his studies, was branded a terrorist and demonized by the opposition to curb his political aspirations. But in 2005, he won the Presidential elections with 53.7% of the votes, a level of support that continues to date.

IN FIGURES

• The Morales government has recently announced a 1.5 billion dollar investment in roads and airports.

• With Evo Morales as President, Bolivia has established 3,000 primary health care facilities and more than 200 for secondary assistance.

• More than 85% of the population has access to potable water, an everyday issue in the past.

• Some 1.4 billion land titles have been awarded to small farmers and indigenous peoples.

• A “Dignity” benefit is provided to 900,000 older adults, thanks to an allocation of more than 2.9 billion dollars

• A total of 14% of the state budget is destined to education.

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CodePink’s Medea Benjamin Disrupts Pompeo Speech

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CodePink’s Medea Benjamin Disrupts Pompeo Speech to Denounce U.S. Regime Change Agenda in Venezuela.
 Image result for CodePink Medea Benjamin PHOTO

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to send $20 million to the Venezuelan opposition in the form of humanitarian aid to address the shortages of food and medicine caused in part by harsh U.S. sanctions. Pompeo made the announcement while speaking at the OAS, the Organization of American States. Pompeo’s speech was interrupted by CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin, who held a sign reading, ”OAS: Don’t Support a Coup in Venezuela.”

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Democrats’ America: The Heart of Darkness

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By Patrick J. Buchanan

Democrats’ America: The Heart of Darkness

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If it was the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that black and white would come together in friendship and peace to do justice, his acolytes in today’s Democratic Party appear to have missed that part of his message.

Here is Hakeem Jeffries, fourth-ranked Democrat in Nancy Pelosi’s House, speaking Monday, on the holiday set aside to honor King:

“We have a hater in the White House. The birther in chief. The grand wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. … While Jim Crow may be dead, he’s still got some nieces and nephews that are alive and well.”

At the headquarters of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, wrote The New York Times, Jeffries’ remarks were “met with … much cheering.”

At a Boston breakfast that same day, Sen. Elizabeth Warren chose to honor King’s memory in her way: “Our government is shut down for one reason … So the president of the United States can fund a monument to hate and division along our southern border.”

At a rally in Columbia, South Carolina, Sen. Cory Booker declaimed — in what could be taken as a shot at his New Jersey colleague, the lately acquitted Sen. Bob Menendez — “We live a nation where you get a better justice system if you’re rich and guilty than poor and innocent.”

Booker urged the crowd “to apply the ideals of Dr. King” and avoid vitriol in dealing with political adversaries.

But his Senate colleague Bernie Sanders, also in South Carolina, wasn’t buying it. Routed by Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina primary in 2016, Sanders is determined not to lose the party’s African-American majority that badly in 2020.

“Today we talk about racism,” said Sanders. “It gives me no pleasure to tell you that we now have a president of the United States who is a racist.”

Sanders apparently connected, with his remarks “drawing applause.”

Joe Biden spoke in D.C. in the full apology-tour mode made famous by his former boss, Barack Obama. He brought up the 1994 crime bill he shepherded though the Senate, which treated consumption and distribution of crack cocaine as more serious crimes than the use of powder cocaine, and then confessed to the crowd that it was “a big mistake.”

“We were told by the experts that, ‘crack you never go back,’ that the two were somehow fundamentally different. It’s not. But it’s trapped an entire generation.”

Biden meant that lots of black folks got locked up for a long time, unjustly, conceding, “We may not have always got things right.”

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Biden then proceeded to slander the nation that has honored him as it has few of his generation: “Systematic racism that most of us whites don’t even like to acknowledge” is “built into every aspect of our system.”

Is America, 50 years after segregation was outlawed in our public life, really a land saturated with systemic racism?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was also in D.C.

The mayor’s problem with African-Americans is that he pursued a policy of stop-and-frisk with criminal suspects in New York. So, he sought to find common ground with his audience by relating “a series of events that had shaped his recent thinking about race.”

The mayor said he had “recently learned about the deadly race riots in which white residents destroyed the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921, and murdered several dozen black residents.”

But why did his honor have to go all the way back to 1921 and Tulsa to find race riots, when Harlem, in the heart of the town he served as mayor for 12 years, exploded in a riot in 1964 that spread to Brooklyn and Queens and lasted six days?

Why did Bloomberg not bring up the worst riot in U.S. history, when Lincoln sent Union veterans of Gettysburg to shoot down Irish immigrants protesting the draft in New York?

“It’s up to us to bring these stories out of the shadows so they never happen again,” said the mayor.

But where are black communities threatened by white mob violence in 2019? Was the Watts riot of 1965, were the Detroit and Newark riots of 1967, was the rioting, looting and arson that ravaged 100 cities after King’s death a result of rampaging whites assaulting black folks?

Was the LA riot of 1992, which targeted Koreatown, the work of white racists?

Monday, after a meeting with Sharpton, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand offered her message of conciliation. Said the successor to Sen. Hillary Clinton, President Trump has “inspired a hate and a darkness in this country that I have never experienced myself.

“It is wrong to ask men and women of color to bear these burdens every single day. … White women like me must bear part of this burden.”

Does there not come a time when the pandering has to stop?

Ronald Reagan preached America as the Pilgrim fathers’ “shining city on a hill.” For Democrats today, America is the heart of darkness.

Can people lead a republic that they have come to see as a sinkhole of racism?

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Venezuelan Foreign Minister: The U.S. Interferes in Latin American Politics Every Day, Every Hour

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 Image result for Jorge Arreaza PHOTO

The U.S.-led effort targeting the oil-rich nation of Venezuela dates back two decades, since the late Hugo Chávez became president in 1999. In November, John Bolton accused Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua of being part of a “troika of tyranny.” In September, The New York Times reported the Trump administration conducted secret meetings with rebellious military officers in Venezuela to discuss overthrowing Maduro. We air more of our recent interview with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. He came into the Democracy Now! studio last week.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we continue to look at what’s taking place in Venezuela. I want to turn to Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s foreign minister, Venezuela’s former vice president, as well, and Chávez’s son-in-law, the former president of Venezuela. I spoke to him last week and want to turn to an unaired excerpt of that interview. I asked him about the increasing pressure on the Maduro government from the U.S. and other countries.

JORGE ARREAZA: No, this has been happening since 1999. Our late president, Comandante Chávez, was also seen as a dictator, as a socialist, a dictator, and the United States government was behind a coup d’état in 2002 and all the sabotage to our oil industry. So, this has been happening, because we have the objective, the goal, of changing the model, of building a new democratic society, which we call the socialism of this new century. And we have the right to do it. And we are an independent and sovereign country.

And the thing is that here in the United States—not in the United States, I must say, not the people of the United States, but the elite that is in power, that is ruling the United States, they want—they believe that Latin America is their backyard. And they want to impose their model. And they want to have these presidents who are also businessmen and who follow the orders of the president of the United States. But we are not.

So, we’re trying to build our own society and in new terms and with equality, with access to health, to education, to housing, to culture. And that is our struggle. And, of course, what happens is that in those terms, the U.S. elite and the other countries, satellite countries of the United States, they are trying to isolate Venezuelan government. They are trying to stop this from happening. And it’s not going to happen.

But this is a difficult struggle, Amy. And we are really looking, and President Maduro has looked, for all the paths, all the way for dialogue. We had a dialogue process last year with the opposition in the Dominican Republic, hosted by the president of the Dominican Republic and the former president of Spain, Rodríguez Zapatero. And when we reached the agreement and we were there to sign the agreement, the opposition received orders from the State Department here, and they didn’t sign. And then they didn’t—some of the parties didn’t register for the elections. And now they say that the elections were a fraud. And now they say that Maduro is not our president. That is all part of a coup d’état in progress, encouraged and funded by the United States government.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean to you that AMLO, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador—the stance he has taken in support of Venezuela?

JORGE ARREAZA: AMLO, the president of Mexico, is very important for Latin America at the moment. It’s one of the most important countries. It has borders with the United States. And they are—with this new government, they are, again, a sovereign country. And they are trying to help not only Venezuela. They’re trying to help Nicaragua. They’re trying to help Cuba. They’re trying to help the other countries. They want to have good relations with all the countries in Latin America. But they want to solve the Latin American issues in Latin America, and no interventionism from the United States in our countries.

AMY GOODMAN: AMLO, President López Obrador, refused to back the Lima Group stance questioning Maduro’s legitimacy. He said, “We’ve said with a lot of clarity that we’re going to respect the constitutional principles of nonintervention … in foreign policy matters. We don’t interfere in internal matters of other countries, and we don’t want the governments of other countries to meddle in matters that correspond only to Mexicans.”

JORGE ARREAZA: Mm-hmm, yes. That’s what every country has to do. We cannot be interfering. I mean, you say here in the United States that Russia interfered in the campaign of Trump and the elections, and that’s not good. It shouldn’t have happened, if it happened. I believe it didn’t happen. But the United States interferes every single—not day, every single hour, in the Venezuelan issues, in the Cuban issues, in Nicaraguan and all over Latin America. So, it’s bad for Russia to interfere here, but it’s good for Washington to interfere in Latin America? Of course, that’s not fair.

And I believe that the president of Mexico is right. We have to respect each other. We have to respect the principles of international law. I mean, if you join the United Nations, it’s because you respect the internal affairs of the other states. It’s because you respect the equality of states. It’s because you don’t have the right to interfere in other nations. That’s not what the United States does. They have done wars in Iraq. President Trump said that he regretted—we regretted that the United States invaded Iraq, because now the situation is worse than it was with Saddam Hussein. And the same in Libya.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s foreign minister, speaking on Democracy Now! last week. To hear the whole hour, you can go to democracynow.org.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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Historian: Venezuela Is “Staging Ground” for U.S. to Reassert Control Over Latin America

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How Washington’s Devastating “Economic Blockade” of Venezuela Helped Pave the Way for Coup Attempt

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 Image result for Nicolás Maduro PHOTO

Venezuela remains in a state of crisis as opposition forces—with the backing of the United States—attempt to unseat the government of Nicolás Maduro. On Thursday, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said the military continues to stand by Maduro. His remarks came one day after President Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s new leader. Guaidó, the new head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself president on Wednesday during a large opposition protest. Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has ordered the U.S. to remove all of its diplomats from Venezuela, but Washington is ignoring the request, claiming Maduro no longer has authority to take such action. We speak to two long-term observers of Venezuelan politics: Venezuelan-born NYU professor Alejandro Velasco and Steve Ellner, who lives in Venezuela, where he taught for several decades.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Venezuela remains in a state of crisis as opposition forces—with the backing of the United States—attempt to unseat the government of President Nicolás Maduro. On Thursday, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said the military continues to stand by Maduro.

VLADIMIR PADRINO LÓPEZ: [translated] I alert the people of Venezuela that a coup is being carried out against our institutions, against our democracy, against our constitution, against our President Nicolás Maduro—the legitimate president of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

AMY GOODMAN: The Venezuelan Defense Minister’s comment came one day after President Trump announced the U.S. would recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s new president. Guaidó, the new head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself president on Wednesday during a large opposition protest.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to send $20 million to the Venezuelan opposition in the form of humanitarian aid to address the shortages of food and medicine, caused in part by harsh U.S. sanctions. Pompeo made the announcement while speaking at the OAS, the Organization of American States.

SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: The time for debate is done. The regime of former President Nicolás Maduro is illegitimate. His regime is morally bankrupt. It’s economically incompetent. And it is profoundly corrupt. It is undemocratic to the core. I repeat: The regime of former President Nicolás Maduro is illegitimate. We therefore consider all of its declarations and actions illegitimate and invalid.

AMY GOODMAN: Secretary of State Pompeo’s speech was interrupted by CodePink founder Medea Benjamin, who will join us later in the broadcast.

In other developments, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has ordered the U.S. to remove all of its diplomats from Venezuela, but Washington is ignoring the request, claiming Maduro no longer has authority to take such action. While the U.S. Embassy in Caracas is staying open, the State Department has ordered non-essential diplomats and embassy staff to leave Venezuela. Meanwhile, Maduro has ordered all of Venezuela’s diplomatic staff in the United States to return home.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The crisis is happening just weeks after Maduro was sworn in to a second 6-year term following his victory in an election last May that was boycotted by several of the opposition groups. The international community remains split on the situation in Venezuela. On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres urged all actors to, quote, “lower tensions and pursue every effort to prevent violence and avoid any escalation.” Mexico and Uruguay have urged all sides to hold negotiations. On Thursday, Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, spoke out against foreign intervention in Venezuela.

PRESIDENT ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR: [translated] We should conduct foreign relations with the principles of nonintervention, of the self-determination of peoples, of peaceful solutions to disputes.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But many other countries in the hemisphere have joined with the United States in supporting the attempted coup. This includes Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina and Chile. Here in the United States, the leaders of the Democratic Party have also largely supported Trump’s actions.

Meanwhile, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is warning the situation, quote, “may rapidly spiral out of control with catastrophic consequences.” She also called for an independent investigation into recent violence. At least 26 people have died since anti-Maduro protests broke out earlier this week.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by two guests. Alejandro Velasco is associate professor at New York University, where he’s a historian of modern Latin America. He’s executive editor for NACLA Report on the Americas and the author of the book Barrio Rising: Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela. Velasco was born and raised in Venezuela. He just returned from Venezuela Tuesday. He’s joining us from Chicopee, Massachusetts.

And in Washington, Steve Ellner is with us, former professor at the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela, where he taught from 1977 until he retired in 2002, currently associate managing editor of the journal Latin American Perspectives. He is editor of Latin America’s Radical Left and the forthcoming book The Pink Tide Experiences: Breakthroughs and Shortcomings in Twenty-First Century Latin America. Ellner lives in Venezuela but is currently visiting the United States.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Alejandro Velasco, let’s begin with you. Your assessment of what’s taken place so far? Are we seeing a coup in the making?

ALEJANDRO VELASCO: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. There’s no question, on the other hand, that the Maduro government lacks significant amount of popular support and, to a significant extent, also legal legitimacy. And as you just mentioned, I returned from a couple of weeks there just on Tuesday, and the level of discontent, especially among popular sectors that had previously strongly supported Maduro and, certainly, before him, Chávez, is palpable. And it has to do with prices. It has to do with public services. However, that does not translate—and it hasn’t in the past, and it’s unclear whether it does now—to support for the opposition, which, on its own terms, has advanced—certainly with these last few moves, has advanced an agenda that is plunging Venezuela into a tremendous degree of political and social uncertainty.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I’d like to ask Steve Ellner, this whole issue of the economic situation in Venezuela, to what degree the United States government has played a role. Most people are not aware of how the sanctions have had an impact on Venezuela, specifically, for instance, Citgo, the huge American-based subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil industry, which has not been allowed to remit back any of the money that it’s making here in the United States back to Venezuela. Could you talk about those sanctions and the impact on the economy there?

STEVE ELLNER: Certainly, Juan. The sanction that prohibits Citgo from remitting profits to Venezuela is a very important measure. It means that the Venezuelan government is being deprived of approximately $1 billion a year. But in addition to that, the sanctions also stipulate that Venezuela practically cannot refinance its foreign debt, which is something logical that any country facing a difficult economic situation would do. The sanctions prohibit U.S. financial institutions from having any transaction, any interaction with the Venezuelan government and the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA.

But, Juan, in addition to that, there is a major impact in terms of discouraging commercial and financial interests throughout the world from any kind of transaction with Venezuela. There is a list of 70—approximately 70 Venezuelan officials who are being sanctioned. And that translates into a situation in which the U.S. government, and specifically Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the treasury, has undertaken different investigations, workshops with representatives of Japan, Europe, Latin America, in order to find out where the shell companies are. In other words, he has created a situation in which commercial interests throughout the world are afraid to have anything to do with Venezuela. That amounts to virtually a block—an economic blockade.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, then come back to this discussion. Steve Ellner, Venezuela-based scholar and author. Also joining us, from Massachusetts, Alejandro Velasco, Venezuelan associate professor at New York University. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on How Washington’s Devastating “Economic Blockade” of Venezuela Helped Pave the Way for Coup Attempt


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