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Opinion
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Commentary: The View from Europe: Venezuela's crisis raises wider regional issues
Published on May 6, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

By David Jessop

Last week, after months of growing street protests, detentions, escalating violence, at least 36 deaths, and shortages of almost all basic necessities, Venezuela's President, Nicolas Maduro, announced the creation of a constituent assembly with the ability to rewrite the country’s constitution.

david_jessop.jpg
David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at
david.jessop@caribbean-council.org. Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org
Although he has argued that this is a necessary step to restore peace and avoid the danger of a civil war, many opposition critics and ordinary citizens regard it as an attempt to sideline the elected National Assembly and take absolute power.

Irrespective of which version one believes, or to set aside the view that a humanitarian crisis is being manufactured to bring about regime change, it is to observe that, whatever the outcome, those who continue to suffer most are the Venezuelan people.

That this should be happening in a country which has the largest oil reserves in the world is a sorry reflection of what happens when the link between sound economic management, pragmatism, good order and the late President Chavez’s understandable early social objectives are lost in the singular pursuit of ideology and the retention of power.

As each day passes it is becoming clearer that the rapidly deteriorating internal situation in Venezuela has consequences for near neighbours.

Within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) significant divisions have emerged about the extent to which countries should respond politically to the growing internal crisis in Venezuela. At the same time concerns have begun to emerge about the effect on regional stability if a refugee crisis were to occur.

These divisions became publicly apparent on April 26 at a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS), which approved a resolution to convene a meeting of OAS Ministers of Foreign Affairs to consider the situation. In response, Venezuela and countries that support its position sought to have the motion rejected, describing it as an interference in their internal affairs.

However, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, and St Lucia voted in favour, together with the United, States, Canada Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.

Antigua, Dominica, Haiti, Nicaragua, St Kitts, St Vincent, and Suriname voted against, with Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, while Belize, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and El Salvador abstained. Grenada was absent.

The decision subsequently caused the Venezuelan government to decide to withdraw from the organisation, a process likely to take two years.

In an indication of the emerging regional polarisation that may now follow if the internal situation in Venezuela deteriorates further, the country’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, said the Maduro administration’s decision to leave the OAS was to counter what it sees as an attempt by the body’s members and conservative regional governments to topple President Maduro.

The matter has been made unnecessarily more complex by the OAS secretary general, Luis Almagro, who has taken a public position opposed to Mr Maduro’s government. His outspoken comments have been widely criticised, being described in a recent formal statement by Bruno Rodriguez, the minister of foreign affairs of Cuba, which is not an OAS member, as ‘frenzied’.

Unfortunately, there may now be other more practical human consequences.

Firstly, in a number of countries geographically close to Venezuela, including Trinidad, Guyana, Curacao and Brazil, there is concern that the humanitarian crisis now unfolding may increase the number of Venezuelans seeking to flee their country, with implications for sub-regional stability, and something not seen in the region before: a refugee crisis.

Already in Trinidad there is a growing presence of Venezuelan men, women and children in villages in the central, south and south-west of the country, and evidence that mainland criminal trafficking networks are emerging, offering transport, documentation and safe houses to those who can pay.

Separately, other neighbours like Guyana are concerned about the possible impact of instability on the international dimensions of their unresolved territorial disputes, as well as the challenge of successfully maintaining the integrity of their land borders.

Secondly, the inability of CARICOM to agree a single position once again points to the near impossibility of the region ever having a single, coherent foreign and security policy.

Whether governments chose to admit it or not, some are hopelessly compromised as obligors of Venezuelan debt under the PetroCaribe arrangement, and by promises of future investment.

In contrast, others are aware that, for reasons of realpolitik relating to future relations with the Trump administration, or their party to party ties to like-minded conservative groupings, there is value in backing the US’s government’s desire to see gone the Maduro government and the present leadership of the Venezuelan military.

Thirdly, in some quarters in the US there is a political view that Venezuela could, with hemispheric support, become a tool to engineer other changes in the Americas. It is already the case that Venezuela’s deteriorating economic situation has in part forced Cuba into new period of austerity and economic uncertainty.

Fourthly, whatever happens in Venezuela is likely to affect the posture of China and Russia in the hemisphere. Russia sees Venezuela as an important strategic ally in the Americas and is likely to defend its position. China, in contrast, sees potential economic opportunity, but holds significant amounts of Venezuelan debt, largely repayable in oil and other forms of investment.

And fifthly, what happened at the OAS last month makes clear that important future choices will now arise as to the best future vehicles through which the nations of the Americas try to resolve political differences. Although the US, Canada and others still see utility in the OAS, there are signs that in the Americas and beyond, some see this as being the role of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). In this, the danger is that no hemispheric institution will in future have absolute validity.

The response to the crisis unfolding in Venezuela illustrates how debt and short-termism has led Caribbean governments to be conflicted. It also suggests how little long-term thought has been given beyond the region as to what might happen if Venezuelan largesse were to dry up. It demonstrates too that the new ideological divide is widening.

There is a danger that the crisis now emerging may encourage a US administration, once again to challenge the independence and sovereignty of the nations of the Americas.
 
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Comments:

George P Thomas:

THE BLAME FOR THE VENEZUELAN ECONOMIC CRISIS.

It was on April 19, 1961, that Cubans were victorious against the “Bay of Pigs” invasion

Also significant is April 19, 1810, in Caracas, when the Spanish American Wars of Independence and the Bolivarian Revolution began.

Spain, a superpower with an imperialist empire that began in 1492, was in ruins by April 19, 1810.

Empires rise and fall.

Like Spain, the USA, now tens of trillions of dollars in National Debt, is also a superpower coming to ruin.

History has proven that Capitalism can't resolve the world’s problems.

Imperialism, as the highest stage of capitalism, does not bring about a world of peace and mutual cooperation but rather one of intensified conflict, violence and war.

The blame for the Venezuelan economic crisis rests on the United States empire and its imperialists, and the collaborating Venezuelan rightwing business owners aiming to sabotage the system.

Venezuela is being attacked by the imperialists in the same manner that Cuba was… by invasion and embargo, (though not necessarily in the same order).

An economic coup is now being waged upon Venezuela by the imperialists and by their allied collaborators in the private sector.

We have been watching with grave concern, the economic crisis in Venezuela, and conditions such as :

1. scarcity of goods,
2. high inflation,
3. broken currency exchange system,
4. falling oil price,
5. violence leaving dozens of citizens dead and hundreds injured.

We, The Trinidad and Tobago Bolivarian Solidarity Group, believe that these conditions are the result of acts staged by big business (the opposition), in league with others whose objectives are destabilization of Venezuela.

a) Basic commodity shortages are being caused by the business sector illegally stockpiling products in warehouses and diverting them from the Venezuelan marketplace for sale in Colombia, and by criminal speculators and smugglers who purchase subsidized food items and resell them at higher prices in the domestic market.

b) Some speculators practice massive currency fraud by obtaining divisas (dollars)at the preferential exchange rate under pretext of importing priority goods and then selling those dollars on the parallel market or holding on to them in expectation of further devaluation of the bolivar…

In attempting to weaken or overthrow the nationalist-populist government of The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the imperialist empire has resorted to multiple forms of attack including:

(1) corruption (buying off supporters),
(2) funding and organizing opposition media, parties, business and trade union organizations,
(3) organizing and backing disloyal military officials to violently overthrow the elected government,
(4) supporting employers’ lockouts to paralyze strategic sectors of the economy (oil),
(5) financing referendums and other ‘legal mechanisms’ to revoke democratic mandates,
(6) promoting paramilitary groups to destabilize civil society, sow public insecurity and undermine agrarian reforms,
(7) financing electoral parties and non-governmental organizations to compete in and delegitimize elections,
(8) engaging diplomatic warfare and efforts to prejudice regional relations and
(9) establishing military bases in neighboring countries, as a platform for future joint military invasions.

When economic intervention fails, Imperialist domination has often relied on military intervention, both overt and covert, or through military support to reactionary local allies, to dismantle entire societies.

Since WWII the USA has not won any war anywhere in the world, except in Panama and Grenada.

Yet the USA has army, air-force, and naval bases in Columbia.

These bases are not placed to patrol the Pacific Ocean to keep drug shipments from getting to the US.

Instead many of them are grouped together on the Caribbean coast where there were already bases, and others are much closer to Venezuela.

What missions 'beyond Colombia's borders' are U.S. planners contemplating for this giant military presence in Columbia if not to stoke the flames of regional conflict?"

What is worst is that the USA is now governed by a collection of morons, people-stupid-below-the-meaning-of-stupid, voted into power by people who are extremely gullible and inattentive.

They are all believers of the Fake News, Propaganda and “False Flags” fed to them by the mainstream US media, which is controlled by big business.

The imperialists are trying hard to destroy the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions domination because they are beacons of inspiration all over the world for oppressed people who are angered by injustice and seeking change.

The Trinidad and Tobago Bolivarian Solidarity Group stands in solidarity with the Chavistas and Fidelistas.

We call upon the imperialists and their collaborators to cease their unrelenting attacks on the non-violent revolutionary people, to respect the democratic rule of the constitutionally elected government, and to not change the region from being a Zone of Peace.

We urge the media to publicize the truth.

“Viva Cuba!”
“Viva Venezuela!”
“Venceremos!”
“Patria o Muerte!”
“Hasta La Victoria Siempre!”







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