U.S. Has No Standing to Counsel Venezuela About Democracy


Dan Kovalik

Human and labor rights lawyer

Source: HuffPost

On the very day that the U.S Senate failed but again to raise the minimum wage for U.S. workers, the Venezuelan government announced that it would be raising wages for workers there by 30 percent. This raise will go a long way to allowing workers’ pay to keep up with inflation — a key concern cited by the opposition to justify recent protests. In addition, the Venezuelan government just announced a new initiative to vaccinate 3 million children with ten different vaccinations.

In short, contrary to claims by President Obama that the Venezuelan government is somehow not “addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people,” it is in fact doing so in an expeditious manner. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress continues to be addled by partisan deadlock and dysfunction, at least when it comes to doing anything affirmative for American workers. And, this is quite predictable in light of the recent Princeton study which shows that, if the U.S. were ever a democracy, it is now an oligarchy where the extreme rich almost invariably get their way in the political realm.

At the same time, Obama has admitted that he is “working behind the scenes with our international partners” in Venezuela to promote “the same rights and freedoms as people throughout the Americas.”

Curious whether, when Obama says this, he is talking about the “rights and freedoms” enjoyed by those in Honduras who, after the U.S.-sanctioned military coup there in 2009, are suffering some of the worst human rights violations in the world. Thus, Honduras has the worst peace-time murder rate in the world. What’s more, “Human Rights Watch also puts Honduras on top of its list of countries with the most rampant crime and impunity for human rights abuses.” Meanwhile, the official police forces of Honduras act as death squads, which carry out summary murders. Still, as well-expressed by Politico in an article entitled, “The Thugocracy Next Door,” the U.S. has continued to give huge military assistance to Honduras as well as legitimacy to the 2009 coup.

Query whether Obama was also thinking about the “rights and freedoms” of the U.S.’s own citizens in his admission about his meddling in Venezuela. Specifically, was he thinking about the just-released report excoriating the U.S. for having the largest incarcerated population in the world. Thus, this report explains that the U.S., while only having 5 percent of the world’s population, holds 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, mostly for non-violent offenses. Moreover, as a continuing remnant of slavery, the prisoners in the U.S. are disproportionately black, and are forced to work for next to nothing, making profits both for the prisons themselves as well as for the corporations which utilize their cheap labor. Indeed, there are more black men in jail now than slaves in 1850.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, in a little-told story, the Chavista government has worked hard to address the legacy of slavery in that country and to help lift up Afro-Venezuelans — a community largely forgotten and ignored before Chavez came to power in 1999. As one Venezuelan commentator, Jesús Chucho García, recently wrote in explaining why Afro-Venezuelan communities have not participating in the recent protests against the government:

In these 15 years of the Bolivarian process, afro-descendant Venezuelans have been dignified in an unprecedented way in Venezuelan history… Before, the land of afro communities was in the hands of latifundistas and agrarian bourgeoisie. One the worst cases of discrimination was reflected in the Farriar municipality, where Cuban supporters of Batista, with the help of the [pre-Chavez] government, dispossessed thousands of hectares of ancestral land, including Cañizos, Palo Quemao, Farriar, Palmarejo, and El Chino. Numerous witnesses tell of how the Batista supporters hired armed bands to assault community inhabitants at night, threatening them and burning their cane crops. This lead to persecutions, and a youth was murdered when people protested these events. When Chavez arrived, on an episode of “Alo, President” filmed in Palmarejo, he declared himself afro-descendant, and handed over 11 thousand hectares along with agriculture credits, and decreed the land communal property of the afro-descendants of Yaracuy…
Jesús Chucho García goes on to explain how Chavez returned thousands of hectares of land to Afro-Venezuelans in other regions, such as Barlovento.

Of course, when Obama says that he is working behind the scenes in Venezuela with the U.S.’s international partners, he means that, among others, he is working with the very forces who dispossessed the Afro-Venezuelans to begin with and with those who would like to see the Afro-Venezuelans disenfranchised once more. And, that is why the U.S.’s friends in Venezuela have recently engaged in over 160 attacks on the Cuban doctors who are in Venezuela to serve the poor of Venezuela, including the Afro-Venezuelan community.

In short, the U.S. which has its own, profound democracy deficit, is working with reactionary forces in Venezuela to force it back to the bad old days when the poor and racial minorities lived under the thumb of Venezuela’s rich oligarchy. If the U.S. gets its way in Venezuela, it will prove but again Eduardo Galeano’s point that “[e]very time the U.S. ‘saves’ a country, it converts it into a cemetery or a madhouse.” God save Venezuela, and the rest of the world, from that fate.



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