Political Observation - Venezuela and the Myth of Western Democracy
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Political Observation - Venezuela and the Myth of Western Democracy
Venezuela has been witnessing an acute political division since 23 January 2018. Backed openly by US president Donald Trump, Canada and several South American and EU states, President of the National Constituent Assembly Juan Guaidó declared himself “interim president”. Following this announcement, the Venezuelan president severed diplomatic ties with Washington and accused the US administration of plotting to overthrow him. The struggle escalated when America and her surrogates recognised Juan Guaidó while Russia, China, Turkey, Mexico and Bolivia continued to recognise the legitimacy of Maduro after he had been sworn in on 10 January 2019 for a new six-year presidential term
Despite the strong opposition Juan Guaidó has expressed since he became president of the National Constituent Assembly he, however, did not dare declare a parallel government before having received the green light from the US and the regional backing from Columbia and Brazil. Since the victory of Nicolás Maduro in the first presidential election of 14 April 2013, America has been increasing her economic pressure on the country until the Venezuelan economy hit rock bottom; this made it easier for the rightwing opposition to win the parliamentary elections in 2015. Since then, the struggle between the leftwing president and the rightwing parliament intensified.
Despite the severe shortage in basic commodities, high inflation and the flight of thousands of Venezuelans to Columbia, the opposition failed to topple the regime of Nicolás Maduro. And when Maduro was elected for a second presidential term, the exasperation of the US administration became conspicuous as it had been flagrantly plotting to ouster him without taking into account the deep rift in society and the threat of the country sliding towards civil war. The protests of the opposition intensified at home amidst a suffocating economic crisis while America imposed from abroad a host of sanctions against the regime of Nicolás Maduro, which the former UN Special Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas described in an interview with the “Independent” newspaper as the main cause behind the economic catastrophe Venezuela has been enduring. And despite this domestic and foreign pressure exerted on Venezuela, president Nicolás Maduro remains up until now steadfast and firm in resisting the desire of the US and the EU to stage fresh presidential elections now that the avenues of dialogue with the opposition have all been slammed shut and the only options he is facing are either an ouster through elections of the armed forces or the scenario of a civil war that could wreak havoc in Venezuela.
What is, however, making Nicolás Maduro so confident to the extent that he has threatened America with a “second Vietnam” in Venezuela? Despite all the challenges his government has been facing since he took office after the demise of Hugo Chavez on 5 March 2013, he managed to win a second presidential term in the elections of 21 May 2018. Perhaps the secret of his survival is his adherence to the legacy of his predecessor Chavez in terms of providing healthcare and education and eradicating discrimination against the underprivileged population. Despite the little impact they had on the population due to the scarcity of the state revenues caused by a slump in oil prices, the policies of Chavez have provided Maduro with a popular incubator that dreads the return of the US-backed rightwing which adopts the interests of the rich who in turn represent an extension of the US interests in the country. Moreover, the efforts Hugo Chavez had exhausted, since he assumed power in 1998, in turning the army into a doctrinal institution with leftwing tendencies and with significant economic interests made it difficult for America to buy the loyalty of the top brass or topple Nicolás Maduro despite the repeated attempts. Hence, it was not surprising for the army to reject Juan Guaidó’s decision to declare himself president. Venezuelan defence minister Vladimir Padrino López was quoted as saying: “The soldiers of the homeland do not accept a president who is imposed amid vague interests or who declares himself president in an illegal manner. The army defends our constitution and is the guarantor of national sovereignty.” The army has indeed proved their loyalty to Maduro by thwarting an assassination attempt on him through drones armed with explosives and foiling several breakaway attempts.
The Supreme Court is the second institution supporting president Nicolás Maduro. It is the highest judicial institution in the country. It has ordered a criminal investigation against the parliamentarians who broke away the regime and charged them with usurping the competencies of the president. And in retaliation to the oil sanctions issued by the US administration, the Supreme Court imposed a travel ban and financial restrictions on the president of the National Constituent Assembly Juan Guaidó. Moreover, the Supreme Court rejected on 9 February a parliamentary draft bill issued by the Venezuelan opposition pertaining to forming an interim government headed by Juan Guaidó.
One of the significant assets Maduro has inherited from Chavez and which has contributed to his continuance in power is the armed groups established in 2005 and known as “Collectivos”. They are militia dominating the streets and their power has exceeded that of the police and they currently number 1.2 million members. It seems the presence of these armed brigades along the armed forces has emboldened Nicolás Maduro and made him confidently confirm that he would not succumb to the American pressures and that Venezuela would not turn into an “American colony.” In addition to the aforementioned, we note that the Russian and Chinese support at the diplomatic level and in international events has played a role in foiling America’s attempts to amass a public opinion enabling her to intervene militarily or to gain a free rein in toppling the Maduro regime.
America’s attempts to topple the regime in Venezuela started since the days of Hugo Chavez, especially the attempt of 2002 which lasted only few hours because a significant number of the top brass and the popular militia supported Chavez. It is America’s desire to control Venezuela’s oil and other riches, her rejection of the Russian military expansion, her endeavour to throw a spanner in the works of the Chinese, Russian and Turkish interests and her efforts to thwart the spread of the independent state’s model in South America that gave her the impetus to work towards changing the leftwing regime in Venezuela as she had done recently in Argentina and Brazil.
America has without a shadow of a doubt been endeavouring to seize control of Venezuela’s oil; the confirmed reserves exceed those of any other country in the world. With 300 billion barrels, they equal 25% of the world reserves. America’s exasperation was aggravated by the nationalisation initiative Hugo Chavez had started and Maduro pursued. The nationalisation program involved about 5000 companies most of which operated in the oil sector. This impacted negatively on the US oil companies and their investments in Venezuela. The nationalisation measures led to the withdrawal of most US companies and the closure in the southern governorates of several US refineries that used to depend on Venezuelan oil. These US companies operating in the oil sector hope that America would succeed in toppling Nicolás Maduro’s regime so that they may return to Venezuela and recapture the oil and mineral resources, especially steel and gold. The withdrawal of US companies from Venezuela has led to a decrease in oil production from 3 million to 1.2 million barrel a day. The motive behind America’s attempts to topple Maduro’s regime is not only about appropriating Venezuelan oil but also preventing the Russian military expansion in the Caribbean now that military cooperation between Russia and Venezuela in terms of armament and training has increased. Russia’s military presence in America’s backyard is designed to increase her capabilities in countering America’s attempts to meddle in her lebensraum.
America is also aiming to damage the Russian, Chinese and Turkish economic interests in Venezuela. Russia and China are the biggest investors in Venezuela who suffers a significant increase in debt totalling $120 billion, $50 billion of which owed to China and $20 billion to Russia. Venezuela sold 49.9% of her shares in the national oil company and granted Russia and China gold mining rights. America seeks to pursue this path to wreck the Russian and Chinese investments in Venezuela by ousting Nicolás Maduro. Hence, Russia would likely hold secret negotiations with America on her investments and loans to Venezuela if she felt that Maduro’s regime is on the brink of collapse. Maduro and his predecessor Chavez have so far been successful in implicating China and Russia in huge investments in Venezuela to defend their continuance in power in the face of the frenzied onslaught staged by America who wants to monopolise Venezuela’s oil and mineral resources.
As for Turkey, president Erdoğan was among the few leaders to telephone president Maduro and express their support; this led the Turkish leftwing movement to side with Erdoğan despite the different motives between the two sides. The economic and political interests between Turkey and Venezuela have deepened in recent years. And as the trade ties between Turkey and Venezuela strengthened, America threats shifted towards Turkey; Senior US Treasury official Marshall Billingslea was quoted as saying on 31 January 2019: “We are looking at the nature of Turkish-Venezuelan commercial activity, and if we assess a violation of our sanctions, we will obviously take action.” The official said Washington was disappointed that Turkey continued to support Maduro.
In a nutshell, it seems that since he took office in 1998, Hugo Chavez had been proceeding towards rejecting Venezuela’s dependency on the US administration and resisting her policies that clashed with the interests of his country. And due to this Venezuelan approach, America has been dreading the spread of this Venezuelan penchant for independence amid Latin American countries, thus giving the masses of the region the opportunity to achieve real independence from American neo- colonialism. It is in this context that the European support for America should be perceived despite the major rifts between America and Europe and even the implicit American threat to Europe after America’s recent withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) at a time when Europe is facing a shaky phase due to the fallout of Brexit.
Hence, what are America’s options in dealing with Maduro’s regime and what are her chances in succeeding to topple him? The first option America is threatening to execute is military intervention. However, this option seems very unlikely at this stage for several reasons even though America has no less than seven military bases in Columbia. The main reason is the Democrats’ aversion to any military intervention in the Venezuelan crisis. Moreover, the Lima Group and a liaison group comprising some European states have also expressed their apprehensions towards such an option; even some Venezuelan opposition groups expressed their objections to the military option since it would deprive them of the popular support and would make it practically impossible to win some of the army generals over.
Besides, a military intervention in Venezuela is highly risky in the presence of an army loyal to Nicolás Maduro numbering 200, 000 soldiers, and more than 1000 generals whose economic interests are linked to the survival of the Maduro regime. And with the presence of several armed militias numbering a million fighters loyal to the regime and with their interests linked to its survival, a military intervention would not only be disastrous for the Venezuelan people but for America as well since she would be facing a liberationist movement against her hegemony from other nations of Latin America who harbour a deep hatred towards America because of her colonialist and impoverishing policies towards south America. Hence, given the current facts on the ground, America is more likely to proceed with the policy of sanctions, especially those targeting the Venezuelan national company PDVSA whose US branch is CITGO. The aim behind the sanctions system is to generate crippling economic conditions to the state’s resources and a public atmosphere that would exert pressure on the regime and act as the appropriate ground for any intelligence and political actions America would undertake against the powerful tools the regime of Maduro possesses such as the army generals, the capitalists and the influential popular institutions.
Since a military intervention will most likely be ruled out and if the sanctions system failed to topple the regime, with America refusing to engage in a dialogue with Maduro and insisting on holding fresh presidential elections on the basis of which she aims to prepare the grounds for a military coup, America would be left with the option of igniting a civil war by building an army from among the opposition, arming and training it, to undertake on her behalf fighting the Venezuelan army and its affiliated militias.
America will continue to work towards isolating the regime of Nicolás Maduro regionally and internationally by refusing to negotiate with it and increasing the number of states recognising the leader of the opposition Juan Guaidó and providing him with a diplomatic and political cover at international events. This narrative was expressed by US Vice President Mike Pence during a rally in Florida on 1 February 2019. He said: “This is no time for dialogue. This is time for action…. The time has come to end the Maduro dictatorship once and for all.”
The unfolding events in Venezuela prove yet again that democracy, especially Western democracy, is but a myth in the minds of the naïve smitten by Western culture. Although 90% of the Venezuelan population are Roman Catholics, America and the European states viewpoint towards those people and the rest of the Latin American masses is no more than that of the European colonialist who is obsessed with enslaving the people who do not represent the Western culture emanating from the centrism of the white man whose genes are imprinted with hostility and a cocktail of atheism and Judiaised Christianity. The Venezuelan crisis that America has concocted since Hugo Chavez took office has prove to us that the hunger, illness and displacement the Venezuelan people are enduring have exposed the ugly face of America who has been bashing the world’s ears with empty rhetoric such as human rights and humanitarian aid, while she is governed by multinationals that plunder the riches of the masses and conspire against any leader, irrespective of his ideological and political tendencies, who strives to break free from the shackles of the international custodianship system and to devote the riches and faculties of his country to serve his people.
Finally, the Venezuelan crisis has revealed to us that the world order headed by America cannot intervene and dominate the resources of the people except through the collaborators and traitors from among the masses, who accept to act as mounts or bridges colonial powers use to dominate the world under the guise of humanitarian aid, spreading democracy or defending human rights or combating terrorism. Such slogans are only swallowed by an ignoramus or a hired traitor who cheaply sells his country and his values or a deceived moron who brays what he does not understand and is only fuel for the secularist train of despotism in the world.
7 Jumada al-Akhirah 1440h
12 February 2019