Member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas are natural targets for the relentless psychological warfare of Western news media, because they form a resistance front to the foreign policy imperatives of the United States government and its allies. Right now, Venezuela is the most obvious example. Daily negative coverage in Western media reports invariably attack and blame the Venezuelan government for the country’s political and economic crisis. Similar coverage is applied to the governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Cuba’s revolutionary government led by Raul Castro and also to Nicaragua’s Sandinista government led by Daniel Ortega.
By contrast, the permanent economic sabotage, the attacks on democratic process and the cynical promotion of violence by the dysfunctional Venezuelan opposition gets a free pass. Likewise, U.S. and European news media have virtually nothing to report about Argentina’s abrupt plunge into crisis with 40 percent inflation and a dramatic increase in poverty after barely six months of Mauricio Macri’s corruption tainted government. Nor has coverage of the chronic complicity of the Mexican government in covering up the disappearance of of the 43 Ayotzinapa students or the mass murder of striking teachers in Oaxaca matched the hysteria applied by Western media to Venezuela over bogus human rights concerns.
No doubt political scientists could work out the correlation between adverse or downright hostile media coverage and official measures or announcements by U.S. and allied governments. What’s clear in general is that Western media coverage actively and purposefully serves U.S. and allied government foreign policy preparing the ground for otherwise categorically inexplicable measures of diplomatic and economic aggression. For example, the self-evidently absurd declaration by President Obama that Venezuela constitutes a threat to the security of the United States or the anti-humanitarian failure of the U.S. government to lift the illegal economic blockade of Cuba despite President Obama’s duplicitous avowals recognizing the blockade’s political failure.
Venezuela and Cuba are close, loyal allies of Nicaragua, now in an election year. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government has faced a Western media assault over the last month or so with the U.S. government issuing a travel alert. The alert warns U.S. travelers to Nicaragua to be wary of “increased government scrutiny of foreigners’ activities, new requirements for volunteer groups, and the potential for demonstrations during the upcoming election season in Nicaragua…. U.S. citizens in Nicaragua should be aware of heightened sensitivity by Nicaraguan officials to certain subjects or activities, including: elections, the proposed inter-oceanic canal, volunteer or charitable visits, topics deemed sensitive by or critical of the government.” In a video mixed message about that alert, the U.S. Ambassador to the country, Laura Dogu, states that the advisory should in no way deter tourists from the United States visiting Nicaragua.
The travel alert appears to have been provoked by the experiences of a U.S. academic and also two U.S. government functionaries who were asked by the Nicaraguan authorities to leave the country in June. The official U.S. reaction has a lot in common with the mentality described in “Orientalism,” Edward Said’s intricate psycho-cultural map of Western perceptions of Muslim countries. Said writes, “The scientist, the scholar, the missionary, the trader or the soldier was in or thought about the Orient because he could be there or could think about it with very little resistance on the Orient’s part.” Translated to the Americas, the attitudes and behavior of Said’s orientalist are clearly present among U.S. Americanists, both governmental and non-governmental, and their regional collaborators.
The latest example of Americanist hubris here in Nicaragua has been a remarkably unscholarly outburst by Evan Ellis, the professor of the U.S. College of War who was expelled by the Nicaraguan government while attempting an unauthorized investigation of Nicaragua’s proposed interoceanic canal. Ellis’ ill-tempered diatribe repeats a familiar litany of downright falsehoods, wild speculation and poisonous calumnies, attacking Nicaragua’s Sandinista government led by Daniel Ortega as a dictatorship. It appeared in Latin America Goes Global, closely associated with the center right Project Syndicate media network. Project Syndicate lists among its associate media right-wing media outlets like Clarin and La Nación in Argentina, Folha de Sao Paulo and O Globo in Brazil and El Nacional in Venezuela.
So it is no surprise that in Nicaragua its associate media outlet should be the virulently anti-Sandinista Confidencial, which published the Spanish version of Ellis’s attack, making Ellis’ accusations of dictatorship look stupid. Addressing Chinese involvement in Nicaragua’s proposed interoceanic canal, Ellis displays his ignorance of Nicaragua’s relationship with both China and Taiwan. His tendentious, ahistorical analysis betrays the mentality of an unreconstructed Cold Warrior in all its inglorious torpor. That ideological straitjacket prevents Ellis from even beginning to appreciate Daniel Ortega’s hard-headed but deep commitment to promoting peace and reconciliation based on genuine dialog. Western political leaders and their media and academic shills perceive that commitment as a sign of weakness, which explains a great deal about repeated failures of Western foreign policy all around the world.
Around the same time as the Ellis affair, Viridiana Ríos a Mexican academic associated with the U.S. Woodrow Wilson Center left Nicaragua claiming police persecution. Ríos entered Nicaragua as a tourist but then proceeded to carry out a program of interviews with various institutions for her academic research. The curious thing about her claims is that she was never actually interviewed by any Nicaraguan official, either of the police or the immigration service. But she claims her hotel alerted her to a visit by police, in fact if it happened at all more likely immigration officials, who presumably left satisfied because otherwise she would certainly have been interviewed. Ríos then supposedly contacted the Mexican embassy who allegedly and inexplicably advised her to leave for Mexico. The upshot is that Ríos visited Nicaragua only to suddenly fear, for no obvious reason, being disappeared by government officials who could easily have detained her had they so wished. Rios then, with no complications, left Nicaragua, the safest country in the Americas along with Canada and Chile, and went home to Mexico, a country with 28,000 disappeared people.
Around the same time, as the reports about Ellis and Ríos, the Guardian published a disinformation scatter-gun attack on the Nicaraguan government also firming up the false positive of Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega’s presidency as a dictatorship. The dictatorship accusations are complete baloney. Neither Ellis nor the Guardian report faithfully that even center-right polling companies agree that support for Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista political party runs at over 60 percent of people surveyed while the political opposition barely muster 10 percent support. Similar polls show massive confidence in both the police (74 percent ), the army (79.8 percent) and satisfaction with Nicaragua’s democracy (73.9 percent). Another common theme in the attacks by Ellis and the Guardian is the supposed suspension of the construction of Nicaragua’s planned interoceanic canal, based on yet another false positive -the bogus hypothesis that the canal has no finance.
The basis for this claim is sheer speculation based on the afterwards-equals-because fallacy, typified by another unscrupulous and disingenuous Guardian article from November 2015 offering zero factual support for the claim that the Canal ‘s construction has been postponed for financial reasons. That report and numerous others reflect the outright dishonesty of the Canal’s critics. From the outset the canal’s critics accused the government and HKND, the Chinese company building the canal, of moving too quickly and failing to take into account environmental concerns and also for an alleged lack of transparency. When the government and the HKND took on board recommendations from the ERM environmental impact study to do more environmental studies, the Canal’s critics changed tack, accusing the government of covering up that the Canal has been delayed because HKND has run out of money. That claim seems to originate in Western psy-warfare outlets in Asia like the South China Morning Post and the Bangkok Post which have consistently run attack pieces on HKND’s owner, Wang Jing.
This standard operating intellectual dishonesty by NATO psy-warfare outlets like the Guardian, omits various inconvenient facts. For example, preparatory work on the Canal route continues with various studies in progress, including aerial surveys by an Australian company, one of whose pilots, Canadian Grant Atkinson tragically died in a crash late last year. This year, the government reached a conclusive agreement with local indigenous groups affected by the Canal after an extensive process of consultation. This year too, Nicaragua has signed a memorandum of understanding with Antwerp’s Maritime Academy to train the pilots who will guide shipping through the Canal and also a cooperation agreement with the UK Hydrographic Office for training and advice in relation to the hydrographic maps the Canal will need. This is hardly the behavior of people managing a project in crisis. That said, the global economic environment right now is so uncertain that investors in any large project let alone one as huge as the Nicaraguan Canal will certainly be wary.
The global economic context and the Canal’s geostrategic aspect receive a more rational treatment than Ellis’ self-serving rant in an article by Nil Nikandrov. Even Nikandrov seems to accept as fact the Guardian’s entirely speculative claim that the Canal’s financing is in crisis, but he rightly treats Ellis’s Cold War style anti-Sandinista hysteria with amused scepticism. In fact, neither Nikandrov nor Ellis make the obvious point that the strongest geostrategic reality in relation to the Canal is that, should U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea accentuate into outright confrontation, China could not defend militarily the strong investment by Chinese companies in Nicaragua’s Canal. In any case, Nikandrov, rightly points out with regard to Nicaragua’s economy, “Nicaragua’s socioeconomic progress, Nicaraguans’ improved standard of living, and the stability and security there (compared to the increase in crime in most Central American countries) can all largely be credited to President Ortega.”
But even that reality can be turned on its head in the hands of a butterfly columnist as Bloomberg’s Mac Margolis demonstrated in his July 4 article “Nicaragua Prospers Under an Ex-Guerrilla.” Just for a change Bloomberg’s editors omitted their trademark “unexpectedly”, usually slipped in to any headline reporting unpalatable news. But the premier U.S. business news site could only finally recognize the incredible progress achieved by Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista government by at the same time smearing and denigrating President Ortega in the process. On the positive side Margolis recognizes, “the Nicaraguan economy grew 4.9 percent last year and has averaged 5.2 percent for the last five. Although three in 10 Nicaraguans are poor, unemployment and inflation are low. Public sector debt is a modest 2.2 percent of gross domestic product.”
That apart, Margolis writes, “Ortega’s critics know a darker side. Consider the ever-accommodating Nicaraguan Supreme Court, which last week deposed opposition leader Eduardo Montealegre as head of the Independent Liberal Party – essentially clearing the way for Ortega to run unchallenged in the November elections.” This is identical to the dishonest argument in Nina Lakhani’s Guardian article. Montealegre’s PLI had around 3 percent support, under the new PLI leader that seems to have crept up to around 5 percent. The Supreme Court decision made no difference to the fact that Nicaragua’s political opposition has been incapable of a serious electoral challenge to Daniel Ortega since before the last elections in 2011. Since then Daniel Ortega’s popularity has grown while support for the Nicaraguan opposition has collapsed. Implicitly contradicting himself, Margolis acknowledges that fact but goes on to make speculative, fact-free accusations of corruption, directly in relation to Nicaragua’s proposed Canal.
Without being specific he hints at widespread opposition to the Canal in Nicaragua, writing “a shadowy project that Ortega farmed out to Chinese investors led by billionaire Wang Jing. Ground has yet to be broken on the US$50 billion development, but Nicaraguans have raised a stink over the lavishly generous terms of the deal”. While opposition to the Canal certainly does exist, 73 percent of people in Nicaragua support it. Evan Ellis mentions an alleged opposition demonstration of 400,000 people, which is simply untrue. The biggest demonstration against the Canal drew about 40,000 people back in 2014 when Nicaragua’s political opposition bussed people to a march from all over the country. Plenty of information is available about the Canal and Margolis has no facts to back up his baseless accusation of corruption “I’d wager a fistful of Nicaraguan córdobas that ‘Presidente-Comandante Daniel’ has something he’s uneager to share.”
Only the crass Americanist mind set could provoke such presumptuous contempt for the opinion of the great majority of Nicaraguans. Margolis really seems to believe Nicaraguans are so stupid as to support a President who he alleges is self-evidently corrupt. In fact, Margolis’ discredited protagonist, Eduardo Montealegre, has precisely the kind of corruption tainted track record so familiar from the U.S. government deregulation of Wall Street. Montealegre was the Nicaraguan Treasury Minister under a U.S. supported right wing government and oversaw a massive bailout of Nicaragua’s rotten banking system from which his own bank benefited directly at the time. Perfectly natural then for a Bloomberg columnist to highlight Montealegre while attacking Daniel Ortega who rescued Nicaragua from precisely that culture of abject corruption. This banal irrational attack on Daniel Ortega deliberately obscures the reasons for Nicaragua’s economic success, which shows up current US and European economic policy as faith based nonsense.
Domestically, President Ortega has prioritized poverty reduction, implementing very successful socialist redistributive policies and extensive infrastructure development. Overseas, his Sandinista government has dramatically diversified commercial and development cooperation relationships, in particular structuring Venezuela’s aid in a way equivalent to deficit spending, whose success contrasts sharply with the mindless futility of current Western economic policy. Contradicting the Bloomberg article, Nil Nikandrov is much closer to reality when he writes that Ortega is, “a faithful defender of Nicaragua’s interests on the international stage and enjoys the support of the vast majority of Nicaraguans.” As the NATO country psychological warfare media crank up their attacks on Nicaragua in an election year, it remains to be seen whether Nikandrov is right when he argues, “the subversive activities of the U.S. intelligence services and their ‘strategy of chaos’ will not work in Nicaragua.”
Dr. James Petras who has been alongside three outstanding leaders of the world – Chile’s late Salvador Allende, Venezuela’s late Hugo Chavez and Greece’s late Andreas Papandreou – as an advisor warns that the United States and other imperialist powers should never be trusted.
The following is a transcript of a recorded interview with professor James Petras by Marwa Osman.
Q: How do you assess the influence of Zionism in setting the agenda for Western governments?
A: I think Zionism has become a very important influence on western, European and US diplomacy, particularly to the Middle East and in particular any questions relating to Israel’s foreign policy. In the US I think it is extremely important. Zionism has set the agenda for the US, it has helped elect officials, it has intimidated critics, it has received enormous funds from the US government and in general we can say that Israel dominates the US policy in the Middle East. The Zionists played a very important role in organizing the invasion of Iraq, they were involved with the war in Afghanistan, they are currently involved in the war inside of Syria, and they have deep positions within the state department and within the Pentagon. In the Pentagon, they have been very prominent in encouraging the US to escalate its wars and destroy the Muslim population in that region. In the treasury department, Israeli Zionists have been influential in imposing sanctions against Iran and I think the agreement was made between Iran and the US despite the pressure from the Zionists and they continue to harass any policy which would implement the Iran-US agreement, that is, what would facilitate trade and investment. So in general, England, France and the United States are very much influenced by Zionist policy regarding the Islamic countries and I think this is a major hindrance to any accommodation and understanding that would lessen the prospect of war and focus attention on the role that Israel plays along with Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the Islamic people and of the population as a whole.
Q: How do you think Zionists have managed to keep such an influence away from the public’s eye and basically away from the media?
A: I think that Zionist influence in the media is enormous. If you look at the major television networks bearing common that Zionists are in the leading positions like CBS, NBS, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal are very much controlled and influenced by owners and writers tied to Israeli interests. The Financial Times is also no exception to that and that has played a major role in influencing the public opinion and beyond that we have the fact that many Zionists have penetrated the government and they are simply a lobby pressuring the Congress and that plays a role also. Zionists contribute over 60% of the funding of the Democratic Party and about 35 to 40% of Republican Party funding so they influence the government directly and they influence the media and they influence the congress and the electoral process. All of this is accompanied by ferocious attacks on critics of Israel. We have seen many writers and academics who have lost jobs in medical and other professions who have criticized Israel and have been subject to harassment and some have even suffered violent threats against their lives and certainly against their employment.
Q: What are the highlights of your first hand observations during the years you served as an advisor to Andreas Papandreou? Have things changed for the better now?
A: Things are much worse now. When I was in the government back in 1982 till 1985, we implemented a policy much more balanced, criticizing the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. We saw the Palestinian President at the time, Yasser Arafat, who visited Papandreou and they exchanged similar ideas on the Liberation of Palestine. Papandreou did not pursue his radical commitments that he made in the campaign but he did implement many reforms dealing with women’s rights, with expanding the health programs and the higher education programs. In other words he was an effective social reformer but he did not pursue the maximum agenda which was to withdraw from NATO and from the European Union although he threatened to but it was mainly a bluff. So one can say that in comparison to the current period, Papandreou was certainly much more of a reformer much more effective developing an independent foreign policy than the current governments of Greece. It’s a shame to say that Greece is going backwards rather than at least standing with the independent programs of the past.
Q: Why did the US decide to overthrow the government of President Salvador Allende? Can you depict the depth of US involvement in toppling Chilean government based on your own observations?
A: A number of things that I think are very crucial. One was when the Allende government was democratically elected it proceeded to nationalize the major industries like the copper industry, banks and some of the major industrial plants or turn them into worker represented institutions. So the first objective for Washington, particularly Henry Kissinger, was to undermine the independent economic policy of Chile. The second thing is that Chile served as a democratic alternative in Latin America, an independent foreign policy with good relationships with all of the progressive governments including Cuba and Washington did not want an example in Latin America of a democratically elected socialist government with an independent foreign policy with a critical stance on imperialist wars overseas including the war against China, the US support for the Shah etc. So I think Allende and the socialist government in Chile was overthrown through Washington’s direct involvement with financial aid, with pressures within the Chilean military to eliminate democratically oriented generals and also to pay for certain strikes particularly in the transport industry with the truck owners who were paid very substantial amounts by US CIA officials to paralyze the economy. I was an advisor to the government of Allende at the foreign ministry and I attempted to inform them on the role that Washington was playing in sabotaging the Chilean autonomy in the military. The problem was that the US had a great influence on the military and the military that was allied with the US was not purged and the democratic military officials eventually were ousted and that allowed the coup to move forward.
Q: Comparing the governance model of Allende with Chavez, you believe the reason for Chavez’ success was his structural renewal of the Venezuelan political system while Allende failed to meet its necessity. Do you think this is the reason behind the failure of the uprisings in some Arab countries, while the same fact served as a main factor for the victory of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution?
A: I think both in the case of Imam Khomeini and Chavez, they moved very directly to eliminate the potential of the coup forces in the military. Imam Khomeini got rid of the generals and conspirators of the Shah within the military and therefore eliminated the possibility of intrigues and a military coup. Chavez did the same thing. When he was elected the first thing he did was to evoke a new constitutional assembly and a new constitution was formed and Chavez was very influential in the recruitment and promotion of democratically constitutionally oriented military officials so when Washington promoted the coup against Chavez it was defeated. They only captured a small minority of the military and unlike Allende who believed that the military was a democratic force not taking account of the long term ties to the United States under the previous right wing government. I think that the changes in the military and in the constitution were crucial to the advancement in Iran and Venezuela by making the military and civilian electoral processes work hand in hand. There are many other reasons for the failure of the uprisings in different Arab governments. They failed to mobilize the masses, they relied on simple maneuvers in parliament and elections. They didn’t attempt to organize an independent military that would be nationalistic anti-imperialist. Many of those so called progressive Arab governments were themselves very corrupt and thought they could make deals with the United Sates and I think ultimately fooled themselves and left their countries vulnerable to military coups, US interventions etc. It is hard to believe that if 1 million Arab fighters were recruited in Iraq, they couldn’t have prevented an invasion but Saddam Hussein was too much manipulated by Washington thinking that he could make deals with Washington against Iran and other adversaries with other Persian Gulf countries and he was wrong.
Q: How did you see the mindset of President Papandreou, President Salvador Allende of Chile, and President Hugo Chavez in their fight against US dictatorship?
A: Well I think Papandreou was committed to winning the vote and the only way to win the public vote was by taking public opinion. Greece had suffered a military dictatorship like the Shah of Iran. In the early 60s and late 70s Greece had been under right wing governments which hindered Greece’s independence in its foreign policy. They prejudiced Greece’s living standards and in that sense Papandreou was able to understand the dynamics of civil society and to win an election. Now the problem with Papandreou was that he thought he could work within the capitalist system, he thought he could modify capitalism to make it more responsive, he thought he could work with the European Union and NATO and bring them in a more progressive direction and so while he pursued reforms he misread the natures of the limitations imposed by the structure. So on the one hand he would take positions but would take right turns. So it was a very paradoxical situation; I know I used to visit Papandreou to advise him on policies and he would take notes on paper of what I would suggest as an independent anti-imperialist policy and I thought I was having a major influence but when I left the office his secretary told me that I was followed by the US ambassador, so he was playing both sides by using a lot of my advice and criticism on the one hand to make speeches in parliament and on the other hand make practical decisions aligned with his conferences with the US embassy. Now with Chavez, it was a much different story. Chavez was much more committed, honest and in tune with the people. I was in many meetings with President Chavez, I spoke with him in the Sorbonne in Paris where we shared a platform. He was very much committed to fighting imperialism and he was the only major president in the west that opposed the war on terrorism. He said it shouldn’t be a war on terrorism, it should be a war on poverty and misery that create violent confrontation. For opposing Washington’s policies in the Middle East he became a target. Now I think President Chavez was a brilliant political and social analyst but I think he made mistakes by depending too much on the oil industry and social programs when he should have diversified the economy by focusing on being less dependent on oil and more on developing Venezuela as a diversified economy and one that was capable of being more self-sufficient. Allende was a contradiction in the sense that he was very democratic, very socialist but had weak understanding of the military basis, of popular basis for sustaining the government. He believed that every government would respect democracy and of course he was very naive. Washington never paid any attention. They used democracy as a tool to destroy the government. They exploited the weaknesses of the electoral process, they destroyed the independent military and carried out the coup which led to about 15 years of dictatorship and a reversal in all the major changes in agriculture reform, national ownership of the media and resources etc. So I think one has to have a more comprehensive look. You cannot trust imperialism to abide by its agreements.
Q: Are there any interesting memories during the years as their advisor to recall?
A: A lot of it depends on the issues. I once went swimming with Papandreou and when we were swimming I saw that there were people in scuba suits and I asked him why these people were swimming around and he said these are my bodyguards because we received intelligence information that the Mossad may try to assassinate the President Papandreou while we were swimming. So I found that amusing that the president of a country engaged in a vacation with me and at the time took the concern and right to defend himself even under water. Now with President Chavez, I was very impressed by his capacity to not only to engage in serious discussions but also had a very bright kind of a touch with the people. When we finished a major meeting he met with different admirers and audiences and some of them were from his region of the country and President Chavez engaged in a song contest with some of them. I was amused by the fact that Chavez knew the popular songs that corresponded to the audience that attended him in the informal session. And finally with president Salvador Allende, I remember my first meeting with him and it was in the middle of the Vietnam war and I was part of the anti-war movement and I had just come from the United States and I asked President Allende if he could give a statement and he immediately sat down and taped a rousing speech in defense of the Vietnamese and against US imperialism. I was very respectful because he was at that time playing a leading role in the government and taking the time to engage in international solidarity with the American people’s struggle against the war. And clearly Allende distinguished between the progressive American people and the imperialist government in Washington.
A mural hanging inside the Ecuadorian parliament building by the famous Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamín, titled «Imagen de la Patria», includes an image of a grinning skull in a helmet emblazoned with the acronym «CIA». When the mural was first unveiled in August 1988, Guayasamín explained that this image epitomized all the foreign threats to his native country. And for almost three decades this «CIA skull» has gazed out at the deputies in parliament with a sinister grin.
The CIA’s fingerprints are visible in dozens of incidents in Ecuador in which politicians who threatened US foreign policy were eliminated. For example, in May 1981 the airplane carrying President Jaime Roldós crashed in the province of Loja, a mountainous region of Ecuador. President Reagan had had a hostile relationship with the Ecuadorians: Roldós had refused the invitation to his inauguration and maintained friendly relations with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Cuban government. He also demonstrated his solidarity with the Revolutionary Democratic Front in El Salvador, which opposed the military dictatorship. Roldós was planning to reorganize Ecuador’s oil industry, jeopardizing the interests of transnational oil corporations. Roldós was discarded because of a «whole array of grievances».
Once Rafael Correa took office, the CIA stepped up its work in Ecuador. In a recent interview Correa mentioned that in the early days of his administration a certain American diplomat requested a meeting, during which he introduced himself as «the official representative of the CIA» in Ecuador. That individual also emphasized that he acted independently of the US ambassador. As Correa noted, at that time «the Americans still thought they could take control of our government».
The impetus for Correa’s most recent revelatory statements about the subversive activities of US intelligence in his country was an incident involving a CIA agent codenamed «Swat».
From 1984 to 2007, a certain Leila Hadad Pérez, a woman of Lebanese descent, operated in Quito as an illegal CIA agent. At first she used a beauty salon as her front, and later a shop that sold carpets. Her real name was Sania Elias Zaitoum El Mayek. Swat was primarily interested in high-ranking officers in the armed forces and police. Their collaboration was underwritten with monthly «gratuities» paid out in dollars – equal to many times their official salaries – as well as the promise of a steady climb up their career ladders. Thanks to Swat’s efforts, many key posts in Ecuador’s intelligence services and armed forces were filled with CIA agents.
One of their main goals was to hinder Ecuador’s involvement in ventures aimed at integrating the continent and also to thwart any strengthened alliance with Venezuela. A campaign was also waged to compromise leaders who were friendly to Ecuador – such as Hugo Chávez, Inácio Lula da Silva, Néstor Kirchner, Evo Morales, and others.
Swat’s network of agents did all it could to prevent the closure of the US military base in Manta. Correa’s 2006 election campaign made no secret of what he planned to do about the US military presence there. Virtually every CIA field agent in the country was mobilized in response, as well as US military intelligence, which included politicians, police officers, military personnel, journalists, trade union and student activists, and NGOs. But their efforts failed. As Correa noted, the methods employed by Swat were «clumsy», and that «it was obvious she was the brains of the CIA in Ecuador». As a result, the Ecuadorian president decided to expel Swat from the country. In July 2009, the US military base in Manta was closed.
US Ambassador Todd Chapman tried to deny the existence of ties between the CIA and Ecuadorian politicians. With some irony, President Correa advised the American ambassador to learn «a little more about how these services work, if he doesn’t know».
Rafael Correa is confident that his country is still in danger of a coup d’état. Some analysts believe that in the end, the CIA’s conspiracy in Ecuador will be led by Mario Pazmino, the former director of Ecuador’s intelligence services. Correa has accused him of concealing strategically vital information regarding the strike that was launched from across the Colombian border on an illegal FARC camp located inside Ecuador. From beginning to end, that attack was planned by the CIA and US military intelligence.
As a result of these disclosures, Ecuador’s compromised intelligence and counterintelligence agencies have been subjected to reforms, a National Intelligence Secretariat has been established, new staff have been recruited, and new, specialized equipment has been installed. All this will make it possible to effectively monitor the organizations that answer to the CIA, such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). It was quickly discovered that Karen Hollihan, an Ecuadorian of German-American descent, had been dispatched to restore the agent network in Ecuador. A man named Fernando Villavicencio worked as an aide to Hollihan. He claims to be a petroleum expert, but his primary activity was denigrating President Correa. Villavicencio was sentenced to 18 months in prison for defamation, but he escaped and now uses the Internet to disseminate articles written by the CIA about corruption in Correa’s government. Another active contact of Hollihan’s is named César Ricaurte, who heads the non-profit organization Fundamedios, which monitors «threats to media freedom» in Ecuador, helping critics of the regime become involved in the CIA’s campaign of exposés.
The NGO Civic Participation (Participación Ciudadana), which specializes in «investigative journalism» authored by the CIA, has received $265,000 just from the NED in the last two years to cover their «current expenses».
The Ecuadorian Mario Ramos, the director of the Andean Center for Strategic Studies, who analyzes US operations against Latin American governments that refuse to toe Washington’s line, noted on TeleSUR that in its subversive activities the CIA sizes up each country before choosing «an appropriate destabilization strategy: economic war, media or psychological warfare, and so on».
Ramos believes that in order to counter such subversive operations, Latin Americans must establish «an integrated defense strategy» that will span the orbits of diplomacy, the military, and finance, and must focus the efforts of their countries’ intelligence services on this task.
The exposure of the CIA’s subversive operations in Ecuador, the parade of TV close-ups of the perpetrators, and the analysis of the catastrophic repercussions for the country resulting from these disloyal activities – this is all proof that Ecuador’s political leaders and security services have reached the necessary conclusions.
Maduro presented three proposals to advance the mediation process this week (Prensa Presidencial).
Caracas – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced three proposals for UNASUR-mediated talks between his government and the country’s right-wing opposition Tuesday.
“The first [proposal] is the creation of a commission for truth, justice, and reparations for the victims to compensate for all of the harm caused by the coups, guarimbas from 1999 to 2016,” the socialist leader explained.
Over the past six months, the Maduro government has pushed the idea of a truth and justice commission as an alternative to the opposition-controlled parliament’s Amnesty Law, which sought to exonerate individuals convicted of a vast range of felonies and misdemeanors over the past seventeen years, provided that they were committed in the context of political protests.
The South American president also proposed the convening of a meeting between representatives of Venezuela’s five branches of government in order to resolve political disputes and restore the normal functioning of government under the constitution.
Since taking office in January, the opposition-majority National Assembly has been at loggerheads with the executive, the Supreme Court, and the National Electoral Council (CNE) over clashing interpretations of the division of powers outlined in the nation’s constitution.
Lastly, Maduro called for the signing of an “agreement for peace and nonviolence” in order to avoid the violent escalation of the country’s political conflict.
In recent weeks, the right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD, has relaunched violent anti-government protests that have seen demonstrators attack police and damage public property.
The head of state’s proposals follow the first round of UNASUR-mediated indirect dialogue between the government and the opposition held in Punta Cana late last month.
Though no agreement was reached, the meeting was welcomed as a key first step by Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, Leonel Fernandez, and Martin Torrijos– former presidents of Spain, Dominican Republic, and Panama– who agreed to act as mediators between the two sides.
The MUD, for its part, has outlined four preconditions for talks with the government, including the activation of the recall process, the release of so-called “political prisoners”, a solution to the “humanitarian crisis”, and “respect” for legislation passed by the National Assembly.
Speaking on Wednesday, Miranda Governor and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles lashed out Maduro’s proposals, exclaiming, “For there to be dialogue, there must be respect.”
“[Maduro] speaks of signing a non-violence agreement, but who are the ones who confront [protests] and prevent them from reaching the CNE?,” he added, referring to the Venezuelan government’s enforcement of a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting protests in the vicinity of CNE offices at the behest of electoral personnel concerned for their safety.
On May 19, an unauthorized opposition march towards the heavily pro-government heart of Caracas saw protesters attack and wound seven police officers and vandalize government student housing.
The Maduro government, meanwhile, has received backing from the leftist regional bloc, the ALBA, which issued a statement on Wednesday, applauding the opening of UNASUR-mediated talks with the opposition and calling for “absolute respect for Venezuelan sovereignty”.
The MUD has yet to officially respond to the Venezuelan president’s proposals for dialogue.
The media war against the democratically elected government of Venezuela kicked into high gear recently.
It is no coincidence that over the past few weeks a series of damning articles have come out touting the allegedly imminent collapse of the Venezuelan government.
These come on the heels of a recent editorial by the Washington Post that resorted to outright lies to justify its effort to promote regime change in Venezuela.
Meanwhile certain heads-of-government, such as Spain’s Mariano Rajoy and Paraguay’s Horacio Cartes who both have strong ties to Washington, have made provocative statements meant to try to isolate Venezuela in the international community.
There is stratagem afoot. Venezuela is passing through a difficult moment and the enemies of the Bolivarian Revolution smell blood.
Those old enough to remember the lead up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq know that these kinds of campaigns always predate foreign intervention.
For those quick to level the charge of conspiracy, one need only look to Brazil where analysts and pundits warned for months that the impeachment of Brazil was actually a Machiavellian coup plot to oust the president.
Many expressed doubt but the coup allegations turned out to be irrefutably true after a leaked conversation by one of the coup-plotters spelled out the plan explicitly.
teleSUR takes a look at three of the worst examples of anti-Venezuelan propaganda masquerading as journalism.
1. The Guardian’s Nick Cohen Equates Solidarity with Sex Tourism
Cohen’s piece literally opens with the line, “Radical tourism is no different from sex tourism.”
He then equates those who seek to learn from the class struggle throughout the world with those who pay for sex in foreign countries.
Cohen then cherry picks information from questionable sources to disparage a government that has consistently won elections and always acknowledged the times they lost.
Cohen talks about Venezuela as if he lived there, when of course he hasn’t. He seeks out Venezuelans like Thor Halvorssen who agree with him and back-up his claims that the true champions of the oppressed are the right-wing politicians who ignored the poor for decades, before the arrival of Hugo Chavez in 1999.
But how much credibility can a man like Cohen — who backed the invasion of Iraq — have when he calls important thinkers such as Noam Chomsky and John Pilger “half-baked pseudo-left intellectual(s)”?
2. Venezuelans Long For Days of Elite Semi-Democracy… in the NY Times
The New York Times, which recently ran an editorial calling for a return of the days when Latin America was considered the “back yard” of the United States, is one of the loudest voices pushing for the ouster of Maduro.
It has featured article after article with one-sided stories that try to paint Venezuela as a failed state. It recently ran an op-ed by Emiliana Duarte, an upper class Venezuelan living in Caracas, which claimed Venezuelans are going hungry.
Duarte writes for the notoriously anti-government Caracas Chronicles, which the Times describes simply as a website for Venezuelan news.
She seems nostalgic for the pre-Chavez Venezuela, saying the country was once “the most stable democracy in South America.” What she doesn’t mention is that so-called stability came as a result of an elite pact between the leading political parties at the time, the Social Christians and Democratic Action.
This pact deliberately excluded leftist parties from having the opportunity to govern and led the elite semi-democracy known as the Fourth Republic. She laments the loss of the Fourth Republic’s institutions, yet fails to recognize that the failure of these same institutions are partly responsible for the rise of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Duarte also talks about how she has to “fill a suitcase with bags of rice and other grains” whenever she travels, leaving out the fact that regular international air travel is a privilege reserved only for the wealthy.
The suggestion that runs throughout is that Venezuelans are suffering through a hunger crisis, when the facts suggest otherwise as Venezuela remains well above the FAO’s minimum food security level.
3. BBC Commits Journalistic Crimes to Make its Case
The BBC’s Wyre Davies dedicated an entire article to downplaying the very real threat of a foreign military intervention in Venezuela, claiming it is nothing but a “spectre.”
It wasn’t that long ago that official U.S. policy was to install dictatorships throughout the region to do the bidding of elites. While Washington now talks about its respect for democracy, it backed recent coups in Haiti, Paraguay, Honduras and Brazil, not to mention the attempted 2002 coup to oust Hugo Chavez — in Venezuela, of course.
But Davies thinks a foreign intervention is a virtual impossibility.
He belittles the recent military exercises conducted by the Venezuelan Armed Forces. He puts scare quotes around the notion of spy planes, when two alleged U.S. planes were recently caught violating Venezuelan air space.
Davies suggests the military exercises are just a cover “to divert attention from what is really happening.”
To back up his assertion, he points to nameless experts, not once but twice. First he says that “many commentators” agree with his claims without quoting a single one.
Then he says the “real reason” behind the exercises is “to create the emergency conditions that would enable the armed forces to deal with internal dissent.”
Once again he attributes the idea to “observers” but doesn’t bother to name any.
Davies also asserts that President Maduro has “vowed to use (the Armed Forces) against opposition protesters.”
This is patently false. Maduro has never said such a thing.
In fact, opposition leader Henrique Capriles is the only one making open calls to the military to act against the people and rebel against Maduro.
Beyond that, the Venezuelan people and their Armed Forces have a special relationship. It was the military that rescued Venezuelan democracy after the short-lived, U.S.-sanctioned coup briefly ousted President Chavez from power in 2002 in the kind of foreign intervention Davies thinks is a mere specter.
Recent political developments across the region have prompted celebratory proclamations in the mainstream Western press that Latin America’s decades-long dominance by left-leaning governments is reaching its terminal stages. The landslide victory of the Venezuelan opposition in last December’s legislative elections, the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, and the triumph of center-right candidate Mauricio Macri in Argentina’s presidential election do indeed seem to point to a region-wide decline in the fortunes of the parties of the Pink Tide. But as is so often the case in the mainstream media, commentators have been too quick to make current events fit neatly into overarching seismic shifts. The cursory and often incomplete news reports on which they are based simply do not provide sufficient support for such catchall explanations. While scholars have naturally initiated a more nuanced and detailed debate to consider whether the region is indeed witnessing the end of a progressive cycle, press analyses have struck a premature and in many cases triumphalist tone by declaring the collapse of the Latin American left both imminent and beyond serious doubt.
In reality, it is the exact opposite that is beyond serious doubt: it is far too early to write off the future of the left in Latin America. Moreover, more research is needed to understand the dynamics of these movements and how things might play out in the coming months and years. But what is most disconcerting about these knee-jerk press responses is that the people making them seem to not even have a strong grasp of the basic facts surrounding the political developments on which they base their claims, let alone of the nuance needed to develop a sophisticated analysis. In a survey of the media declarations of the purportedly imminent collapse of the Latin American left, COHA has found a shocking collection of glaring and demonstrably false statements over basic matters of fact that reveal the profoundly slipshod nature of their research.
The salience of these findings can hardly be overstated: if journalists in the mainstream media cannot even get basic facts correct, they can hardly be trusted to provide a meaningful analysis of the larger picture.
As predictable as the jeers from the DC commentariat were, perhaps the one figure within the Beltway punditry class who could have been most counted on to react gloatingly to the recent setbacks of leftist governments in Latin America was The Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl. Having been a reliable war hawk and right-wing militarist at the Post’s op-ed section since the late 1970s, Diehl was quick to turn his wrath on Pink Tide leaders and their supposedly grave threat to U.S. national security interests. In 2010 he repeated American Enterprise Institute scholar Roger Noriega’s accusation that then-President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez was collaborating with Iran in the development of nuclear capabilities. In 2013 he accused the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador of “gutting democratic institutions in their countries,” and described Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa as “Latin America’s chief caudillo and Yanqui-baiter.”
His characterization of the latest political developments, inexplicably posted at the Charleston-based Post and Courier rather than his home publication, fits seamlessly with this record of hysterical hyperbole and dubious accuracy. In the article’s first sentence he triumphantly announces: “The encouraging news from Latin America is that the leftist populists who for 15 years undermined the region’s democratic institutions and wrecked its economies are being pushed out — not by coups and juntas, but by democratic and constitutional means.” From this outrageously loaded misrepresentation he quickly moves on to outright falsehoods by claiming that Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was “vanquished in a presidential election.” From a simple Google search one can learn that she was in fact not even a candidate in last year’s presidential election. Apparently Diehl cannot even get past his article’s second sentence without revealing his stupefying ignorance of the most basic of facts.
Aside from blatant inaccuracies, he also makes the remarkable claim that “most of the Western hemisphere is studiously ignoring this meltdown,” despite the fact that Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, has been calling for months to invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela. If he is referring not to the OAS but rather to the leaders of the region’s governments, then he is simply confusing their indifference for Washington’s isolation in its condemnations of the Maduro government. Just as the United States was completely isolated in its refusal to recognize Maduro’s election victory in 2013, so it has been alone in calling for sanctions, for which it has lobbied on the basis of largely spurious allegations of human rights violations.
To round out his diatribe, Diehl then describes the “obstacles” to getting a recall referendum to remove President Maduro as “comically steep,” despite the fact that all of the figures he cites regarding the required numbers of petition signatures (which opposition activists need to gather to trigger the recall vote) are calculated from terms set out in Venezuela’s Constitution. By representing the recall referendum as offering the “slim remaining hopes for a democratic solution,” he implies that some sort of extra-democratic methods might be necessary, and presumably also justified. Keep in mind that the provision for a recall referendum to remove a sitting president is a democratic mechanism that scarcely exists in any constitution besides Venezuela’s.
Rafael Ruiz Velasco
In an article published at the PanAm Post, Rafael Ruiz Velasco is just as hasty in his passage of judgment on the fate of Latin America’s left. He announces confidently that “the results are clear: the bet on socialism in Latin America has failed.” But like Diehl, Velasco makes at least one glaring factual error that undermines his already highly suspect piece. He says of Brazil: “The Olympics will be held with a politically defeated Dilma Rousseff out of office, as she faces impeachment on corruption charges.” The truth of the matter is that Rousseff is in fact one of the few leading Brazilian politicians not to be facing corruption charges. Her impeachment was rather premised on vague accusations of fiscal mismanagement and budgetary irregularities—hardly the high crimes that under normal circumstances would merit removal from office. Her replacement Michel Temer, on the other hand, does presently stand accused of corruption, and not over minor allegations either. In addition to being implicated in the country’s ongoing Petrobras scandal, he also stands accused of illegal financing during the 2014 elections; the exact kinds of things, ironically, that would normally be legitimate grounds for impeachment.
Either Velasco is conveniently ignoring these facts, or else just has a very weak understanding of the details of what is taking place in Brazilian politics. Indeed, much else in his article makes one wonder whether he is engaging in willful misrepresentation or is just plain clueless. To give just one example, Velasco describes Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Ignácio da Silva, as Brazil’s “figureheads of failure,” in spite of the four electoral victories they have won between them. Leveling this smear against da Silva, whose widespread popularity led to him being affectionately known as Lula, is particularly absurd given that he won both of his presidential election victories with over 60 percent of the vote and left office with 80 percent approval ratings.
In an article for Foreign Policy magazine, provocatively titled “How Brazil’s Left Destroyed Itself,” Antonio Sampaio pulls no punches in his characterization of Rousseff’s impeachment, claiming that it “marks the final fall from grace not only of the president but also of her ruling Workers’ Party, which has run the country for 13 years.” But one can only feel confounded when Sampaio concedes further down the article that “supporters of the government are right to point out that Rousseff herself is one of the few high-profile political figures who has not been accused of abusing her office for personal enrichment. (Her impeachment is related to alleged manipulation of public accounts to disguise a deficit).” This stands in blatant contradiction to how he begins the article, with the claim that “the biggest corruption scandal in national history is revealing the extent to which Rousseff and her allies actively contributed to the rot of Brazil’s democratic institutions.” It is simply unfathomable how he can lay the blame for the damage done to Brazil’s institutions by this scandal at the feet of Dilma Rousseff when he concedes in the same article that her impeachment has nothing to do with corruption. But in the world of Western press coverage of Latin America, this kind Orwellian doublethink does not seem to matter even when such contradictory statements are being made in the very same article.
Chicago Tribune/Orlando Sentinel
In a “Guest Editorial” in the Orlando Sentinel, the editors of the Chicago Tribune (I’m confused too) argue that the next U.S. president “will need to engage Latin America with a lot more purpose and resolve,” or else “Russia, Iran and China will.” To their credit, they do concede that the recent setbacks of leftist leaders “do not necessarily mean a complete, sweeping repudiation of leftist populism,” since “the gap between the impoverished masses and the few wealthy elite still defines life for much if not all of the continent.” But rather than providing legitimate justifications for progressive policies, this grinding poverty and gross inequality apparently makes these countries “susceptible” to what they term “leftist agendas.”
But in addition to this patronizing jeer, the Tribune editors also make the exact same factual error as Jackson Diehl by claiming that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner “lost her re-election bid to Argentine center-right leader Mauricio Macri last fall.” At the risk of repeating it ad nauseam, Kirchner did not stand in the election, and, moreover, was not even able to since the Argentine Constitution sets a limit of two consecutive presidential terms. Granted, her ruling Justicialist Party lost control of the executive to Macri’s rival Republican Proposal party, but the candidate for the Justicialists was Daniel Scioli (a former vice-president during the administration of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner). To those who might try to dismiss this correction as mere nitpicking, imagine what people in the United States would have thought if a foreign newspaper had reported in November 2008 that U.S. President George W. Bush had lost his re-election bid to Barack Obama. Such shoddy journalism would have surely delivered an instantly fatal blow to the publication’s credibility. But when a U.S. publication demonstrates an exactly analogous ignorance of basic facts about Latin America, its unfounded pronouncements and flimsy arguments still get taken seriously.
Further revealing their risible political illiteracy, the Tribune editors claim that the setbacks for the Latin American left have “all happened with virtually no coddling or stoking from the U.S.” Either the authors have never read anything about the United States’ covert funding of Venezuelan opposition candidates and its threats of sanctions against the Maduro government, the meetings between major regional right-wing figures and allies in the U.S. Congress, and the United States’ use of international organizations to weaken left-leaning governments, or else they are being deliberately duplicitous (and presumably take their readers for a bunch of idiots to boot). The Tribune editors conclude with the unbelievably sweeping statement that the region’s populations are “fed up with failed leftist policies.”
This last statement neatly sums up the central message that these articles wish to communicate: that any policies that don’t fit the Anglo-American model of unfettered neoliberal capitalism “don’t work” and that though people might at first naively support them, they end up getting disillusioned and begrudgingly come to the realization that neoliberalism is the only viable economic system after all. Though they might not spell it out quite so obligingly, the message is essentially a repetition of Margaret Thatcher’s infamous claim that “there is no alternative” to free markets, free trade, and capitalist globalization. The presentation of the recent setbacks of Latin American left governments as confirmation of this seems to be a deliberate jibe directed at the many people the world over who hold up Latin America as humanity’s beacon of hope for providing a more just, generous, and sustainable way of life.
But though these setbacks of the Pink Tide should not be reflexively explained away and the diminishment in popular support for its parties should not be discounted, there are important distinctions and qualifiers that cast doubt on such a rash declaration of victory for neoliberal orthodoxy. Lest we forget, it was less than a decade ago that an economic crash plunged world economies into disarray and prompted no less a figure than Alan Greenspan to admit that free market ideology is flawed.
First, it is important to make the distinction between a decline in support for the Pink Tide’s parties and support for their policies. Research has suggested that voting publics in Latin America have not become any less supportive of such policies, but rather are becoming disaffected with how they are being administered by those in charge. A poll by Poliarquía in the run up to the 2015 Argentine presidential election, for instance, found that 50 percent of respondents were in favor not of a return to the policies of the pre-Kirchner years, but rather “continuity with change.” As Raanan Rein, a professor of Latin American and Spanish history at Tel Aviv University, put it: “The left lost more than the right won.” He added: “It wasn’t that Macri became so popular, it was simply that his predecessors, the Kirchners, destroyed Peronism.” In other words, what is needed is not a relapse back to tooth and nail neoliberalism, but rather a new and more effective leadership to build on the alternatives that were first attempted by the leftist old guard. The many achievements that resulted from these policies include: expanded access to public services such as healthcare and education; radically reduced poverty and child malnutrition; widespread construction of new homes for those in need; and a significant pushback against the brutal realities of income and wealth inequality that have long plagued the region. Many of these policies’ merits have been recognized by international organizations including the United Nations, the Carter Center, and even the World Bank. Perhaps the most revolutionary of all the changes implemented by the Pink Tide governments were the drafting of new constitutions that guarantee social, political and economic rights to all citizens, and also include unprecedented protections for marginalized groups such as women and indigenous people, and even for nature.
To be sure, legitimate feelings of betrayal exist throughout the region and it is important to hold progressive governments accountable for their share of errors in confronting the economic downturn or failing to prepare for a rainy day. But though many voters might express their anger at the governing Pink Tide parties for their mistakes and lack of foresight by abstaining or even casting a protest vote for the right-wing opposition, this does not indicate a wholehearted endorsement of these parties’ proposals, far less a desire for a return to neoliberalism and the structural adjustment era of the 1980s and 1990s.
Of course, there is also the natural and universal tendency in all societies for people to gradually tire of their governments (regardless of success or failure), to take for granted the gains that were made, and to forget the bad aspects of what came before. All governments, like all human enterprises generally, are deeply imperfect and are not, in Latin America least of all, immune from risks of corruption and other malign influences. But these negative factors are hardly unique to governments of the left. After all, plenty of governments of the right throughout the region have been not just corrupt, but in some cases even murderous. From the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile in which thousands of people were “disappeared” to the torture and extrajudicial executions that took place during Venezuela’s Andres Perez administration, such governments hardly compare favorably to those of the Pink Tide.
Secondly, it is important to make a distinction between left-leaning governments and the social movements and popular sectors that thrust them into power. The continued energy of these movements demonstrates that their drive to resist neoliberalism and fight for social change is as fierce as ever. Indeed, one of the most basic mistakes of these shallow op-ed columns is their failure to consider, let alone grasp, the workings of the internal dynamics of these movements and their relationships with their national governments. If anything, the fall in support for Chavismo in Venezuela among some of its traditional base has more to do with the failure of the Maduro government to maintain its engagement with the popular sectors rather than a newfound enthusiasm on their part for a return to neoliberalism and a repeat of so-called structural adjustment.
Thirdly, it is important to remember that the parties that have opposed the Pink Tide governments have been pressed to the left and have, at least publicly, adopted much of the language and ideas of their political adversaries. During the 2012 and 2013 presidential elections in Venezuela, for instance, opposition candidate Henrique Caprilles Radonski presented himself as a social democrat and the standard-bearer of the moderate left ideas of Brazilian President Luiz Ignácio da Silva (who incidentally endorsed the Chavista candidate in both cases). His campaign also used some of the enduring symbols of Chavismo, calling itself the “Bolivarian Command” and promising to not discontinue the social missions, but rather make them more efficient and less ideological. Though leaked documents subsequently revealed his plan was to make a swift about-face after the election and impose a brutal neoliberal agenda once in office, Caprilles at least understood that the immense popularity of then-President Chavez’s policies meant that he had to publicly present himself as a center-left progressive in order to stand a chance of winning. The Venezuelan opposition has also moved to the left on social issues and even fielded three LGBT candidates in the 2015 December legislative elections. Likewise, Mauricio Macri presented himself during the presidential campaign in Argentina as a pragmatist and moderate technocrat rather than a free market absolutist. As was the case with Caprilles, there is good reason to think such pronouncements were insincere (he has already rekindled Argentina’s relationship with Wall Street and filled his cabinet with bankers), but it at least demonstrates that the political center of gravity amongst Latin American publics is way to the left of the traditional forces of the right.
Fourth, we should not forget that circumstantial factors have created problems for left-leaning governments that are not of their own making. Global drops in commodity prices have made life difficult for all leaders in a region that has long been heavily based on extractivism. Whether it be oil in Venezuela, copper and zinc in Bolivia, or soybeans in Argentina, global downturns have caused problems for these governments which would have been just as pronounced had their right-wing rivals been in power instead. Dependence on exports of raw materials long predates the Pink Tide and moving out of this legacy would have been a challenge for any government.
Fifth, there is a tendency to characterize the policies of Pink Tide governments as “unsustainable.” The unsustainability argument appeals to basic intuition but is based on a false analogy—that a country’s financial situation is akin to a household budget. One could just as easily point out that with the resource wealth and technological sophistication of today’s world, there is clearly the means to provide for every person on planet earth many times over. That we are not doing so is not a failure of the left, but rather of capitalism and explicable largely in terms of the lasting legacy of colonialism and its lingering power structures. These pressures bear particularly heavily on Latin America given its long history of colonial oppression, not to mention its proximity to the major force in the world that has worked to maintain this status quo and long treated the region as its “backyard.”
Finally, therefore, it is important to consider the superpower’s lasting impact on the region. Meddling by the region’s hegemon and its internal allies has consistently caused damage to Pink Tide governments and their efforts at social reform. The United States’ aggressive stance against them is understandable given the threat they pose to its hemispheric dominance and the preeminence of its favored international organizations. Pink Tide governments have established new international bodies to realize the vision of the decades-long struggle for regional integration and provide a buffer against U.S. imperialism. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) are attempts to transcend Washington’s “free” trade orthodoxies and forge an alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS). The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) was founded to mediate regional conflicts and could in the future provide a framework for military cooperation or freedom of movement for citizens of member nations. The monetary fund BancoSur, though still in its nascent stages, is hoped to provide an alternative source of lending free from the dictates of the IMF and the World Bank. Taken together, these organizations have provided a hope that international relations can in the future be based more on international cooperation, rather than competition, and mutual, rather than solely national, interests. This phenomenon is essentially the expression in the international realm of what Roger Harris of the Taskforce on the Americas has described as “the threat of a good example.”
Though it does not completely explain away the failures on the part of progressive governments, there has nonetheless been a clear pattern in terms of the treatment they have received from United States: the more successful Pink Tide governments have become at helping their citizenry and providing an alternative to Anglo-American neoliberalism, the greater the incentive has grown to crush this threat. When the sabotage is successful it provides a double benefit for the United States and its internal allies: in addition to making a different path unviable it also makes these policies appear as intrinsically unworkable, and thereby “proving” that the neoliberal status quo is the only way forward.
Clearly this ghost of Thatcher haunts the minds of mainstream media commentators, explaining both their lazy treatment of the facts and dogmatic commitment to making all news events fit the neoliberal agenda. What is truly important, therefore, is not so much the immediate electoral fortunes of the Pink Tide governments, but rather the efforts to defend the spirit of the movements on which they are based and the intellectual legacy of their principles. A heavy burden lies on those of us who strive to counter the new neoliberal offensive and the mendacity of its propaganda foot soldiers.
 Jackson Diehl, “Is Hugo Chavez a real threat to the U.S.?,” The Washington Post, September 27, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/26/AR2010092603334.html
 Jackson Diehl, “Jackson Diehl: Will the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights be gutted?,” The Washington Post, March 3, 2013. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jackson-diehl-will-the-inter-american-commission-on-human-rights-be-gutted/2013/03/03/c018f9a6-81d0-11e2-b99e-6baf4ebe42df_story.html
 Jackson Diehl, “Stop ignoring the implosion in Venezuela,” The Post and Courier, May 4, 2016. http://www.postandcourier.com/20160504/160509752/stop-ignoring-the-implosion-in-venezuela
 Simon Romero and Jonathan Gilbert, “Election Will End Kirchner’s Presidency, Not Her Hold on Argentina,” The New York Times, October 24, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/world/americas/election-will-end-kirchners-presidency-not-her-hold-on-argentina.html
 Rafael Ruiz Velasco, “The Jury Is In: Latin America’s 21st Century Socialism Has Failed,” The PanAm Post, May 19, 2016. https://panampost.com/rafael-ruiz-velasco/2016/05/19/21st-century-socialism-has-failed/
 Marina Koren, “Brazil’s Impeachment Battle,” The Atlantic, April 17, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/brazil-impeachment-dilma-rousseff/478632/
 Matt Sandy, “Brazil’s Senate Votes to Impeach President Dilma Rousseff: What Happens Now?,” Time magazine, May 12, 2016. http://time.com/4327408/brazil-senate-dilma-rousseff-suspended/
 “Brazil President Corruption Scandal,” Open Source Investigations. http://www.opensourceinvestigations.com/corruption/petrobras-scandal-catching-up-to-brazil-president/
 Daniela Blei, “Is the Latin American Left Dead?,” The New Republic, April 16, 2016. https://newrepublic.com/article/132779/latin-american-left-dead
 Antonio Sampaio, “How Brazil’s Left Destroyed Itself,” Foreign Policy, May 13, 2016. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/13/how-brazils-left-destroyed-itself-dilma-rousseff-impeachment/
 “As ‘pink tide’ ebbs, U.S. must engage: Guest Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, May 17, 2016. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-pink-tide-latin-america-20160516-story.html
 Jonathan Watts and Uki Goñi, “Argentina shifts to the right after Mauricio Macri wins presidential runoff,” The Guardian, November 23, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/22/argentina-election-exit-polls-buenos-aires-mauricio-macri
 “As ‘pink tide’ ebbs, U.S. must engage: Guest Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, May 17, 2016. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-pink-tide-latin-america-20160516-story.html
 Rachael Boothroyd, “US Republican Senator Meets with Venezuelan Opposition in Caracas,” Venezuela Analysis, July 1, 2015. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/11432
 “As ‘pink tide’ ebbs, U.S. must engage: Guest Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, May 17, 2016. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-pink-tide-latin-america-20160516-story.html -america-20160516-story.html
 Brian Naylor, “Greenspan Admits Free Market Ideology Flawed,” NPR.org, October 24, 2008. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96070766
 Daniela Blei, “Is the Latin American Left Dead?,” The New Republic, April 16, 2016. https://newrepublic.com/article/132779/latin-american-left-dead
 Mark Weisbrot, “Why Ecuador Loves Rafael Correa,” The Guardian, February 15, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/rafael-correa-ecuador-elections
 James Suggett, “Venezuela Reduces Malnutrition in Children to 4%,” Venezuela Analysis, July 7, 2008. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/3626
 “Venezuelan Social Housing Project Delivers 700,000th Home,” TeleSur, April 19, 2015. http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuelan-Social-Housing-Project-Delivers-700000th-Home-20150419-0019.html
 “Venezuela, Uruguay Register Lowest Inequality in Latin America,” TeleSur, April 29, 2015. http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuela-Uruguay-Register-Lowest-Inequality-in-Latin-America-20150429-0006.html
 Antony Boadle, “Brazil’s Rousseff says extreme poverty almost eradicated,” Reuters, February 13, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-poverty-idUSBRE91I14F20130219
 Sarah Wagner, “Women and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution,” Venezuela Analysis, January 15, 2005. http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/877
 Michael Fox, “Women and Chavismo: An Interview with Yanahir Reyes,” NACLA. https://nacla.org/article/women-and-chavismo-interview-yanahir-reyes
 “Chile recognises 9,800 more victims of Pinochet’s rule,” BBC News, August 18, 2011. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-14584095
 “Profile: Henrique Capriles,” BBC News, October 3, 2012. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-16811723
 Tamara Pearson, “Ex Brazilian President Lula Supports Venezuela’s Maduro,” Venezuela Analysis, April 3, 2013. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/8476
 Jody McIntyre, “Who is Henrique Capriles Radonski?,” New Internationalist. https://newint.org/blog/2012/09/25/venezuela-elections-capriles-chavez/
 Corina Pons, “Venezuela’s first transgender candidate to run for Congress,” Reuters, August 8, 2015. http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-venezuela-politics-idUKKCN0QC25P20150808
 Daniela Blei, “Is the Latin American Left Dead?,” The New Republic, April 16, 2016. https://newrepublic.com/article/132779/latin-american-left-dead
 Benedict Mander, “Argentina rekindles its relationship with Wall Street,” The Financial Times, May 12, 2016. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/6aeb9ae2-17aa-11e6-b8d5-4c1fcdbe169f.html
 Astrid Prange, “Macri to take Argentina in a new, neoliberal direction,” Deutsche Welle, December 6, 2015. http://www.dw.com/en/macri-to-take-argentina-in-a-new-neoliberal-direction/a-18898041
 Roger Harris, “Venezuela: Supporting A Once and Future Revolution,” Counterpunch, June 26, 2013. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/26/venezuela-supporting-a-once-and-future-revolution/
To download a PDF version of this article, click here.
Caracas – Russia’s Foreign Ministry has spoken out against “outside” efforts to destabilise Venezuela, warning against the consequences of imposing “colour scenarios” on the South American nation.
On Monday, Russian news agency Tass and Sputnik International reported that Russia’s Foreign Ministry had released an official statement addressing the current situation in Venezuela.
“The upsurge of tensions in Venezuela is being fed from outside,” asserted the Foreign Ministry statement.
“We are confident that a political solution to Venezuelan problems is to be found by the Venezuelan people who have elected its legitimate authorities… Destructive interference from outside is inadmissible,” it continued.
The South American country has been suffering from a worsening economic crisis for the past two years and is currently locked in a political stand-off between the executive branch and the opposition controlled legislature.
In firm language, the declaration also reminded other global powers that “no-one has the right to impose ‘color scenarios’ on Venezuela, referring to the outside financing of “proxy” organisations aimed at destabilising the national government.
Russia also warned that current tensions in Venezuela risk spilling over into open conflict on the nation’s streets, bringing “serious consequences” for the rest of the region.
Moscow’s remarks come as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) begins to take tentative steps towards opening up negotiations between Venezuela’s two warring political factions: the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro, and the rightwing political coalition, the MUD, which currently controls the National Assembly.
However, escalating rumours of a possible coup against the national government in recent weeks are threatening to dampen hopes of a rapprochement.
The MUD has pledged to remove Maduro through a variety of “constitutional” means since taking hold of the legislature last December.
Nonetheless, Russia said it backed a UNASUR negotiated solution to the crisis and asked both sides to “cool down” their emotions. It also confirmed it would be open to participating in negotiation efforts in Venezuela if requested.
“We are confident that the main challenge facing Venezuela at the moment is to find realistic ways out of the economic crisis, improve the social situation of broad layers of the population… It is obvious that this is possible only in conditions of internal political tranquility,” asserted the foreign ministry declaration.
Although Moscow didn’t name the “outside” influences which it cites as exacerbating tensions in Venezuela, it is possible that the US has caught the Kremlin’s eye.
Just last week, Russia’s Vice-minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergéi Ryabkov, said that his government believed that Washington was intensifying its attempts to directly “interfere” in Latin American affairs to the detriment of the region.
He cited a swing to the right in Argentina’s government, as well as the recent controversial impeachment of Brazil’s left leaning president, Dilma Rousseff, as examples.
Venezuelan authorities did not carry firearms to the protests in Caracas and several authorities were injured by violent protesters. (AVN)
Caracas – Seven individuals were arrested for allegedly attacking Venezuelan police during a violent opposition march in Caracas on Wednesday that left five officers injured.
The march was part of nationwide mobilizations convoked by the right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD, protesting alleged stalling by the National Electoral Council (CNE). The CNE is in the process of validating the 1.85 million signatures collected by the coalition for a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro.
The MUD called for supporters to march to the CNE headquarters in the heavily pro-government city center despite being refused a permit by the El Libertador municipality over concerns of violence.
Bolivarian National Police (PNB) personnel were dispatched to prevent demonstrators from marching along the principal Avenida Libertador where they were attacked by a group of men wielding sticks and rocks.
“A group of people came to attack us. One of the citizens became violent and hit me. The shield protected me the first time, but the second time I fell,” recounts 22 year-old PNB officer Dubraska Alvarez, who suffered post-trauma capsulitis in her right elbow and multiple traumatisms.
Unarmed police beaten by demonstrators (teleSUR)
In a video that has circulated widely on social media, another officer can be seen falling to the ground after receiving a blow from a stick-wielding demonstrator and subsequently being beaten while prostrate by five men with sticks.
Another police functionary, Genessis Llovera Mambie, suffered the dislocation of her right shoulder while officer Erick Escalante came away with post-trauma bursitis in his left shoulder and a knee lesion.
Despite international media reports of police repression against protesters, PNB personnel were prohibited from carrying armaments and were only permitted to use tear gas if authorized by superiors.
“Our only order was to prevent people from entering Avenida Libertador, and we didn’t even have any sort of arms… it was inevitable [that people entered] because we only had shields to protect ourselves physically,” added Alvarez, who declined to show her face to the camera for fear of reprisals.
Seven men suspected of perpetrating the attacks were arrested in the heart of the wealthy eastern Caracas municipality of Chacao on Wednesday afternoon and were subsequently transported to the July 26th Penitentiary in Guarico state where they will await charges.
According to authorities, one of the suspects, Jheremy Bastardo Lugo, is a repeat offender who was reportedly arrested during the 2014 anti-government protests that saw opposition supporters erect violent barricades across the country, leading to the death of 43 people, the majority of whom were state security personnel and passerby.
Student residences vandalized
In addition to the violent incident on Avenida Libertador, protesters are reported to have vandalized a government-constructed student residence in Plaza Venezuela, breaking windows and allegedly attempting to set the building on fire.
“With sticks, stones, and gasoline, they were going to burn down the residence and the guards. I was attacked by hooded men armed with stones and bottles,” said student resident Angel Rodriguez.
“For having a different political ideology, they broke the windows, my comrades were attacked,” another student told teleSUR.
El Libertador Mayor Jorge Rodriguez denounced the day’s violent episodes and vowed to press charges against those responsible.
“This is the reason why we didn’t give them a permit to march to the city center,” he stated, pointing to the broken windows of the student residence.
Capriles blames “infiltrators”
Former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles publicly blamed the violence on “infiltrators”, calling the incidents a “set up” by the government.
“We know the plan, but we are not going to stop protesting. We are not afraid, we will [protest] in the face of the infiltrators, because it is our duty to fulfill the Constitution,” he stated.
However, Wednesday’s protest was not the only instance in which the Miranda state governor has condoned violent demonstrations.
Last week, the former presidential candidate was also involved in his own confrontation with police, as he and his supporters attempted to physically break a police line in Miranda state.
Following his narrow defeat in the 2013 elections, Capriles also refused to honor the internationally-recognized result, urging his supporters “vent their rage” in street protests that left seven people dead and saw numerous government health clinics and food markets burned.
In the lead up to Wednesday’s protests, Capriles issued a public statement to members of the Venezuelan armed forces, urging them to reject a state of exception expanded by President Maduro on Friday and oppose alleged attempts by the government to block the recall process.
“Prepare the tanks and war planes… the hour of truth is coming to decide whether you are with the constitution or with Maduro,” he declared on Tuesday.
Earlier this week, a special commission responsible for supervising the referendum process announced that 190,000 signatures collected by the opposition as part of the initial recall request belonged to deceased individuals.
The statement has been sharply denounced by opposition leaders who accuse the CNE of intentionally dragging out the process in order to prevent the recall referendum from being held this year.
Unless the referendum is held in 2016, a successful recall vote will not trigger new presidential elections, with the sitting vice-president instead taking over as president for the remainder of the term.
Caracas – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has hit out at “mounting aggressions” against his government after it was confirmed that a US plane had twice violated Venezuelan airspace.
The US Boeing 707 E-3 Sentry is reported to have illegally entered Venezuela’s national airspace on May 11th at 6.09am, as well as on May 13th at 6.03 am.
Both incursions were detected by Venezuela’s Bolivarian airforce and have sparked rumours that the US might be conducting covert spying operations over Venezuela.
“This plane has all the mechanisms to carry out electronic espionage,” stated Maduro on his television programme Tuesday.
According to US Airforce information, the Boeing 707 E-3 Sentry provides an accurate, real-time picture of the battlespace to the Joint Air Operations Center, and possesses a powerful radar to “detect, identify and track enemy and friendly low-flying aircraft”.
The double incursion comes as rightwing politicians at home and abroad step up their demands for military intervention against Maduro’s government.
Last Thursday, a former Colombian president made headlines after publicly enquiring which “democratic country is willing to put its armed forces at the service of the protection of the Venezuelan opposition?”
Likewise, rightwing “Justice First” politician and former Venezuelan presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, yesterday encouraged Venezuelan troops to form a mutiny against the national government.
“Prepare the tanks and war planes,” said the politician
“The hour of truth is coming to decide whether you are with the constitution or with Maduro,” he added.
A frenzy of international media reports over the last two weeks have painted an apocalyptic vision of the struggling South American country, citing a lack of access to basic food and medicine, skyrocketing inflation and devaluation of the national currency.
“I can say today that we are victims of the worst media, political and diplomatic aggression that our country has lived through in the past ten years,” stated Maduro.
The head of state has confirmed that his government will deliver an official complaint on the airspace incursions to US authorities.
Like Honduras and Paraguay, Brazil’s elites used the legislature against Dilma Rousseff. Is Venezuela next?
For most, the decades of the 1970’s and 1980’s are regarded as a dark period for Latin America.
The majority of South American nations were taken over by brutal military juntas, while in Central America civil wars claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands. The armed forces in the region, often trained and financed by the United States, ruled through force and where civilian governments didn’t heed their agendas, these were ignored or overthrown.
Despite entailing the onslaught of disastrous neoliberal economic policies that exacerbated poverty and inequality, the 1990’s also ushered in an end to the military dictatorships in Latin America. Elected governments returned to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, while peace accords in Guatemala and El Salvador also meant that the militaries would see a diminished role in the politics of those countries (at least in theory).
Latin America did not solve its numerous problems, but a general consensus was arrived at — no coups or military regimes should be permitted again in the region.
Of course, this consensus began to break with the resurgence of Latin America’s left, beginning with the Bolivarian movement and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Even though he initially harbored very modest proposals for reforms, Venezuela’s ruling class almost immediately sought to topple Chavez’s government. In April 2002 they acted as Latin American elites had done in previous decades and enlisted the upper echelons of the military to stage a coup to remove Chavez. The results were predictable — Venezuelans revolted against the coup and its leaders and the region (except for the U.S. government led by George W. Bush), rejected the move.
The lesson: military coups make for bad PR.
As the decade and Latin America’s left advanced, the regional right adopted a different strategy to counter the trend. While in many countries the left was winning presidencies, in these countries the legislative branches remained largely under the control of traditional (and generally right-wing) parties. Far from providing checks and balances on the authority of the executive branch, opposition-controlled legislatures began to be used as the instrument to overthrow elected presidents.
The first test came in 2009, when Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office after calling for a non-binding referendum on changing the country’s constitution. The Honduran Congress had voted to remove Zelaya from office, and the country’s Supreme Court — dominated by figures connected to the previous military government — ordered his arrest. The Honduran military dutifully complied with their order, kidnapping Zelaya and forcing him onto a plane to Costa Rica.
Three years later, Paraguay’s parliament impeached President Fernando Lugo, a former bishop who ended 61 years of one-party rule in the country. The charges and process against Lugo were met with skepticism in Paraguay as well as in the region, prompting Paraguay to be suspended from the Mercosur pact.
The impeachment process against the president of Latin America’s largest nation mirrors the intentions of the coups of the 70’s and 80’s and the methods of those in the last decade. Despite the absence of evidence that could justify an impeach against Dilma Rousseff, a majority of Brazilian legislators — many of whom are implicated or being investigated in a massive corruption scandal — have approved removing her from the office she was elected to. The man who will fill the seat is one of those being investigated, but he faces no repercussions from his colleagues.
In neighboring Venezuela, the opposition-led National Assembly has the same objective and has initiated the “recall” clause in the country’s constitution in an attempt to oust Nicolas Maduro from the Miraflores presidential palace.
In all of these cases, the objective is not merely power, but what power facilitates. Since 1998, numerous left-leaning governments have been elected to redistribute wealth and decision-making power. Not only has this led to inequality and poverty being slashed, but the political dynamics in those countries have shifted and the region has become more unified and independent.
The new strategy to stem the Pink Tide builds from the same objectives as those employed by the dictatorships of Pinochet, Videla and others: stop the left from being able to implement its program. But while it uses one elected institution to subvert another, it should be clear that these maneuvers are no less undemocratic than their military predecessors.
Pablo Vivanco is Director of teleSUR English.
Unsatisfied with only ousting Brazil’s President by leaking NSA surveillance to the country’s judiciary, Washington now seeks to break the back of Venezuela by fracturing the powerful Petrocaribe energy alliance.
On Monday, the US began a two-day energy summit in Washington, attended by several Caribbean countries, in an attempt to undermine the Petrocaribe oil alliance between Venezuela and Caribbean nations, in what some see as a bid to break the back of the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro.
The energy summit comes on the heels of a proposed recall referendum against the Venezuelan leader, who was elected following the death of Hugo Chavez. The Maduro government faces flagging public opinion due to economic disruption brought about by dwindling oil prices, now at $35 per barrel.
The Venezuelan economy relies on oil revenues for some 95% of its income. Regional agreements set forth under the Chavez regime allow for Latin American and Caribbean countries to pool resources in markets where they possess a competitive advantage.
With oil prices nearing decade lows, the Venezuelan economy and its populace continue to be ravaged by deep poverty and over 1000% inflation. Dire conditions in the country are a consequence of policies that long pre-date the Maduro government, and have been exacerbated by Western market manipulation and Saudi Arabia’s push to bankrupt competitor countries by artificially deflating oil prices below profitable levels.
In a Wednesday interview with Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker, Francisco Dominguez of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign explained that this is not the first time that the White House has attempted to fracture the Petrocaribe oil alliance. In 2015, Vice President Joe Biden created a fracas by attempting to meet secretly with Caribbean leaders to woo them away from the alliance. The Vice President and the State Department initially denied the meeting before retracting that position.
Dominguez speculated that this week’s energy in summit in Washington revolved around US imperialistic hopes to replace Maduro with an opposition leader more favorable to American oil companies. “I think this whole thing has more to do with the overall policy of the United States seeking to oust the government of Venezuela once and for all,” said Dominguez.
US relations with the Latin American country have long been strained, both under Maduro and under his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Many remember the late-President Chavez stating before the United Nations that he smelt sulfur, a reference to the Christian devil, after walking past then-President George W. Bush. The Chavez regime opposed the Bush administration’s penchant for regime change and US intervention in oil rich countries.
Yet, Dominguez believes that the Venezuelan people have more to fear from Washington Democrats than from a Republican Party led by presumptive nominee Donald Trump. He suggested that this week’s round of meetings was sparked by a positive general election outlook on the side of Democrats, who expect a Clinton presidency that will mirror the policies of Obama.
“It looks good for the Democrats against the Republicans so now they want to take a tougher policy against Venezuela,” said Dominguez.
Dominguez asserts that it remains unlikely that Caribbean states will abandon the Petrocaribe alliance, providing as it does for impoverished countries with stable oil supplies preferential conditions and favorable prices for 25 years. He suggests that at least 13 Caribbean nations have benefited from an arrangement that also contributes to regional unity.
But the Washington-supported opposition in Venezuela includes among their grievances the Petrocaribe energy alliance, which has become increasingly expensive for the country to maintain as oil prices have dropped. The White House is seen to be aiming to fabricate the fear among Caribbean states that Venezuela will not maintain their commitment to Petrocaribe, in a bid to force the smaller nations to accept an arrangement with the United States.
Some see the effort to fracture the Petrocaribe alliance as an attempt by Washington to strike a fatal blow at Chavez’s legacy. The controversial former leader established a number of regional political bodies in an effort to strengthen Latin America against Western corporate interests.
Dominguez recalls that the string of coalitions established by Chavez saw to it that each regional country contributed what they had into a broader pool, expanding the fortunes of all Latin American and Caribbean countries.
“In the case of Venezuela it was oil, in the case of Brazil it was industrial goods, Argentina provided agricultural goods, and Cuba supplied the doctors,” said Dominguez. “Chavez was very successful, if you look at the regional political map.”
That legacy now rests in the hands of the embattled Maduro government, likely facing a recall election following a review of referendum signatures. The opposition will need some 7.5 million votes to oust Maduro, equal to the amount of votes he won when elected. The outcome of the referendum remains unpredictable, and to date the opposition remains divided.
Last week, the Venezuelan Supreme Court blocked the extremely controversial Amnesty Law passed by the country’s opposition-controlled legislature, which would have pardoned scores of right-wing leaders convicted of violent political crimes.
The bill is applicable to all manner of felonies and misdemeanors committed since January 1, 1999, including “damage to the national electrical system”, “violence or resistance to authority” and even “conspiracy and terrorism”, provided that these crimes were perpetrated in the course of “demonstrations, protests, or meetings for political purposes”.
The opposition’s Amnesty Law even goes as far as to list specific incidents that qualify for amnesty, ranging chronologically from the 2002 US-sponsored coup to the 2014 violent opposition protests known as guarimbas.
In short, the law amounts to a hand-written confession of seventeen years of right-wing terror aimed at overthrowing the country’s democratically-elected Chavista government.
According to the high court, the legislation would enact a “scandalous impunity to the detriment of public morals, subverting the ethical and juridical order of the country”.
Despite the entirely reasonable character of this objection, the ruling was nonetheless derided as yet more evidence of Venezuela’s authoritarian collapse by of the self-anointed ideological guard-dogs of liberal democracy.
Western Apologia for Political Violence
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco accused the top tribunal of “upholding abuse” in sanctioning the criminal prosecution of opposition leaders for “legitimate political activities”.
Given HRW’s highly dubious track record on Venezuela, it is unsurprising that they would categorize as “legitimate” universally outlawed offenses such as “individual terrorism”, “use of minors to commit crimes”, and “mutiny, civil rebellion, treason, military rebellion”.
In regurgitating the law’s perverse logic that these felonies merit amnesty since they were committed with “political purposes”, HRW’s alleged human rights advocacy begins to look more and more like a naked apology for anti-government political violence in Venezuela.
Even more predictable was the response of the Washington Post– the mouthpiece of the US neoconservative establishment– which in a recent editorial cited the Supreme Court ruling in its case for “political intervention” in Venezuela as if US imperial interference in the South American country’s internal affairs was not a long established practice over the last 17 years of leftwing Chavista governance.
Of course, the Western interventionist chorus would be incomplete without the US State Department weighing in on the matter.
In the lead-up to the parliamentary vote on the bill, Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson met with Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed far right politician Leopoldo Lopez, issuing a call for the “immediate release” of those she termed “political prisoners”.
Absent from her statement was any mention of the fact that Lopez was formally convicted of leading 2014’s violent anti-government protests known as “the exit”, which resulted in 43 dead and hundreds injured, the majority of whom passerby and state security personnel.
An Excess of Judicial Independence?
Following the ruling, the US State Department released its 2015 human rights report in which the body sharply castigated Venezuela for its alleged “lack” of judicial independence as well as its “use of the judiciary to intimidate and selectively prosecute government critics”.
For a moment, let’s bracket the obscene hypocrisy of these accusations coming from a country that has produced such shining examples of judicial independence such as Bush v. Gore and Citizens’ United and whose judiciary has gone to incredible lengths to guarantee due process to political prisoners such as Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, and Oscar López Rivera.
Let us be clear: Washington’s problem with the Venezuelan Supreme Court is not its lack of independence, but rather that it is too independent from the country’s neo-colonial oligarchy that it refuses to follow their dictates.
Prior to Chávez, a man of the aristocratic stature such as Leopoldo López– the Harvard-educated son of one of Venezuela’s wealthiest families– would never face conviction for his crimes, which include publicly inciting the violent ouster of the democratically-elected government.
In the eyes of the West, what is thus intolerable about the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Amnesty Law and uphold the conviction of López and dozens of others is not its supposed violation of the rule of law, but its full application against the most powerful elements of Venezuelan society.
In a word, the mortal sin of Venezuela’s judiciary was to defy the hegemonic ideology of liberal democracy for whom equality before the law is treated as a mere formalism that is professed but never practiced.
In this regard, the Venezuelan Constitution states that, “The law will guarantee the juridical and administrative conditions so that equality before the law is real and effective… it will especially protect those persons… who find themselves in circumstances of clear weakness and will punish the abuses and mistreatment committed against them.”
This conception of legal equality as a radical defense of the weak and oppressed openly clashes with the liberalism enshrined in the US Constitution in which the principle of “equal protection of the laws” codified in the 14th Amendment is formal in character, lending itself to appropriation by corporations who secured the right to personhood long before African-Americans.
Within this framework, the Venezuelan Supreme Court found that the Amnesty Law is unconstitutional primarily because it amounts to a sanctioning of “contempt for the life, integrity, and dignity of… those harmed by the amnestied acts, affecting their right to access justice.”
That is, the high court ruled that the rights of the victims of right-wing terror– mostly black, brown, and poor– take precedence over the privileges of the perpetrators, much to the outrage of the Venezuelan oligarchy and its US imperial masters.
What is at stake here is not some local politicized skirmish over separation of powers but a profoundly universal ethical dispute over what kind of world we want to live in: one in which the normative order guarantees the life and human dignity of the oppressed, or alternatively one in which their oppressors are given carte blanche to murder and terrorize.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court has been crucified by the powers that be for unacceptably choosing the former.