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      Venezuela: What Is the Discussion Really?

      By Alison Bodine

      On July 30, 2017 the people of Venezuela had a great victory in defense of their sovereignty and self-determination. In the face of a violent counter-revolutionary opposition and growing U.S.-led imperialist intervention in their country, more than 8 million Venezuelan’s went to the polls and successfully elected a National Constituent Assembly.

      Since then, the U.S. government and their imperialist allies have continued to escalate their threats, sanctions and intervention against the democratically elected government of Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

      On August 11, 2017, U.S. President Trump threatened military intervention against Venezuela. “We have troops all over the world in places that are very very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and they’re dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option, if necessary.”

      Then on August 25, President Trump issued an Executive order imposing a fifth round of sanctions against Venezuela, severely limiting the ability of the government to receive dividends, pay off debts and to acquire new bonds from any person or organization operating in the United States.

      The Whitehouse claims that these sanctions demonstrate that the U.S. government will “not stand by as Venezuela crumbles.” However, it is the U.S. government and their right-wing allies in Venezuela that are doing the crumbling. With each dangerous escalation, the U.S. government is working to overthrow the government of President Maduro and reverse the gains made by poor, working and oppressed people within the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

      Of course, U.S. intervention in Venezuela is not in the headlines of major capitalist media. Instead, headlines read: “Venezuela burns as dictator Maduro turns his back on the people”, “Hunger eats away at Venezuela's soul as its people struggle to survive,” “Venezuela Is Collapsing,” and “Venezuela's descent into dictatorship shows democracy can be lost,” among others.

      The U.S. government and their media mouthpiece have done their jobs by giving us the buzzwords: economic collapse, dictatorship, democracy, election fraud, human rights and more. This is the narrative that U.S. imperialism has written, but is this really the discussion about Venezuela?

      Target: Venezuela

      The U.S. government has been attempting to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela ever since President Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998. In order to achieve this, they have relied upon both overt and covert methods, all while working hand-in-hand with Venezuela’s violent opposition.

      On top of the military threats and sanctions against Venezuela, a central component of imperialist intervention has been the direct and indirect financial support, to the tune of millions of dollars, for so-called “democracy building” and “civil society” programs and organizations in Venezuela.

      Much of this money is funneled through grants given out by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other US governmental and non-governmental institutions.

      From 2014-2016 the NED awarded over $5.8million in grants to 110 different “democracy building” organizations and projects in Venezuela. These grants have vague descriptions such as “Citizen Mobilization and Constructive Policy Formulation” (2016 - $200,000), “Strengthening Female Leadership in Venezuela,” (2016- $50,000), and “Fostering Entrepreneurship in Defense of Democracy and Free Markets,” (2015 - $160,813) among others. In 2016 alone, the USAID budget for Venezuela was $6.5million.

      Although exactly how all of the millions of dollars is spent in Venezuela is not publically available, investigations have been conducted that expose how directly the U.S. government is supporting Venezuela’s counter-revolutionary political parties and organizations. For example, in 2006, the New York Times reported that USAID had “distributed about $25 million to various Venezuelan organizations over the last five years, according to officials involved in the projects.” It was later reveled that some of these funds were connected to the April 2002 attempted coup d’état against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. As reported in an article by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), an investigation conducted by the U.S. State Department itself found that the U.S. State department, the NED and the U.S. Department of Defense “provided training, institution building and other support programs totaling about $3.3 million to Venezuelan organizations and individuals, some of whom are understood to have been involved in the events of April 12-14 [in reference to the attempted coup d’état].”

      On top of the funding of political parties and so-called civil society organizations, the U.S. government also carries out interventions in Venezuela through the form of media, such as the “Voice of America.” This media network, which now includes internet, radio, and television, promotes “U.S. values” and “Democracy” around the world, including to people in Venezuela, and has an annual budget of over $200 million.

      The OAS as a Tool for Imperialist Intervention

      In December, 2015 the right-wing opposition in Venezuela was elected to a majority in the National Assembly. Since then, the Organization of American States (OAS) has been especially aggressive in their promotion of foreign intervention in Venezuela. The President of the OAS, Luis Almagro, has focused a majority of his tenure on attempts to invoke the “Inter-American Democratic Charter” against Venezuela. His campaign, though supported by right-wing governments in Latin America, as well as the United States and Canada, has failed due to the opposition of other member-states, who have taken a stand in defense of the sovereignty of Venezuela.

      The OAS has long-been recognized a tool for U.S. intervention in Latin America. Not only is it head-quartered in Washington, DC, it also receives a majority of its funding directly from the U.S. State Department. In turn, the OAS has stood beside the U.S. government and served imperialist interests in Latin America throughout its 60 years, standing by, and even assisting, during more than 50 U.S.-sponsored coup d’états in Latin America and the Caribbean.

      In fact, the U.S. government described the OAS in their own words in the Congressional Budget justification for fiscal year 2018, “The Organization of American States (OAS) promotes U.S. political and economic interests in the Western Hemisphere by countering the influence of anti-U.S. countries such as Venezuela.”

      Through the maneuvering of the U.S. government and imperialism within the OAS, it is clear that Venezuela is high on their list for attack and intervention.

      Right-wing Violence and Sabotage

      In tandem with the increased threats and sanctions from the U.S. government, Venezuela’s violent opposition has increased their campaign of violence and sabotage against the government of President Maduro and the majority of people in Venezuela who support the government and the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

      Their violent attacks have taken many forms, from the hoarding of food, arson and blockading of government buildings, including hospitals, and a helicopter attack on a Venezuelan military base, to burning people alive on the streets. From the beginning of April to July 31, 2017, the violence and chaos brought about by Venezuela’s right-wing opposition killed 126 people and has injured over one thousand.

      This campaign of terror culminated on July 31, the day of the National Constituent Assembly elections. Right-wing violence in the streets of Venezuela continued on this day as 200 voting stations were surrounded by violent opposition members, 21 state security personnel were wounded with gunshots, and at least 10 people were killed.

      All the while, without shame, leaders in Venezuela’s violent opposition openly display their alliances with the U.S. government and their puppets in the Organization of American States. For example, not only have members of the Venezuelan opposition met numerous times with members of the U.S. Congress, they have also met with President Trump himself. (By the way, President Trump has refused to even speak with Venezuelan President Maduro on the phone).

      Intervention is the Context, Imperialism is the Discussion

      As solidarity activists writing, organizing and mobilizing outside of Venezuela, it is our most significant responsibility to understand the context of the struggle in Venezuela today. I think that it can really be summed up in just three points:

      1-Venezuela is a target of imperialism.

      2-Imperialists have spent millions of dollars on their campaign of sabotage, including working with the violent counter-revolutionary opposition to manufacture a crisis.

      3-A revolutionary government and the mass majority of people that support it want to take their country on a different path and imperialist countries are trying to block this development.

      Or, most generally stated, the context of Venezuela today is imperialist intervention; nothing more and nothing less. That’s it. The case stops there. There is nothing else that we need to know about the Bolivarian revolutionary process in order to be in solidarity with Venezuela and the government of President Maduro.

      With this understanding, answering questions such as, “how does the Venezuela solidarity movement weaken the reactionary Venezuela opposition?” become much more straight-forward. We oppose U.S. intervention and all attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela. That is our political and moral responsibility.

      Venezuela today is in the throes of a sharp class struggle. Venezuela’s capitalist class controls a majority of the production and distribution of food and basic goods in Venezuela. They control the majority of the mass media. Every hour of every day they are working overtly and covertly with the U.S. government and their allies to destroy the Bolivarian revolutionary process. Therefore, for solidarity activists outside of Venezuela, it is not a question of how many mistakes the government of President Maduro makes. Because it is very natural that within this battle, President Maduro and the revolutionary government will make tactical mistakes, or will take measures that are not effective or efficient. Since the government is dynamic and the Bolivarian revolutionary process is dynamic, it is impossible for mistakes not to happen.

      The question really, is not about whether people who claim to be in solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution should express opinions about what the government or what the revolutionary leadership in Venezuela is doing. Instead, the question we need to be asking is what is the priority for us? What do we discuss, what do we organize around, and what do we write about?

      There are no rules for “political correctness” that say that every mistake that the government makes has to be exposed. We must remember that imperialists are exposing the Bolivarian Revolutionary process and Maduro’s government every minute. People can have their opinions, but it is something different all together to campaign in favor of imperialism.

      For example, what is so significant about claiming that the National Constituent Assembly election was rigged in favor of the government, while at the same time imperialist propaganda is also claiming that the election was rigged. In fact, it matters not to our struggle to get imperialism out of Venezuela if election numbers announced by the revolutionary Bolivarian government are correct or not, as some solidarity activists have openly questioned. The question must be asked, as progressives and supporters of the Bolivarian revolutionary process in Venezuela, whom are we serving with this type of “political correctness”? We must expose the lies and manipulations of U.S. imperialism, not become their parrots.

      Build a Strong and United Venezuela Solidarity Movement

      Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, widely known for her defense of the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children due to U.S. sanctions, spoke recently in front of the US Senate in order to justify continued U.S. funding for so-called democracy building programs. In her statement she outlined the context in which these programs will continue to be an important tool for U.S. intervention around the globe. “The financial crisis, and growing gaps between rich and poor, have fueled anger and deepened doubts about the capacity of democracy to deliver on its promises. Recent progress in a few key countries and regions has been overshadowed by renewed authoritarianism in Russia, democratic backsliding in places such as Turkey, the rise of illiberal populism in Europe, state collapse in an authoritarian Venezuela, and the breakdown of order in parts of the Middle East and North Africa.”

      The solidarity movement operates in the same context – Venezuela is in the targets of imperialism in all of its deadly forms. If the U.S. succeeds in overthrowing President Maduro and destroying the Bolivarian revolutionary process, it would be a major defeat not only for the people of Venezuela, but for poor, working and oppressed people around the world. Therefore, and foremost, we must unite to build a strong movement in defense of the sovereignty and self-determination of Venezuela against all forms of imperialist intervention.

      Follow Alison Bodine on Twitter: @Alisoncolette

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