War is a racket”, General Smedley Butler warned in 1935. Butler, who was the most decorated marine at the time of his death, was sent by his government to South America to establish one banana republic after another. The drums of war are at it again, this time in Venezuela, brought to you by the geniuses who also brought you the Iraq war, such as John Bolton. The Trump administration and their lackeys in Europe have defied international laws and imposed an illegal embargo on the besieged country. These neo-colonialist overlords would have us believe that their recognition of Juan Guaido as “Acting President” is based on their commitment to democracy. What an outrageous claim! Western countries have slobbered over one tyrant after another – most notably Mohamad Bin Salman the crown prince of Saudi Arabia who has launched a brutal war on Yemen killing hundreds of thousands of people. Britain and America have not only refused to condemn them, but instead has facilitated the Yemeni genocide by supplying weapons to the theocratic and totalitarian regime in Saudi Arabia. What election has the House of Saud won? Venezuela on the other hand is an actual imperfect democracy. Venezuela’s crime of keeping their oil wealth to themselves is a crime the west cannot abide by. Since the Bolivarian Revolution of 1999, Hugo Chavez was elected to the presidency three times with thumping mandates in the ballot box. Each election has faced tough scrutiny by international observers - from Jimmy Carter to the United Nations - and, each time, the elections were certified to be free and fair. In fact, in the last presidential election, the opposition implored international organisations to not come to Venezuela, because they knew it would be certified and consequently diminish their narrative.
To be fair, Chavez’s successor Nicolás Maduro has made many mistakes and has shown authoritarian tendencies. But one cannot look at the hyper-inflation, shortages of essentials or the political instability in Venezuela in a vacuum. Britain has seized 1.5 billion dollars of gold reserves that Venezuela had in the Bank of England. The US has frozen the accounts of SITCO, the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, and has diverted funds to American creditors instead. The United Nations official report has said that the tactics employed by this neo-colonial axis is nothing short of a “medieval siege - using starvation to obtain Venezuela’s oil”.
Furthermore, if Venezuela is such a totalitarian regime then how was it that whilst Maduro has been in power, the Venezuelan opposition gained a super majority in the National Assembly? What sort of dictatorship allows mass demonstrations? What sort of tyrant allows a self proclaimed “Acting President” to elicit foreign support whilst publicly advocating the overthrow of the state? The Juan Guaido led opposition is not a Gandhian non-violent movement, but they have thrown bricks and stones at the police and military, and incited violence. Would any other government allow a figure like Guaido to walk the streets with impunity, after publicly conspiring to sell off the oil wealth of Venezuela to the highest foreign bidders, and openly call for the military to commit treason and abandon the duly elected civilian government.
History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. In 2002 the United States tried to overthrow Chavez in a coup. And now, neo-cons like Elliot Abrams, who was a convicted felon due to his role in the Iran-Contra scandal and needed a presidential pardon, are shepherding this new regime change project. And they have been greatly assisted by the corporate media. Yes, there have been large anti-Maduro demonstrations, but the media has conveniently ignored that there were bigger concurrent pro-Maduro marches. The media has failed to highlight the reasons why Maduro had a sweeping victory in the last election was not because of vote rigging, but because the opposition didn’t participate in them, knowing they would lose.
It is clear that the government has committed many economic blunders. It is clear that there have been many arrests motivated not by justice but by political convenience. It is clear that Maduro has lost the confidence of a significant section of the population. But the Maduro government must not be overthrown by the threat of a foreign sword at their neck. In the next election, the opposition can not refuse to participate. The international community, led by the United Nations must be allowed to vigorously supervise the next election, to ensure a free and fair process. And this colonial alliance must stop this immoral blockade of Venezuela.