U.S. Weaponizes COVID-19 Against Venezuela

U.S. Navy destroyer
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By ANN MONTAGUE

As the news outlets are covering developments in the spread of the coronavirus 24/7 and there are daily press conferences with President Trump and the coronavirus Task Force, the State Department and the U.S. military are taking Henry Kissinger’s advice: “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.” 

While the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the world, killing over 100,000, the U.S. is continuing its imperialist assault on Venezuela and coup attempt, denying the country badly needed funds for its health system and sending U.S. Navy destroyers and Marines to the country’s coastline.

On March 19, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rejected a request by Venezuela for a $5 billion loan to help it fight the coronavirus pandemic. An spokesperson for the Washington D.C.-based IMF claimed that the reason it would not consider the request was that loans are “predicated on official government recognition by the international community”  and it had “no clarity” as to who is Venezuela’s rightful head of state: President Nicolas Maduro, who has been democratically elected by the people of Venezuela, or Juan Guaidó, the U.S.-backed leader of an ongoing right-wing coup attempt who declared himself president in January.

Guaidó is the current figurehead of a years-long effort by the U.S. to overthrow the Maduro government, during which the U.S. has piled up endless sanctions on Venezuela in its economic warfare against the country, nearly wiping out Venezuelan oil production and exports, seizing billions of dollars in Venezuelan bank accounts around the world and turning the money over to Guaidó.

Venezuela requested the loan from the IMF from a special fund designated to support countries’ response to crises. The money would strengthen the capacities of the Venezuelan health system. President Maduro expressed to the IMF that he believed that working with the World Health Organization, receiving solidarity from other nations and social discipline they could defeat the virus. This was the first IMF loan request from Venezuela in nineteen years. Venezuela has also received medical aid from Cuba, which has sent a delegation of 137 doctors to the country to treat patients with Covid-19.

Days after the IMF rejected Venezuela’s request for aid, the European Union stated that it was in favor of the request, making it clear that the U.S., which holds veto power over IMF decision-making, was responsible for denying the loan.

Following the IMF’s refusal of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó announced an offer of $1.2 billion in loans from international financial institutions to fight the virus, only if the government agreed to enter an “emergency unity government” with Guaidó and his coup-makers, which would not include Maduro or any of the other 14 Venezuelan officials recently named in ridiculous drug trafficking charges fabricated by the U.S. Justice Department.

Cuba send massive medical aid to Venezuela

On April 22, Reinol Garcia, the Director of the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela announced, “Cuba has 21,600 health collaborators in Venezuela. Twelve thousand are researching possible cases in all Venezuelan communities. They have completed 350,000 rapid tests to detect the virus including house to house visits with the social isolation measures. Cuban doctors are also working in Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers assisting patients with other pathologies.”

Democrats Support Coup and Deadly Sanctions

The day after Barack Obama broadcast his official endorsement of Joe Biden as the Democratic Party nominee for president, Biden made his position clear in an interview that he supports President Trump’s attempted coup in Venezuela. Biden described his policy as “restoring democracy in Venezuela.” The Trump/Biden policy supports the violent effort by right-wing elites to overthrow the elected government of President Nicolás Maduro. Biden also parrots the Trump position that Maduro is not the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Ignoring the crippling U.S. economic sanctions against Venezuela in the midst of a pandemic, Biden makes his position clear, “Maduro’s regime [sic] is responsible for incredible suffering. The U.S. must stand with Guaidó to restore democracy.”

Biden’s support for U.S. “regime change” in Venezuela is consistent with his cheering on the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) recently stated that the U.S economic sanctions against Venezuela have prevented the country from having access to lifesaving medications, medical equipment and food. A study by the economists Jeffery Sachs and Mark Weisbrot, published by CEPR last year, concluded that from 2017 to 2018 U.S. sanctions killed more than 40,000 Venezuelans.

U.S. Makes Farcical Drug Charges Against Maduro

On March 26, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that President Maduro and more than a dozen other government officials will be indicted on “drug trafficking charges,” steps similar to those taken against the Noriega government in Panama before the U.S. invaded in 1989 and overthrew the government. Menacingly referring to the Venezuelan government as “the former Maduro regime,” Barr announced a reward of $15 million for the arrest of Maduro.

Pino Ariacchi, the former director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime responded, “I have been dealing with the issue of drugs and crime for over forty years and never encountered Venezuela. There is no illegal drug trade between Venezuela and the United States”. In addition, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration document of December 2019 does not even mention Venezuela. It says 90% of cocaine comes from Columbia and 6% from Peru.

Five days later on March 31, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that economic sanctions would be removed from Venezuela in return for President Maduro’s resignation and the creation of a 5 person “Council of State” approved by the United States. Future elections would ban Maduro from running and the U.S. designee for President would be Juan Guaidó. 

This proposal was immediately rejected and on April 1, during an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump announced that U.S. Navy destroyers carrying helicopters and ground troops, along with surveillance planes, were headed to Venezuela on a “drug interception” mission. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. deployment is one of the largest in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama.

U.S. Tightens Economic Sanctions on Oil

Chevron is the only U.S. oil company still active in Venezuela. The company has received a series of 90-day waivers that exempted them from U.S. sanctions. They currently have four joint ventures with PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company.

According to Venezuelanalysis, “On April 22nd the United States Treasury Department gave Chevron until December 1st to wind down all operations in Venezuela.  The U.S. multinational now is forbidden from drilling, selling and buying Venezuelan crude. Dividend payments to PDVSA are also prohibited. This also applies to oilfield service companies Baker Hughes, Halliburton, Schlumberger and Weatherford International.”

Venezuela relies on crude exports for 95% of its hard currency earnings. According to Reuters, the Trump administration sees the tightening of economic sanctions in the midst of a pandemic as “a compromise” between those who believe forcing Chevron to leave will further weaken the Venezuelan economy and others who defend keeping a “corporate beachhead” in the country.

End All U.S Sanctions!
Bring All the Troops Home!
Self-determination for Venezuela!

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