Published in June, this article is no less relevant now, three months later, as it clearly shows the perennial issues surrounding white supremacy and imperialism by Venezuela’s northern neighbours.
By David William Pear
Published on OffGuardian, June 22, 2019
The US and Canada are not supporting “the return of democracy” in Venezuela as they claim. Instead, they are following in their shameful histories of colonialism, imperialism, exploitation, illegal wars of aggression, and overthrowing governments. They are crushing democracy in Venezuela by exploiting class and race warfare, being carried out by an elite white-supremist minority against the poor, Afro-Indigenous, and other Venezuelans of color.
A white-minority has dominated commerce and politics in Venezuela since the days of slavery in the 19th century. Venezuela had slavery, just as did the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America. Slavery went back to the early 16th century Spanish conquistadors. More abducted Africans were trafficked to the Caribbean and Latin America, than to the USA.
Slavery was officially abolished in all of the Americas in the 19th century. The history of slavery in the Caribbean and Latin America has left a legacy of prejudice, discrimination and class conflict, which has largely gone unresolved.
Different skin complexions of Latin Americans are due mostly to various mixtures of European, Spanish and Indigenous bloodlines.
The darker the skin color, along with other ethnic features, the more there is of discrimination in education, employment, and opportunity.
Discrimination against blacks and people of color perpetuates poverty and class conflict. In Venezuela, as elsewhere in the Caribbean and Latin America, political power, commerce and wealth is largely in the hands of a minority of upper-class elites, whom are mostly whiter and lighter than those with darker skin complexion.
One can get a sense of how much class and race affect Latin American society by watching Spanish language movies and soap operas. Below are just two examples below: the setting for the TV series “The White Slave” is 19th century Columbia; and the setting for “Teresa” is contemporary Mexico.
Hugo Chavez and his successor Maduro are exuberantly despised by the elite white-supremacist minority. They still call Chavez negro, savage, monkey and ape. Maduro gets the same; and the media never fails to remind the public that he was a former bus driver, which is code for “low-class”.
Maduro is proud of his humble beginning as a bus driver and his Afro-Indigenous ethnicity. Chavez was proud of his poor Afro-Indigenous background too, and his final resting place is in the barrio where he and Maduro came from.
In 1998 the elite white minority was voted out of the presidential residence Miraflores Palace. Instead of being purged by Chavez, as an authoritarian dictator would have done, the elites maintained their political power base, dominance in commerce, and control of the media.
They have been trying to get back the Miraflores Palace, and indignantly consider it their birthright. They have used every means at their command, and even invited the US to invade the country, which would result in thousands of deaths.
In April 2002 the elite white minority tried a coup against Chavez, backed and financed by the US, which failed. In December 2002 they tried a strike by the management at the Venezuelan oil company Petróleos de Venezuela.
They tried a recall referendum against Chavez in 2004, and lost at the polls.
They tried to unify the opposition political parties with the sole purpose of defeating Maduro in 2013, and failed.
They tried to delegitimize the 2018 presidential election by organizing a boycott.
They tried to assassinate Maduro with a drone in 2018. Their attempts have failed.
The white elites have sabotaged the economy, used mass demonstrations, and organize violence. The self-appointed Juan Guaido declared himself the interim president, and called for a military coup d’etat, that failed miserably. Even with their control of the media and commerce they have failed to oust Maduro.
The elite upper class has millions of dollars of financial support from the US and Canada. Some of the EU countries, following pressure from the US, have thrown their support behind the Guaido coup plotters. The UK froze $1.2 billion of Venezuela’s much-needed reserves for life-saving food and medicine. Spain turned its back on the people of Venezuela, too.
The above political caricature of Afro-Indigenous Hugo Chavez, is titled “Ape Commander”, an obvious racial slur. As the article Racism Without Shame in the Venezuelan Counter-Revolution from Venezuelanalysis explains:
Above is a caricature of Nicolas Maduro as a donkey, which is a racist slur. Animalization of black and brown people is a common theme in the white media. Maduro is pictured as a dumb animal being driven by a white Cuban. Ironically, one of the early achievements of the Cuban Revolution was to pass strong antidiscrimination laws, and largely end the racial divide in Cuba.
The US and Canada have opposed the government of Venezuela since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998. Chavez won the election by a landslide on his platform of participatory democracy, local governance, frequent elections, rewriting the constitution, social reforms, healthcare for all, free education, adult literacy programs, and other basic economic freedoms.
He called his platform the Bolivarian Revolution, his movement is called Chavismo, his followers are called Chavistas and they are fiercely loyal to Maduro. Maduro is fiercely loyal to Chavez’s memory, and the Bolivarian process.
The country is renamed The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, after el liberator Simon Bolivar.
The Bolivarian process has had dramatic success in reducing inequality, cutting poverty in half, providing adequate housing, fighting child malnutrition, improving public education, practically eliminating adult illiteracy, reducing unemployment, and providing social security.
(See appendix A for economic charts of the success of the Bolivarian Revolution, or click the link HERE.)
The US and Canada are trying to destroy the successes of the Bolivarian process with an illegal economic blockade and violent subversion.
Before his death, Chavez endorsed his Vice President Nicolas Maduro as his successor. Chavez died in March of 2013, and a new election as required by the constitution was held in April. Maduro won by a surprisingly small margin of 1.5% against the pro-business opponent Henrique Capriles. The opposition cried foul as they always do when they lose.
Venezuela has a voting systems with both an electronic ballot and a hard copy, which Jimmy Carter called the best voting technology in the world in 2012. In that election, which Carter monitored, Chavez beat Capriles by a landslide, 55.1% to 44.3%. Still, the US and the mainstream media called Chavez a dictator. Now they call Maduro a dictator.
In the 2018 presidential election Maduro won easily with 67.8% of the vote against his two opponents Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci. Maduro had invited the United Nations to send election observers, but the UN declined because the opposition told the UN not to come.
Why would the opposition disinvite the UN observers, if they thought the election was going to be rigged? Answer, because they have given up on democratic elections. They are outnumbered by the politically awakened poor, Afro-Indigenous, and people of color who live in the barrios.
The US and Canada are violating international law and the UN Charter by interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela. The fact that Venezuela has tremendous wealth in oil, gold, precious earth, minerals and abundant natural and human resources is the obvious lure in whetting their greed.
The killer economic blockade that the US and members of the Lima Group have imposed is causing tens of thousands of deaths, needless suffering, and is destroying Venezuela’s economy. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) estimates that 40,000 Venezuelans have died as a direct result of the economic blockade.
Since the blockade is intentionally targeting civilians, it is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and a crime against humanity.
The CEPR disputes the US, Canadian, and mainstream media narrative that Nicolas Maduro is the blame for the current economic crisis. Mark Weisbrot of CEPR says that denying that the blockade is the cause of Venezuela’s economic crisis is like “climate change denial”.
The US and the mainstream media blame Maduro for “wrecking” the economy. They blame the Bolivarian process for having spent too much on social programs for the poor, not diversifying the economy, not fighting crime, and not putting away reserves in anticipation of low oil prices. The problem is that it is not true. Watch the 17-minute interview of Mark Weisbrot below:
According to a United Nation’s analysis, and 150 experts and activists, the economic slump from falling oil prices was exacerbated by Obama’s economic sanctions in 2015. The sanctions imposed by Trump in 2017, and the blockade in 2019 has sent the economy into crisis. That is what economic sanctions and blockades are intended to do, as is well-known (e.g. “make the economy scream.”).
Other oil dependent countries in the region are struggling through the depression in oil prices. Venezuela could have too, except for the economic blockade, confiscation of Venezuela’s US oil company Citco, and the freezing of assets by the US, Canada, and the EU countries. The constant threat of a US invasion diverts needed resources to increased defense spending, which is another drain on the economy.
What the US and Canada are doing to Venezuela meets the definition of terrorism. They are using violence against civilians, starving them to death and preventing life-saving medicine from getting through, for political and economic purposes. It is robbery in plain sight, but many people believe the mainstream media propaganda, rather than their own “lying eyes”. The blindness is caused by “blockade denial”.
The elite white minority of Venezuelans want control of the vast wealth of Venezuela’s natural resources, and the US and Canada are helping for their own imperial designs. It is a historical pattern. The US and Canada have long supported dictators and opposed anti-colonial and democratic movements in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Before the rise of the US Empire, Canada backed the British Empire in the Caribbean, and even considered annexing its own colonies in the West Indies. Now the UK and Canada are the US Empire’s junior imperial partners.
After the 1898 Spanish-American war the US colonized Cuba and Puerto Rico, as well as the Philippines. The US invaded Mexico in 1914 to support the oligarchy against the nationalists.
The US refused to recognize Haiti’s government until 1862, even though it had gained independence from France in 1804. The US militarily occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. During the Spanish Civil War, the US supported the fascist dictator Franco.
Some of the most notorious dictators that the US has backed are Batista in Cuba, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Pinochet in Chile, Noriega in Panama, and “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier in Haiti.
During the 1980’s the US sponsored death squads in Central America.
The US backed the French in Indochina and Africa, the British in the Middle East and the 1982 colonial Falkland Island War.
The US backed Suharto of Indonesia in his genocidal invasion of East Timor.
The US backed apartheid South Africa, and had Nelson Mandela on its terrorist list until 2008. Is this the picture of a country that loves democracy and human rights?
Just as the US overthrew a democratic government in Guatemala in 1954 for United Fruit Company, the US is now trying to overthrow a democratic government in Venezuela for the benefit of US oil companies, and Canadian mining companies. And just as neocon Elliot Abrams was in charge of the death-squads in Central America during the 1980’s, he is now Trump’s special envoy for Venezuela. To believe that the US wants to “restore democracy” in Venezuela takes cognitive dissonance.
The US is supporting a cabal of elite white supremist in Venezuelans to push the Washington Consensus of IMF loans, privatization of state-owned enterprises, invasion of foreign capital, Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) by the IMF, neoliberal debt slavery and austerity for the poor, Afro-Indigenous, and people of color.
Even Monsanto is behind the coup because Venezuela is one of the few countries that bans cancer causing Roundup and GMO seeds.
An article in the Journal of the US Army from 2005 laid out in detail the US’s objections against the Bolivarian process. Even when there was no question about the legitimacy of the elections and the economy was doing great, the US was planning a coup d‘etat. One reason is oil, and the US Army article is blunt about it:
So, the US and Venezuela disagree on their “preference” for “this strategic asset”. The Venezuelan people want to use their oil wealth for the benefit of Venezuelans, and the US objects? Of course, Canada’s “preference” is for Canadian mining companies to control Venezuela’s gold too.
Venezuela is a sovereign country, a member of the United Nations, and Maduro is the internationally recognized president. Venezuela has the right to choose its own preferences.
What the article calls “this strategic asset” is not up for grabs. The US and Canada don’t have a right to vote on it. The fact that the US and Canada even think that they can dictate ownership of “this strategic asset”, shows how arrogant and bullying they are. This is the 21st century, the Monroe Doctrine should be dead, and the Caribbean and Latin America ain’t nobody’s “backyard”.
The US Army article further whines that Chavez and Maduro encouraged the unity of South America, challenging US hegemony. Venezuela has a right to its own foreign relations.
Other invented crimes are that Venezuela backed a stronger OPEC, and opposed the illegal Invasion of Iraq, and the Worldwide War on Terror. Venezuela has good relations with Cuba and Nicaragua, thus irritating the US further.
Strangely, the US Army article finds the Bolivarian process of “participatory democracy” rather than “representative democracy” to be nefarious? It’s odd that the US would object to the Venezuelan people having more democracy and local control, rather than less. Try explaining to Chavistas how Trump became president even though he got less votes than Clinton, and they will laugh in your face about “representative democracy”.
What is depressing is that most of the North American public is still fooled by the US propaganda that it is motivated by democracy and human rights. The historical evidence is to the contrary. The US is a serial predator of illegal wars of aggression, which have killed millions of people, and Canada has been right there side-by-side.
They have invaded at least a half-dozen countries in the past few decades, and they are threatening a half-dozen more. The US has imposed illegal economic sanctions on Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.
The US State Department has bragged that the sanctions are “working” because civilians are dying. That is not concern for human rights. It is coercion, hostage taking and demands for ransom.
The US often violates international law, reneges on treaties, ignores the United Nations, defies the International Criminal Court, and breaks domestic laws. It conducts illegal wars of aggression, drone assassinations, night raids, and covert operations . The US supplies weapons, logistics and ammunition that are used by Israel and Saudi Arabia to kill civilians. The US supports 70% of the world’s dictators. Does any of that fit with a country that is concerned about democracy and human rights? The US and Canada are recklessly instigating a bloody civil war in Venezuela.
A State Department official named Brian Hook said in a leaked memoto his boss at that time, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The memo tutored Tillerson that the US is only interested in weaponizing democracy and human rights to destabilize adversaries.
The US should treat friendly dictatorships, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Honduras, “different and better”, according to Hook.
As Hook explains, agitating countries about democracy and human rights is destabilizing, and the US does not want to do that to friendly dictators. With adversaries though, the US wants to destabilize them even if they are democracies, like Venezuela. For adversaries, they are never democratic enough to please the US. They should be destabilized and kept off balance, according to Hook.
It is false that US foreign policy objectives are for the benefit of the US public. US foreign policy is for the benefit of corporations, special interest groups and oligarchs. The beneficiaries of US foreign policy are the elites, and they grease US foreign policy with campaign contributions, bribes and other perks to government officials.
What drives US foreign policy is the quest for absolute military superiority, preservation of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, maintaining the capitalist world order, controlling the world’s natural and human resources, promoting a stable business-friendly environment for Western transnational corporations, and seeking opportunities for windfall profits for cronies.
In other words, the US wants to control the whole world. If that means overthrowing non-compliant democratically elected governments and supporting military coups and dictators, killing millions of people, then as far as the US is concerned, so be it. That is criminally insane.
It is the US public that pays for US foreign policy and wars, either through taxes or by the lack of government programs, such as universal healthcare, education, mass transit and a “Green New Deal”. US foreign policy does not keep the American people safer. Wars and the threat of wars make the American people less safe.
The foreign policy elites, also called the “power elite”, which is a phrase coined by C. Wright Mills in his book The Power Elite, are a closely knit alliance of “military, government, and corporate officials perceived as the center of wealth and political power in the US”. The power elite usually come from wealthy families.
They all went to Ivy League schools, they belong to the same country clubs, they are members of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderberg group. They sit on the boards of corporations, the media, banks, foundations, universities, and think tanks; and they become Senators and Presidents.
The power elite is a clique. The members all go to the same cocktail parties, their spouses are friends, and their children go to private schools together. Those not born into the power elite have to earn admission by being faithful servants, and climb to the top while they gain experience, power and influence.
The power elite is the Deep State. The Deep State makes US foreign policy and declares war; not the American people. The American people pay, but do not get to “play”.
The Deep State, and those that serve it, such as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, have no moral and legal restraints. Humanitarian interventionists, the right to protect (R2P), American values, democracy and human rights are weaponized, as Hook explained to Tillerson. It is all about US hegemony and world domination. Under three US presidents, Bush, Obama and Trump, the US has been trying to overthrow the government of Venezuela.
Twenty years ago, the democratically elected president of Venezuela became a target of the US. There was no question that the election was fair, democratic and it was declared so by international observers, including the Carter Center.
Hugo Chavez won the presidency by a landslide. Instead of cheering for democracy at work, the US and Canada soon started plotting to overthrow the elected government.
In 2002 the US backed an unsuccessful military coup d’etat. The US immediately endorsed the coup government, and the mainstream media cheered. The coup failed because the people demanded a return of their kidnapped president. Within 48 hours Hugo Chavez was back in the Miraflores Palace.
Below is a 15-minute documentary on the 2002 coup attempt and the US involvement. The video features Eva Golinger. Golinger is a US attorney who has followed events in Venezuela for decades, she was a legal advisor to Hugo Chavez, and she has written several books. The most well-known is The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela.
So, how does the US square what it now says is its concern for democracy, when the US tried to overthrow the government in 2002, regardless of it being a democratically elected government? The US’s fallback argument is that an adversary is never democratic enough, as Hook explained.It is the same answer the US gave in 1954 when it overthrew the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz.
It is the same answer the US gave in 1973 when it overthrew and assassinated Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende.
It is the same answer it gave in the 1980’s when it was backing the Contras in Nicaragua.It is the same answer the US gave when it overthrew the democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti in 1994, and then overthrew him again when he was elected in 2004.It is the same answer that the US gave when it backed the military coup in Honduras in 2009. For the US, an adversary is never democratic enough, and it must go.
Maduro must go because he is costing US and Canadian corporations and banks money. He challenges the Washington Consensus. Maduro threatens US hegemony in Latin America and the Caribbean. Those are unforgiveable sins in the eyes of the US. It is like putting a great big bull’s eye on your back. Being a US target has nothing to do with democracy and human rights.
Vice President Pence and Prime Minister Trudeau met in Ottawa at the end of May.
In their joint statement they spoke about many issues that the US and Canada share. They chitchatted about their peaceful borders, joked about basketball rivalry, and spared about trade. One issue that they agreed on was Venezuela. Both said that President Nicolas Maduro must go. When the US says “must go”, it includes assassination.
Here is what Trudeau had to say on Venezuela:
Pence followed with his statement on Venezuela:
Restoring democracy in Venezuela is a red herring. The US and Canadian foreign policies are not concerned about democracy. It is lip service for the home folks. US foreign policy has always preferred strong dictators and puppet governments in their “back yard”.
The US and Canada have historically exploited their backyard for its natural resources, tropical monocrops, cheap labor, and schemes to get rich. Those that have opposed the US and Canada can be found in mass graves all over the Caribbean and Latin American.
Trump is refreshingly crude, compared to the smooth-talking Obama. Reportedly when Trump first took office, one of his first questions was why is the US not at war with Venezuela, since they have all that oil and they are right in our backyard?
International law is meaningless to the US, and that is not new with Trump. The US has a long history of ignoring international law. Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton have a vision of the world as the wild west, with no international law, just anarchy. It is the cynical view that might-makes-right, and that the US is above the law.
It was the Bill Clinton administration that coined the phrases American exceptionalism and the indispensable nation.
That was the polite way to say that the US is above the law. It is just that Trump, Bolton, Pompeo, and Abrams do not have good manners. That is not a policy change, it’s Trump stepping into an imperial presidency that was left to him by Bush and Obama.
Oh, the Trump administration still speaks out of both sides of its mouth with platitudes that the US is a force for good in the world, and that its values are democracy and human rights. Only fools believe that anymore.
This graph shows overall GDP growth as well as per-capita growth in the pre-Chávez (1986-1999) era and the Chávez presidency.
From 1999-2003, the government did not control the state oil company; in fact, it was controlled by his opponents, who used it to try to overthrow the government, including the devastating oil strike of 2002–2003. For that reason, a better measure of economic growth under the Chávez government would start after it got control over the state oil company, and therefore the economy.
Above you can see this growth both measured from 2004, and for the 1999-2012 period. We use 2004 because to start with 2003, a depressed year due to the oil strike, would exaggerate GDP growth during this period; by 2004, the economy had caught up with its pre-strike level of output. Growth after the government got control of the state oil company was much faster.
This graph shows the growth of the private sector versus the public sector during the Chávez years.
Inflation in Venezuela, consumer price index.
After the oil strike (and the deep recession that it caused) ended in 2003, unemployment dropped drastically, following many years of increases before Chávez was elected. In 1999, when Chávez took office, unemployment was 14.5 percent; for 2011 it was 7.8 percent.
Poverty has decreased significantly, dropping by nearly 50 percent since the oil strike, with extreme poverty dropping by over 70 percent.
The Gini coefficient, measuring income inequality, fell from 0.5 to 0.397, the lowest Gini coefficient in the region.
Social spending doubled from 11.3 percent of GDP in 1998 to 22.8 percent of GDP in 2011.
The number of Venezuelans receiving pensions has increased from less than 500,000 in 1999 to nearly 2 million in 2011.