Categorized | USA, Venezuela

Chávez Supporters Mobilize For Venezuela Amid Coup Reports And Fresh Sanctions

In addition to challenging the recent sanctions slapped on Venezuelan officials by President Obama, activists and political scientists criticize Human Rights Watch for “attacking Venezuela while turning a blind eye to abuses happening elsewhere.”
Image result for A supporter of Venezuela’ PHOTO
A supporter of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro wearing a head band with the image of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez’s eyes, waves a national flag during a rally outside of Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 12, 2015.

Shortly after demonstrators in Venezuela and several other countries marked the second anniversary of the death of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on March 5, the United States sanctioned seven officials in the government of his successor, President Nicolás Maduro, on March 9.

The events come less than a month after Maduro claimed his government had thwarted a military coup, which he said had been directed “from Washington.”

They also followed by days Venezuela’s adoption of a new visa requirement for U.S. visitors, a reduction of staff at the U.S. embassy, and a ban on the entry of five U.S. officials including former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Maduro called “terrorists,” and three members of Congress.

Announcing the measures on March 1, Maduro alleged his government had caught U.S. citizens involved in “espionage activities.”

“We have captured some U.S. citizens in undercover activities, espionage, trying to win over people in towns along the Venezuelan coast,” he said.

“The U.S. government has been working for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela since practically the first day that President Chávez took office over 15 years ago,” Chuck Kaufman, national co-coordinator of the Alliance for Global Justice, which helped organize the demonstrations in the U.S., told MintPress News.

“Our government and the Venezuela opposition see the current recession in Venezuela as the time to double down and depose democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro,” he added.

Maduro, elected after Chávez’s death in 2013, leads the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, or PSUV), founded by Chávez from a coalition of existing parties that supported his successful reelection bid in 2006.

Venezuelan governments have faced opposition from successive U.S. administrations since Chávez’s initial election in 1999 due to their socialist economic policies, including the nationalization of private enterprises, and opposition to U.S. intervention in Latin America and elsewhere.

In 2002, a military coup deposed Chávez for about 48 hours before a popular uprising forced his reinstatement. During the brief administration, which imprisoned the elected president, the U.S. quickly recognized former oil executive Pedro Carmona, then head of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecámaras), as Venezuela’s interim president.

After reestablishing his elected government, Chávez claimed the U.S. had actively supported his ouster.

“I have written proof of the entries and exits of two military officers from the United States into the headquarters of the coup plotters,” he told the BBC. “I have their names, whom they met with, what they said, proof on video and on still photographs.”

Similar allegations came from figures including U.S. President Jimmy Carter and admitted coup participant and Venezuelan Rear Adm. Carlos Molina.

“We felt we were acting with U.S. support,” Molina told The Washington Post after he was placed under house arrest for planning the coup. “We agree that we can’t permit a communist government here. The U.S. has not let us down yet.”

“An anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist people”

Thousands rallied across Venezuela on March 5, the second anniversary of Chávez’s death.

“We say to the imperialists of the north and to the pro-imperialists of the [Venezuelan] Right: Venezuela declares itself an anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist people,” Maduro said at an afternoon rally in Caracas. “We’ve had enough of threats to Venezuela and America.”

Smaller groups gathered in U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere.

In New York, demonstrators came together on March 6 outside the Human Rights Watch (HRW) headquarters in the Empire State Building before marching to the nearby Consulate General of Venezuela.

Calling HRW a “weapon of the U.S. State Department,” they claimed the organization has “never denounced” violations by Venezuela’s political right, including the killings of 250 peasants, paramilitary participation in demonstrations against the elected government and the 2002 coup attempt.

“In recent decades, so-called human rights organizations have become increasingly and openly politicized,” George Ciccariello-Maher, professor of political science at Drexel University and author of “We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution,” told MintPress. “This is especially the case with Human Rights Watch, whose leadership spends a disproportionate amount of time attacking Venezuela while turning a blind eye to abuses happening elsewhere.”

“More recently, HRW’s director Ken Roth has thrown his lot openly in with a Venezuelan opposition that has proven itself to be profoundly undemocratic and violent in the past,” he continued. “HRW and other organizations play a key role in delegitimizing the Venezuelan government, to facilitate its overthrow.”

Likewise, Kaufman argues that HRW has “always had” a political and human rights agenda.

“They have always been more critical of enemies of the U.S. government than of its friends,” Kaufman said. “I haven’t believed a word they’ve written since their biased reports against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s.”

HRW did not respond to repeated requests for comment by MintPress.

“Political transitions by non-constitutional means”

Image result for Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro PHOTO

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro holds up a small copy on the constitution during a meeting with leaders of the opposition at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 10, 2014.

“It is the government of the United States that is behind the plans of destabilization and coups against Venezuela,” Maduro said in a televised address on Feb. 12 about the alleged coup against his elected government. “I have come here to denounce it.”

The U.S. government has repeatedly denied his allegations.

“As a matter of long-standing policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a Feb. 13 press briefing.

The claim drew incredulous reactions from journalists. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Associated Press reported Matt Lee exclaimed. “The U.S. has a long-standing policy of not promoting – what did you say? How long-standing is that? In particular in South and Latin America, that is not a long-standing practice.”

Psaki quickly backtracked, denying the Venezuelan claims “without getting into history.” By Feb. 19, a press statement from her office referred only to the present: “The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means.”

Activists familiar with the U.S. government’s long history of supporting military takeovers in Latin America and elsewhere found the statement no more plausible.

“Like they denied being involved in the 1973 coup against Allende in Chile?” Kaufman responded rhetorically. “Like they denied being involved in the 1954 coup against Arbenz in Guatemala? Like they denied being involved in the 2002 coup against Chávez in Venezuela? Like they denied being involved in the 2009 coup against Zelaya in Honduras? U.S. government coup denials, I doubt, are believed by any informed person on earth outside the United States.”

The sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama against seven Venezuelan officials last week follow the “Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014,” which Obama signed into law on Dec. 18.

The bill sought “to impose targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of antigovernment protesters in Venezuela,” although it remained silent on the rights of those seeking to defend the elected government against further coup attempts.

After Obama signed an executive order implementing the new sanctions, the White House claimed that “a national emergency” involving an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” had necessitated them.

“A beacon of resistance”

“No one believes Venezuela is a national security threat to the United States,” Kaufman said. “The rest of the world is laughing at him, but it is not funny, because this is a signal that the U.S. is about to do something dramatic with regard to Venezuela.”

With few willing to argue that Venezuela actually threatens the U.S., several explanations of Obama’s actions have emerged.

“In essence, Venezuela is one of the very few countries with significant oil reserves which does not submit to U.S. dictates, and this simply cannot be permitted,” Glenn Greenwald wrote for the Intercept on Wednesday.

Others tie the move to the United States’ simultaneous normalization of relations with Cuba.

By launching a sanctions war against Caracas, Obama is “betting that playing hardball with Venezuela will blunt the Beltway condemnation on Cuba,” Tim Padgett wrote at WLRN on Thursday.

Applauding the sanctions as an attempt to play Cuba against Venezuela, Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at HRW, told Time magazine that “it’s really important for the U.S. government to be working with other democratic governments in the region to make this more of a collective.”

Kaufman told MintPress the U.S. government was reckoning, if mistakenly, on Venezuela’s economic challenges.

“They think Maduro has a weak hold on power due to the drop in oil prices, artificial food shortages and runaway inflation,” he said. “The U.S. government is miscalculating, though, if it thinks the grumbling of poor people who have to stand in long lines translates into support for the opposition. Previously marginalized people remember what Venezuela was like before 1999 and they know that the opposition does not have their interests at heart.”

“This is a very dangerous time for Venezuela,” he added. “The Obama administration thinks it is entering its ‘regime change’ end game.”

Ciccariello-Maher added that Venezuela’s ongoing “Bolivarian Revolution” poses a challenge to U.S. designs in Latin America, as well as the rest of the world.

“Venezuela stands as a beacon of resistance not only in the region, but also globally,” he said, “a country in the U.S.’s ‘backyard’ that has rejected the control of the hegemon, and has sought to pioneer creative alternatives to global capitalism.”

Comments are closed.

Shoah’s pages