By BRUCE LESNICK
When you corner a rat, it lashes out. The rats in charge of the U.S. empire are cornered by the contradictions built into their own system: increasing economic inequality, regular depressions and recessions, declining profit rates, perpetual austerity, and endless wars promoted to stave off increasing global competition. The current vicious U.S. assault on Venezuela—along with the ongoing attacks on working people here at home—are what it looks like when the imperial rat lashes out.
The Trump administration has openly declared the goal of regime change in Venezuela. Such an aim is illegal under international law. The mere threat of aggression is “not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
But U.S. hostility toward that sovereign, independent nation did not begin with the current administration. In a classic case of what Malcolm X called “turning the victim into the criminal,” Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in January of 2017 asserting that Cuba and Venezuela were national security threats to the U.S.
What is the reason for U.S. hostility toward Venezuela, a country that has never threatened any other, let alone the U.S.? Simply put, the popularly elected Chavez and Maduro governments have failed to blindly adhere to U.S. neoliberal economic priorities and imperial dictates. As the CIA acknowledged: “Social investment in Venezuela during the CHAVEZ administration reduced poverty from nearly 50% in 1999 to about 27% in 2011, increased school enrollment, substantially decreased infant and child mortality, and improved access to potable water and sanitation through social investment.”
Naturally, big business and the U.S. government they control couldn’t stand idly by while a country in their very “back yard” followed a road that, however tepidly and imperfectly, took steps that hinted at prioritizing human needs over private profits. A series of executive orders and sanctions, beginning under the Obama administration and continuing under Trump, have sought to economically strangle the Venezuelan people.
From freezing Venezuelan gold and U.S. dollar reserves held in foreign accounts, to blocking the sale of oil, Venezuela’s chief hard currency export, the impact on the Venezuelan economy is estimated to be upwards of $20 billion in 2018 alone. Together these sanctions amount to a criminal siege, according to UN Special Rapporteur for Venezuela, Alfred de Zayas.
This was followed by a U.S.-sponsored coup attempt on Jan. 23, 2019, when President Trump announced U.S. recognition of opposition politician Juan Guaidó as the “legitimate” president of Venezuela. This was despite Guaidó’s never having run in a presidential election.
Mainstream media complicity
To cover up its illegal aggression, the U.S. attempted to stage the delivery of “humanitarian aid” at the Columbian and Brazilian boarders with Venezuela on Feb. 23. Venezuelan officials denounced the stunt as a “Trojan Horse,” noting that U.S. Special Envoy Eliot Abrams, who was promoting the phony aid drop, was known for concealing weapons in planes with Red Cross markings in support of the Contras—anti-Nicaraguan government mercenaries supported by the U.S. in the 1980s.
The phony aid drop was stopped by Venezuelan troops. Near opposition groups escorting the aid, one of the trucks caught fire. Video footage from the scene by Telesur showed opposition supporters starting the fire. Nevertheless, The New York Times, CNN and other mainstream media, plus John Bolton, Marco Rubio and Mike Pompeo, blamed the fire on the Venezuelan government forces for two weeks after the incident.
Only after the lie had been sufficiently spread and reinforced did The Times reverse itself on March 10, acknowledging that the same video published widely by Max Blumenthal of The Grayzone and by other alternative media sites weeks earlier proved that Venezuelan troops were not responsible for the fire.
The Times barely paused before spreading additional misinformation in a story entitled, “‘It Is Unspeakable’: How Maduro Used Cuban Doctors to Coerce Venezuela Voters.” The story was calculated to smear the Venezuelan and Cuban governments, as well as thousands of Cuban doctors and teachers who have volunteered to provide concrete, legitimate aid to the Venezuelan people.
Nine days later, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) published a piece thoroughly debunking the Times story. Entitled, “Pathological Deceit: The NYT Inverts Reality on Venezuela’s Cuban Doctors,” the FAIR piece concludes, “the New York Times’ Andes bureau chief mobilizes anonymous sources and defectors—whose testimony ranges from dubious to preposterous—to further demonize Venezuela and provide cover for Washington’s murderous regime change policy.”
The next move in the imperial assault on Venezuela came on March 7 with a cyber-attack on Venezuela’s power grid.
According to Venezuela’s Telesur, “An ongoing series of cyber attacks were perpetrated starting Thursday against the El Guri hydroelectric plant control system leaving the Venezuelan population without electricity for now almost 96 hours. According to the Venezuelan government, this nationwide blackout was brought about by foreign-backed actions aimed at destabilizing the government [of] President Nicolás Maduro, who stressed that the aggression ‘affected everyone equally without political distinction.’”
As noted in a March 9 story in Forbes, the U.S. has long had plans for disrupting the infrastructure of “uncooperative” nations: “Interrupting power and water supplies, disrupting traffic patterns, slowing or interfering with internet access, causing smart homes to go haywire and even remotely triggering meltdowns at nuclear power plants were all topics increasingly being discussed in the national security community at the time as legitimate and legal tactics to undermine a foreign state.”
The Cuban government issued a strong statement condemning the attack:
“The Revolutionary Government strongly condemns the sabotage perpetrated against the power supply system in Venezuela, which is a terrorist action intended to harm the defenseless population of an entire nation and turn it into a hostage of the non-conventional war launched by the government of the United States against the legitimate government headed by comrade Nicolás Maduro Moros and the civic and military union of the Bolivarian and Chavista people.”
On March 25, The Wall Street Journal reported that two Russian military planes had landed in Caracas: “The Russian delegation, made up of 100 soldiers and military officials, arrived over the weekend to provide technical consultations linked to arms that Venezuela previously had purchased from Moscow, according to Russian state media. One of the planes carried 35 tons of unspecified equipment, said a security consultant with close ties to Caracas.”
Russia, Cuba and China have also delivered humanitarian aid in cooperation with the Venezuelan government. Telesur reported, “China delivered 65 tons of medicine and supplies to Venezuela Thursday as a result of a strategic cooperation between the two countries. The delivery of aid is one of many, according to government officials.”
According to Nicolás Maduro, as quoted in the Feb. 19 edition of El Periódico, “On Wednesday, 300 tons of Russian humanitarian aid will be legally delivered to the international airport of Caracas.” The article continues, “He also insisted that the donations made by the United States and Colombia at the request of the Venezuelan Parliament, which has an opposition majority, and that are blocked at the border, are outdated and contaminated food.
“‘The issue of humanitarian aid is a show, it is a hunting trap, they rob us 30 billion dollars and they offer us 20 million in rotten food, contaminated, to try to intervene in Venezuela,’ he insisted while asking the Colombian president , Ivan Duque, and the American, Donald Trump, stop the ‘madness.’”
Revolutionary socialists fully support the right of the Venezuelan government to obtain military, technical, and humanitarian aid from wherever they choose. One does not have to agree with every policy of the Maduro government to understand the stakes in the current conflict and to loudly demand: End the Sanctions! U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!
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