December 2013        

Venezuela in the firing line

In the period leading up to its municipal elections on 8 December, Venezuela continues to make news. Opposition forces, supported by the United States and the international press, are doing their damnedest to make the country ungovernable. They use the current destabilisation, induced by themselves, to create an image of the Maduro government as being dysfunctional, dictatorial, and corrupt.
      The US government encouraged the failed right-wing coup of 2002 and the subsequent disruption of Venezuela’s oil industry. Both they and powerful forces inside Venezuela targeted—and continue to target—the Bolivarian movement because of its decisive role in promoting continent-wide unity and social justice.
      Not surprisingly, NSA documents appearing recently in the New York Times, thanks to Edward Snowden, identified Venezuela as one of six “enduring targets” for electronic eavesdropping in 2007. (Others were China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Russia.) The strategic goal then—and probably now—was to prevent Venezuela from achieving its regional leadership objective and pursuing policies that negatively affect American global interests.
      Although Nicolás Maduro won Venezuela’s presidential election in April by a slim margin, this democratic decision of the Venezuelan people still remains unrecognised by the US government. After those elections, opposition demonstrations quickly spread, killing thirteen people. Now that the government faces municipal elections on 8 December, engineered social turmoil has returned.
      Opposition groups financed by the US government are rioting on Venezuelan streets and forcing shortages of consumer goods. For José Vicente Rangel, vice-president under Chávez, their attacks on power stations, city transport services and oil refineries are terrorist in nature. Shops are running short of milk, textiles, sugar, shoes, electronic equipment, and more. The government accuses importers and retail distributors of hoarding. Retail prices have skyrocketed.
      Suspected sabotage of the electricity supply in Venezuela caused widespread black-outs, with Caracas left in total darkness for many hours on Monday 2 December.
      The government has been forced to take emergency measures to ensure public safety, boost consumer confidence, and curb the disruptive activities of the opposition, incited by its firebrand leader, Enrique Capriles. In a familiar refrain picked up—predictably—by the world’s capitalist press, Capriles accuses Maduro and his government of delegitimising their democratic credentials by subjecting Venezuelans to the dictates of their tyrannical fascist regime. As most of the country’s mass media are controlled by counter-revolutionary elements, hard-pressed Venezuelans are being constantly exposed to this distortion of the reality of their situation.
      Maduro supporters recall Chilean distress before the coup that removed President Salvador Allende in 1973. The Nixon government wanted then to “make Chile’s economy scream.” A statement from forty-five high-level retired Venezuelan military officers calling for military intervention testifies to the high stakes in play now.
      Such treasonable incitements to violence take place against the background of a fundamentally sound economy. In 2012 Venezuela’s oil revenue totalled $93.6 billion, while $59.3 billion was spent on imports. Interest payments on foreign debt were relatively low. Currency reserves now approach $37 billion. “This government is not going to run out of dollars,” as one economist, Mark Weisbrot, put it. The fact that inflation fell in 2012 coincident with the economy expanding by 5½ per cent is a favourable sign, he suggests. And “the poverty rate dropped by 20 per cent in Venezuela last year.”
      Still, there is no room for complacency. The Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger, who has exposed over the years the massive funding by the United States of opposition groups in Venezuela, recently organised the publication of a document outlining opposition preparations for the coming municipal elections. Entitled “Venezuelan Strategic Plan,” it comprises fifteen “action points” covering sabotage, “massive mobilisations,” food shortages, “insurrection inside the army,” and control of publicity. It anticipates “crisis in the streets, facilitating the intervention of North American and NATO forces, with support of the government of Colombia.” The resulting “violence should cause deaths and injuries.”
      This plan for universal mayhem in Venezuela emerged from a meeting on 13 June 2013 attended by Mark Feierstein, regional head of the US Agency for International Development, and representatives of three other organisations: FTI Consulting of Florida; Colombia’s “Center for Thought Foundation,” linked to the former president Álvaro Uribe; and the Democratic Internationalism Foundation, promoted by Uribe.
      Although Capriles has called for massive anti-government mobilisations against the government throughout Venezuela before the December elections, aspects of this “plan” may be just a “wish list” for the present. But, given the desperate desire of the United States to re-establish its hegemony in Central and Latin America (and get a handle on Venezuela’s huge oil reserves), full activation of the “plan” in the future can hardly be discounted.
      The plan also illustrates how far the so-called “defenders of democracy” are prepared to go to restore a status quo of oligarchic rule and dire inequality in a Venezuela completely subservient to the interests of their ever-generous paymaster: the United States government.

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