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Naked Imperialism

Barely one in five Venezuelans knows who Juan Guaidó is. His newly minted international supporters have trouble pronouncing his name. Yet that is the man whom the Donald Trump administration wants to make President of Venezuela – by any means necessary.  White House national security adviser John Bolton has already floated a trial balloon of “5,000 troops to Colombia.”

What is the Trump administration up to in Venezuela and why? This Fox Business headline (January 24, 2019) says it all: “Venezuela regime change big business opportunity: John Bolton.” A frank admission, isn’t it? The late Hugo Chávez re-nationalized his country’s oil industry, in order to use its profit for the benefit of the working class of Venezuela first and foremost, rather than multinational corporations and their capitalist owners. Putting people before profit is an unpardonable sin in the eyes of true believers in the holy spirit of capitalism, of whom there are too many inside the beltway, and they have been plotting to overthrow the Chavistas ever since.

According to Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal, right-wing activists like Guaidó have been well schooled in the art of regime change, courtesy of “a staggering $40-50 million a year from US government organizations like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy.” Then came the end of the Fed’s “quantitative easing” in 2014 and the consequent decline in oil prices, which caused increasing economic difficulties for the Venezuelan government. The declining oil revenues created a more favorable terrain for right-wing activists than before, but that alone was not enough to put them into power: none of the right-wing leaders enjoys more than “20%” support in opinion polls in Venezuela.

“Make the Economy Scream”

Hence the Trump administration’s decision to inflict new financial sanctions on Venezuela in 2017, to make sure that the country won’t benefit from any oil price recovery, and its ongoing attempt to establish an oil embargo against it. The plan is to“make the economy scream,” as Richard Nixon did to organize a coup against Salvador Allende.

Francisco Rodríguez, a Venezuelan economist and vocal opponent of Nicolás Maduro, demonstrates that the Trump administration’s "Executive Order 13.808” (issued on August 25, 2017), barring US persons from “providing new financing to the Venezuelan government or PDVSA,” has pushed Venezuela’s oil production into "free-fall.” Left-wing political analyst Joe Emersberger estimates, based on Rodríguez’s work, that Trump’s economic sanctions have cost Venezuela $6 billion since August 2017.  Former UN rapporteur Alfred de Zayas says that the US sanctions against Venezuela are killing people and should be investigated as “possible crimes against humanity.”

The US oil embargo, imposed just now, is reportedly designed to “block $7 billion in assets and result in $11 billion in export losses over the next year for Venezuela’s government.” As a matter of fact, the State Department has already “given” Guaidó the “right to control assets and property in the United States bank accounts of the government of Venezuela.

But who has “given” the State Department the “right” to commit daylight robbery? Certainly not the people of Venezuela: 86% of Venezuelans oppose military intervention and 81% are against economic sanctions too. However, as Bolton makes clear, what interests the Trump administration is not people but profit – above all, “a new national hydrocarbons law that establishes flexible fiscal and contractual terms” (no doubt better for the bottom lines of US oil companies) that Guaidó promised them.

Speak Up, Act Up, Against US Imperialism

In Congress, opponents to Trump’s naked imperialism are few and far between. Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna, and Tulsi Gabbard are notable vocal exceptions. For example, challenging the party establishment, Khanna tweeted: “With respect Senator Durbin, the US should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal, polarized conflict. Let us support Uruguay, Mexico, & the Vatican's efforts for a negotiated settlement & end sanctions that are making the hyperinflation worse.” With more force and clarity, Omar tweeted: “Trump's new sanctions on Venezuela are nothing more than economic sabotage designed to force regime change by starving the very people we claim to be helping. We must lift these, & other sanctions impacting Venezuela's poor, & support dialogue between the opposition & government.” We need to challenge other Democrats, beginning with those who claim to be “democratic socialists,” to similarly speak up against and take concrete actions to end the Venezuela sanctions.

What can we do for Venezuela in Columbus, Ohio? We invite all concerned activists to Free Press Second Saturday Salon (1021 E. Broad St., Columbus, Ohio 43205) on Saturday, February 9, 2019, 7:30 pm to join us and discuss what is to be done.

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