By Ramzy Baroud
American politicians from the two main parties have finally found something to agree upon. Democrats and Republicans alike want more intervention in Venezuela.
“Now, despite [President Nicolas] Maduro, there is hope [in Venezuela]”, wrote Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, in USA Today. “These events [the current political instability in the country] are a welcome development of Latin American nations defending democracy.”
Republican Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile, claimed that Maduro has picked a battle he can’t win. “It’s just a matter of time,” he said in the New York Times. “The only thing we don’t know is how long it will take, and whether it will be peaceful or bloody.”
This unprecedented unity between Democrats and Republicans reflects a US legacy that precedes the Trump Administration by nearly two centuries. In fact, it goes much further and deeper than America’s hegemonic approach to South America, to encompass the entire Western political hemisphere, with the exception of Italy, Norway and Greece.
The West’s love-affair with intervention has little to do with restoring democracy, either in Venezuela or anywhere else. In fact, “democracy” has been the tool throughout the 20th century to provide legal and moral rationalization for US and Western meddling around the world. It matters little to Western leaders that Maduro was elected in presidential elections deemed “transparent” by international observers in May last year. Notwithstanding Maduro’s own shortcomings in uniting his people in the face of a most pressing economic crisis, what gives America’s Trump, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and France’s Emmanuel Macron the right to decide who rules in Venezuela?
Sadly, Venezuela is neither setting a precedent nor is it an exception. South America — like the Middle East and Africa — has long been perceived as a Western protectorate going back many years. And again like the Middle East and Africa, Venezuela is rich with oil and other mineral resources and is strategically significant in terms of global hegemony. Colonialism might have ended in its traditional form (with Israel’s colonial occupation of Palestine being the ongoing exception) but it lives on in other ways.
While the US and its Western allies are challenged strongly by rising economic and military powers in Asia, the fate of South America, the Middle East and Africa is yet to be decided. The US, in particular, has always viewed South America as its own turf — “America’s backyard” — and has either directly or indirectly contributed to coups and political and economic instability across the region over the years.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton has garnered himself a terrible reputation due to his role in the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent destabilization of the Middle East. Although discredited for his thoughtless and often militant approach to politics, he was resurrected by Donald Trump and is now traveling the world sowing the seeds of political and military discord. While speaking about Washington’s need to “protect democracy” in Venezuela, Bolton admitted that a coup there is an opportunity to exploit the country’s vast oil and natural resources. He explained the economic logic of US intervention in an interview with Fox News soon after Venezuelan opposition leader and US ally Juan Guaidó declared himself to be “interim president” on 23 January. Regime change “will make a big difference to the United States economically, if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela,” the US official explained.
How is that to be achieved? Bolton let that slip too. During a press conference at the White House a few days after the coup, he “appeared to disclose confidential notes written on a yellow pad that included a plan to send US troops to Colombia” in preparation for military intervention in Venezuela.
Hasn’t the Iraq debacle quelled Bolton’s appetite for intervention, considering that the entire Middle East region now subsists in political uncertainty and unrelenting wars? And if Bolton the right-winger is yet to take the hint that the world is changing rapidly, and that it behooves his country to reconsider its destructive interventionist foreign policy, why are Democrats joining in with the clamor for intervention in Venezuela, alongside supposedly liberal and socialist European states? “Old habits die hard,” apparently, and it seems that Western politicians refuse to abandon the old interventionist maxim and colonialist mentality through which they divided and ruled the world for far too long.
I do not mean to underestimate the horrific economic conditions in Venezuela or overlook the endemic corruption in that country, which need to be understood and, if necessary, criticized. However, while the Venezuelan people have every right to protest against their government, demanding greater accountability and economic solutions to the crushing poverty engulfing them, nobody else has the right to meddle in the affairs of Venezuela or any other sovereign country, anywhere.
Moreover, it is very obvious that neither the US nor its allies are interested in helping Venezuela to overcome its economic woes. In fact, they seem to be doing everything in their power to exacerbate the problems.
Hyperinflation and the crumbling of Venezuela’s oil industries have led to a dramatic economic downturn in recent years, with about 10 per cent of the population fleeing the country. Poor policy choices also led to the significant weakening of local production and increasing devaluation of the currency. With Venezuela on America’s radar for many years, the deterioration of its economy has provided the US with the perfect opportunity to trigger its Venezuelan allies into action, leading to the current coup and political stalemate.
Those who are counting on the US to stabilize Venezuela in the long run, though, are ignorant of history. The US government has hardly ever been a source of stability in South America, certainly not since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Since then, Washington has done more than merely meddle; it has engaged in outright political and military interventions.
The situation in Venezuela is dire, with children reportedly dying as a result of the lack of medicine and food. The country is also gearing up for a US military intervention and possible civil war. Considering that all such tragic predictions have already been witnessed in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, South American leaders and the few sensible voices around the world must move to block any further US meddling, and allow the people of Venezuela, through democratic means, to determine their own future.
– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a former Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.