But What About the Oil?

Published on ZNet (first on Venezuelanalysis.com), by Rachael Boothroyd, March 25, 2015.

… What the hearing did reveal, however, aside from Senator Rubio’s lack of regular interaction with reality, is that U.S. intervention in Venezuela looks set to intensify over the coming year and will be implemented through a variety of mechanisms. Chiefly; further “targeted” sanctions against Venezuelan officials, more funding for Venezuelan opposition groups and NGOs, destabilisation of Venezuela’s economy, specifically its oil industry, an international media campaign against the country aimed at constructing a matrix of opinion surrounding human rights abuses and through further efforts to weaken Latin American integration and unity … //

… Sanctions: Less is more? … //

… Ensuring a “credible” outcome in the upcoming parliamentary elections:

  • While Lee didn’t give specific details as to what would constitute acceptable elections, he did admit that “credible elections results could reduce tensions in Venezuela,” and his department has “urged regional partners to encourage Venezuela to accept a robust international electoral observation mission, using accepted international standards”.
  • One can only assume then that credible election results translate to extensive U.S. presence during the electoral process, as well as a majority win for the opposition.
  • This puts Venezuelans in a tricky position that no doubt Nicaraguans over the age of 40 can empathise with – a choice between continued U.S. aggression or a lurch to the right, with a majority opposition in the National Assembly moving to block any progressive legislation.
  • Unfortunately, the current administration as well a number of senators consider these elections to be a “critical” opportunity to “gain seats in the National Assembly” in order to have the “opposition put pressure on the Maduro government” (Senator Barbara Boxer).
  • If we combine this reality with current polls in Venezuela, which show a majority intention to vote for the ruling PSUV party, then we can see that U.S. “civil society and political actor” allies will probably require a little nudge in the right direction if the U.S. is to gain the desired results. Fortunately, the Obama administration approved an increase in funding for such groups earlier this year, and as such, U.S. democracy promotion agencies are free to nudge away without impediment.
  • If history is anything to go by, and it usually is, then the majority of these funds will end up in the pockets of opposition NGOs and youth groups (this has a dubious legal basis, given the fact that Venezuelan political parties are prohibited from receive funding from abroad), with the rest somehow finding its way into the hands of the violent armed groups which headed last year’s barricades and which just last week attempted to fire bomb one of the government’s state universities in Tachira.
  • Of course, the political opposition groups which receive U.S. funding wholeheartedly deny any connection to “anti-democratic” groups.
  • As such, the financing for the firearms, wages and sponsored Facebook pages being used by political saboteurs and fascists in Venezuela continues to be a total mystery. In much the same way as it is in the Ukraine.

The Elephant in the Room: “Are we talking to our friends in the region?” … //

… Human Rights and Government “Accountability”:

  • Putting to one side the truly galling levels of hypocrisy which characterizes U.S. foreign policy, there is a reason why these targeted sanctions should worry those who are interested in defending the Bolivarian revolution.
  • These individual sanctions might not have the same implications for the Venezuelan people as sectoral sanctions, but they are certainly not pointless. The U.S. has a long term game plan aimed at creating the conditions for the removal of the Venezuelan government and intervention by proxy in the region. However, the White House is also conscious of the challenges to its own hegemony which have emerged from the construction of a growing alternative model in Latin America, which must be disarticulated at all costs. Which means it’s not as simple as overthrowing the Maduro administration.
  • It is this which partly explains why the U.S. is choosing to focus on building a discourse around human rights violations and the delegitimisation of democracy in Venezuela for consumption in the West, where a history of colonialism and imperialism presents few obstacles to the establishment of such a narrative. These “individual” sanctions, despite their disappointing lack of teeth for those at the hearing, are vital for constructing this international matrix of opinion and for manufacturing consent to justify any kind of present and future action against Venezuela.
  • They also have material repercussions: the global remit of human rights abuses provides an international legal framework which allows current Venezuelan government officials to be pursued at international courts in the event of the unconstitutional overthrow of the Maduro administration.
  • Senator Rubio spelled it out most clearly: defy the U.S. and expect to spend decades languishing in an international prison on the orders of the Hague.
  • “One day we’re gonna have freedom in Venezuela, there will be a functional government again… and these individuals responsible for the human rights abuses are going to have to be accountable for what they’re doing. That´s why it’s so critical that these human rights abuses be documented now, so in the future these individuals will be held to account for the crimes they are committing against the people of Venezuela”.
  • Rubio’s assertion was of course accompanied by a vehement denial that the U.S. is working to effect regime change in Venezuela. Rather, those on the heroic panel were simply “raising their voices” on behalf of the Venezuelan people.
  • We could of course just dismiss these voices as the ramblings of paranoid cold war relics, but these are the voices which the Obama administration has been listening to far more than those emerging from Latin America. It was, after all, rightwing hardliner and anti-Castro Senator par excellence Rubio who designated the latest 7 Venezuelan officials to be targeted for sanctions.
  • It’s not surprising given that Rubio’s stance coincides much more harmoniously with White House interests than those in Latin America. In Venezuela, for instance, 62% of citizens think that the U.S. shouldn´t even be able to pass judgment on Venezuelan affairs, while 92% reject any kind of intervention in the country.
  • Senator Boxer can bemoan the lack of regional support for US actions, but dialogue begins with respect for plurality of opinion, sovereignty and agency, which are impossible within the asymmetrical power relations perpetuated through imperialism and neo-colonialism. These are the qualities which have made the regional organisations spearheaded by Chavez so successful, and why they have managed to bring even rightwing governments in the region into the fold.
  • The U.S. quest for dominance is destined to further isolate it in the region as it continues to attempt to impose its worldview and geopolitical interests on Latin American countries, which have experienced a growing anti-imperialist movement over the past 15 years.
  • In order for the current U.S. strategy to bear fruit in Venezuela, it requires a sudden upsurge of support for the right, the disarticulation of a whole anti-imperialist and participative political discourse and practice in the region, as well as the erosion of regional institutional mechanisms such as the CELAC and UNASUR which now enjoy more legitimacy on the continent that the OAS, World Bank, and IMF combined.
  • When even Manuel Santos and Ernesto Samper are talking about sovereignty and “new eras” in Latin America, formulating this equation seems unlikely, although certainly not impossible. It is doubtful that Senator Boxer will be getting a more favourable reply to her questions any time soon.

(full text).


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