Posts Tagged ‘Hugo Chavez’

The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”

October 12, 2018

 

 

“If the US attacks Venezuela from Colombia it will initiate a “war of 100 years, and this war will extend to the entire continent.”

President Hugo Chavez Frias (Nov. 2009)

William Camacaro / Frederick B. Mills

Year of the Americas: Venezuela in the crosshairs

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis began his trip to South America on August 13th to “exchange strategic perspectives” with senior defense counterparts in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia. This trip follows a series of Latin America tours by high level Trump administration officials all aimed at making 2018 the “Year of the Americas”Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited in February 2018; Vice President Penceattended the Eighth Summit of Americas in April and returned for a Latin America tour in JuneSecretary of State Mike Pompeo went in July; and US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, visited Central America in February and Colombia just last week.

A major focus of senior US official tours to Latin America this year has been to discuss ways to increase pressure on Venezuela with the aim of bringing down the government. Regime change in Venezuela is presumably in accord with the “freedom model” advanced by the White House. The content of this model, supposedly exemplified by Colombia,  claims to champion democracy throughout the Americas, yet this content was not democratically determined. Moreover, the “year of the Americas,” having been largely made in the USA, did not emerge from a consensus of all those in the hemisphere whose everyday lives would be impacted by it. These contradictions are important issues because the “freedom model” threatens to impose unbridled neoliberalism throughout the region by any means necessary.

In this latest high level visit, Secretary of Defense Mattis arrived in Brazil just one week after an assassination attempt by opposition extremists against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.  If the drone attack had been successful, it could have also eliminated many of the leaders of other state institutions and decimated the military high command, generating the intended chaos and leaving a political void in the country. A “transitional” opposition government already waiting in the wings in Bogota and Miami would have probably acted quickly to fill this void and swear in a provisional government. With prompt endorsement from the US-NATO alliance and its regional partners in the Lima Group, such a provisional government could then have called for an international mission to deal with an urgent “humanitarian crisis.” While this and various other possible plans for regime change are a matter of speculation, there is no doubt attacks on the Venezuelan state are still underway in Caracas: Venezuela is under siege.

Such a terrorist attack in the Western Hemisphere should have evoked a strong condemnation by the White House, however, Washington’s antipathy towards Caracas appears to have muted any such concerns. This refusal of the Trump administration to take an unequivocal stand against political assassination, even in the case of an attack on a perceived adversary, does not bode well for regional peace and security, nor for the rule of law, in this self declared “year of the Americas.”

Although Washington has denied any US involvement in this terrorist attack on the Venezuelan state, according to AP, “President Donald Trump reportedly floated the idea of invading Venezuela to both senior administration officials and world leaders multiple times in the past year.” Trump also met with several Latin American leaders, and floated the same idea, but was unable to garner support at the time. Washington’s outspoken support for regime change and President Trump’s contemplation of military intervention may have been perceived by opposition hardliners as giving the green light to such conspiracies to overthrow the government in Caracas.

Some historical context may help explain, but not justify, Washington’s tepid response to the assassination attempt in Caracas and its call for regime change in this South American nation. For two decades the US has backed the Venezuelan opposition drive to undermine, first President Chavez, who was elected president in December of 1998,  and now Maduro, who was first elected President in April 2013, following the death of Chavez on March 5, 2013. A short lived coup against Chavez in April 2002, followed by an oil strike, and then a recall referendum, all failed to unseat Chavez. And more recently, opposition protests, a US led effort in the OAS to isolate Venezuela, an escalating economic war, several foiled coup plots, and now an assassination attempt against Maduro, have also failed to bring the current Venezuelan government to its knees.

On May 20, despite intense pressure from the US and Lima Group to postpone presidential elections in Venezuela, Maduro was re-elected with 68% of the vote and 48% participation. The election had been boycotted by a majority of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) as part of an effort to delegitimize the electoral process. This effort was somewhat undermined, however, by the participation of opposition party Avanzada Progresista candidate, Henri Falcon, as well as Evangelical candidate, Javier Bertucci, who both ran against Maduro despite pleas from Washington and the MUD to withdraw from the contest. The election was arguably a victory for Maduro, having brought out a significant, though historically smaller percentage of the electorate, despite the MUD boycott and threats of dire consequences from the empire should voters go to the polls.

Why the adversarial relationship between Washington and Caracas for the past two decades? It is not just about the control of natural resources, though Venezuela does have some of the largest proven oil reserves in the world and is rich in minerals, including gold. The Bolivarian revolution has posed a challenge to US hegemony in the region since the election of Chavez in 1998 because it has been the principle catalyst for Latin American independence and integration and has promoted a multipolar world. Moreover, Venezuela has been in the forefront of the formation of regional bodies, such as ALBA, CELAC, and UNASUR, that do not include the United States. These associations had begun to shift the center of gravity for decisions concerning the fate of regional economics and politics from the Global North to the peoples of the Americas, giving political space to progressive governments that have sought alternatives to the so called Washington Consensus.  That Venezuela led the way for this seismic shift in regional politics, which has recently undergone setbacks, is something Washington has not and apparently will not pardon.

There are  several important indicators that preparation for a possible international military intervention in Venezuela is underway. There has been an increase in military exercises coordinated by US Southern Command. Recent press reports reveal that President Trump has been contemplating an invasion of Venezuela. And there is an intensifying right wing lobby in Washington against the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba; as well as open calls by some US policy makers for a military coup in Caracas.

It is clear that for Washington regime change in Venezuela is now a top priority.

But why the hurry to topple Maduro? It could be that the US seeks to bring about regime change in Venezuela before the progressive government elect of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) in Mexico takes office in December. AMLO has already declared Mexico would pursue a foreign policy based on respect for the sovereignty of member nations. He is also committed to using dialogue as a means of resolving differences within and among nation states. As AMLO states clearly: “Nothing by force; everything by using reason.” Such a non-interventionist stance would strengthen the discourse within the Organization of American States (OAS) in favor of diplomacy over coercion as well as dilute the anti-Bolivarian influence of the Lima Group in which Mexico has been a major player. It would then not be so easy for the US to patch together a coalition of the willing to impose regime change in Venezuela.

Another consideration for Washington and its allies in the region is the popular push back against neoliberal reforms and corruption in Argentina, Peru and Brazil. This push back may soon intensify and make it increasingly difficult for the US to put together a coalition of the willing to invade Venezuela. The balance of forces can change at any moment given the vulnerability of these key US partners in the region. The entire continent is a pressure cooker.

If the US and its “coalition of the willing” in the region were rash enough to deploy a military option against Venezuela, it would likely meet fierce resistance from the popular sectors and the civic–military alliance built by Chavez to defend the Bolivarian Republic against such an eventuality. As Chavez once declared, “in the face of an invasion by the most powerful country on earth, we will disperse, we will become earth, air, water, and we will wage a war of resistance.” These words still have currency in Venezuela today. For despite the present hardships and  growing discontent with the economic crisis, polls indicate that the large majority of Venezuelans oppose the sanctions and outside military intervention and prefer dialogue over civil conflict.

An invasion of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela could have unintended but tragically foreseeable consequences for Venezuela’s neighbors. Most immediately, it could ignite a rapid escalation and spread of the armed conflict that is still underway in Colombia and thereby further undermine the Colombian peace accords signed in 2016, an accord which is already coming apart.

An attack on Venezuela would also likely provoke an intensification of repression and resistance in Argentina, where President Mauricio Macri, on the heels of new agreements with the IMF, last month issued a decree for the military to “collaborate in internal security.” In Argentina, this ominous measure has evoked memories of the role of the Argentine military during the dirty war (1976-1983) that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives.

The involvement of Brazil in a US led intervention in Venezuela could lead to increased protests against the unpopular Brazilian President, Michel Temer, who was brought to power in a parliamentary coup. Temer is now facing growing opposition from grassroots movements as well as an electoral challenge by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

These considerations suggest that the relentless US backed assault on Venezuela will not enhance the cause of freedom and democracy in the region and may instead, in the case of some nations, provoke escalating civil conflict, when politics and dialogue ought to prevail.

Colombia exemplifies the “freedom model”

If advancing the cause of regime change in Venezuela, followed by Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Cuba is the proposed destructive part of “the year of the Americas” what is the constructive part? US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, visited Colombia last week to celebrate the inauguration of the right wing president elect Iván Duque. On August 4, in an article for the Miami Herald, Haley declared: “It’s time for Maduro to go” and held up Colombia as an example of the advancement of the “freedom model”:

“Colombia is increasingly embracingthe freedom model. Colombia has democracy, economic growth, and respect for human rights. The freedom model is the future, both in the Americas and worldwide. It produces stable societies, not to mention good strategic partners for the United States.”

In this statement Colombia is portrayed as paradigmatic of the “freedom model” for the “year of the Americas.” If this is the case, the model is not very encouraging with regard to “respect for human rights.” The death threats against thousands of activists across the country are far from idle. Since January 1, 2016, 336 community leaders and human rights defenders have been murdered in Colombia. As Amnesty International points out, these atrocities have continued, even in the aftermath of a peace treaty between the government and the FARC, with the “silent complicity of the government elect.”

This South American nation is also suffering violence by a number of groups– paramilitaries, leftist guerillas, narco-traffickers, and the military– all of which are competing for control of territory and resources. According to the UNHCR, the violence has resulted in the massive internal displacement of 7,671,124 citizens. In a recent report, this UN agencyalso noted “an increase in murders of, and threats against, human rights defenders and community leaders in the Pacific Coast region. In most cases, the victims are from indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.” Advancing democracy and human rights in the present climate then, will not be easy. President Duque will be dealing not only with an insurgency, an assassination campaign against community leaders, and a growing narcotics trade, but what Insight Crime recently described asthe establishment of “criminal organizations within state institutions.”

During her visit to Colombia, Ambassador Haley also visited the Colombian-Venezuelan border, denouncing the government of Venezuela and drawing attention to the plight of Venezuelan immigrants in Colombia and their need for material assistance. There has been little coverage, however, of the increasing xenophobia against these immigrants, many of whom are Colombian citizensDuring the first six months of 2018, 99 of 114 reported foreign homicide victims in Colombia have been Venezuelan, and 18 of 21 suicides by foreigners are reportedly also Venezuelan. So Venezuelan immigrants need more protection as well as material assistance.

As the US pledges 9 million to Colombia to aid Venezuelan immigrants, it tightens the stranglehold on the Venezuelan economy through a series of ever more stringent sanctions, exacerbating the very economic crisis which generates such emigration. Sanctions have triggered the freezing of billions in Venezuelan assets, including more than1.65 billion dollars which the Maduro administration maintains had been slated for the purchase of food and medicine. It is clear that sanctions not only target government officials; they hurt Venezuelan citizens as well.

One way the US can help the Venezuelan consumer is not only to remove the crippling economic sanctions, but also to denounce the constant flow of contraband Venezuelan gasoline, food and medicine into Colombia. More than 25 thousands liters of Venezuelan gasoline is smuggled into Colombia every day, as well as tons of contraband Venezuelan subsidized food. These items fetch much higher prices in Colombia than in Venezuela, despite the soaring inflation in Venezuela’s ailing markets. Dealing in contraband enriches Colombian and Venezuelan mafias, small time smugglers, and corrupt officials on both sides of the border, while aggravating food shortages and the economic crisis inside Venezuela. Venezuela’s ambitious economic recovery plan, the prospects for which are presently the subject of much heated debate, is in part aimed at derailing this illegal gravy train. If the plan meets with even moderate success, it could save billions in lost annual revenue and put some of these mafias out of business.

The “year of the Americas” is not likely to bring peace and prosperity to the region any time soon if Colombia is taken as a prime example of the “freedom model.” Colombia is host to seven US military bases that now threaten the peace and security of the entire region. As mentioned above, it is no secret that the Trump administration contemplates a military invasion of Venezuela and some Venezuelan opposition hardliners join Washington’s call for the Venezuelan military to overthrow the elected government. Moreover, Colombian territory serves as a base of operations for a “transitional” Venezuelan government as well as a safe haven for conspiracy against Caracas. Finally, President Duque has announced that Colombia, which now enjoys NATO “global partnership” status, will soon withdraw from UNASUR, a move that would deal a serious blow to the union’s mission of advancing regional independence and cooperation.

No to war. Yes to regional peace, dialogue, and cooperation

The last time President Trump floated the idea of invading Venezuela, his cabinet did not go along. And despite advice from his inner circle not to bring the issue up among regional allies, he did so anyway, and at the time, regional allies baulked at the idea.  But times have changed. With Uribista President Iván Duque at the helm in Colombia, the outcome of any similar deliberation is less certain. To be sure, given the possible catastrophic consequences of a military option for all nations involved, Secretary Mattis might hear some serious reservations from some of his defense counterparts during his South America tour this week. The outcome of these meetings is uncertain. The specter of Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen as well as the insurgencies of the 1980s and 90s in Central America should suggest caution to the interlocutors.

Progressive forces around the world ought not be mere bystanders as the future of the Americas hangs in the balance. It is still possible to resist the spread of perpetual war and a permanent state of exception to the Western Hemisphere. The imposition of necropolitics from the North in the name of democracy and freedom can never gain democratic legitimacy among the sovereign peoples of the Americas. After five hundred years of subjugation and exploitation, millions in the Global South can finally see their way forward toward building a new world, a world in which all human beings can live and grow in community and in harmony with the earth’s ecosystems. Approaching this goal may be a long way off. And in practice, every project will have its limitations and even reversals. But it is ethically impossible for hegemonic consensus to be built around models imposed from outside by the colonizer. The protagonists of economic and social transformation in Venezuela and beyond must be the constituents themselves. It is up to people of the Americas, not Washington, nor the European Union, nor the agents of empire in the OAS, to construct their own models to advance a politics of liberation.


Originally published on Couterpunch.

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Take Action Today to Support Venezuela’s Democracy

May 5, 2017

Democrat and Republican senators have introduced a bill to further disrupt Venezuela’s political system with the goal of imposing regime change. We support Pope Frances’ call for dialogue between “ the government and all the components of the Venezuelan society so that every further form of violence is avoided, human rights are respected and negotiated solutions are sought to the humanitarian, social, political and economic crises, which are exhausting the people.” Please write a letter to your two Senators telling them to keep their Hands off Venezuela!

You can automatically send a letter by clicking here.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced a destabilization bill in the Senate in the guise of a humanitarian response to the economic and political crisis Venezuela is confronting. The purpose of the bill is neither to help solve Venezuela’s economic crisis, nor to help bring violent elements in the opposition to the table to discuss peaceful solutions to Venezuela’s problems.

Its purpose is to further destabilize Venezuela’s economy and democracy in order to remove elected President Nicolas Maduro and to crush Hugo Chavez’ Bolivarian Movement which brought hope of a better life to millions around the world. If Senators were serious about responding to a humanitarian crisis they would concentrate their attention on Haiti which is still suffering neglect after the deadly earthquake of 2009. Or concentrate on Honduras which suffered a military coup in 2009 followed by a faux election in which the democratic opposition was not allowed to campaign under a State of Emergency. Honduras’ 2013 election was marred by widespread cheating and the victor of that “election” is this year running for reelection without even changing the constitutional ban on reelection.

Instead, Senators are focused on Venezuela where the government lost 80% of revenue in recent years due to low oil prices and where former US President Jimmy Carter himself said that Venezuela has the best electoral system of any country he has monitored.

We have to call our Senators on their gross hypocrisy. Regardless of whether we agree on all the steps the Venezuelan government has taken to confront the two crises, we can agree that the US government does not have the best interests of Venezuelans at heart. We can agree that no act of the US government to intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs will improve the lives of Venezuelans. We defend the national sovereignty of all countries and oppose US intervention in the sovereign affairs of our neighboring countries and demand US Hands Off Venezuela!

Click here to send a letter to your Senators.

Background: What is in Senate bill S-1018?

Regime change in Venezuela has been official US government policy throughout the regimes of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump. The US has used its arsenal of regime change tools short of directly sending in military troops. The US has attempted to demonize first President Hugo Chavez and now his successor Nicolas Maduro. The US has implemented economic warfare to “make the economy scream” – as Henry Kissinger said when the US  worked toward regime change in Chile. The US has spent tens of millions of dollars to fund the Venezuelan opposition, including the factions of it that seek the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected government.

Some of the highlights of bill S-1018 are:

*The bill claims there are 108 political prisoners, naming a number of opposition leaders including some found responsible for deaths during the violent demonstrations following the 2015 presidential election won by President Maduro.
*While US-dominated financial institutions block international loans to Venezuela, the bill reverses the reality and “Calls on Venezuelan President Maduro to permit humanitarian assistance, immediately release all political prisoners, and seek assistance from international financial institutions.”
*The bill authorizes $10 million for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide “humanitarian assistance” which is code for funding the opposition, including the violent opposition.
* It backs OAS General Secretary Almagro’s campaign to invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela as a means to directly intervene to allegedly “restore democracy.” Almagro’s campaign has failed to pass the OAS General Assembly and has resulted in Venezuela’s announcement to withdraw its membership from the OAS.

 

* The bill “Authorizes $500,000 to support future OAS election observation missions and $9.5 million for democratic civil society organizations working to defend human rights.” In effect, this means funding opposition parties in an OAS-controlled future Venezuela national election when in fact Venezuela’s electoral process is more tamper-proof than that of the US, therefore needing no international monitoring.
* Calls for a report on the “involvement of Venezuelan government officials in corruption and the illicit drug trade,” and calls for US sanctions which could be used as a tool to exclude Chavista leaders from international meetings and from running in future elections.

 

Act now to send a message to your Senators to keep their Hands Off Venezuela!

Media Wars: The Role of the Left When Venezuela’s Imperfect Revolution is Under Attack

May 24, 2016
March 10, 2013 hundreds of people marched through Times Square. Manhattan to celebrate the legacy of President Hugo Chavez in an action organized by the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of New York. Five days after his death.

March 10, 2013 hundreds of people marched through Times Square. Manhattan to celebrate the legacy of President Hugo Chavez in an action organized by the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of New York. Five days after his death.

by Tamara Pearson-Venezuelanalysis.com

One of my deepest reasons for respecting Chavez was his way of speaking sin pelos en la lengua – without hairs on his tongue – directly, clearly, unafraid of admitting to problems, challenges, and his own humanity, right down to his toilet needs. He said the hard things, he stood up to the media attacks with sincere and pointed questions rather than abuse. He was known for talking a lot because there was a lot to be done and it had to be discussed in depth, not superficially. That is what we need to do too, especially right now.

As the right wing and the rich, conservative, boring white men elites make some painful gains in Latin America, and as Venezuela’s sifrinos (brats, or privileged conservative kids) call for coups and burn medicine facilities, the English language mass media has suddenly been uncovering an apocalypse of dying babies, caused of course, by socialism.

Over the last week or so we’ve seen Dying Infants and No Medicine: Inside Venezuela’s Failing Hospitals from the New York Times, Radical tourists have been deluded pimps for Venezuela from the Guardian, In Venezuela, God Does Not Provide from the New York Times, Congratulations to Bolivarian Socialism: Venezuela Is Now the Country with no Coke from Forbes (which doesn’t seem like such a bad thing really, but the article of course blames the “idiot economic policy” of Chavismo), ‘We are like a bomb’: food riots show Venezuela crisis has gone beyond politics from the Guardian, and more.

The articles blame it all on Chavismo, socialism and Maduro, without bothering to reference any context or to recognise that the rightwing have some power and therefore a level of responsibility in Venezuela now. Nor do they care to admit that like all countries, Venezuela’s economic situation has structural, economic and historical causes. There’s also the minor detail that things were consistently improving in Venezuela, right up until the time when Chavez got sick and the right wing went on the offensive.

Then there are oil prices, what I see as some serious mistakes by Maduro, the role of the grassroots and workers (which of course the media is utterly oblivious to), and more. And the likes of Nick Casey working for the New York Times, going around finding dislocated sad stories, without noticing anything else, and without being aware of the politics behind the drama: for instance, that the hospital he wrote about as falling apart is actually run by the right wing.

Not to mention that the media’s manufactured apocalypse claims to show that socialism doesn’t work, but increasingly disgusting, genocidal global inequality doesn’t seem to show that capitalism doesn’t work.

Those in solidarity with Venezuela, who also need it for hope and inspiration, may feel tempted to counter all this by recalling the gains of the revolution, by noting the wonderful things that are still blooming despite it all, by reiterating the role of imperialism and by saying things like “Venezuelans aren’t going hungry.” And while most of that is fair enough and useful, it’s not the whole truth. Some Venezuelans are going hungry (but not starving). The majority of people in Venezuela have spent around three years now stressing on a daily basis about obtaining a variety of basic foods. It’s important to recognise that, in order not to deny the suffering of the very people the left is meant to be in solidarity with.

The best way to counter the media war on Venezuela is to do what they don’t do: offer in depth, contextualised, critical coverage that helps people who aren’t there to understand what is going on and to learn from an extremely complex and difficult situation that a revolution under attack is facing. Many on the left feel it’s not their place to “judge” the government and grassroots, which makes sense, yet to not talk about the problems also means contributing to a distorted picture. We can grow out of mistakes and failures but only if we understand them – and that sort of criticism is something that many in Venezuela, doing the hard work, are actually craving.

The point of this isn’t to say that people on the left lack discussion about the situation in Venezuela, or that the response is always denial, because it isn’t. Rather, I want to emphasise the political importance of a critical understanding over a romanticised one of the revolution. And the importance of this in any public response to attacks.

To do otherwise is to lose touch with people and their reality and needs. Without a complete understanding of the reality, it is hard to defend it properly. A critical analysis is necessary to learning, and to being the trusted and respected authority on the situation. Otherwise, that space is ceded to others, and in the absence of holistic information, rumours spread and people make up their own truths, or stop reading or listening altogether.

And in this analysis, the views of foreign academics who can really dissect the forces at play, are important, but not enough. No amount of books completely prepares people for the intricacies of organising a communal council, for the real life obstacles to making a commune work, for the psychology of insecurity, for the complex institutional funding networks, for the many layers and sides of bureaucracy. Those who have been fighting this hard fight in Venezuela for fifteen years or more should have more of a platform in the media, and in left forums, and should be taken much more seriously. Though many don’t have PhDs, their experience on the ground, their 15 years or more of elevated political consciousness and having daily political arguments in trains, on the streets, and in pubs, means their political acumen is vast. They are the ones in a position to point out if they are hungry or not, as well as tell us what the situation really is.

Venezuelan alternative media activist Jessica Pernia said she feels angry at both the private media coverage and the way some on the left are responding to it, though she focused her comments to me on the media situation inside of Venezuela.

“On the one hand we have a media platform consumed by war propaganda, and on the other side, the media is consumed by administration propaganda – a kind of ferocious wolf and innocent and naïve red riding hood.”

It’s a choice, she elaborated, between the “cocaine media” of NTN24, CNN, or Spain’s ABC, and Venezuela’s public media which depicts “a country of delightful things”. The private media has “very specialised technology, that makes it almost impossible to counter their lies and answer back”.

“It makes you angry,” Pernia said, adding that she would like to see a “committed and critically informative option”. The lack of this, she argued, causes people to be disinterested in media altogether.

“And imagine, the best option, lately, is Globovision,” she says.

The television channel, which once supported the 2002 coup, has changed a lot over the last few years, especially with new management. “Apparently neutral, their programs host a range of critical intellectuals that build bridges between the government and the opposition parties,” Pernia said.

Talking about the grassroots needing to make better political decisions, she stressed, “I think that everything can be reversed, even though sometimes the defeats hit us flat in the face. I’m also certain of the huge amount of effort by organisations, collectives, and maybe competent institutions”.

Tamara Pearson is a long time journalist on Latin America, and author of The Butterfly Prison.

Statement on the Neoliberal Offensive Against the Bolivarian Revolution

May 3, 2016

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Bolivarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera”

Statement on the Neoliberal Offensive Against the Bolivarian Revolution

May 2, 2016

The Bolivarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera” calls on progressive forces in the United States to stand with the sovereign peoples of Latin America against the US backed right wing offensive in the region. Now is the moment for mobilization, for uniting individual initiatives, and for overcoming sectarian divisions. This corporate offensive is going to impact the entire hemisphere, including the plight of the poor and workers in the United States. It would impose an ambitious and aggressive free trade regime, driving wages down even further and devastating ecosystems. The situation is urgent. In a matter of days President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff may be impeached under pretext of corruption. Last week, a recall referendum was initiated by the Venezuelan opposition in the midst of an economic war, to remove President Maduro from office and put an end to the Chavista project. And just five months into his first term, right wing President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, has already imposed ruthless austerity measures and ceded to the demands of the vulture funds.

All of these attacks are an expression of the New Washington Consensus which posits neoliberalism, and its flagship, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as the only acceptable economic model for the Americas, from Ottawa to Santiago. According to this imperial rationality the Consensus must be forced down the throats of  non-compliant states in the name of democracy and freedom for their peoples. In the aftermath of the signing of the TPP in Auckland, New Zealand two months ago, oligarchic interests in the region are eager to comply and have rapidly stepped up their efforts to reverse the pink tide in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. This conservative tide also aims at the curtailment of the growing economic partnerships forged by the BRICS as well as the termination of complementary trade arrangements of ALBA and PetroCaribe. The BRICS, ALBA, and PetroCaribe promote the diversification of commercial ties and a multipolar, as opposed to a unipolar world. These associations have the potential to pose a challenge to the dominance of a TPP trading block. Such associations therefore stand in the way of the expansion of the TPP and the restoration of US hegemony in its proverbial “backyard”.

This New Washington Consensus is the antithesis of the Bolivarian project. The Bolivarian revolution is a continent wide movement with its historic roots in the independence struggle against Spain. Over the past seventeen years, the Bolivarian project has advanced regional integration and independence in order that the sovereign peoples of the Americas could develop, each in their own way, alternative democratic paths to social and economic justice.  As a result, more than a decade of left and left leaning governments have defied the neoliberal gospel and taken control of their own natural resources, lifting millions of people out of poverty, recognizing a measure of autonomy of Indigenous and Afro-descendant nations, and experimenting with more participatory forms of democracy.

These progressives alternatives, in terms of their ideals, do not conform to the the inner logic of the global capital system, and they call the moral superiority of US exceptionalism into question.  The very existence of the Bolivarian revolution, the Citizens revolution, the communal councils, and the Pluri-national state, demonstrates that history did not end in 1989.  Nor is it written in stone that the progressive cycle is nearing its end. Though still in the grip of global capital and in some cases over-dependent on extractive industry, these Bolivarian alternatives nevertheless demonstrate that there are other feasible economic and social paths forward, ones that seek a departure from the totality of the prevailing system, ones that take into account the constituent power of the sovereign peoples themselves, ones that include Indigenous and Afro-descendant voices.

The main target right now of the New Washington Consensus and its right wing allies in the region is Venezuela, which despite the economic crisis and the opposition’s victory in the December 6 legislative elections, is still the main point of reference for the Bolivarian cause.  For it was Hugo Chavez, backed by popular power, who developed the associations of Latin American and Caribbean integration: CELAC, UNASUR, ALBA, and PetroCaribe, all of which exclude the US and Canada. And it was Chavez who led the resistance to the proliferation of free trade agreements in the region. This may be one of the main reasons for Washington’s continued hostility towards Caracas.

It is important to place the bellicose posture of US policy towards Venezuela in a historical context. Washington has never been prepared to recognize the democratic legitimacy of a Bolivarian alternative in Venezuela, despite solid electoral procedures there. Moreover, President Obama has never recognized the outcome of the election of Nicolas Maduro as President. Venezuela has been subject to coup attempts, paramilitary incursions, an oil strike, a recall referendum, and a relentless US backed opposition ever since Chavez was elected President in 1998.

Obama’s renewal of an executive order last month, declaring Venezuela an extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States; the Senate’s recent extension of sanctions led by the extreme right wing Senator Marco Rubio; and Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent pronouncements against Caracas;  are all directed at buttressing the opposition in Venezuela, which is now in the midst of organizing a recall campaign against President Nicolas Maduro.  The new Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, in conformity with Washington’s New Consensus, seeks to invoke the democratic charter against Venezuela and has repeatedly expressed his selective indignation over human rights abuses in that South American nation, without giving Venezuela a sufficient forum to defend itself against the charges.. But Venezuela is not alone.  The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), whose pro tempore president is now the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, stands firmly against imperial interference in the internal affairs of Caracas or any other member state. If Dilma Rousseff is ousted in the coming days, however, the conservative wave may very well be on its way to dismembering UNASUR! This would be a great blow to the dream of establishing la gran patria (an integrated South America).

Should Maduro be ousted and the fourth republic be restored in Venezuela, a Clinton administration would likely carry the TPP torch. If we can take a lesson from the precedent of Secretary of State Clinton’s strong backing for golpismo in Honduras; if we remember her refusal to release the transcripts of her highly paid speeches to Goldman Sachs; we might suspect that her conversion to the anti-TPP position at a democratic primary debate with Bernie Sanders is not likely to last beyond the Democratic convention. Clinton has been a true believer in the neoliberal agenda. There is therefore good reason to think that if she were to become president, it is likely she would attempt to destabilize and provide the coup de grace to Bolivian and Ecuadorian democracy. These Bolivarian states have also endured coup attempts and remain in the crosshairs of the New Consensus, but they have taken the precautionary measures of banning USAID from their countries and constitutionally forbidding foreign military bases in their countries.

We must not be lulled into complacency by the tactical overtures of the Obama administration towards Cuba. There is nothing to celebrate. The embargo is still in place.  Guantanamo is still a US military base on Cuban soil, and normalization is a continuation of subversion of the Cuban revolution, now by economic, ideological and technological means. Obama’s trip to Cuba last month, with all its wishful fanfare, was followed by a trip to Argentina to salute his new and most promising ally, President Mauricio Macri. Macri, in just a few months, has implemented austerity, terminated thousands of workers, backed the invocation of the democratic charter against the government of Venezuelan, and has asked for the expulsion of Venezuela from MERCOSUR (Common Market of the South). Macri also supports inclusion of MERCOSUR in the TPP agreements.

In order bring MERCOSUR into the TPP, regime change in Venezuela and Brazil are necessary conditions. In this context, it is no surprise that in Brazil, right wing elites have orchestrated a bogus impeachment process aimed at deposing President Dilma Rousseff. Should Rousseff be ousted a few days from now, Vice President Michel Temer, himself under investigation for corruption, would likely choose  the chair of the Goldman Sachs unit in Brazil, Paulo Leme, to take charge of the Central Bank. There are also reports that IMF official Murilo Portugal is a prime candidate for becoming Finance Minister. Should Brazil follow Argentina in a move to the right, the BRICS would lose one of its major partners and likely join forces with Macri in promoting the TPP.

The Bolivarian project in Latin America, and in particular Venezuela, is not without its faults and limitations. Despite the breach between the popular sectors and the government manifest in the December 6, 2015 legislative elections, Chavistas do not see the restoration of the infamous fourth republic as a viable alternative and will likely circle the wagons against any attack on the homeland. The survival of the Bolivarian project is vital to the possibility of of building human life-centered alternatives to neoliberalism. Now is the time to stand with our brothers and sisters to the South, and to build more bonds of solidarity and community.  In this way it may still be possible for us to join forces to construct a new world in which many worlds can fit and to avoid a return to the age of dirty wars and the dictatorship of the one percent.

Correspondence: cbalbertolovera@gmail.com

The Bolivarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera” is an all-volunteer run group that organizes educational forums in solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution. Alberto Lovera was a university lecturer, union leader and member of the Venezuelan Communist Party who was was arrested on 17th October 1965 by officers of Venezuelan Intelligence (DISIP), tortured for several days, and his body was found on October 27, 1965. He was assassinated during the years in which the fourth republic implemented a policy of extermination of political opponents.

 

Events across the country in solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

March 4, 2015

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March 5 is the second anniversary of the passing of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez, who transformed Venezuela through his courageous struggle to help Venezuelans become protagonists of their destiny.

Before Chávez, Venezuela’s natural resources enriched foreign oil companies and elites, both in Venezuela and abroad. Today the country’s wealth has been harnessed for true development — hundreds of thousands of homes and schools have been built, and healthcare has become free and accessible throughout the country. The goal of the Bolivarian revolutionary process is socialism, where every human being can enjoy guaranteed rights of healthcare, education, housing, jobs, equality, culture, social peace, and international solidarity.

The US government is working to destabilize Venezuela’s democratically elected government, using US tax-payer dollars to finance anti-government organizations in Venezuela, encouraging coup attempts and even terrorist attacks on their population. Now, the US is applying sanctions against Venezuela to punish the government and people for defending their sovereignty. It is up to us, the people of the United States, to demand that the US government stop the attacks and destabilization of Venezuela, respect international law and Venezuela’s right to self-determination.

This is a dangerous time for Venezuela. The US has spent millions of dollars to destabilize Venezuela and regain control of their oil reserves, which are the largest on the planet. The Obama administration has increased these aggressive policies since the death of President Chávez and the 2013 election of President Maduro.

After losing legislative elections in late 2013, the opposition began violent street protests a year ago which resulted in over 40 deaths, the majority of which were security forces and Maduro supporters. The street protests failed, but the Obama administration and the Venezuelan opposition have continued their efforts to destabilize the country with the goal of removing Maduro from power.

The achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution in the areas of participatory democracy, economic equality, social justice, education, and healthcare are all gains we could benefit from in the United States. It is our political responsibility to oppose US government plans to destroy Venezuela’s democracy.

Join an event near you!
Boston, Mass.
Thursday, March 5
Encuentro5 at 9A Hamilton Place, Boston, MA 02108-4701
6:30 p.m.
Remembrance of Hugo Chavez facilitated by General Consul Noel Martinez, Vanesa Matamoros and Jorge Marin

San Francisco, Calif.
Thursday, March 5
24th and Mission St.
5:00 p.m.
Rally in Solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

New York City, N.Y.
Thursday, March 5
5th Avenue between 33rd and 34th Street
4:00 p.m.
March: “Human Rights Watch, Weapon of the U.S. State Department”

Chicago, Ill.
Thursday, March 5
Federal Plaza
4:30 p.m.
Rally in solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

Friday, March 6
6:00-8:30 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal Church (125 E 26th St)
Remembering Chavez’ Legacy

Washington, D.C.
Thursday, March 5
Bolivarian Hall (2445 Massachussetts ave. NW)
6:30 p.m.
Remembering our Friend and Compañero Hugo Chavez

Saturday, March 7
7:00-10:00 p.m.
St. Stephen’s Church (1525 Newton Street NW)
The Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Committee/Comité de Solidaridad Latinoamericano y Caribeño invites the Community to a Celebration of The Life and Legacy of Hugo Chavez. Join us for an Evening of Music, Poetry, and Solidarity.

Hammond, Ind. (Purdue University)
Wednesday, March 4
Chamber Hall, 3rd Fl. SULB
12:30 p.m.
Speaker: Jesus Rodriguez, Consul General, Chicago Venezuela Consulate

Larkspur, Calif.
Thursday, March 5
Redwoods Church
7:30 p.m.
Video of Miguel Tinker Salas speaking on US – Latin American Relations in the 21st Century. Discussion led by Martin Sanchez on developments in Venezuela

Tucson, Ariz.
March 5
7:00 p.m.
Global Justice Center (225 E 26th St.)
Remembering Hugo Chavez; Resisting US Intervention. Speakers on Chavez’ legacy and current U.S. efforts at “regime change.”

March Delegation to Venezuela: The Revolution Continues!

January 11, 2015

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March 2015 Delegation to Venezuela: Come with us to learn about human development in Venezuela: education, community based organizations, and the efforts at achieving food sovereignty.

March 22-29

While the mainstream media speculates about the future of the Bolivarian Revolution since the passing of Hugo Chavez, for the Venezuelan popular sectors, there is no turning back to a state of marginalization and exclusion. Come learn about the process currently transpiring in Venezuela as the people, faithful to the legacy of Chavez, deepen and further radicalize their struggle in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution. Come learn, connect, and show your solidarity at this critical moment for the Venezuelan process.

Through direct exchanges with community organizations, social movements, and political leaders, we will explore various areas of social transformation, including food sovereignty, education, healthcare, independent community based media, and direct citizen participation in the political process. There will also be trips to beaches, parks, and other sites of interest.

Cost for Activities: $800. This will cover all lodging, all ground transportation, 2 meals per day, qualified trip leaders, and Spanish-English interpretation. Alcoholic beverages are not included in this activity fee. Additional expenses during the trip will be reasonable.

Days 1-2 and 3: Orientation meeting, Visits to urban agriculture sites and other community initiatives in different communities in Caracas, including 23 de Enero, El Valle, and Petare. Barrio Adentro, Compresive Community Medicine. International School of Medicine, Bolivarian University.

Days 4 and 5: Visit to the Afro-Venezuelan community of Barlovento, known for producing some of the world’s best cocoa; learn about artisanal cacao production as well as artisanal fishing and Venezuela’s progressive fishing laws; enjoy beautiful beaches.

Day 6: Caracas: free day for sight seeing, getting souvenirs,

Day 7: departure.

To Learn more and hold a spot for the trip, email cbalbertolovera@gmail.com. Please be in touch as soon as possible, as space is very limited. Please allow several days for responses.

Sponsored by the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of NY.

Check out these articles from past delegations:

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2008/magdoff040208.html

http://monthlyreview.org/090824shiavoni-camacaro.php

Sponsored by the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of NY.
Check out these articles from past delegations:

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2008/magdoff040208.html

http://monthlyreview.org/090824shiavoni-camacaro.php


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