By Samukele Hadebe
The continued economic problems in oil-rich Venezuela have been cause for concern, yet nothing had so far, profoundly muddied the political waters like the United States of America’s (USA) recent interference in the country’s internal affairs. We boldly call this an interference because the United State (US) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo phoned the Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaido on 22 January 2019, and on 23 January 2019, Juan Guaido declares himself president, and the US is the first state to recognise him. His treasonous action not only set him on collision with President Nicolas Maduro, but also ignited an international stand-off as well. The USA went further to congratulate and recognise the usurper in an unprecedented, blatant disregard of international law and its diplomatic subtleties, precipitating a dangerous crisis in Venezuela, and perhaps the worst polarisation since the Cold War.
This, in essence, is cause for great concern for the international community.
As would be expected, right wing governments in Brazil and Argentina, as key players in the region, also followed suit; and so did another arch-conspirator, Canada, and the LIMA Group that includes Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. This illegality thrived on the support of France, the United Kingdom (UK), and Israel. Opposed to this violation of Venezuelan sovereignty and international law were Russia, China, Turkey, and South Africa, among some key players – especially in the United Nation (UN) Security Council. Massive protest marches of solidarity and condemnation of the USA’s interference were held in several countries; including those whose governments supported the coup; such as the USA, Canada, and the European Union (EU).
Historical precedents of imperialist interference
It is not the first time that the USA interferes in the affairs of Latin America – and this is unfortunately, likely to continue. In 2002, the right-wing opposition, with full backing from the USA, briefly ousted Hugo Chavez, the then president of Venezuela, who was only restored by the military, following a mass popular mobilisation by mainly the poor citizens. For the record, Chavez survived numerous assassination attempts – even his successor, President Maduro has survived three so far. Nonetheless, both remained unflinching in their commitment to drive socio-economic justice.
Well, since its rise as a superpower, the USA has sponsored regime change, coups, civil wars and destabilisation in many different countries. Some of the countries include Iran, Cuba, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala among the long list.
Destabilising under the guise of democratisation
What is happening in Venezuela is a coup hypocritically sanitised by hostile governments, the western media, and the corporate as an issue of democracy, human rights and free and fair elections. Off course, Venezuela has had its political challenges, which, like most developing economies, are linked to the country’s historical, geographical, and political peculiarities. Usually, the level of socio-economic development of a country and aspects such as economic justice have a bearing on building sustainable institutions for the realisation of democratic practice. Most post-colonial societies have had serious challenges in building sustainable institutions due to historical economic inequalities, underdevelopment and abject poverty.
Indeed, while the socialist project under Chavez reduced poverty by 20%, these social gains were eroded by hard handedness against dissent – either by the media or the opposition. The militarisation of the Venezuelan society did not help matters under weakening democratic institutions and contested electoral outcomes. Venezuela has had a long history of corruption, and the progressive governments of Chavez and Maduro seem not to have done enough to root out this scourge. Falling oil prices (e.g. $100 per barrel in 2014 to under $30 per barrel in 2016) in a country where oil accounts for 98% of export earnings, and where the economic backlash was severe; coupled with a burgeoning debt amidst an inflation of 80 000% led to worsening socio-economic conditions of the majority of the poor citizens, in a country bedeviled by internal and external political problems. This was after the US, EU, Japan, Canada, and Switzerland had imposed sanctions ostensibly for deficits in democracy.
Democracy that is narrowly defined as a periodic conduct of elections is actually meaningless when the majority of the voters continue to live in extreme poverty; are homeless, jobless, and without social security. Unfortunately, a few who have tried to give meaning to the people’s vote by redistributing national wealth, like socialist-oriented Venezuela, under both Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, have often fallen foul with imperialist interests in Venezuela’s oil resources.
Venezuela, like Cuba or Iran, has suffered destabilising economic sanctions from the USA and its allies. By undermining the economic stability of Venezuela through sanctions, the calculated effect was political instability and a weakened state. It is under the conditions of economic strangulation and sabotage that some Western powers throw in the democratisation agenda to sow seeds of doubt on the legitimacy of the otherwise elected government. They shamelessly knight their lapdog, Juan Guaido, as the ‘‘face of democratic restoration’’, yet subverting the Venezuelan people’s democratic choice.
The menace of right-wing resurgence
All peace-loving world citizens should be concerned with this resurgence of the far right, fascist and xenophobic parties that are taking over governments and tilting the international balance of forces against the working class. More worrying is the enormous economic and politico-militarily power at the disposal of these war mongers who pose a serious threat to world peace. It is in this context that these attempts to usurp and subject Venezuela and her rich oil reserves to a neoliberal dispensation should be met with fierce resistance.
It is, therefore, crucial for the working class and other progressive forces to decisively stop this right-wing resurrection scourge. Today it could be Venezuela that is under onslaught – but no one knows which country is next in these regime change merchants. It therefore, takes courage for governments to act in order to curtail this imperialist siege of Venezuela – rather than just merely condemning the actions of these imperialists. Unless this pestilence of counter-revolution, as is currently playing out in Venezuela is crushed and consigned to the dustbin of history, the future of humanity remains to be at risk.