Commentary: Why Venezuela but not Haiti: America, CARICOM, the world?

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Youri Aramin Kemp, BA, MSc, CFM, AFA, ChE, is an Associate Managing Editor of Caribbean News Now. The views expressed are his own.

By Youri A Kemp

I guess coming out of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government meeting last month one would have noticed that the CARICOM made a short statement on the crisis in Venezuela, but remained oddly silent about the crisis in Venezuela threatening to take down the government of the immediate past chairman of CARICOM, Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

Actually, if it were not for the consistent coverage of the Haitian protests by Miami Herald journalist Jacqueline Charles, you probably wouldn’t even come close to appreciating that Haiti has not stopped burning for nearly a year straight, in what some would just chalk up as just the latest civilian unrest after decades of regime changes, coups, and violence in one of the poorest countries in the world — let alone know that things have gotten so bad, chaotic, out of control and desperate that there were caught, and later released, former US Marines playing cowboys in Haiti, riding around with enough guns and ammunition to take down a small government.

The short answer to this issue of loving one shithole over the other, in the spirit of Trumpian dialectics, is, apparently, no one gives a shit about shithole countries, even if they are your own and people have to live there. But one would retort that wouldn’t Venezuela be classified in Donald Trump’s stream of thought as a shithole country as well, recent issues taken into serious consideration? Well, it seems as if some shithole countries are more equal than others!

Do you see it? One shithole has black people in it and speaks Creole. The other shithole has black and brown people along with some Caucasians in it and speaks Spanish and also sits on the largest known reserves of oil and natural gas. Could we distill the merits of one being a better shithole than the other down to race, skin colour and natural resource endowment?

There is more to it than just skin colour and natural resources.

The disparities in cares and care-nots between those who love Venezuela and those who love Haiti in the global political pecking order, stem initially from the reinvigorated neo-conservative wing in America and by extension the “Western World” that not only have an ideological and financial stake in what happens in Venezuela, but also so do the liberal and progressive minds of the Western World. The liberal progressives also have an ideological as well as lifestyle stake which affects their draft-framework for a new financial system and envisions economic order of importance based on greater state-ran government.

Liberals also have a great disdain for this renewed energy from the neo-cons under their new cult leader, President Donald Trump, with their ever-present- and stronger- threat the neo-cons present to the liberalist conspiratorial fear of a New World Order being foisted upon the world; a New World Order that never seems to be fulfilled and the progenitors of this New Order never are fully identified: A point that should stop liberals from looking for a bogeyman to blame, but let’s not let evidence come in the way of a good story!

All of this, coupled with the low hanging fruit of the progressive liberal’s socialist, utopian wet-dream of which were hoping so feverishly Venezuela would be that beacon of an absolute state-run system for all, a virtue so fantastic that it is worth trying and trying again even when evidence that it fails every strength test for a fundamentally sound democratic system; of which liberal progressive feel that only if they can get these New World Order, card-carrying neo-cons, to back off and allow socialist rights and righteousness to take hold, these ideas just may work and from there we can show the world this is how absolute state-ran happiness looks like.

But let us have a deeper and sober discussion, of which as of late — and not as a result of the Lenten season, but as a result of lifestyle changes — I have been having a great deal more of and longer stretches of them.

To be honest, it’s easier to look at Venezuela over Haiti: Venezuela checks all of the boxes for the international media and fantasy war-watchers.

For one, Venezuela is a grand socialist experiment. Secondly, it does have the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world, so it is hard to ignore them.

Thirdly, President Nicholas Maduro has been portrayed as a villain in the most Marvel comic book mould. And lastly, Maduro is just so made for television isn’t he? He dances, he sings, he gives the most impassioned speeches about the Bolivarian Revolution. You can put him on at 9 pm prime time spot, and he can compete with shows like Empire or Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta, and second only to a Donald Trump CNN deep-dive or perhaps, a Ryan Seacrest hosted Awards Show!

On the other side, Haiti has poor black people and lots of problems! No drama and if the US invades again, it will be just the latest in the last 50 years of invasions into Haiti by the USA. Unlike Venezuela, where a US invasion is being fantasized about for all of the wrong reasons by people who certainly have no idea for what that would do to the rest of us in the world, let alone neighbours in the Western Hemisphere.

But there is more complexity to it. America and others have tried to intervene in Haiti before, with obviously failed results as Haiti is still in the civil and economic blight that it is in. But in some way, shape or form, America, primarily the peacekeeping and occupying force when Haiti gets way too dangerous, finds a horse in the race to ride. A person who they can depend on to at least sit in the Presidential Palace until the next problem in Haiti happens — as it always does.
Also, the recent stronger calls for intervention into Venezuela, including the pipe dream by some that an American led military invasion is being planned and seemingly imminent, has gotten louder due to the recent events of a challenger to Venezuelan President Maduro’s electoral victory at the polls in that of National Assembly chairman and self-proclaimed interim president, Juan Guaidó — a face to emerge as a horse the American and anti-Maduro wing can place their bets on and ride.

What people fail to realize is that the turmoil in Venezuela has been ongoing since 2010 and got worse in 2014 after the election of President Maduro. Those against his rule have wanted him not even to take the presidential seat to continue the revolutionary policies of his predecessor in that of the former president, Hugo Chavez, passed away and left a power void.

One of the primary reasons why Maduro was able to slip in and win the presidential elections of 2013 in Venezuela was because he tied himself to the Chavez revolutionary faction and to that of its policies, which were built on huge windfalls of oil and natural gas sales that created free state ran services rivalled by no other country on the planet. In addition, regime change away from the Chavez style of social revolutionary politics was planned the days before Chavez’s death.

It was just that the opposition forces were weak, disjointed and unorganized as well as had their scandals behind them an no one knew who to trust, who to speak to, how much to give in support and international gravitas in addition to a majority of the opposition leaders being unknown to the Venezuelan electorate and those who were known were not trusted faces due to their various idiosyncrasies.

So, in reality, to some of the vested interests on the neo-con side, this is the first golden moment in the last eight-plus years to make a move on the Venezuelan socialist ruling class. A golden moment in which some hope will be the full counter-revolution to Chavez’s socialist policies into that of a more pro-capitalist style of political focus in Venezuela, one in which hopefully allows for private oil and natural gas mining and exploration.

So to amplify this last point, it is not just an overcompensation of coverage for Venezuela over that of Haiti it is just that it is a series of events that some think is the hottest chance to make full change in Venezuela, one in which they were waiting for years during Chavez’s rule and one in which they feel can take place under the current Maduro administration with all things falling into place along with an identifiable opposition leader with apparently some backing behind him globally and within Venezuela that anti-Maduro forces can place their money on.

But regardless, there will never be a full excuse for the scant regard towards Haiti and particularly President Moise, who is taking heat for inherited problems left by previously corrupt administrations.

What is also eerily odd in this season of protest in Haiti is that the opposition to Moise who are ginning up the masses have not come forward, no one who is anyone has backed an identifiable voice, and the people protesting seem random and the leadership behind them seem like ghosts in the mist. No face, no voice, just slogans, and chants, but these ghosts are controlling the actions of their followers to what we see on the streets in Haiti — this is something that is very, very strange and unusual indeed!

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