Why Does Latin America Reject US Belligerence toward Venezuela?

Source:  TeleSUR
February 20 2015

by: Joe Emersberger

Even the OAS, until quite recently a reliable U.S. lap dog, rejected Washington’s sanctions against Venezuela. 

celac heads in costa ricaLatin American governments have been very united in rejecting the USA’s efforts to have the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela overthrown – and they’ve also rejected the U.S. government’s take on the human rights situation there. When a verifiable diplomatic record opposes U.S. policy, the corporate media (following the lead of US officials) will sometimes quote anonymous foreign “diplomats” who allegedly support the USA. But the more common tactic is to ignore the diplomatic record entirely. It’s a good way to avoid an awkward question. Why is the region so united against the USA?

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) rejected the U.S. sanctions on Venezuela. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) also rejected them.

unasur y celac 1Even the OAS, until quite recently a reliable U.S. lapdog, passed a resolution of “solidarity” with Venezuela during last year’s violent anti-government protests.

There are three interrelated reasons for Latin America’s unity against the U.S. campaign to oust Venezuela’s government.

1) U.S. government claims about the human rights situation in Venezuela are false.

Venezuela has a much higher tolerance for protest and the expression of dissent than the USA.

Code Pink activists were recently ejected from a congressional hearing for staging a symbolic “arrest” of Henry Kissinger whom they called a war criminal. Kissinger (who really should have been imprisoned for mass murder decades ago) simply chuckled, but John McCain erupted at the spectacle: “Get out of here, you low-life scum” he barked. During the 2008 presidential debates, Obama and McCain each said they had Kissinger on their side and bickered over who could really claim him as an ally.

kissinger war criminal It was a sickening illustration of how remarkably constrained public debate is the USA, and explains why Code Pink feels justified in using mildly disruptive but completely non-violent tactics.

What if …

But imagine if Code Pink leaders wrote op-eds every few weeks for leading U.S. newspapers, made regular appearances on its largest TV networks where they spoke at length and were treated respectfully, and had leaders who were governors, legislators, and mayors. Under those hypothetical conditions, anger at them for interrupting hearings (though not as much anger as McCain’s) would be understandable.

Now imagine if Code Pink’s tactics also included major vandalism, killing police officers and setting death traps for motorists. One can only wince contemplating the extreme violence the USA’s political class would endorse against what it would unanimously call “low-life scum”, especially if black men were involved. The hypothetical I’ve outlined still leaves one thing out that applies to the leaders of last year’s violent protests in Venezuela. Imagine if Code Pink leaders had participated in the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.

The international press tries its best to depict the Venezuelan opposition, including its most violent elements, as if it were Venezuela’s equivalent to Code Pink. That follows the lead of the U.S. government where the only debate is over how much support to give the “inspiring” protesters. Propaganda is a powerful thing, but the truth does matter.

2) The US government has lost economic (and with it political) clout in the region.

From 1980-2001 the IMF was the key enforcer of economic policies known as neoliberalism, or sometimes the “Washington consensus”. The IMF was a source of loans but, more importantly, a gatekeeper to other sources. Real per capita GDP in Latin America and the Caribbean grew by a pitiful 7% in that period compared to over 80% in the preceding twenty years.

hugo chavez y cristina fernandezArgentina’s debt default of December 2001 was a major turning point. Assisted with loans from Venezuela’s Chavez government, Argentina boldly defied the “Washington Consensus” and quickly recovered. Defiance spread through the region with the election of numerous left of center governments and drastically shrinking IMF influence. The result was vastly improved economic growth in the region. By 2013, real per capita GDP in Latin America and the Caribbean was already about 50% higher than it was in 2001. Twelve years of widespread rebellion against Washington’s economic dogmas produced about seven times more economic growth than did over twenty years of obedience.

3) Most governments understand how easily they could be singled out for a similar U.S.-led vilification campaign based on distortions and lies.

manuel zelayaThe U.S. government backed the 2002 coup in Venezuela and directly perpetrated the 2004 coup in Haiti. The 2009 coup in Honduras ousted another democratically elected president, Manual Zelaya (photo left). Obama initially declared Zelaya’s ouster a “coup” that was “illegal”, but Obama’s government soon made it obvious to the region’s governments that it was glad the coup happened and helped it succeed. The corporate media in Canada and the USA routinely spread the lie that Zelaya had attempted to illegally extend his term in office. Lanny Davis, a paid lobbyist for Honduran businessmen who backed the coup, and a very close associate of the Clintons, played a key role in spreading that lie. Hillary Clinton was Obama’s Secretary of State at the time.

Zelaya’s government was far from radical. The message was sent loud and clear to the region’s governments that if any were overthrown by the far right the USA and Canada would help the people who overthrew them.

It is a great thing that U.S. clout in the region has declined. Nevertheless, the USA remains so much wealthier than Latin America that it would be foolish to dismiss the threat the USA still poses to democracy in the region. That threat would disappear if U.S. and Canadian citizens were much more widely informed about it. As always, spreading awareness is an uphill battle against a corporate media whose function is to impose ignorance.

Source:  Why Does Latin America Reject US Belligerence toward Venezuela?  TeleSUR

CELAC and CEPAL to Collaborate on Poverty Reduction

Cepal logoThe U.N. body made clear it is ready to provide assistance to the regional organization, currently under the leadership of Ecuador.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño hosted the executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) Thursday, where the two discussed a mutual interest in cooperating in order to improve the lives of Latin Americans.

Ecuador is the current president pro-tempore of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and has set out an ambitious agenda, including efforts to tackle poverty and inequality in the region, addressing climate change, and securing funding for social development.

CEPAL VE UN 2014 "MEJOR" PARA AMÉRICA LATINA, PERO PIDE APUNTALAR LA EXPORTACIÓN“All of the means of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean are at the disposal of the president pro-tempore of CELAC,” stated CEPAL Executive Secretary Alicia Barcena (photo left).

Patiño added that CEPAL’s expertise with respect to social indicators in the region would be of “great benefit” to the work that Ecuador hopes to embark on through CELAC.

CEPAL was established in 1948 with the aim of promoting economic and social development, the organization also produces statistical reports about countries in the region.

“We are totally committed to accompanying this process, the role of CEPAL is one of accompaniment and offering our technical abilities for the great regional project that is CELAC,” said Barcena.

Patiño said a formal proposal regarding the cooperation between CELAC and CEPAL would be taken to a meeting of CELAC for approval.

Source:  CELAC and CEPAL to Collaborate on Poverty Reduction  TeleSUR

What is Behind the Coup Attempt in Venezuela?

By: Eva Golinger in an interview with Michael Albert.

eva  golinger 5Just like in the U.S., it’s illegal for organizations engaged in political activities to receive funding from foreign governments, yet the U.S. continues to violate this law in Venezuela, as do the entities receiving the funding.

How do you understand the motives of the Venezuelan opposition, and of their support from the US?

The Venezuelan opposition is led by an elite, super-rich class that ruled the country for decades, and accumulated much of their wealth through corrupt business practices and siphoning oil industry profits, leaving a majority of the country in poverty and the country’s infrastructure in tatters.

hugo chavez 35When Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998, a four-decade rule of the elite, represented by two main political parties, was ruptured. Had Chavez bowed to powerful U.S. interests and the country’s business elite, the opposition would be very different today, but he didn’t. Chavez led a profound transformation of Venezuela’s core establishment, restructuring the oil industry, which had been nationalized in 1976 but was functioning like a private corporation, making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Development for the majority

He redistributed the wealth, created widespread, effective social programs and advanced the economy and investment in infrastructure and domestic production. His policies reduced poverty by over fifty percent, rebuilt much of the interior of the country, placed Venezuela on the map internationally, diversifying Venezuela’s foreign trade partners, and he created a new, flourishing middle class. But all this was done by shutting out much of the traditional ruling class that had governed in line with U.S. interests.

CELAC 11Chavez also took nationalizations further, in order to guarantee essential strategic and natural resources were in the hands of the state and not those who could abuse them or use them as a threat. He forged relations with governments adversarial to the U.S. and he inspired the continent-wide shift to the left, and led the formation of regional entities, like ALBA, UNASUR and CELAC, that exclude the United States.

When Chavez’s policies on the international stage first affected oil prices, in 2001 when Venezuela assumed the presidency of OPEC, a coup d’état was planned against him, backed by Washington and executed by the former elite in the country. When that later failed and Chavez took his policies further towards socialism, the opposition radicalized and became entrenched in an unrealistic desire to take power back and destroy everything that had changed in the country since Chavez’ first election.

The Bolivarian revolution

The opposition, along with U.S. policymakers, consistently underestimated the importance of the social, political and economic changes that had taken place in the country through the Bolivarian Revolution. They always treated it as populism, and failed to understand the fundamental role millions of Venezuelans had played in the changes. This was their revolution, their homeland, built by them, and they were not going to let it be destroyed by the same groups that had marginalized and excluded them before.

venezuela-oil-mapIn essence, the motives of the opposition in Venezuela today, along with Washington, are the same. They still want to control Venezuela’s massive oil resources for their own gain, they still want to destroy the Bolivarian project and any sign of socialism and social justice, and they want to privatize as much industry and resource in the country as possible, for their own benefit. The leadership of the opposition in Venezuela views the government of Nicolas Maduro and that before him of Hugo Chavez, as illegitimate.

Refusal to accept the results of democratic elections

Despite democratic elections (some of the most transparent and fraud-proof in the world since 2004, when Venezuela implemented a new electoral system), and checks and balances, the opposition refuses to recognize the government’s authority. Their actions continue to exceed constitutional bounds, and they believe they are justified. To this opposition, and its Washington backers, anything they can do to get Maduro out of power and destroy the Bolivarian Revolution is on the table.  The end game and the big motive is oil and power. Control Venezuela, and they can control Latin America. As Henry Kissinger once said, if Washington can’t control Latin America, how can they control the world?

This is not the first coup attempt in Venezuela. What are the similarities and differences, particularly in methods from the past? What do you anticipate in the future?

USAID-NEDOne of the most consistent components of the ongoing destabilization in Venezuela has been, and continues to be, multi-million dollar funding of anti-government NGOs and political parties from U.S. agencies such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). During the April 2002 coup against Chavez, the NED played a key role in funding all of the “civil society” groups involved: the political parties, the NGOs, the corrupted workers federation, the chamber of commerce, and even private media outlets.

Illegal funding of organizations engaged in political activities

Subsequent to that coup’s failure, USAID came on the scene with an “Office for Transition Initiatives” (OTI) and channeled in over $50 million during the following years to help keep the opposition alive. USAID’s funding went to creating hundreds of small NGOs that feed the conflict in the country and served as facades to funnel dollars to anti-government initiatives. This funding has continued to date, despite its prohibition in Venezuela. Just like in the U.S., it’s illegal for organizations engaged in political activities to receive funding from foreign governments, yet the U.S. continues to violate this law in Venezuela, as do the entities receiving the funding. Just this year, President Obama authorized a special $5.5 million dollar fund to finance anti-government groups in Venezuela through the State Department. This is in addition to USAID, NED and other U.S. agency funding to those groups.

Severe media campaign to discredit the Venezuelan government internationally

Some of the other striking similarities between these coup attempts include the role of media to discredit the Venezuelan government internationally, therefore justifying any action against it. We have seen a coordinated campaign in major U.S. and international media calling for and discussing the Maduro government’s downfall, distorting the reality in the country and portraying Venezuela as a failed state. This type of severe media campaign goes well beyond normal, and legitimate, criticism. Sources cited on Venezuela are always opposition voices, presented as neutral and credible, while reports omit important facts that present the government in a favorable light.

Business owners and private enterprise in Venezuela are also once again pushing for a coup, as they did in 2002, and using their power to restrict public access to consumer goods, forcing shortages and price hikes, and overall panic amongst the population. The government is taking direct measures to resolve these problems and work with business interests, but this is a very effective strategy that hits where it hurts the most, the stomach.

The role of dissident military forces

Finally, the other major factor in this current coup attempt has been the role of dissident military forces that have betrayed their oath to defend the nation and have succumbed to foreign interests. The case of Capitan Leasmy Salazar, a former Chavez presidential guard and confidant who is now collaborating with U.S. intelligence agencies, is an example. In the recent coup attempt against President Maduro, at least 10 military officers from the Air Force were detained as they planned to execute their coup plot. Some evidence has surfaced indicating ties to U.S. officials and opposition figures.

How do you think the Venezuelans will react to try to ward off U.S. machinations, and those of domestic Venezuelan elites as well? Are there things you think they ought to do that at least so far they haven’t? Do you worry that a repressive turn might compromise or even wreck the Bolivarian project even as it wards off the opposition?

Venezuelans generally rely on public denunciations as the most effective way to impede these types of destabilization actions, but often that is not sufficient. It’s critical that those involved in serious attempts to violently overthrow a democratically elected government be held to justice. There are already clear signs that the Maduro government will ensure those responsible will have their day in court.

Beyond the involvement of Venezuelans, the role of U.S. agencies and interests, and other foreign actors, has been a constant in these anti-democratic actions. Venezuela has received the full support of all Latin American nations in the face of these recent threats, and all 33 nations of Latin America and the Caribbean have condemned and rejected the unilateral sanctions the Obama administration has imposed against the Venezuelan government. This type of solid, unwavering support from a unified Latin America is critical to show Washington that the region will no longer stand for its bully tactics.

correa-no-more-pinochets-in-latin-america-525x350I don’t foresee the Maduro government taking any kind of repressive action against anti-government groups that is outside the law. Before Chavez was elected, Venezuela experienced a brutally repressive period for decades. Constitutional rights were continuously suspended, national curfews were imposed, young men faced a forced military draft, and authorities used lethal force to repress demonstrations. That all disappeared under Chavez, who refused to use repression, even during the coup in 2002 and subsequent attempts to overthrow his government. The Maduro government continues these same policies. The only recent change was a Defense Ministry decree allowing for military forces to use lethal force in the face of violent uprisings. But this decree is very clear that no lethal force or even weapons can be used during peaceful demonstrations.

Ending the foreign funding of anti-government activities

The one area I believe the Venezuelan government has been too lenient is with respect to the foreign funding of anti-government activities. It’s illegal under the law in Venezuela, but rarely enforced. The state must take the necessary steps to end this type of harmful funding that is just feeding the conflict in Venezuela and keeping an otherwise defunct opposition alive. The funding also comes from U.S. taxpayer dollars, and it would be nice to keep that money in the U.S. and invest it in social programs, instead of trying to undermine legitimate democracies in oil-rich nations.

The interview was conducted by Michael Albert.

Source:  What is Behind the Coup Attempt in Venezuela?  TeleSUR

Latin American Parliament Denounces Coup Attempt in Venezuela

The President of the regional assembly called for a thorough investigation and criticized Washington’s hostile policy toward Venezuela

angel rodriguezThe Latin American Parliament issued a statement on Saturday rejecting the failed coup attempt against the Venezuelan government and also criticized the hostile policies of the United States directed toward the South American nation.

The condemnation was delivered on behalf of the institution by it’s President Angel Rodriguez who strongly criticized the assassination plot against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and U.S.-backed schemes to carry out bombing attacks on a variety of public institutions.

Rodriguez, told Cuban news agency Prensa Latina that he will request that the Venezuelan Attorney General’s office conduct a deep and thorough investigation into the planned terror attacks.

“They were unable to take power through democratic means because they didn’t obtain enough votes and President Barack Obama knows it,” he affirmed.

These violent actions seek to install of regime supportive of U.S. interests

At the same time, he said, “We can never count out the United States and extremists groups that try to mobilize military forces and paramilitary groups operating in foreign countries. They want to provoke violence and they are willing to promote presidential removals. They  tried it last January. Therefore I call on the people to stay alert.”

According to Rodriguez, these violent actions seek to overthrow the legitimate and democratically-elected Venezuelan government in order to install of regime supportive of U.S. interests.

See our special in-depth coverage: The War on Venezuela’s Democracy

Source:  Latin American Parliament Denounces Coup Attempt in Venezuela


Morales Expresses Solidarity with Venezuela against Coup Plot

With clear consciousness “not even the empire can defeat us,” said Bolivia’s president after learning of the U.S.-backed coup attempt.

Evo-MoralesBolivian President Evo Morales expressed solidarity with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro on Friday after being informed of the U.S.-backed coup attempt against the country’s democratically-elected government.

“We all have the obligation to enforce respect of democracy and elections, and if we all have a clear conscious, not even the empire can defeat us,” said Morales, hours after Maduro’s announcement that the coup attempt had been thwarted.

An attempt against the democracy of the people

Morales criticized the plot to overthrow the government as an “attempt against the democracy of the people.”

The Bolivian leader said he spoke over the telephone with Maduro a couple of days ago regarding “delicate issues” and about sectors of society (right-wing opposition and other U.S. backed military officials) that do not respect democracy in the country or the will of the people when attempting to topple a legitimate government.

The Bolivian president emphasized that various intellectuals and left-wing leaders have told him that “they always believed that a revolution was carried out with arms and bullets, but that the indigenous have proved us wrong, by showing that it is through struggle and consciousness. So now, they have joined (our revolution) happily.”

Also see: Timeline: Autonomy of a Venezuelan Coup

Read more: Venezuela Coup Thwarted

Bolivian President Denounces Neoliberal Attacks Against Venezuela

President Evo Morales critiqued the ongoing attacks to destabilize Venezuelan democracy.

evo morales 10In an exclusive interview with teleSUR Monday, Bolivian President Evo Morales spoke of neoliberalism and imperialism’s long history across the Americas. Morales denounced the ongoing attacks against Venezuela in light of the international forum currently underway in Caracas and organized by teleSUR and the Venezuelan Ombudsman Office addressing human rights abuses that take place under neoliberal regimes.

The economic war and political destabilization plan against Venezuela is rooted in the last 15 years of opposition attempts to unconstitutionally take over state power. Morales applauded the Venezuelan people for “defeating political conspiracies with maturity.”

In addition, Morales spoke to the case of Bolivia and the country’s efforts to establish a popular democracy. Morales explained that previously the Andean nation’s natural resources were under the thumb of transnational corporations.

“After 20 years we recuperated our democracy and sovereignty as well as our economic and political liberation,” emphasized Morales. “Now, the politics do not come from outside (of Bolivia), from the United States…The United States does not dictate here, the indigenous do,” he said.

Morales added in light of the upcoming summit for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), “Now is the time for Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The South American president also commended the people of Greece on the recent election of the left wing party SYRIZA in this weekend’s parliamentary elections. “The people’s democratic liberation has begun in Europe, starting with Greece, “he remarked.

Morales also expressed his wishes for greater ties with nations in Africa also in an anti-imperialist struggle.

He also celebrated Bolivia’s current efforts to reinvigorate indigenous beliefs in the country’s economic and political sectors.

Source:  Bolivian President Denounces Neoliberal Attacks Against VenezuelaTeleSUR

President Correa Outlines Vision for New Latin America

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa set out the radical steps CELAC will take in 2015.

rafael correa celacEcuadorean President Rafael Correa outlined the progressive policies the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) will pursue in the coming year under his leadership during an address Thursday in which he accepted the pro tempore presidency of the regional bloc.

“We have to advance and develop much faster,” said Correa, before detailing the five areas that CELAC will work on.

Read moreCELAC: Building Regional Unity; Tackling Social Exclusion

The five areas that CELAC will work on

First, Correa reiterated his commitment to eradicating poverty and inequality.

Second, the bloc would target education, “the most important step toward development.” He noted that at present, Latin America had none of the world’s top universities, but aimed to have 12 in the future.

Science, technology and innovation were on the list, followed by the environment. “We must raise our voices against the catastrophe of climate change,” Correa told the CELAC delegates.

Finally, the bloc must provide funding for infrastructure, for which investment increased 6.2 percent last year.

Alternative financing through BRICS

Correa criticized the vulture funds which have threatened the economy and sovereignty of Argentina, and suggested that in the future, the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – could provide alternative financing routes.

“CELAC should propel a new financial architecture,” he said.

The Ecuadorean president confirmed the bloc’s “rejection of the aggression and economic war against Venezuela,” and offered its support to Colombia “in its search for peace.”

Ecuador took over the CELAC presidency from Costa Rica.

Source:  President Correa Outlines Vision for New Latin America  TeleSUR