It is critically important that the Governments and people of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) acquire an accurate understanding of precisely what is going on in our sister Caribbean nation of Venezuela — a nation that the powerful United States of America (USA) has perversely designated as a “national security threat” to the USA.
We will never achieve any such “accurate understanding” if we depend on Western media institutions for our information about Venezuela. The reality is that the Government of the USA has determined that the United Socialist Party (PSUV) administration of Venezuela is their enemy, and they are therefore currently engaged in a multi-faceted campaign to bring down the administration of President Nicolas Maduro by any means necessary.
It is against this background that I call upon the governments of CARICOM to send a special envoy to Venezuela for the purpose of investigating the situation “on the ground” and making an informed analysis of the Venezuelan reality and the role that CARICOM can and should play. I am also calling on the media houses of the English-speaking Caribbean to do likewise, and to send an investigative team to Venezuela to see for themselves and to deliver to our people an independent and objective “Caribbean” assessment of the situation in Venezuela.
I am making these calls against a background of my having visited Venezuela on several occasions and finding the reality that I witnessed with my own eyes significantly at odds with the impressions and images presented by the powerful Western media corporations. I am fully aware that “psychological warfare” is a very real phenomenon, and that it is routinely deployed against regimes that the USA and other powerful Western nations determine to be their “enemy”.
Indeed, in 2004 – a full two years before Julian Assange launched his whistleblowing Wikileaks internet-based organization – the late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela public documents which disclosed that the United States of America’s “National Endowment for Democracy” (NED) had been funding several Venezuelan non -governmental creationisms that were opposed to Chavez’s socialist Government. Furthermore, subsequent disclosures of confidential US State Department diplomatic cables by Wikileaks proved that the foreign US interference discovered by Chavez was just the tip of the iceberg.
Indeed, the Wikileaks documents confirmed that over the 15 years of Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution, the US Embassy in Venezuela and such US governmental agencies as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) had been hard at work funding Opposition NGO’s and activists; allocating funds to right-wing political parties for subversive actions against the socialist Government; and organising and training selected youth and student leaders in the use of social networks to mobilize political action against the Venezuelan Government.
Why, you may well ask, has the US Government spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to destroy the socialist Government of Venezuela? Well, the simple answer is that the US Government and the powerful capitalist oligarchy that is located at the core of the US Government, have identified Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution as one of the most potent and deadly threats to the continued existence of their imperialistic capitalistic system.
Let us remember that:
(1) Chavez and his broad, grass-roots-based Fifth Republic Movement came to power in Venezuela in 1998, and immediately declared their intention to challenge the system of neo-liberal capitalism.
(2) It was Chavez and the Government of Venezuela that led the attack that defeated the Americans and scuttled their “Free Trade Area of the Americas” (FTAA). Chavez then followed up this success by boldly taking the initiative and proposing the establishment of the “Bolivarian Alternative For Latin America and the Caribbean” (ALBA).
(3) Over the 15 years of Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, the fundamental ALBA concept guided Venezuela and the other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to such progressive, anti-imperialist developments as the Petro Caribe Energy Cooperation Agreement, the Television Network of the South (Telesur), the Union of South American States (UNASUR), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the international eye care programme known as “Operation Milagro”, and the list goes on. These developments constitute a fundamental and revolutionary challenge to US dominance of the western hemisphere.
(4) In addition, for the very first time in Venezuela’s history, the tremendous wealth generated by Venezuela’s oil industry- the fourth largest in the world – was wrenched out of the hands of the traditional elite caste of Venezuela and their North American allies, and was instead directed towards fuelling the socio-economic development of the masses of the poor and deprived of Venezuela.
(5) The Bolivarian Revolution delivered such benefits to the people of Venezuela as a 50 per cent reduction in poverty, free healthcare, free high quality education from primary school to university, a substantial increase in wages for the working class, and an extension of pension rights to the entire population.
(6) In spite of these remarkable achievements, the Venezuelan elite and their North American allies have never relented in their hostility to the Bolivarian revolution. Indeed, there is nothing new about the middle and upper class organized campaign of economic sabotage and street protest that is now on-going against the Nicholas Maduro administration. The same things, and worse, were directed at the late President Hugo Chavez and his administration.
It would do us well to recall the crisis that Chavez (and Venezuela) faced in 2002 when the Venezuelan elite and their North American allies organized violent marches in the streets of Caracas; shot at and killed their own protestors and placed the blame on the government; hoarded basic consumer items; and sabotaged and scuttled the critical petroleum industry. And of course, the centrepiece of the crisis was the military coup that they staged – arresting Chavez, fabricating his resignation, ordering his execution, and dismantling the democratic institutions of governance such as the National Assembly and the Supreme Court.
It was the organized Venezuelan working class that intervened and came to the rescue of Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution in 2002. Clearly, the 2017 situation in Venezuela is not precisely the same as the situation in 2002. The main difference is that in 2002 the government of the late Hugo Chavez was operating an economy in which international oil prices were a very healthy US $120 per barrel, whereas President Maduro has had to try to finance the governmental programmes and social services of Venezuela on the basis of a much weaker economy caused by a plummeting of international oil prices.
We all need to remember that Maduro has had to face the misfortune of having to govern in a situation in which oil prices dropped as low as US $28 per barrel, resulting in an unavoidable scaling back of several of the programmes and services that working class Venezuelans depended on to sustain their livelihoods. The grass-roots working class organizations of Venezuela are NOT naive organizations that are incapable of analyzing the political and economic situation for themselves and coming to the right conclusions.
In spite of the undoubted economic difficulties that Venezuelan masses currently face, it is my firm belief and expectation that the Venezuelan working class can and will do in 2017 exactly what they did in 2002 – they will defend and preserve their revolution. All that they need from us— the people of Barbados and the Caribbean— is that we make the effort to dig through the mass of lies and misinformation that the biased Western news media routinely puts out about the situation in Venezuela, and that we offer them our principled support and solidarity.
(David A. Comissiong is president of the Clement Payne Movement)