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      The Target of U.S. is Our Independence and Our Natural Resources
      A Talk by Venezuelan Vice-Minister Carlos Ron

      By Carlos Ron

      Carlos Ron is the Venezuela's Vice-Minister of foreign relations for North America & director of the Simón Bolívar Institute for Peace and Solidarity among Peoples (ISB). This talk is an excerpt from a presentation given by Carlos Ron at " U.S./Canada Hands Off Venezuela!" webinar organized by the Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign on June 25, 2020. Venezuela is a country that has been under siege for the last 20 years. I think that the reason for this siege is mostly based on two things. First, we have the largest oil reserves in the world. So, there's a lot of interest in controlling Venezuela's resources. Not only because of the obvious, taking that oil and using it, also because, by controlling Venezuela's oil, you also get to control or to affect the rest of the oil market throughout the world. And that's something that we have to consider important right now because it's no longer just about taking the oil, it's about controlling the businesses. It's about the U.S. getting an opportunity to have access to our oil, or to oil markets, now that the U.S. has become, you know, a significant producer.

      This is also our idea about Canada's sanctions and support for U.S. intervention in Venezuela. U.S. sanctions prohibiting U.S. refineries from importing Venezuelan oil have opened up space for Canadian oil to be used. And that's opened up a market for the heavy crude produced in Alberta, which is now taking over what used to be Venezuela's natural market. There are interests in both countries that are very important that are involved in this process of dismantling Venezuela's oil industry.

      The United States is also attacking Venezuela because of the political aspect, in the sense that Venezuela is a lively participatory democracy. Within our democracy, we have asserted that it is not only okay just to participate, but also, you have to be the transformation itself. You are the protagonist. You're also part of this whole process.

      By the end of this year, we should have our 26th election in 21 years. This demonstrates that our democracy is a model that contradicts everything that the United States has been preaching for Latin America in the last half-century. Venezuela has supported regional integration and regional sovereignty. And we have supported the idea that we should have relations with other parts of the world. I mean, we don't believe in this unipolar world only controlled by the United States. We believe that Latin America should become a pole ourselves and have relations with Europe, Asia, China, and Russia. This is a democratization of the way that geopolitics is currently set up.

      So, Venezuela has these two characteristics: our independent political policy and all these resources that have made it a target for the United States.

      Right now, we're in the middle of this strong U.S. campaign, which aims to overthrow President Maduro's government, eliminating the possibilities of this political process, which we identify as the Bolivarian revolution, which some call Chavismo as well, because, you know, we get the strength and the inspiration from President Chávez. To make this movement collapse is the United States' aim, to erase this region's movement. That's why we have been under such a severe attack at this point.

      Particularly in the last couple of months, you could see a spike in the attacks. I mean, these attacks are not new. There was a coup attempt against President Chávez in 2002, and there have been many other attacks since then. But everything became even more vicious after President Chávez died because the opposition and the United States both believed that it would be easier to take over the country when President Chávez was not there. Eventually, elections and other processes started showing them that was not true. As a continuation of the Bolivian revolution, President Maduro remains strong and supported by the people.

      So, they decided that they had to find ways of destabilizing more. There was violence in the streets by the right-wing in 2014 and 2017, and now we get to a point where right now after the Trump administration comes in, there's even a more vicious attack because of the people that are running the show. I mean, we just saw the book by Bolton. I am not telling you to read it, but it is interesting to see some of the descriptions he has of the relationship with Venezuela. What you see there are these people who are trying to live out their Cold War frustrations and eradicate everything that's left of the left in the world. You know, they believe that this is the point in time where this can be done, especially because we are in the middle of a pandemic. And they are convinced that we cannot handle fighting a pandemic and fighting U.S. pressure at the same time.

      Now, to add to this, to see how deep U.S. pressure has become, the Trump administration recognizes a government in Venezuela that doesn't exist. A man [Juan Guaido] stood up in a corner on January 23 of last year and said, "I am the president of Venezuela." With no legal backing for this, with no popular support. So, this man now claims to be President because he has support from the United States. You can read the process, or at least what Bolton describes as the process, to reach this was. They were convinced that if they created this idea of this parallel government, then the Bolivarian government of Venezuela would definitely collapse because countries from around the world would jump to recognize the parallel government. Then all of a sudden, we would be lost. Of course, not recognizing President Maduro as the legitimate President of Venezuela allows the United States to implement coercive measures. They believed that this parallel government would receive recognition from all these other countries, and then basically, the government would eventually collapse.

      This has not happened. A year has gone by, and Juan Guaidó, this man who proclaimed himself President, is still not President. He is actually not even President of the National Assembly anymore, which he used to be last year. But he has the support of some countries. These are some countries in Latin America, countries like Canada, and some European countries. These are the usual suspects. These are the people that follow the lead of the United States, or they are very conservative. In Latin America, for example, you have the recognition by Bolsonaro [Brazil], Duque [Colombia], who are right-wing governments. But they never tell you about the other side. There are 130 countries or more that do recognize President Maduro as the President; the United Nations recognizes our government as Venezuela's legitimate government.

      This is interesting because the idea of the United States has been, through all of this time, with their sanctions and with their actions against Venezuela, with the blockade, that they will eventually produce so much suffering in the Venezuelan population that the Venezuelan people will somehow go out in the streets and overthrow the government or ask for military intervention or ask for the military to turn against the government. The U.S. government is trying to find a way to produce some sort of altercation that would end up deposing Maduro. Their point of honour is that Maduro leaves, that he's no longer President. They understand that since President Chávez said that Maduro was the person he trusted us as his successor if something happened to him, Maduro has been a unifying force within Chavismo. The key aspect here, what they really want to get at, is they want to destroy the unity. They know they can't deal with Chavismo and the Bolivarian revolution as a political force, so they want to promote this division. So, the United States has been targeting Maduro specifically.

      So, you hear about this indictment. You hear about this attempted incursion. You hear about this military operation. You hear about this vast military operation in the Caribbean, where today there were ships trying to cross over Venezuelan waters, and there's new airplanes based in Curaçao there somehow to intimidate us, and there were some ships that moved in right when Iranian tankers were coming in with gasoline to Venezuela. So there's a lot of these movements by the U.S. military. It is the largest military operation since 1989 when Panama was invaded. And it's all in the Caribbean.

      The justification that the United States gives is that they are doing this because they are fighting drug trafficking coming to the United States because President Maduro is trying to flood the United States with cocaine. But the interesting thing is that when you see the Departments of Defense's investigations and their own information, and when you look at the United Nations information, most of the flow of illegal drugs to the United States does not come from the Caribbean, they come from the Pacific. This shows it doesn't make sense that you have such a massive operation in the Caribbean if you aim to curb drug trafficking.

      The bottom line is when you add all these things up - what the U.S. government is aiming for is the government of President Maduro, an overthrow, a resignation, anything that will get him out of power so that they can shift the dynamics in Venezuela and take control of the resources, of the companies, of everything. This is what we're facing. We're facing a criminal group acting on behalf of the United States for the United States' interests. We're facing this massive pressure campaign with all types of diplomatic, economic, political, and all these types of attacks, a hybrid war against Venezuela. And we're trying to defend our legitimate government that we voted for.

      This might seem like a very negative scenario in a sense. But, the positive side of this is that the Venezuelan people, despite all the hardships that we have faced during the last year or so, despite all this campaign, despite all the attacks on the economy, despite all of this, there's a consciousness here that we have to defend our liberty, that we have to defend our independence, that we have to defend our democratic system. That we have to vote because we have elections this year, and one of the things they're trying to do is block that. I mean, you have Guaidó saying that the National Assembly could run after its period because, you know, they want elections where the OAS [Organization of American States] can come in and make the same mess they did in Bolivia [overthrowing Evo Morales’ victory in a legitimate election] and overthrow a government. Even part of the opposition is now standing up in favor of new elections.

      The majority of Venezuelan people want to maintain democracy, want to continue deepening this revolutionary process. With Covid-19, we even have a great opportunity of seeing the importance of having a strong state or having a healthcare system or having an education system or having public housing policies because that's what's going to defend people in light of any of these troubles. Whether they be human-made, like the sanctions, or whether they be something like Covid-19. We are standing strong.

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