Venezuela is grappling with the beast of US-backed regime change

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Well the hypocrisy could not be any more brazen, could it? Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro takes steps in line with the country’s Bolivarian Constitution to establish a constituent assembly and for doing is excoriated as a tyrant and a villain by Western governments and their media echo chamber.

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia, another oil-rich country, is ruled by a gang of potentates with a penchant for chopping off the heads of anyone who dare question their tyrannical rule over a country they have long viewed as their personal ATM machine. It is a country in which Wahhabi hate preachers spew out a message of religious extremism and sectarianism on a daily basis, promulgating a medieval conception of Islam and a preternatural hatred of the ‘apostate’, all funded by the state, and yet Trump and other Western leaders outdo themselves in abasing themselves before it.

The sage words of Malcolm X spring to mind when we consider the mainstream news coverage of the crisis in Venezuela. “If you’re not careful,” he said, “the newspapers will have you hating the people being oppressed and loving the people doing the oppressing.”

Is there anyone really naive enough to believe that Venezuela is under attack out of concern for democracy and human rights? Seriously? How can this be when countries such as the United States and Britain are key allies of the previously mentioned Saudi tyranny, supplying it with the weaponry that is currently being utilised for the purpose of slaughtering men, women, and children in Yemen?

Venezuela is under attack because of its attempt to break the chains of the Washington Consensus, asserting its right to be sovereign, independent, and free. The country’s Bolivarian Revolution, inspired by the late Hugo Chavez, set its face against decades of entrenched oligarchy within and US hegemony without. Chavez’s successor, Maduro, in carrying the torch of Chavez’s socialist programme, has found his government engulfed in a crisis that has been driven by the collapse in the price of oil in recent years, exposing the lack of economic diversification which is the curse of the Global South, leaving them vulnerable to global economic shocks and turbulence.

This is not to claim that there have been no mistakes made by Maduro in response to the crisis. As author and political theorist George Ciccariello-Maher makes clear, a “failing system of currency controls governing the distribution of oil income was never fully dismantled. The result was a destructive feedback loop of black-market currency speculation, the hoarding and smuggling of gasoline and food, and an explosion of already rampant corruption at the intersection of the private and public sectors. Confronted with street protests and food shortages, Maduro responded erratically, supporting grassroots production by communes while simultaneously courting private corporations in a bid to keep food on the shelves.”

When CIA director Mike Pompeo opined recently that he is “hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there,” alarm bells start ringing, reminding us of the agency’s bloodsoaked legacy in Latin America — Guatemala 1954; Chile 1973; helping to prop up a succession of right wing dictatorships and miltiary juntas throughout the 1970s and 80s; the training and funding of contra death squads in Nicaragua and El Salvador; not forgetting covert and overt attempts to subvert the Cuban government over decades.

The fundamental source of the crisis in Venezuela is not a lack of democracy but the abuse of democracy by an opposition whose virulent hatred of the country’s poor and indigenous population burns like an unextinguishable flame. If the Bolivarian Revolution has been remiss it is in its failure to crush the power of the nation’s oligarchs and their control over key levers of the economy, such as imports and exports.

As Peter Bolton writes, “Before Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998, the economic levers of society were near-exclusively in the hands of a social elite of overwhelmingly light-skinned Venezuelans: the inhabitants of the wealthy neighborhoods of Venezuela’s urban centers and wealthy landowners of the campo. Not only were they in charge of importation, distribution and wholesaling of all manner of goods for the Venezuelan markets, but they also had a stranglehold over the state apparatus needed to profiteer from effective importation in the first place. A central goal of Chavismo was to wrest control of the economic levers from this elite and more evenly disperse it throughout society. The Chávez and Maduro administrations have sought to democratize economic decision-making and predicate it on serving the public interest rather than the pursuit of private profit.”

The US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela 2002, which temporarily removed Chavez from power, weighs heavily on the current crisis, proving once again that the enemy of the masses of the people throughout Latin America is not and never has been socialism, but is and will always be US-dominated free market capitalism.

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