Interview by Vancouver Co-op Radio’s America Latina al Día with Alison Bodine, Coordinator of the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, which aired live in English and Spanish on July 14, 2018. America Latina al Dia is a popular weekly bi-lingual (English and Spanish) program which airs every Saturday from 12-2pm To listen check out: http://www.coopradio.org/content/america-latina-al-dia
America Latina al Día:We are here live in studio with our second guest today, Alison Bodine, who is going to talk to us about the most recent U.S. threats of invading Venezuela. Alison is the Coordinator of the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, as well as a member of the North America Venezuela Strategy Group. She was recently in Venezuela as an international observer to the Presidential elections. She has also published a book called “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Venezuela” from Battle of Ideas Press, on 20 years of American attempts to overthrow the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela.
Thanks for joining us today Alison.
Alison Bodine: Thank you.
America Latina al Día: Recently, American president Donald Trump threatened to invade Venezuela, while his vice-president Mike Pence visited several Latin American countries to discuss the current political situation in those countries, and to garner diplomatic support from right-wing Latin American leaders for an eventual American action.
So, Trump’s idea of invading Venezuela is not new. In August last year, he had already suggested the United States should invade Venezuela. That idea has strong support among the American intelligentsia. In November, Foreign Affairs magazine, which is published by the extremely influential Council of Foreign Relations, published an article on “What Would an US intervention in Venezuela Look Like?”, and in this past June, the journal Foreign Policy published an article called “It’s time for a coup in Venezuela.”
It is crystal clear that the United States has no peaceful intentions for Venezuela or Latin America as whole. Unfortunately, it seems like Canada has no goodwill towards Venezuela either.
All that being said Alison, it seems like the first time that an American President openly calls for an invasion, a return to gunboat diplomacy. Why do you think Trump is so brazenly threatening Venezuela?
Alison Bodine: Thank you again to America Latina al Día, and to both of you, Daniel and Katie, for having me here today. Within the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign we think it is really important to make sure that we understand that this latest threat isn’t coming only from Trump. As you said, this may be the most brazen threat, that the United States invade Venezuela, but we have to remember that under U.S. President Obama was when Venezuela was declared an “extraordinary threat to U.S. national security.” What this meant, was that there was an Executive Order issued that somehow is claiming that Venezuela, which is thousands of miles away, and has never militarily threatened the United States, was being declared a danger to the United States. This Executive Order enables U.S. Congress and the Executive branch to level all sorts of attacks against this independent and sovereign country.
When Donald Trump suggested invasion of Venezuela, as you have correctly outlined, it was bolstered not only by articles in Foreign Policy, but also by articles in the Washington Post and the New York Times; all of whom echo the U.S. Administration by enforcing the claim that the U.S. government has some sort of authority to invade other countries, to overthrow democratically elected governments like that of the government of Venezuela. Really, this level of threat has been happening for the last 20 years, since President Chavez was elected the President of Venezuela and that country took a different path than what the government of the U.S., the government of Canada, and transnational corporations, the World Bank and IMF have been forcing Latin America to do for so many years.
America Latina al Día: Alison, as you say, it was during the Obama Administration that Venezuela was considered an “extraordinary threat,” or an enemy of the state. So, this is not necessarily Trump, and it is not new, as you say they have had interests since Chavez was President many years ago. What do you think are the interests are behind Trump and the U.S., those threats of invasion? Is it Oil? Is it ideology, ego?
Alison Bodine: It is all of the above and more. I think what some of the mainstream media would like us to think is that it is somehow Trump’s egotistical, maniacal attitude. But really, he is a representative of the United States government and administration. Venezuela does have the world’s largest proven oil reserves. Venezuela has a very large trade with the United States in oil, which unveils a lot of contradictions in U.S. policy towards Venezuela and may make it more difficult to attack Venezuela.
But also, I think Venezuela has something even more important than oil. I think that Venezuela has the threat of a good example. I have written about this frequently in the Fire This Time newspaper and observed it when I was in Venezuela as part of two separate delegations this year.
The revolutionary people of Venezuela understand the responsibility that they have held, as far as leading an independent path in Latin America. That’s the good example I am talking about. It is sovereignty. It is self-determination. It is taking the resources of the country back under the control of the people in that country.
The U.S. doesn’t want that example to spread. Already it has inspired not only governments throughout Latin America, but also social movements. Inspired them with the idea that “you can do this,” you can throw off the yolk of the United States. For so many years the U.S. has used the Monroe Doctrine, a tenant of U.S. foreign policy that declares that the U.S. can invade any country in Latin America, that Latin America is their backyard. Venezuela, with Chavez before and Maduro today, and really the people of Venezuela, are taking a strong stand against this, and they understand exactly the importance of what they are doing and how threatening that is to U.S. hegemony in Latin America.
America Latina al Día: That is a very good point. Do you think that the U.S. or Trump has any support within Latin America? Or among the Latin America diaspora?
Alison Bodine: Definitely not, on the whole. I think that there are a few important examples of this. Recently, when Mike Pence was in Latin America he didn’t receive a whole lot of support, even from U.S.-allies when he brought up the idea of other countries in Latin America sanctioning Venezuela. This was the real goal of his trip, and he failed miserably.
Pence went at to Latin America at a time when the U.S. was putting children in cages that come from Central America, and increasing their attacks on immigrants and refugees. Yet, he some how thought that he had the authority to declare that Venezuela violated human rights, and needed to be sanctioned? Which is an act of war.
There are also important organizations that Cuba and Venezuela have worked to build together to build such as CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) or ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). These are economic organizations based on mutual solidarity that are creating a counter-balance in Latin America, outside of what the U.S. government has tried to establish, their so-called free trade agreements and so on.
I think Venezuela, alongside the leadership of Cuba, has built a force that is saying to the U.S. government that they are no longer welcome in Latin America.
Of course, there are right-wing governments that the United States supports in Latin America, but even so, when it comes to the invasion of Venezuela those governments have said: no, an invasion is not welcome.
There is also another important threat which I think we should discuss, which is that Colombia, a country that shares a very long border with Venezuela, has recently joined NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), a Western military alliance that is associated with the Cold War. What business does Colombia have in joining NATO? I think that this is a blatant military threat against Venezuela as well, and where the U.S. is hoping to get some more support for their attacks on Venezuela.
America Latina al Día: Moving from the U.S. now to Canada, our country, what can you tell is about Canada’s relationship with Venezuela? Could you explain the foreign policy of Prime Minister Trudeau towards Venezuela? Is it any different from Harper’s or is it more or less the same? Tell us about that.
Alison Bodine: When the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign began our picket actions, which we have monthly, against U.S. sanctions and threats against Venezuela we found it very important to also include the government of Canada. Canada has taken a very up front role in working to overthrow the government of Venezuela these days.
The Foreign Minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland, spends a lot of time on Twitter, especially, denouncing Venezuela for so-called human rights abuses, and has focused a lot of her energy at international meetings in trying to convince people around the world that Venezuela is the enemy somehow – even though Venezuela is so-many thousands of miles away from Canada.
I think that there is two important parts to this. One is that so-called Canadian interests are threatened in Venezuela. Mining companies, of which, by the way, over 50% of Canadian mining companies are based here in Vancouver, are an important example. Some of these companies have lost their investments and assets in Venezuela, as those resources have been turned over to the people, instead of to these foreign corporations. This has been a big threat to the government of Canada’s interests in Venezuela.
As well, because of what I was saying about the history of the U.S. in Latin America, the United States cannot so quickly go into Latin America and claim that they have the authority to impose so-called human rights, or democracy. However, Canada in some ways, can still. They can say, “but we uphold the values of democracy and human rights” and they can kind of have a better mask, or face, internationally.
This is why I think, for example, the government of Canada has been integral in leading something called the Lima Group. This is a coalition of right-wing governments in Latin America and Canada, that has led a lot of the rhetoric against Venezuela. Now, the Lima Group was created because these right-wing forces weren’t not able to gain the support that they needed in the OAS, in the Organization of American States. So, they said, “okay, we’ll just form our own organization where we can pass resolutions and convince other countries that it is actually “the world” that is against Venezuela, when that is not the truth at all.
Our monthly protests with the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign also focus on the government of Canada’s intervention in Venezuela. Which, besides on a diplomatic level, has also taken on the form of sanctions.
For example, today there is no Canadian Ambassador in Venezuela, and there is no Venezuelan Ambassador in Canada. So, diplomatic relations have been very reduced after Venezuela uncovered the fact that the Chargé d’Affaires for Canada in Venezuela was helping to fund and support so-called opposition groups in Venezuela.
The sanctions by the government of Canada are directed right now at 52 Venezuelan officials. We have to keep in mind that these sanctions, even if the government of Canada says that they are “targeted” are part of a larger sanctions campaign that is targeting the people of Venezuela.
Canada has taken on these attacks on all sorts of levels.
America Latina al Día: In your opinion, what could PM Trudeau do to improve relations between Canada and Venezuela? Do you think that there is a way that we can come back from that?
Alison Bodine: Immediately, Canada needs to end its sanctions against Venezuela. The Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign worked with groups across Canada on a Parliamentary petition that received over 500 signatures online, directed at Prime Minister Trudeau, calling on him to end the sanctions immediately. That petition will be presented in front of Parliament in Canada, and so we need people to call their Parliamentarians and tell them to support this motion to end the sanctions immediately.
We also need to work to call on the government of Canada to normalize diplomatic relations with Venezuela and demands that the government of Canada becomes a voice around the world that says no to intervention in Latin America.
We need to demand that the government of Canada take all of the money that is being put towards intervention in Latin America, that has been funneled from U.S. and Canadian organizations to political parties in Venezuela, to so-called human rights groups. We need to take all of that money and use it here. If the government of Canada really cares about human rights, they will bring clean water to Indigenous communities in Canada, they would take care of women and children, and stop pretending that they can somehow be the authority around the world for peace and goodwill.
America Latina al Día:What can the Canadian society, what can we people do to support Venezuela and bring about a qualitative change in the bilateral relations between our two countries?
Alison Bodine:I think that it is important that we work to break the media blockade against Venezuela. The voices of poor and working people in Venezuela aren’t being heard in international media. Whatever we can do to help spread their voices, we should be doing.
I also invite people to get involved in our campaign against U.S. and Canada sanctions and threats against Venezuela. We have monthly protests that start at the U.S. Consulate and end at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and people can easily come down and join us and help us get more signatures on a petition demanding an end to Canada’s sanctions on Venezuela. More information about the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign of the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice can be found on our website which is: http://www.firethistime.net. There you can find out other ways to get involved.
There are organizations working across Canada, and many Latin American solidarity groups also understand the importance of Venezuela at this time. Here in Vancouver the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign also works with the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front – Southwest Chapter that also has events about Venezuela.
We ask people to call on the fact that it is the government of Canada that is attacking Venezuela and that is where our energy should be directed. It should be directed against the government of Canada and that is the change that we can force. So, let’s organize in the streets, come and join our monthly protests and let’s also work to educate people understand what is happening in Venezuela beyond what we hear on CBC.
America Latina al Día:Outside of your monthly picket actions, is there any other upcoming actions that you wanted to share with our listeners?
Alison Bodine: That would be the one, so August 10, in front of the U.S. Consulate from 4-5pm we have a protest action and picket and then we move in front of the Art Gallery at 5:30pm, that’s Friday August 10 at 5:30 where we hand out information and talk to people about Venezuela. That is where we have the important discussions: what’s actually happening in Venezuela? Isn’t there a dictator and isn’t he a tyrant? Isn’t Canada in Venezuela for human rights? Those are the really important points that we bring up and learn how to counter. We talk about how Venezuela can actually be an example for Canada when it comes to Indigenous relations, for example.
Again, more information on the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign is at http://www.firethistime.net
America Latina al Día:Alison, we are almost out of time, but I just wanted to ask you about your book, if you could tell our listeners about it? And where we can get the book?
Alison Bodine:Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Venezuela, published by Battle of Ideas Press has come out this summer. It is a collection of articles that explores 20 years of U.S. intervention in Venezuela as well as includes some additional documents and speeches from Chavez and Maduro, maps and that sort of thing and I think it is a really important tool to understand how this campaign against Venezuela began, why it exists, and why it is important to get involved in fighting against sanctions, threats and intervention against Venezuela. As well as how Venezuela fits in the total picture of U.S. and imperialist intervention in Latin America.
As peace-loving people in Canada, it is actually our responsibility to fight against these interventions and give space to the people of Latin America to pave their own way forward for independence, sovereignty and self-determination.
You can order the book, it is $10 because we wanted it to be accessible to people, at http://www.battleofideaspress.com. That is the best way to get a hold of us and to order the book and I encourage people to use it as a tool to learn about Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolutionary process.
America Latina al Día:Thank you so much for your time. We are out of time unfortunately, I would love to continue that conversation, it’s great. Thank you for information and clarity of your answers as well, we really appreciate your time today.
Alison Bodine:Thank you!
Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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