- Created: Thursday, 23 April 2015 09:42
- Written by Sam McGill
On 9 March, President Obama invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), declaring Venezuela an ‘unusual and extraordinary threat’ to US national security whilst sanctioning seven Venezuelan officials. The act enables Obama to block transactions and freeze the assets of any Venezuelan government entity or official and take steps towards confiscating Venezuelan state property such as the CITGO oil company, which provides subsidised heating oil to poor US citizens.
This executive order will now operate alongside the United States’ covert subversion, military intervention and media vilification, a pattern illustrated in the string of other countries currently subject to IEEPA including Cuba (since 1977), Iran (since 1979), Syria (since 2004) and Russia (since 2014). It is an overt act of aggression against Venezuela. Sam McGill reports.
The last resort
Obama’s decree is the latest in a series of failed attempts to topple the Maduro government following the death of Hugo Chavez two years ago. Despite the subsequent presidential elections receiving widespread validation from international electoral observers including the Organisation of American States (OAS), Obama publicly backed the opposition’s campaign to undermine the election of Nicolas Maduro. When failed presidential candidate Henrique Capriles then instructed his gangs of opposition thugs to ‘drain their rage’, embarking on a week-long rampage of death and destruction, Obama turned a blind eye.
The following year, the US President openly endorsed the opposition’s ‘Exit Strategy’ – an orchestrated campaign of violent street protest in major conurbations, including the capital Caracas, which left 43 dead and saw arson attacks on universities, health clinics, metro stations and buses. The US state department classified the violence as ‘peaceful student protests’ and criticised all arrests and attempts by state forces to halt the bloody street battles as ‘a crackdown on dissidence’. Meanwhile, the 2014 US federal budget openly provided a further $5m to Venezuelan opposition groups, in addition to the $100m channelled into their coffers since 2002.
Most recently, the United States was implicated in the thwarted 12 February 2015 so-called ‘Blue Coup plot’, which would have seen the use of stealth aircraft to bomb the Presidential palace, the pro-government TeleSUR news agency and the Ministry of Defence, amongst other targets. The day before the planned coup, key opposition leaders Maria Corina Machado, Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez published a ‘National Transition Agreement’ calling for the naming of new authorities. A ‘100-day plan’ then emerged, detailing the opposition’s post-coup plans, which included a request for IMF, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank intervention in the Venezuelan economy, and the demand that every Cuban worker and Venezuelan official should surrender to the police. Venezuela’s national security officials discovered the plot, arrested military and opposition leaders and averted the coup.
Evidence of US involvement includes a recording of Carlos Manuel Osuna Saraco, a former deputy Minister of the Interior now based in New York, reading a pre-planned public statement to be issued after the coup. Several phone calls link Antonio Ledezma, who is mayor of Caracas, to Osuna, who is suspected to have been the financier of the failed coup. Other recorded phone calls show that leaders from a number of different opposition parties were briefed on preparations for the coup and had held meetings with US embassy officials.
The Super Tucano stealth aircraft that was to have been used has been traced to the Academi (formerly Blackwater) US private military firm. An air force officer has confessed to being the intended pilot, and identified the planned targets. He said he had been offered asylum by the British embassy if the coup failed. Meanwhile several US embassy personnel are accused of offering bribes to Venezuelan ministers and military officials to participate in the plot. Obama’s response has been to deny any US involvement and cast the arrest of Antonio Ledezma as an attack on ‘legitimate democratic dissent’.
Having failed, therefore, to topple Maduro and his Chavista government through elections, street violence or a coup, Washington is now trying sanctions against Venezuela and the threat of military intervention.
US hypocrisy on human rights
Last year the US issued 105 official statements in support of Venezuelan opposition leaders and accusing the government of violating human rights during opposition street clashes in February 2014. This is a smokescreen to garner domestic and international support for intervention. Venezuela’s attorney general has launched a criminal investigation into any deaths or injuries alleged to be at the hands of state security forces. The majority of the arrested opposition protestors have been released, whilst opposition leaders like Leopoldo Lopez who orchestrated the street violence await trial. US concern for human rights is always hypocritical and self-serving. As President Maduro remarked: ‘Defend the human rights of the black citizens being killed in US cities every day, Mr Obama ... the thousands of people who don’t have a place to sleep and die of cold on the streets of New York, Boston, and Chicago, or those detained in Guantanamo’.
Venezuela poses no threat to US security other than the threat of a good example. As James Petras points out, ‘There are no Venezuelan missiles, fighter planes, warships, Special Forces, secret agents or military bases poised to attack US domestic facilities or its overseas installations. In contrast, the US has warships in the Caribbean, seven military bases just across the border in Colombia manned by over 2,000 US Special Forces, and Air Force bases in Central America.’* What Venezuela does represent is a threat to US imperialism. The alliance between Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution and socialist Cuba has spearheaded regional integration and mutual development in the last decade, leaving the US increasingly isolated in its own ‘backyard’.
- ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Latin America) was founded in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela, posing mutual assistance and co-operation as a direct alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
- PetroCaribe, launched in 2005, allows its 19 member states to purchase subsidised oil from Venezuela under preferential terms; oil can be paid for in cash or through goods and services, with only 60% paid up front and the remaining 40% over 25 years at 1% interest, allowing countries to prioritise development.
- In 2009, UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) Bank of the South was established to provide an alternative to the World Bank and IMF.
- In 2011 Venezuela was the birthplace of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – which consists of every country in the Americas excluding the US and Canada, a counterweight to the US-dominated OAS.
Over 16 years of Bolivarian revolution, Venezuela has supported a regional shift away from neo-liberal domination and supported a wave of anti-imperialist governments in Latin America that are prepared to stand up to US intervention and assert their national sovereignty. It is this regional integration based on mutual co-operation and development that represents a threat to US foreign policy.
Latin America stands united
Petras argues that Obama’s executive order is designed to test the cohesion of this regional integration, ‘to polarise Latin America: to divide and weaken the regional organizations’ whilst also testing the strength of the Bolivarian Revolution, gauging how Venezuela’s military and civilian leaders will respond ‘in order to identify the weak links in the chain of command’. Although the US relies on support from the more conservative governments of Chile, Mexico, Peru and Colombia, Obama’s latest move united Latin American countries. The 33 nations of CELAC unanimously rejected the executive order, alongside ALBA and the 120 nations of the global non-aligned movement. Following an emergency summit convened in Ecuador, UNASUR took the unprecedented step of calling for the derogation of the executive order. Social movements around the world have responded to Venezuela’s international call with large demonstrations in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Spain, China, and Russia.
Meanwhile, Venezuela is taking measures to defend itself. In the days following the decree, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, alongside 20,000 Bolivarian civilian militias, took part in nationwide military drills. On 15 March, thousands thronged Caracas to back the National Assembly’s new enabling law which grants Maduro the power to rule by decree on matters of national security over the next nine months. These civic-military drills and mass mobilisations send out a clear message: any US intervention will be met with resistance. The Bolivarian government has slashed poverty and infant mortality; provided free health care and education for all; built hundreds of thousands of units of social housing; cut unemployment by half and empowered whole communities through popular participatory democracy networks of communal councils and comunas. The Chavista masses and grassroots organisations will not allow these gains to be rolled back without a fight. From facing down the 2002 coup attempt, restarting oil production in the 2003 oil bosses’ strike, uniting against street violence in 2004, 2013 and 2014, and weathering the economic war, Venezuela’s working class and oppressed have proved time and time again that they will defend their revolutionary process.
On 10 and 11 April the real extent of US isolation will become apparent at the OAS Summit of the Americas. Despite the continuing US-Cuba talks, Cuban president Raul Castro has made it clear that ‘the United States must understand once and for all that it is impossible to seduce or buy Cuba, or intimidate Venezuela. Our unity is indestructible. Nor will we concede one iota in the defence of sovereignty and independence, or tolerate any type of interference or conditions on our internal affairs. Nor will we cease to defend just causes in Our America and the world; nor will we ever abandon our brothers in the struggle. We have come to close ranks with Venezuela and ALBA, and reaffirm that principles are not negotiable. To defend these convictions, we will attend the 7th Summit of the Americas. We will present our positions, with firmness, clarity and respect. We will reject with determination any attempt to isolate or threaten Venezuela, and demand a definitive end to the blockade of Cuba.’
The Revolutionary Communist Group stands firmly in solidarity with Venezuela. We must expose the media lies and manipulation, break the media blockade and, in the face of increasing austerity, warmongering and racism in imperialist Britain, spread the word about the historic achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution. Their fight is our fight! Hands off Venezuela!
* James Petras ‘Obama’s War in the Western Hemisphere and Venezuela’s National Liberation Struggle’, Global Research, March 16, 2015.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 244 April/May 2015