Thank goodness for independent journalists, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations, and the vast majority of nations refusing to go along with Washington’s regime-change operation in Venezuela.
From George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Donald Trump, what we see in U.S. policy toward Venezuela is yet more continuity — a superpower-nation with a history of overthrowing democracies and installing dictators in South America, Central America, and beyond — hellbent on controlling the nation with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on the history.
Using convicted Iran-Contra figures Otto Reich and Elliott Abrams as his point men, George W. Bush tried his military coup in 2002 — against the most popular leader in the hemisphere, Hugo Chavez. But the Venezuelan people reversed that coup in a matter of days. The U.S.-appointed “president,” Pedro Carmona, had — like Juan Guiado today — promised to privatize Venezuela’s oil… after he’d announced his intent to dissolve the Venezuelan National Assembly and Supreme Court.
Here’s Noam Chomsky on Amy Goodman’s excellent DemocracyNow! program in 2006, describing Bush’s coup attempt and the way the U.S. media and private press in Venezuela routinely described Chavez as a “tin-pot dictator” (quite similar to the way today’s neo-fascist media portrays President Maduro as a “dictator,” all evidence to the contrary):
“From 1998 to the present, support for the elected government (in Venezuela) has increased sharply, in pretty dramatic contrast to almost all of Latin America. There are some increases elsewhere. And, in fact, Venezuela leads the continent in support for the elected government. That’s probably why it’s called ‘anti-democratic’ and ‘authoritarian’ and, you know, ‘dictator,’ and so on and so forth.
“The rhetoric here is kind of interesting. There are authoritarian tendencies, undoubtedly, but the picture of Chavez as a ‘tin-pot dictator’ — has ‘destroyed freedom of press’ and so on — that’s the standard line also in the right-wing press in South America, and believed, in fact, completely inconsistent with the facts.
“I mean, take, say, freedom of the press. As you know, there was a coup in Venezuela in the year 2002, supported by the United States. The government was overthrown. It was taken over by Pedro Carmona, a rich businessman, who immediately dissolved Parliament, destroyed the Supreme Court, got rid of the Attorney General’s Office, the public defender. Every vestige of democracy was instantly demolished.
“U.S. strongly supported it. The Venezuelan private press, the press, strongly supported it. One of the people who supported the coup was the opposition candidate in the last election. Just another — other supporters of the coup were a group called Sumate, the group that the U.S. provides aid to for what’s called ‘democracy building.’ So the coup was supported by a substantial part of the elite in the society that was backed by the United States, destroyed the democratic system.
“It was quickly overthrown by a popular uprising. U.S. had to back off. But what’s striking is that the newspapers continue to publish, still continue to attack the government. Rosales, who supported the coup, ran in the election. Sumate, which supported the coup, is functioning, the main recipient of U.S. ‘democracy-promotion’ funds.
“Just imagine that that had happened in the United States. Suppose there was a coup that overthrew the government, supported by the leading press, you know, by political figures and so on. Would the press continue to function? I mean, would the supporter of the coup be the opposition candidate in the next election? I mean, it’s unimaginable. They’d all be lined up in front of firing squads. But this is the ‘tin-pot dictator’ who’s ‘destroying freedom of press,’ not the first time. But these are quite important developments.
“And what they illustrate is a decline in the — first of all, a move towards integration, independence and authentic democracy with mass popular movements and participation and so on, all extremely important, but also along with it goes a decline in the methods of domination and control. I mean, the U.S. has dominated the region for a long time with two major methods: one of them, violence, and the other, economic strangulation, economic controls. And both of those methods are declining in efficacy.”
Fast-forward to 2015… President Obama, following in Bush’s footsteps, declares Venezuela “an extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” and levies sanctions on the country. Obama’s sanctions are the beginning of the “economic strangulation” of the country (using Chomsky’s phrase) — which the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights has since declared “crimes against humanity” comparable to a “medieval siege.”
Two years later, Washington supports the 2017 “protests” marked by terrorist violence in the streets aimed at supporters of the Maduro government. Mr. Guiado’s faction — the recipient of $40-50 million annually from the U.S. — plummets in popularity after setting fires, assaulting civilians, and stringing barbed wire across highways, killing scores of people (in an act of modern lynching, they also burn to death in the streets Orlando Figuera, an Afro-Venezuelan supporter of the government… American politicians make no mention of this atrocity).
In 2019, Donald Trump has picked up where Bush and Obama left off… only he, too, is failing. Spectacularly.
The coup against Venezuela’s legitimate, democratically-elected government has not worked. The sabotage of Venezuela’s economy and cyber-attacks on Venezuela’s power grid — along with the political stunt of trying to blame U.S. “aid” truck fires on Maduro’s government — have failed. That’s why Mike Pence’s puppet, Juan Guiado, is explicitly inviting U.S. military intervention in his country, even though nearly 90% of Venezuelans oppose that escalation.
The United Nations has invited independent journalists to present their findings after spending weeks investigating the situation in Venezuela. And those journalists are saying what I’ve been saying for years now: Donald Trump is far easier to rally public opinion against than his Democratic predecessor… and that is useful.
While President Obama continued Bush’s abhorrent policies in South/Central America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East — supporting right-wing thugs, neo-Nazis, and Salafist militants including al Qaeda (resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Syria alone) — he did so with great personal dignity and a modicum of restraint. When Obama occupied the Oval Office, the world found it difficult to resist Washington-led neo-fascism.
But the world of 2019 has Donald Trump to rally against — a patently repugnant figure incapable of hiding Washington’s monstrous policies behind sweeping rhetoric, an unearned Nobel Peace Prize, and a pretty face.
The mask is off, indeed. And that’s a big advantage for the millions of people, including a handful of Americans, resisting modern fascism.