By Michael Drohan
The US has a long history of derailing or overthrowing democracies in Latin America. A good starting point, though not the first, might be the US interventions in Cuba in 1898 when Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders derailed the efforts of Cubans to oust the Spanish from their country. The US imposed a puppet regime and, with the so-called Platt Amendment, claimed the right to intervene whenever their interests were at stake. On to Guatemala in 1954, when on behalf of United Fruit the US overthrew the democratic government of Jacobo Arbenz. In 1973 it was Chile’s turn when the US helped to overthrow Salvador Allende, replacing him with General Augusto Pinochet, a brutal dictator. The most recent case is that of Honduras, where in 2009 the US contrived to have its elected President Manuel Zelaya ousted and replaced by a repressive but compliant regime. Now in 2019, it is Venezuela’s turn for regime change by the US and its allies in country. The pattern is clear.
Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and under his successor Nicolas Maduro tried to institute a government which would share the wealth and benefits of a resource-rich country with all its citizens, with particular attention to the poorest citizens. This is what is dubbed socialism by the US and which is so abhorrent to Trump, his cronies and compatriots in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Is this any surprise? After all, 99.9 percent of the citizens of Venezuela could not afford to enter the door of Mar a Lago and other Trumpian decadent resorts.
As I write (Feb 12, 2019) a coup is underway in Venezuela orchestrated from Washington DC and the Trump administration. The prelude to the coup is the imposition of economic sanctions by the US, on Venezuela going back some two years now. The objective of the sanctions is to make the economy of Venezuela scream and make the country ungovernable. Venezuela is robbed of its assets from the Venezuelan oil company CITGO in the US. This is larceny and a crime by any other name. The sanctions imposed by the US together with the dramatic drop in the price of crude oil, has paralyzed Venezuela and made it practically ungovernable. At present, largely as a result of the sanctions and the drastic fall in oil prices, the situation in Venezuela for most of the population is practically insufferable. Inflation is estimated to be a million percent per annum at the moment. But let there be no doubt; this crisis is manufactured largely in the US with sanctions and economic war. All this is not to deny the shortcomings of the Venezuelan government and corruption within it. These factors are definitely part of the present crisis but undoubtedly the US bears the major part of the responsibility for this economic crisis. The end game, of course, is clear. It is to depose a government which would dare to take the interests and welfare of its most impoverished citizens seriously.
The latest episode in the execution of the coup is the declaration of the leader of the Legislative Assembly in Venezuela, Juan Guaido, on January 23 to be the real President of Venezuela. The optics of his declaration are quite comical, seeing him declare his allegiance to himself whom he elevates to replace the elected President. But the tragic comedy progresses with the US and President Trump recognizing Guaido as the legitimate President of Venezuela. Many other sycophantic rulers of European countries and Canada have followed suit. All one can say is how sad it is that so-called democratic countries have stooped so low in betraying all democratic principles.
There is no doubt that the Maduro regime in Venezuela is guilty of much mismanagement and even corruption in its governance. But it also has to be recognized that it has been hobbled by resistance and obstruction from the elite economic and privileged classes. Add to that the punishing sanctions by the US and you have a picture of why Venezuela is a basket case.
As of this writing, we do not know the final outcome of the crisis in Venezuela. The forces aligned internationally against the Maduro regime are enormous. The Guaido faction is no doubt confident that the US and its allies around the world will facilitate a victory and complete the overthrow of the Maduro regime.
The obvious solution in Venezuela is dialogue between the opposing factions. Guaido might concede to negotiations but with an incalcitrant Trump behind him and egging him on, negotiations seem less likely. Russia, China and Turkey together with Bolivia and Mexico are with Maduro and in favor of a resolution by dialogue. In the end it all comes down to whether US hegemony can be stopped in its tracks or not. It is a tall order to halt the destructive forces of the US, given that they hold all of the proverbial cards: they can keep the country ungovernable with all kinds of sanctions and interventions.
Michael Drohan has been a member of the editorial collective since its inception.
(TMC newspaper VOL. 49 No. 2 March 2019. All rights reserved.)