Friday 8 February 2019

Hands Off Venezuela!

People Power: The United States and its "assets" in the New Zealand news media, would like us to believe that all those protesting against Maduro’s inept handling of the unceasing political and economic crises by which he has been beset are unanimously for the self-declared "Iterim President", Juan Guaido. They are not. Many are seeking new elections and new leaders. But, they are not seeking a restoration of elite power. Nor will they countenance an American invasion of their homeland.

VENEZUELA DESERVES DEMOCRACY, but that is not what Venezuela is going to get. What it will get – as the whole world is currently witnessing – is a brutal assault on its people by the world’s most powerful nation. Venezuela is being threatened with economic strangulation, civil war and, should these stratagems prove ineffective in dislodging the government of President Nicolas Maduro, a full-scale military invasion led by the United States itself.

That such an invasion would constitute a flagrant violation of the United Nations’ Charter will count for nought. The world stood by and did nothing in 2003 when the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia violated the UN charter by invading Iraq – a country whose armed forces had not committed the slightest act of aggression against the belligerent powers, or any other UN member state.

The New Zealand Government, regardless of its private misgivings, will remain silent and inactive as the Venezuelan people are tortured into submission by the United States and its allies. To follow any other course of action would attract the attention of the very forces who have fastened Venezuela to the rack. Not wishing to be hit with US sanctions; unwilling to risk the seizure New Zealand’s overseas assets; Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters will keep their mouths shut and their heads down.

If they’re lucky.  Because a shameful silence is about the best we can hope for from the Coalition Government. If we are unlucky, the murderous thugs who are currently managing the subjugation of Venezuela will decide that New Zealand keeping its head down is insufficiently supportive of US policy. In these circumstances, Jacinda and Winston will be required to publicly endorse the Trump Administration’s excesses. Lest silence be misinterpreted by the rest of the world as disapproval or, God forbid! – defiance.

Regardless of Washington’s ultimate directive to its “very, very, very good friends” in New Zealand, the Coalition Government will be beset by a chorus of right-wing voices demanding that New Zealand recognise immediately the self-proclaimed “Interim President”, Juan Guaido, as Venezuela’s legitimate head-of-state. This pressure from the Right will only intensify as, one after the other, the USA’s closest allies abandon Maduro in favour of Guaido. That recognising this puppet politician will make New Zealand complicit in a US-backed coup d’├ętat will in no way deter the Right from testing the Coalition Government’s “commitment to democracy”.

To facilitate just such an outcome, the Right has, for several weeks, been waging a co-ordinated campaign against the current Venezuelan Government, along with the “Bolivarian Revolution” championed by Maduro’s charismatic predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Right-wing commentators, led by Liam Hehir, have characterised the economic crisis brought on by the collapse of world oil prices; intensified by the economic sabotage perpetrated by Venezuela’s capitalist class; and aided immeasurably by the constricting effects of US sanctions and asset seizures; as evidence of the inevitable fate of any nation foolish enough to embrace socialism.

In eerie anticipation of the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s, invitation for governments to “pick a side”, in this looming fight, Hehir has publicly demanded that all those left-wing commentators (myself included) who have, in the past, proclaimed their support for and/or admiration of Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution, must immediately recant their criminal folly and join with the Right in demonizing  Maduro, Chavez, Bolivarian Socialism, and all its works.

Hehir does not appear to be the least bit ashamed of his embrace of the very worst tactics of 1950s McCarthyism. One almost expects him to demand of all those unwilling to endorse the overthrow of a sovereign government: “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?”

Significantly, Hehir is either ignorant of, or unwilling to acknowledge, the fact that the private sector’s share of the Venezuelan economy has actually grown under Maduro’s presidency, not shrunk. Or, that the nationalisation of Venezuela’s oil industry took place more than 40 years ago – long before Chavez and Maduro were ever elected to the Venezuelan presidency.

The straightforward facts of Venezuela’s economy: that it has always relied in an extremely narrow range of commodity exports (coffee, oil) for its national income, and that it has consistently failed to make itself less dependent on imported necessities – especially food – by diversifying and/or industrialising its economy – are omitted. Hehir is simply not interested in informing his readers that severe economic crises – sparked by sudden collapses in key commodity prices – have been a regular feature of Venezuela’s economic history.

Maduro’s failures – and there are many – are attributable less to his socialist beliefs than to his own, and his predecessor’s, failure to use the massive economic surpluses, racked up when oil was fetching almost twice as much on the international markets as it is currently, to diversify Venezuela’s economy. That they were more concerned to lift the living standards of the poorest Venezuelans as quickly as possible, while understandable, was also – given the country’s history – unforgiveable.

Both Chavez and Maduro should have understood that economic crises experienced under right-wing governments are regarded very differently by the United States than economic crises which strike when left-wing and/or anti-American governments are in power. In the case of the former, the nation’s troubles are merely the result of impersonal market forces. In the latter’s case, however, economic crisis is presented as incontestable proof of socialism’s failure. And, if the economic and social elites can magnify the hardship and suffering of those on whose behalf the left-wing government has been acting, then why wouldn’t they? Especially when the US Government is so willing to help them out with money and advice. “Make the economy scream”, said President Richard Nixon’s advisers – back in the early 1970s, when the US was faced with another democratically elected left-wing government in South America. It worked then – it’s working now.

It’s what I find so hard to forgive about the position taken by Hehir and his right-wing colleagues. That they are aligning themselves with those who are most to blame for the travails of the Venezuelan people. The Bolivarian Revolution, itself, grew out of the popular resistance inspired by the vicious austerity measures which the poorest of the Venezuelan poor were expected to bear in order to rescue the economy form yet another commodity-price collapse back in the 1990s.

Hehir has nothing to say about the coup mounted against Chavez by Venezuela’s economic and social elites in 2002, after the wretched inhabitants of the capital city’s slums had had the temerity to vote him into power. Or how the education Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution had given them in their constitutional rights as citizens propelled the poor onto the streets in their thousands to rescue their president – and their democracy.

Hehir and his ilk would like us to believe that all those protesting against Maduro’s inept handling of the unceasing political and economic crises by which he has been beset are unanimously for Guaido and his American puppet-masters. They are not. Many are seeking new elections and new leaders. But, they are not seeking a restoration of elite power. Nor will they countenance an American invasion of their homeland.

Those who await with such eagerness the tramp of military boots on the streets of Caracas are partisans of coup, counter-revolution, and the violent repression of the poorest citizens of Venezuela. The Right is, therefore, ranging itself alongside the most ruthless and selfish elements of Venezuelan society. Elements whose democratic rights have, for more than a decade, been upheld by the very government they are pledged to destroy: with democracy, if possible; without it, if necessary. Hehir lambasts Chavez and Maduro as the Lenin and Stalin of socialist Venezuela. It’s a puerile accusation. Had Chavez been a genuine Leninist, and Maduro an unashamed Stalinist, then the streets of Caracas would have run red with bourgeois blood.

And yet, unaccountably, the Venezuelan elites have survived: to plot in safety, and protest in their tens-of-thousands. Demanding, like the Chilean elites before them, that the military intervene ruthlessly on their behalf. Confident, in equal measure, that the Americans will not let them down, and that the rivers of blood flowing through the streets of Caracas will not be theirs.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 5 February 2019.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Cue "This is the natural result of your evil socialist policies and let's by the way forget about Scandinavia...." In Three... Two... One.

David Stone said...

Jacinda once spoke of a ' nuclei free moment" . Sticking to Winston's " It's Venezuela's business" stance might be one.
It seems the US has been doing this sort of shit forever , but I still get the feeling that the world's leaders, our western leaders anyway, are in an integrity crisis. Like it has been abandoned. It is no longer even a pretence . All international agreements and laws are treated with contempt. Has it always been like this? Is it just that I have been paying more attention lately? or are we moving , in tandem with our winner takes all economic structure, into a world without morals . Not within the Western world's administrations anyway. Russia and even China are taking the opportunity to present as the adults in the room. To maintain a dignity that is setting them ,Russia anyway, up as the moral leader of humanity.
America and Britain need to take some time out and reflect on their priorities.

Nick J said...

Hehir really needs to do his homework. are a conservative alternative site whose commentary on this totally discredit the US stance on Venezuela. Michael Hudson,an economist refutes the idea that Venezuela is a socialist economy, and blames US forex manipulation for the hyperinflation. It's a sad scenario, you can read it here.

What is sad about the likes of Hehir is that truth and honesty rarely intersect their ideological bigotry, a fact need never interrupt their cause.

As it is the withdrawal of the US from nuclear non proliferation treaties has marked their loss of unilateral projection of power. In the absence of nuclear superiority the US is now back to a MAD scenario and her forces tactically vulnerable to new technologies. For example, the US carrier fleet that acted like an invulnerable gunboat is now a sitting duck, it doesn't frighten China or Russia.

In this scenario Trump unwittingly may be leading the US back to the Munro Doctrine, real power projection being limited to the Americas. And Venezuela represents vital oil. Even then, against a military that backs Maduro another Vietnam or Afghanistan beckons. Any war will be won by Hollywood in the absence of any real victory.

So what's in it for Hehir? The Maoists might have described him as a lickspittle running dog capitalist roader, I'd describe him as more like a Roman auxillary left at the wall as the legion quits Britain. One morning Hehir will awake and realise the world has moved on, and his irrelevance obvious. Meanwhile he's a hollow vessel.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Interesting site Nick thanks.

Left leaning fire dancer said...

Most left leaning politicians support humanitarian aid.

The real question is when do neighbours step in to save lives ?

The human suffering in Venezuela is real. 10% of the population has fled to neighbouring countries.

If it were caused by a natural disaster there would be no issue with aid, but because it’s a result of a (legitament?) government it’s different?

Nearly all South American countries support the humanitarian aid. (Except for Nicaragua, Cuba, Bolivia)

This is the side Jacinda is on too.

As far as Maduros government : All you can say if a country follows Cuban economics then it will end up like Cuba.

Cuba’s record is that it went from the 40 most wealthiest country to the bottom in the lifetime of Castro. Surprised? So how did he survive?: answer: Fierce secret police.

The only difference is with social media we all know what’s happening to the everyday Venezuela people.And it’s upsetting to normal people.

Comrade Jacinda needs to show more that compassion and empathy support for Maduros. She needs to support the Venezuelian people and kick the bloody murderous dictator in the arse.

Geoff Fischer said...

Maduro's prospects are not looking good with a failing economy, administrative corruption, strong internal opposition, evident decline in support for his regime among the working classes and a hostile coalition of foreign powers led by the US and including the European Union and most of Venezuela's Latin American neighbours. On the other side Maduro only has the uncertain backing of the Venezuelan military, Russia, China, Iran and Turkey.
New Zealand is sitting on the fence, neither joining nor condemning the foreign powers in their attempt to depose Maduro, but it is questionable whether it will maintain that position indefinitely.
The principle of non-intervention (which is soundly based, humane and moral, even in the case of the most atrocious regimes) has taken a hammering in recent years to the cost of many millions of the world's peoples, and the New Zealand government is under intense pressure from the US, Britain, Australia, Canada and its own security services to fall into line with the strategy to regain America's global military, political and economic dominance through a series of global economic, political and military interventions.
There are a number of indications that the Ardern/Peters government is moving slowly in that direction. The Huawei trading ban, the Brady affair, and then Ardern's breakfast speech to "BusinessNZ" at the Hilton Hotel, in which she foreshadowed a shift in emphasis from the trading relationship with China to Europe and the UK. The reason offered for this change of focus was essentially non-political - a predicted drop in Chinese demand for New Zealand produce as Trump's trading sanctions against China start to bite - but that argument doesn't hold water. Even in Ardern's wildest dreams Europe and the UK could not compensate for the loss of the Chinese market for New Zealand agricultural and forest produce, and it would appear that Ardern is only preparing New Zealand export producers for the grief they will suffer when her government finally and fully succumbs to pressure to help "Make America great again".
Maduro, and with him the people of Venezuela, will not be the last casualty in this new east versus west battle for global hegemony.

Unknown said...

You're fucking joking.

Millions have fled Venezuela.

People are starving and can't access healthcare.

Bring on the right-wing puppets of the USA.

FYI, the South Vietnamese Government was despised by most South Vietnamese - but at least people did not starve in South Vietnam. They did starve in North Vietnam - but at least those commie arseholes were not puppets of the USA.

Andrew Nichols said...

Right-wing commentators, led by Liam Hehir
I read this posting of the young fogey Nat candidate from a Palmerston North law firm It's nothing more than a lame cutnpaste of the current US Venezuela propaganda memes so beloved of their favourite stenographers the WAPO and NYT and certainly not the views of anyone even remotely acquainted with this unfortunate nation. If so, how do the NZ media think he has any credibility to comment on this matter sufficient to give him a prominent commentator's column? It's as "informative" as an Ian Wishart Investigate article and he doesnt get any print space in serious media anymore.

Andrew Nichols said...

Left leaning fire dancer 1. When the Empire gives the aid to the Red Cross to send, then I'll believe this isnt a silly shameful propaganda stunt. 2. Since when did all this enthusiasm for dealing to the worlds (only left wing of course) dictators overrule International law and if it does where does this end and who makes the decisions who should go? I suspect like most clamouring for something to be done, you either havent even begun to think through such troubling awkward questions, or have, but cling to the myth of a benevolent Washington and "our shared values" (something I gave up on after the Vietnam War)