“History repeats . . . first as tragedy, then as farce.” Karl Marx, 1852
The alarmist language used to justify US sanctions against Venezuela suggest Barack Obama is trying to channel his inner Ronald Reagan.
The US Commerce Department imposed military end-use sanctions on Venezuela in November 2014, followed by the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act in December, and in March an executive order imposed sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials, including freezing their assets in the United States.
History Repeats Itself
President Reagan warned in 1986 that the Sandinistas, who had overthrown the US-backed dictator Somoza in Nicaragua, were “just two days’ driving time from Harlingen, Texas.” This ruse prefaced the tragic Contra war, leaving 30,000 dead in Nicaragua.
Massive US economic and military aid to the Contras followed. After Congress banned US funding, Reagan illegally continued to support to the purported “freedom fighters.” Yet for all the US governmental efforts, Sandinista Daniel Ortega is now enjoying his second consecutive term as president of Nicaragua.
History repeats itself. Fast forward to the present, and we have President Obama lecturing Venezuelan President Maduro not to rule by decree without legislative oversight, followed on March 9 with a unilateral executive order asserting that Venezuela “constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security.”
Although farcical – Obama declared a “national emergency to deal with that threat” – the US declaration is a dangerous one that could lead to escalating hostilities.
Asymmetrical Military Threat
Is the world’s sole superpower really threatened or is the US declaration a pretext to demonize Venezuela, pressure Caracas, test the resolve of the Maduro government, and rally the lagging US-backed opposition in Venezuela? The numbers speak for themselves.
Venezuela spends only 1.05 percent of its much smaller GNP on the military, compared with 4.35 percent of the GNP in the United States going to the military. US military expenditures are the largest in the world by far.
Venezuela has no foreign military bases. The US is reputed to have some 900 foreign military bases in 130 countries, including bases in Curacao and Aruba, off Venezuela’s east coast, along with boots on the ground in Colombia, to the west of Venezuela, and the US Fourth Fleet along Venezuela’s Caribbean coast.
The official US policy is “regime change” of the democratically elected Venezuelan government. A US-backed coup temporarily removed Venezuelan President Chávez from office in 2002 and another US-backed coup attempt against current Venezuelan President Maduro was thwarted this year.
The official policy of Venezuela is “peace and respect for all nations,” as stated in a “Letter to the People of the United States,” which ran as an ad in The New York Times on March 17. The letter demands that the US government cease hostile actions against Venezuela, President Obama rescind his executive order and the US government retract actions against Venezuelan officials. The letter concludes “Venezuela is not a threat, but a hope.”
WMDs: History Repeats Itself . . . Again
Despite any credible evidence that Venezuela could possibly pose an extraordinary threat to US national security, the old canard of weapons of mass destruction has been farcically resurrected. This harkens back to the tragedy of what appears to be a war without end in Iraq, which began in 2003, with US government mistruths about weapons of mass destruction.
The Venezuelan government’s letter in the Times affirmed “Our people live in a region of peace, free of weapons of mass destruction.” On the same day as the Venezuela letter appeared, Douglas Farah testified before the US Senate hearings on Venezuela. This right-wing consultant on Latin America claimed “. . . the Maduro administration (of) Venezuela has actively pursued an official military doctrine that embraces the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States.”
Farah’s farcical proof of WMDs in Venezuela is a footnote in an obscure book that he himself acknowledges is “not directly related to Venezuela.”
Article 129 of the Venezuelan Constitution prohibits “the manufacture and use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.” In contrast, Obama’s national nuclear weapons strategy includes the US threat to use nuclear weapons first, even against nonnuclear nations.
Obama’s March 9 executive order has precipitated a gale force international blowback.
Ecuador‘s President Correa labeled the sanctions a “bad joke.” Bolivia‘s Foreign Ministry called on the US to “abandon its interventionist practices.” Cuba‘s President Castro warned, “The US must understand once and for all that it’s impossible to seduce Cuba or intimidate Venezuela.”
The leading regional organizations – CELAC, UNASUR, and ALBA – representing every country south of the Rio Grande, roundly condemned Obama. They have been joined by Russia, China and a number of others outside of the Western Hemisphere. In fact, not a single country has supported the Obama executive order.
Reaction in Venezuela
Even the US-backed and funded opposition in Venezuela has sought to distance itself from the Obama sanctions, lest members appear untowardly sycophantic. The patchwork opposition umbrella organization that goes by the unfortunate Spanish acronym of MUD (unofficial motto “I’d rather be shopping in Miami”), stated on March 11 that the group would prefer preventative actions to sanctions.
In Caracas, longtime Venezuela resident and former School of the Americas Watch staffer Lisa Sullivan reports large marches daily against US aggression and lines of people in the plaza signing up for the militia, in support of the Maduro government.
Sullivan observes, “Obama has given a huge shot in the arm of renewed support from the base for the revolution, with his ridiculous actions.” Of course tensions and shortages have not disappeared, but “there is a renewed clarity by the Venezuelan people and the nations of Latin America of the importance of affirming Latin American sovereignty at this moment.”