For over 30 years, Washington has engaged in a concerted and unrelenting effort to return the oil-rich country to its ‘rightful’ status as a wholly owned US subsidiary.Scour the history books and you will struggle to find an act of imperialism more brazen than US President Donald Trump’s de-recognition of Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s president.
In a scathing denouncement of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, famed US Civil War General (and later president) Ulysses S Grant told a reporter, “We had no claim on Mexico. Texas had no claim beyond the Nueces River, and yet we pushed on to the Rio Grande and crossed it. I am always ashamed of my country when I think of that invasion.”
The Mexican-American War was a war of plunder and conquest on the part of a US ruling class for whom every country south of the Rio Grande was then, as if by divine right, deemed subservient to Washington. From then to now the US has regarded Latin America as a wholly owned subsidiary, its primary function to serve Washington’s economic interests.
Any Latin American government that dared assert its country’s right to sovereign independence of the US in the years since has found itself subjected to a campaign of subversion and attack, so blatant in gangsterism it would have made Al Capone blush.
It was US Marine General Smedley Butler who famously said after retiring in 1931: “I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street.”
This is the context in which Trump’s public recognition of Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaido, as interim president should be weighed.
Starting from the beginning, ever since Hugo Chavez dared liberate Venezuela from the iron grip of a US-controlled local oligarchy in the late 1990s, Washington has engaged in a concerted and unrelenting effort to return the oil-rich country to its ‘rightful’ status as a wholly owned subsidiary.
And what with Venezuela possessing the largest proven oil reserves in the world, for a Trump administration that evinces the characteristics of a New York mafia crime family more than a democratic government, it was always inevitable that this campaign would be ramped up rather than tamped down upon the Orange One’s arrival in the White House in 2016.
Venezuela’s current ‘legally elected’ president, Nicolas Maduro, took over the presidency after his mentor’s death from cancer in 2013, pledging to protect and continue the legacy of radical reforms Chavez inspired and introduced.
And under the aegis of the Bolivarian Constitution, the achievements of those reforms cannot be gainsaid.
The mass literacy known as Mission Robinson was the biggest and most ambitious ever undertaken, its success recognized by UNESCO in 2005 when it declared Venezuela ‘illiteracy-free’. Cuba, crucial to that success, was also involved in the establishment of health clinics, designed to provide free healthcare to the country’s poor.
Additionally, according to the UN, the quality of life of Venezuelans improved at the third highest rate in the world between 2006-11. Poverty was cut from 48.6 percent in 2002 to 29.5 percent by 2011, while at the time of Chavez’s death Venezuela had the lowest rate of income inequality of any country in Latin America.
In order to achieve such outstanding outcomes, the Chavez government moved against the country’s US-backed oligarchy, seizing the assets of over 1,000 companies. It also nationalized oil fields owned by US oil giants Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips.
Price controls were introduced in order to ensure the affordability of basic necessities, which along with free education, healthcare and the constitutional right to a home ensured that the Bolivarian Revolution was a beacon of hope to the poor and marginalized not just in Venezuela but throughout the region and across the wider Global South.
On foreign policy, meanwhile, Chavez proved a formidable foe of US hegemony, taking every opportunity to denounce the history of Washington’s role in subverting democracy, human rights and national sovereignty throughout Latin America, educating the Venezuelan people on the history of US imperialism in the process.
He sought and forged closer ties with Cuba, China, Russia and Iran – countries that likewise opposed and challenged US domination – and embarked on numerous initiatives throughout the region to foment closer economic, political and cultural integration.
This fruits of this policy were the establishment of the Latin American trading bloc known as Mercosur, the economic, political and cultural integrationist project knows as ALBA, and the pan-Latin American television and media network, Telesur.
Prior to his death, Chavez also had ambitions to set up a regional development bank in order to end dependence on the IMF and World Bank.
The legacy laid out above is important to grasp if serious about understanding why for Washington the Venezuela shaped and inspired by Hugo Chavez could never be allowed to survive.
Since assuming office in 2013, Maduro has had to contend with a sharp drop in the price of oil, which, combined with a determined campaign conducted by a US-supported opposition, plus US sanctions, has plunged the country into a deepening economic, social and political crisis.
The result has been skyrocketing inflation and a shortage of basic goods on supermarket shelves, blamed by Maduro on an orchestrated policy by the opposition of hoarding food supplies in order to foment social unrest.
Now, with the crisis in the country reaching the point of critical mass, Trump’s coronation of Juan Guaido as interim president marks the next and most blatant attack on a Bolivarian Revolution whose only crime, since inception, has been the crime of a good example.
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