Posts Tagged ‘Nicolas Maduro’

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.

 

This Coming Sunday Emergency meeting in Solidarity with Venezuela‏

March 14, 2015

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Comité de Solidaridad Con Venezuela

Calls for an Emergency Peace meeting in Solidarity with Venezuela

Un llamado de emergencia en defensa de la Revolucion Bolivariana

March 15, 2015 4 – 6PM

800 east 156st 10455

Iglesia Evangelista del Bronx

Un Golpe Para Uno, Es Un Golpe Contra Todos

Defender A Venezuela Es Tarea De Todos y Todas

Please come and join us this coming Sunday to be in solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution

Unanse a nosotros en solidaridad con la Revolucion Bolivariana

President Obama’s shocking and unjustified declaration of a national emergency and designation of Venezuela as a threat to US national security and foreign policy on March 9, 2015 places the peace loving Bolivarian people of Venezuela in immediate danger of US military intervention. From Ottawa to Santiago, the Peoples of the Americas say NO to this imperial aggression against our South American neighbors!

It is time to take a stand! Venezuela is a member of the Union of South American States (UNASUR) which has declared South America a zone of peace dedicated to human development. Venezuelan workers and peasants, who form a large part of the electoral base of the democratically elected government of President Nicolas Maduro, do not pose a threat to the people of the United States. They are our brothers and sisters!

This is the moment to speak out! Venezuela is not at war with any country, does not have military bases outside its borders, does not send drones to kill and terrify, has not engaged in rendition or pre-emptive war. On the contrary, Caracas is currently mediating peace talks between the FARC and Bogota and advocates for world peace as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Maduro seeks mutually respectful diplomatic relations with all nations, including the United States.

Together we can wage peace! The “crimes” of the first Chavista president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, are disobedience to the Washington Consensus, insistence on national control over the nation’s oil industry, continued payment of the social debt, and the commitment to continue expanding access to free education, health care, and subsidized food and housing.

US backing of ultra right extremists in Venezuela bent on violent extra constitutional regime change in Caracas, and Obama’s unjustified declaration of Venezuela as a threat to US national security is in reality a threat to the peace and stability of the region. We stand with Venezuelans and the peoples of the Americas in rejecting the shameful attack of the Obama Administration on the Venezuelan homeland.

For more information: cbalbertolovera@gmail.com

U.S. SANCTIONS AGAINST VENEZUELA: A WRONG TURN FOR REGIONAL DIPLOMACY

December 11, 2014

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By: Frederick B. Mills, Senior Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and Louise Højen, Research Associate at the Council On Hemispheric Affairs

Led by Senators Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio, the U.S. Senate passed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act on December 8. The House is expected to vote tonight on the bill. The new legislation hatched by the hard right wing of the upper house will place targeted sanctions on Venezuelan officials “planning, facilitating, or perpetrating gross human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and other members of civil society in Venezuela.”[1] Such sanctions include travel restrictions and the freezing of assets of those found culpable of the offenses. On May 28, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill with similar sanctions against Venezuela, but at that time, former democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, fiercely opposed it.[2] Similarly, the White House did not support the measure, arguing that it could jeopardize discussions between the government and the opposition.[3] Nonetheless, the State Department still imposed selected sanctions in the course of the past summer by issuing travel bans on Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations.[4] It is possible that the Obama administration was also taking into account regional concerns about the possible destabilizing impact of such a measure on constitutional rule in Venezuela. According to the respected publication, Venezuelanalysis, the recent legislation has been met with strong opposition from “UNASUR, CARICOM, the OAS, the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations, the Venezuelan President, the Venezuelan National Assembly and Venezuelan public opinion.”[5]

This time around, the sanctions bill is officially backed by the White House.[6] So why sanctions now? The U.S. midterm elections have signaled a move to the right in the House and Senate, giving new hope to the ultra-right in Venezuela. Add to this mix a U.S. administration all too willing to placate the hardline opponents of Latin America’s pink tide in the State Department and the U.S. Congress. This penchant for interventionism, however, is not just characteristic of the Obama administration. From a geopolitical perspective, Washington has been bent on reversing the gains of the Bolivarian advance towards regional independence for more than a decade. At this week’s Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) conference, it was clear that the twelve member states are moving ever more rapidly towards complementary economic cooperation, universal citizenship, and labor rights within the Union.[7] These are not developments, however, that in any way threaten the people of the United States; but they do pose an opportunity for those seeking regional collaboration as mutually respectful partners.

The Obama administration has facilitated the adoption of a right-wing posture towards Venezuela because it has never consolidated itself behind a policy that could generate strong progressive support in the United States. Yet there are more moderate figures in the U.S. Congress, fourteen of whom signed a letter against a similar measure in May 2014, and there is a significant North American solidarity movement with the peoples of Latin America, who might have rallied to support a change of course in U.S. policy towards Venezuela and the region.[8]

Washington’s selective indignation at human rights abuses in Venezuela and the continuing flow of U.S. foreign aid to rogue regimes in Mexico and Honduras, belie the real crime of the Bolivarian revolution: its rejection of the Washington consensus and its regional leadership in constructing a new consensus built on Latin American integration and independence, promotion of a multi-polar world, and valuing social rights over profits. It is arguably on behalf of the restoration of some form of the neoliberal regime, and not for its love of humanity, that Washington has played a destabilizing role in Venezuela since the election of Hugo Chávez as President in 1998.

Those who are consistently concerned about human rights in Venezuela will give a hearing to both persons who have suffered at the hands of the security forces and to the Venezuelan Committee of Victims of the Guarimba (violent anti-government demonstrators). This Committee was received by Organization of American States (OAS) representative Miguel Ángel Trinidad on Tuesday in the Venezuelan state of Miranda. The survivors and relatives of loved ones murdered by ultra-right terrorists in Venezuela this year tell a story that does not appear to have entered into the political calculations behind the Senate’s sanctions bill. This information was also delivered in a detailed document to the embassies of the United States and Spain last week.[9]

To be sure, with regard to abuses committed by Venezuelan security forces, there is warranted criticism. In response to such abuses and citizen calls for justice, President Nicolas Maduro has ordered a shakeup in the policing bodies of the country. A number of arrests have been made in connection with the investigation of several homicides and cases of physical abuse by the police and Bolivarian National Guard committed during and after the demonstrations of the first quarter of the year, and the chiefs of some of the major policing bodies have been replaced.[10] Moreover, Maduro has set up a high-level commission under the direction of legislator Freddy Bernal, which includes citizen participation, to purge the various policing bodies of rogue elements, and revamp the police selection and training process.[11] Skeptics might call this window dressing. Supporters might applaud the effort. But the short-term effectiveness and long term institutional impact of these reform measures will only be known over the next few months and years.

There is good reason to believe that this latest U.S. Senate action might evoke a justified skepticism about U.S. intentions in the region. Menendez, applauding passage of his and Rubio’s bill said, “For too long, Venezuelans have faced state-sponsored violence at the hands of government security forces and watched their country’s judiciary become a tool of political repression.”[12] One may wonder if this “for too long” includes repression under the notoriously corrupt institutions of the fourth republic, which in February 1989 gunned down hundreds, if not several thousand protesters in the streets of Caracas who rose up against the impact of a neoliberal reform package imposed by the regime of Carlos Andrés Pérez. Also, if sanctions are a suitable tool for extracting the desired human rights behaviors, why not issue a similar call for such measures against Mexico? There still is very little progress in achieving justice for the 43 disappeared students, let alone the thousands who have been murdered as collateral damage in the past four or five years in the merciless drug war. Why not impose such measures against the regime in Honduras, which has the world’s highest homicide rate and an extreme level of impunity for murder by the state, or against Paraguay for its murderous assaults on the freedom of the press?[13] These nations continue to receive U.S. security assistance.

Even limited sanctions will lack moral validity within Venezuela without popular support.[14] Such measures, however targeted, arguably hit a sore spot in the national Venezuelan psyche (referring here, to the majority) because they are likely perceived as challenging Venezuelan sovereignty. President Maduro responded to the U.S. Senate action on Tuesday, invoking powerful themes of national discourse:

“Who is the U.S. Senate to sanction the Country of Bolivar? We do not accept insolent imperialist sanctions, you ought to learn to respect the country of Bolivar. We are descendants of Ayacucho, we are the sons and daughters of Bolivar, we are the sons and daughters of Hugo Chávez.”[15]

This is not empty rhetoric but articulates some of the symbolism and culture of the nation. Surveys and focus groups conducted this year by the Venezuelan think tank, Hinterlaces, indicate that the large majority of Venezuelans opposed the salida ya strategy and support constitutional means of deciding political contests.[16]

For all of the above reasons legislation that would impose sanctions on Venezuela represents a wrong turn when it comes to regional diplomacy and ought not be signed into law. The Senate, which was elected by the citizens of the United States, would be more effective in addressing constituent concerns about human rights perhaps by focusing on the streets of Ferguson, New York City, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Orlando, rather than Caracas. For too long, many of the United States’ own citizens, in particular African Americans and Latinos, have faced violence and death at the hands of rogue police with impunity and have suffered discrimination under what Michelle Alexander has called the “New Jim Crow” features of the criminal justice system.[17] Also, as the Senate has been displaying its indignation at the behavior in Caracas, the same body, to its credit, issued a report on crimes committed by the CIA during the administration of President George W. Bush (2001-2009). Raising such issues in the present context is no red herring because the employment of a double standard on human rights is directly relevant to the political impact of the upper house’s action.

President Obama’s administration, from the beginning of his presidency, has declined to use its diplomatic means to improve ties and mend the frosty links with Venezuela; instead it has turned all of its mind to deploying threats and soft power against Caracas. Today, Venezuela is grappling with serious economic challenges. It is also a nation at peace with its neighbors; it plays a leadership role in several regional associations; and is making an important contribution to the ongoing peace talks between the FARC and the government of Colombia. It is up to the people of Venezuela, not foreign intervention, to evaluate the performance of President Maduro and determine, through democratic procedures, how long Chavistas hold public office. Rather than sanctions, the Obama administration has plenty of justification to attempt a resumption of diplomatic relations with Caracas. By instigating a further alienation between the two countries, the United States is essentially alienating the rest of the hemisphere too and will, as a result, soon see how its influence in Latin America is withering away, beginning with benign neglect and ending up as toxic diplomacy.[18]

UPDATE: The Hill reported that “The House on Wednesday cleared legislation directing President Obama to impose sanctions against Venezuelan government officials accused of human rights abuses.” by Cristina Marcos, Dec. 10, 2014. http://g.thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/226718-house-clears-venezuela-sanctions-bill

Featured image by: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador. Taken on: December 5, 2014. Taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/presidenciaecuador/15953736362

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated. For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: LatinNews.com and Rights Action.

References

[1] Menendez, Robert and Marco Rubio. “Resolution,” 113th Congress 2nd Session, Dec. 8. 2014.

[2] Lugo, Luis Alonso. “Senado de Estados Unidos aprueba sanciones a funcionarios venezolanos,” El Nuevo Herald, Dec. 8, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.elnuevoherald.com/noticias/mundo/america-latina/venezuela-es/article4374958.html ; Dutka, Z.C. “US Senate Passes Bill to Impose Further Sanctions on Venezuela, Maduro Blasts “Economic Blockade”,” Venezueanalysis.com, Dec. 9, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/11061

[3] BBC. ”US House of Representatives Approves Venezuela Sanctions,” May 28, 2014. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-27615148

[4] The Guardian. “US Senate Passes Venezuela Sanctions Bill Citing ‘State-Sponsored Violence’,” Dec. 9, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/09/us-senate-passes-venezuela-sanctions-bill-citing-state-sponsored-violence

[5] Venezuelanalysis.com. “U.S. House of Representatives Ignores Latin American Consensus, Passes Sanctions against Venezuela,” May 28, 2014. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014: http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/10707

[6] Latin American Herald Tribune. ”White House Backs Sanctions Against Venezuela (VIDEO),” http://www.laht.com/article.asp?CategoryId=10717&ArticleId=2361765

[7] TeleSUR TV. ”Unasur Debe Trabajar en Fórmulas Para la Complementariedad: Samper,” Youtube, Dec. 3, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xkx2unj4DzU ; see also http://f2.telesurtv.net/english/news/South-American-Leaders-Emphasize-Integration-at-UNASUR-Summit–20141205-0036.html.

[8] 14 democratic Congress members’ letter to President Obama on May 2014. Republished by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/Colombia/Labor/VenezuelaLetter05272014.pdf

[9] TeleSUR. “Victims of Venezuela’s Right-Wing Violence Take Case to OAS,” Dec. 9, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Victims-of-Venezuelas-Right-Wing-Violence-Take-Case-to-OAS-20141209-0018.html

[10] Aporrea. Alba Ciudad. “Funcionarios del Sebin que Dispararon el 12-F Fueron Detenidos y Entregados a la Fiscalía, Ratificó Nicolás Maduro,” Feb. 22, 2014. Accessed: Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.aporrea.org/ddhh/n245737.html ; See also Ministero Publico de Venezuela. “Resultados de las Manifestaciones Violentas. Febrero – Junio de 2014,” Jun. 11, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.mp.gob.ve/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=fe445f9f-62cf-43a2-8c35-89c93f9cdf56&groupId=10136 ; Zerpa, William Willmer Poleo. “Destituyeron a toda la directiva del cicpc,” El Mundo, Oct. 25, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.elmundo.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/noticias/destituyeron-a-toda-la-directiva-del-cicpc.aspx#ixzz3LRDnGCjM ; Apporea Agencias. “Detenidos Seis Funcionarios del Cicpc por Hechos Ocurridos en Quinta Crespo,” Oct. 16, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.aporrea.org/ddhh/n259218.html

[11] Correo de Orinoco. “Oficializada Creacion Comision Presidencial Sistema Policial,” Nov. 17, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve/nacionales/oficializada-creacion-comision-presidencial-sistema-policial/

[12] BBC. “US Senate Approves Venezuela Sanctions Bill,” Dec. 9, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-30393198

[13] More on impunity for killings and repression of freedom of press in Paraguay: Højen, Louise. “Pablo Medina: Paraguay’s Third Victim of Drug Politics,” Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Oct 24. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014: http://www.coha.org/pablo-medina-paraguays-third-victim-of-drug-politics/ ; More on Mexico’s grave human rights violations in World Report 2014. “Mexico,” Human Rights Watch, 2014. Accessed Dec. 9, 2014: http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/mexico ; More on human rights abuses in Honduras on the website of Human Rights Watch, accessed Dec. 9, 2014: http://www.hrw.org/americas/honduras

[14] See the Datanálysis poll that indicates two thirds of Venezuelans oppose sanctions: León, Luis Vicente. “National Telephone Flash Study: US Sanctions Against Venezuela,” Datanálisis, Jul. 8, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://venezuelablog.tumblr.com/post/91270642089/datanalisis-releases-polling-data-on-venezuelans

[15] Alonzo, Freidder. “Presidente Maduro Rechaza Amenazas de Sanciones del Senado de Estados Unidos a Venezuela,” Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela, Dec. 9, 2014. Accessed Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve/impacto/presidente-maduro-rechaza-amenazas-sanciones-senado-estados-unidos-a-venezuela/ F. Mills’s unofficial translation.

[16] Hinterlaces official website. Accessed on Dec. 10, 2014: http://www.hinterlaces.com/

[17] Alexander, Michelle. 2010. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness. New York: The New Press.

[18] Interview conducted with Director Larry Birns from Council on Hemispheric Affairs on Dec. 9, 2014.


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