Let Venezuela Decide its own Fate- Not Donald Trump

The United States has been trying to oust Venezuela’s Chavista government since 1998. The Trump administration is continuing the trend, writes Ian Richardson

DONALD TRUMP’S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently confirmed his support for regime change in Venezuela, stating that he would seek to work with right-wing governments and organisations in the region to replace the elected Chavista government of Nicolas Maduro.

The former ExxonMobil CEO said: “I would urge close co-operation with our friends in the hemisphere, particularly Venezuela’s neighbours Brazil and Colombia, as well as multilateral bodies such as the OAS (Organisation of American States), to seek a negotiated transition to democratic rule in Venezuela.”

When it comes to Tillerson’s stance on Venezuela, it’s also worth noting that he lost a World Bank arbitration battle against the Venezuelan government over the nationalisation of ExxonMobil assets.

The US oil executive also hinted that financial restructuring would swiftly follow any change in Venezuela’s government, which he said would “pave the way for the kinds of reforms needed to put Venezuela on the path to economic recovery.”

This is, of course, what is at stake in Venezuela — whether the country determines its own future or goes back to US domination and the neoliberal policies of the IMF, which have so devastated the country and the region in the past.

Emboldened by the coup in Brazil and Mauricio Macri’s victory in the Argentinian elections, the right in Latin America and the US clearly see this as their window of opportunity to get their hands back on Venezuela’s oil and reclaim their “backyard.”

During his presidential campaign, Trump publicly attacked Venezuela’s progressive government, saying: “The next president of the United States must stand in solidarity with all people oppressed in our hemisphere. And I will stand with the oppressed people of Venezuela yearning to be free.”

It didn’t take long for Trump to turn these hostile words into action and it looks like more intervention is on the way.

The Trump administration has already put sanctions on Venezuelan Vice President Tarek El Aissami, citing drug trafficking allegations.

The US Treasury Department froze all of El Aissami’s alleged assets in the US under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, making the vice-president the top-ranking official of any country to be sanctioned in this way.

Venezuela points out, however, that the Trump administration has yet to release any evidence in support of these accusations, while the US Justice Department has not publicly opened investigations into El Aissami.

Decrying the sanctions as an “unprecedented act” in US-Venezuelan relations, Venezuela argues that the Trump administration is violating international law.

In fact, Venezuela has made great steps in tackling drug trafficking under the Hugo Chavez and Maduro governments.

In the last decade it has increased its efficiency in drug seizures by 60 per cent, confiscating an annual average of 55.7 tons of narcotics.

During El Aissami’s own time as interior minister, he oversaw the arrest and prosecution of 102 drug kingpins, even extraditing as many as 21 accused drug traffickers to the United States itself.

Unsurprisingly, hawkish members of the US Congress from both the Democrat and the Republican parties welcomed the move, as they continue to push for yet more sanctions on the oil-rich country.

Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez issued a joint statement saying the step was “long overdue,” while Republican Senator Marco Rubio could not have been clearer when he said he hoped the sanctions were “only the beginning.”

These latest escalations come on top of the Barack Obama administration’s executive order against Venezuela which claimed the country was an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the US.

Prior to these latest sanctions, 34 US legislators had submitted a statement to President Donald Trump advocating greater sanctions, writing that “decisive, principled action in response to unfolding developments in Venezuela as one of the first foreign policy actions of your administration would send a powerful message to the Maduro regime and the Venezuelan people,” stated the letter.

Additionally, the signatories argue for increased US funding for “democratic political processes, institutions and values that support human rights, freedom of information and independent civil society until the country returns to democratic governance.”

Currently, US funding to Venezuela’s anti-democratic opposition under the Economic Support Fund stands at $6.5 million annually but this is probably just the tip of the iceberg as in 2012 alone, it is thought the US funded the right-wing opposition to the tune of $20m.

The US has, of course, been trying to get rid of Venezuela’s Chavista governments since 1998, with the US Office of the Inspector General conceding that the George W Bush administration provided “training, institution building and other support” to groups involved in a military coup that briefly ousted the late Chavez in April of 2002.

Responding to the latest wave of US hostility, Venezuela’s Maduro said: “I do not want to fight with Donald Trump, Venezuela wants respectful relations … but if they attack us, we are not going to remain silent.”

Progressive voices internationally shouldn’t be silent either. Whatever problems Venezuela and other countries in the region face, we can be sure that US intervention and IMF-imposed neoliberalism will not provide a way forward.

The future of Venezuela is for Venezuelans to decide, not Donald Trump — international solidarity is needed now more than ever.

On March 11, the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign is hosting a day school entitled Trump’s US, Venezuela and the new Latin America — Regime Change Up the Agenda? from 11am- 5pm at the International Transport Workers’ Federation, 49-60 Borough Road, London, SE1 1DR. Speakers include the Venezuelan ambassador Rocio Maneiro, Julia Felmanas from the Brazilian Workers’ Party, the writer and journalist Richard Gott, former London mayor Ken Livingstone and general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Kate Hudson. More info and register at bit.ly/TrumpVen


This article was originally published by the Morning Star at: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-f72b-The-people-hold-Venezuelas-future