By Fiona Edwards
The US is once again sponsoring a violent, right wing opposition in Latin America with the goal of overthrowing a socialist government. Millions of dollars from the US government is being poured into right wing opposition groups in Venezuela that have been leading violent protests during the past five months which have killed over 100 people.
The tactics used by these opposition groups to attempt to destabilise the country include burning food and medicine supplies and perpetrating a series of terrorist attacks. One such attack this week against a military base was dressed up as a ‘military rebellion’ with the purpose of stoking fear and confusion amongst the population. These actions of the opposition are barely reported in the Western media, which is instead engaged in a campaign of gross misinformation with the purpose of damaging the international reputation of Venezuela to prepare public opinion for an intensification of the US’ attempts to orchestrate regime change, and therefore suppress the self-determination of the Venezuelan people.
It has been a goal of US foreign policy to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist government since it was established by former President Hugo Chavez. Elected in 1998, Chavez led a resurgent left across Latin America for ‘twenty-first century socialism’, redistribution, improved healthcare and housing and a foreign policy based on defending humanity against US imperialism, including opposing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chavismo represents a significant break with the era which preceded it. Venezuela was dominated by US interests that saw the overwhelming majority of oil revenues go to multinational corporations at the expense of the population which languished in poverty. Chavez’s ‘revolution in distribution’ saw the oil industry nationalised and its revenue used to tackle poverty and improve living standards – with a massive expansion of social missions in health, education, housing and much more. This huge break was intolerable for the US and a military coup was organised in 2002 to remove Chavez – but the coup was thwarted.
The US has not stopped intervening in Venezuela in the 15 years since its failed coup attempt, and has continued to direct and fund the right wing, capitalist opposition forces. Nor has the US stopped intervening in Latin America as a whole, and has relentlessly sought to push back the advance of the left over the past two decades. As the economic crisis has begun to bite in Latin America in recent years, right wing US-backed forces have been advancing across the region, including in Argentina and Brazil. In Brazil, where a ‘parliamentary coup’ removed the elected President Dilma Rousseff who received 54 million votes. The economic crisis has hit Venezuela particularly hard, with the international collapse of oil prices since 2014, plummeting from $112 per barrel to a low of $35 and now stabilising currently at $46 a barrel. The US has used this economic crisis as an opportunity for it to step up its efforts to destabilise Venezuela and achieve its long held objective of removing the socialist government.
The counter revolutionary offensive
The US and the opposition have attempted to disrupt and delegitimise Venezuela’s democratic processes and institutions – the latest target being the elections to the National Constituent Assembly which has been convened to amend the Venezuelan Constitution. The convening of this Assembly is democratic, entirely constitutional and necessary to help restore order and peace and protect the population from the right wing’s destabilisation campaigns. Despite the right wing opposition boycotting these elections and the US threatening the population with economic sanctions, over 8 million Venezuelans participated in a turnout of 41% of the electorate.
A London based Chief Executive of the technological platform used for the voting system in Venezuela has claimed that the results were manipulated, suggesting that 1 million votes were added. The company has no access to the voting data to back up such a claim – it is unthinkable that a software provider could monitor votes in this way. Yet this opinion was quoted extensively across the international media to undermine the elections.
The US is seeking to exacerbate Venezuela’s deteriorating economic situation with the threat of sanctions against the oil industry. Sanctions have already been imposed on leading figures within the Venezuelan state and government. The collapse of the international oil price has pushed Venezuela’s economy into recession for the past three years and the country is currently experiencing hyperinflation, a fall in real incomes and the government has had to cut its spending. US sanctions on the oil industry would devastate Venezuela’s economy and risk causing a humanitarian crisis.
Taking sides: US imperialism versus socialist Chavismo
The two forces struggling for power in Venezuela are the democratically elected, socialist government of Maduro versus a right wing, violent, neo-liberal opposition which is funded (to the tune of tens of millions of dollars) and directed by US imperialism. Which side wins will have big consequences for Latin America as a whole.
If Venezuela’s socialist revolution is overthrown it would be a colossal loss for the working class and oppressed in Venezuela and would also intensify the pressure on the left in power across the region including in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba.
US imperialism has a long record of intervening in Latin America to overthrow progressive governments and destroy popular movements including in Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Grenada, Panama and Haiti. In the case of Chile in 1973, the CIA ousted the elected socialist government of Salvador Allende in a military coup and supported the Pinochet dictatorship which replaced it.
The stakes within Venezuela are huge. If the right wing opposition take power a harsh neo-liberal economic programme would be pursued and the social gains achieved by Chavismo would be reversed. They would also attempt to crush and physically eliminate the revolutionaries, as was the case following the 1973 coup in Chile.
The left internationally should have no hesitation in opposing US imperialism and the right wing opposition in Venezuela. Nor should it waver in its support of Venezuela’s socialist revolution which has both advanced the interests of their own population through inspiring social programmes which have improved living standards, and also provided internationalist leadership, consistently showing itself to be on the side of the majority of humanity.
The economic crisis and fall in the international price of oil is what has precipitated the political crisis in Venezuela and created the conditions for the US’ relentless intervention to score successes in destabilising the country. Prior to this economic crisis the revolution was delivering enormous social achievements and reversing the impact of decades of neo-liberalism with a massive expansion of missions in education, health, housing, transport, food provision, culture and much more. In economic terms the Chavistas carried out a ‘revolution in distribution.’ As this article suggests, China’s economic model with its ‘revolution in production’ has some lessons that whole left, including in Latin America, can draw on. The use of state investment to develop production in China has delivered one of the world’s highest levels of economic growth, bringing more than 700 million people out of poverty and built an economic which has continued to grow since the 2008 financial crash.
The US intervention in Venezuela is an attack on democracy, human rights and self determination. The left should support Maduro’s socialist government, defend Venezuela’s sovereignty and oppose all efforts to overthrow its revolution which are overwhelmingly directed by US imperialism.
Follow the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign for updates on solidarity events and campaigns in defence of Venezuela and against US intervention.