Sunday, March 30, 2014

Washington Threatens Sanctions, Coup “Option” Looms Larger

U.S. HANDS OFF VENEZUELA! Statement from Socialist Organizer, 2014-03-30 []:
Washington is up to its dirty tricks again in Venezuela.
It began February 18, 2014, in Toluca, Mexico, at a Trinational North American Leaders Summit focused on promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a “free trade” pact that would seriously hurt working people in all countries concerned. At that gathering, President Obama stated cynically that, “instead of trying to distract attention from their own failures by making false accusations against U.S. diplomats, the Venezuelan government should focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of its own people.”
Obama’s statement followed the expulsion of three U.S. embassy officials from Caracas and was immediately understood across the continent for what it was — support for “regime change” in Venezuela. Obama’s formulations were almost identical to ones used by the central leaders of the opposition in Venezuela who had decided — with U.S. funding and political backing — to take to the streets and commit acts of violence and vandalism aimed at destabilizing the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
U.S. government funding for the opposition in Venezuela is, in fact, public knowledge. According to Mark Weisbrot (The Guardian, February 18), “There’s been $90 million in the U.S. federal budget since 2000 for funding opposition activities inside Venezuela, with $5 million alone in the 2014 budget. And this is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg, adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars of covert support over the past 15 years.”
Washington’s railings against Venezuela became much harsher one month later. On March 27, speaking at a press conference for the Latin American media, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson made the most threatening declaration to date by a top administration official, stating that as far as Washington is concerned “all options are on the table if the Venezuelan government fails to make democratic room for the opposition.”
Jacobson stated that the Obama administration is strongly considering imposing sanctions against Venezuela “if there is no dialogue in Venezuela, if there is no democratic room for the opposition.” (El Universal, Mexico, March 28)
This argument is totally bogus; it is but a thinly veiled cover for stepped-up intervention in the internal affairs of the Venezuelan people, a further violation of their right to self-determination.
On February 16, the Mercosur governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) released a statement on “the recent violent acts” in Venezuela and derided the “attempts [by the opposition] to destabilize the democratic order.” The governments stated “their firm commitment to the full observance of democratic institutions and, in this context, reject[ed] the criminal actions of violent groups that want to spread intolerance and hatred in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a political tool.”
On February 28, President Maduro convened a National Peace Conference in an attempt to defuse the highly charged political situation, but the gathering was boycotted by the U.S.-funded Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). These forces have acknowledged publicly that they are incapable of winning elections in the framework of the Venezuelan Constitution, so they must resort to other, extra-legal means — that is, provoking chaos through street violence and blockades (in which 36 people have already been killed) — to achieve their objectives.
Even the Organization of American States (OAS), which is dominated by the United States and has traditionally backed all U.S.-funded coup d’etats and assassination attempts of foreign leaders, rejected a proposal on March 7 by the U.S. representative to assemble a “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate the “failure by the [Maduro] government to create a democratic space for the opposition in Venezuela.” The United States had only two supporters for its motion: Canada and Panama.
And on March 24 a Commission of UNASUR (Union of Nations of South America), in which the U.S. has no seat, arrived in Venezuela to facilitate a “dialogue” between the government and the opposition. The delegation met with the coalition of opposition parties.
Never mind that Washington is more and more isolated in the Americas over its policy in Venezuela.  The Obama administration — which has never even officially recognized the April 2013 election of President Nicolás Maduro — is readying to charge ahead with sanctions, if not more.
On March 13, U.S. General John Kelly, the highest authority of the Southern Command of the U.S. Armed Forces testified before the War Affairs Committee of the Senate in Washington about the crisis in Venezuela.
Kelly gave a detailed account of how the Venezuelan army and police have reacted to the two-month violence provoked by the right-wing opposition. He then went on to suggest that “probably there are pressures, arguments and disagreements within the armed forces of Venezuela on the state of the country.”
Much of the Latin American press took note at the time of the fact that it was a general in the U.S. Marine Corps, not a civilian specialist or a diplomat, who was brought in to testify before the Senate committee. Many in the media went on to warn that this scenario was ominously reminiscent of the period leading up to the April 2002 (failed) coup — organized and financed by the U.S. government — against then-President Hugo Chávez.
And sure enough, on March 25 President Nicolás Maduro announced that three Venezuelan Air Force generals had been arrested on charges of plotting a military coup. Maduro stated that the generals had been the subjects of an investigation after junior Air Force officers who had been asked to join in the conspiracy alerted the government.
The Spanish daily El País, which openly supported the coup against Chávez on April 11, 2002, wrote the following in an editorial dated March 28: “The feeling of instability felt across the country is so great that no one can discard an action of this type [referring to a coup d'etat].”
Working people in the United States have no interest in backing Washington’s intervention and threats against the democratically elected government of Venezuela.
Workers in Venezuela have made important gains in the unfolding revolutionary process — gains that are unacceptable to the banksters in Wall Street and their hired hands in Washington. A recent Manifesto Against the Pro-Imperialist Coup Plot issued by two dozen unions in the Venezuelan region of Maracaibo summarizes these gains as follows: national health care and Social Security for all, decent guaranteed pensions for all, strict labor laws to protect workers, and, most important, State control/ownership over the nation’s resources such as petroleum, iron, aluminum, electricity, and more.
This is what’s involved: It’s an attempt by the corporate elite in this country and their lackeys in Venezuela to turn back the clock and undo all the gains made by the workers and people of Venezuela through bitter struggles, which includes their valiant defeat of a previous U.S.-funded attempted coup against Hugo Chávez.
The Manifesto of the trade unions in Maracaibo underscores the fact that a central reason for the economic crisis in Venezuela’s — aside from the disruption and sabotage by sectors of the Venezuelan ruling class — is the country’s continued subordination to international finance capital. Because Venezuela is still paying back the foreign debt to the international bankers, there are few remaining dollars in the state coffers to import needed goods or to repay national companies.
The unions signing the Manifesto “call upon compañero Nicolás Maduro to go beyond the expulsion of U.S. ambassadors and functionaries involved in these provocations [and] break with imperialism by not repaying the foreign debt in order to address a platform of demands that express the nation’s defense. The income from the nation’s oil production belongs to the people, not the capitalists.”
This task, of course, is the task of the Venezuelan workers and people themselves.
For our part, the best help that we who live in the belly of the beast can offer the embattled workers and people of Venezuela is to stay the hand of our own imperialist government. This is why we here in the United States must raise our voices loud and clear — in whatever manner is most appropriate, including mass protests in the streets — to demand:
- U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!
- Obama: Recognize the Democratically Elected Government of Nicolás Maduro!

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