The Radicalization of US Policy on Venezuela

Not since the Cuban revolution, has the U.S. government played such an overtly activist role in Latin America, writes Steve Ellner.

By Steve Ellner
Special to Consortium News

Washington’s recognition of the shadow government headed by Venezuelan National Assembly president Juan Guaidó is one more demonstration of how the Trump administration has radicalized foreign policy positions and in doing so violates international law, including the charter of the Organization of American States. 

On this issue like others, the Obama administration laid the groundwork for Trump’s radicalization, but it was usually more discrete. Obama issued an executive order calling Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security and created a list of Venezuelan officials who were sanctioned.

The Trump administration’s escalation included financial sanctions against the Venezuelan government and measures against the nation’s oil industry, prohibiting the Venezuelan majority-owned refinery, CITGO, from sending profits back to Venezuela. Until then the Venezuelan government had been receiving one billion dollars a year from CITGO.

Juan Guaidó, left, and Nicolás Maduro. (Wikimedia)

The Trump administration is now threatening a total oil embargo on Venezuela and is leaving the “military option” open.

Throughout Region 

In addition, top administration officials have played an openly activist role by traveling throughout the continent to promote the campaign to isolate Venezuela.

The first signal that the pro-U.S. international community would recognize the Guaidó government came from Washington along with its most right-wing ally, the Jair Bolsonaro government of Brazil. As of last year, Great Britain had intended to not recognize President Nicolás Maduro after he took office for his second term on January 10, but it intended to maintain diplomatic relations. Washington pushed for a more radical position, that of not only not recognizing Maduro but establishing diplomatic relations with a shadow government.

The activist approach to diplomacy was put in evidence the day after the January 23 opposition protests, when U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo offered $20 million of “humanitarian assistance” to the Venezuelan population. Many Venezuelans see this as humiliating and nothing short of a bribe designed to pressure the country into submission.

Further Polarization

Ellner spoke Friday morning about Venezuela on Democracy Now!   

N0t since the Cuban revolution, has the U.S. government played such an overtly activist role throughout the continent in favor of the isolation of a government that is not to its liking. In the process it has further polarized Venezuela and the continent as a whole. The moderates in the Venezuelan opposition, including two former presidential candidates of the two main traditional parties, Claudio Fermín and Eduardo Fernández, have favored electoral participation and recognition of the legitimacy of the Maduro government. Washington’s actions pull the rug from under the moderates and strengthen the hands of the extremists in the opposition.

Opposition parties have contradicted themselves, first accepting in August 2017 a National Constituent Assembly’s (ANC) call for gubernatorial elections in October of that year and then refusing to participate in the May 2018 presidential elections, also called by the Assembly, on the grounds that the Assembly itself was illegitimate. Hence most of those same parties refuse to recognize the Maduro government.

The Trump administration has promoted a similar radicalization throughout the hemisphere. Most of the countries that have recognized Guaidó are on the right (as opposed to the center). But previously, the rightist presidents of Chile (Sebasián Piñera), Argentina (Mauricio Macri) and Brazil (under then president Michel Temer) rejected the Sept. 2018 statement by OAS secretary general Luis Almagro that military intervention in Venezuela should be considered. Trump, Bolsonaro and recently elected Colombian president Iván Duque have pushed these rightist presidents to an even more extreme position on Venezuela.

But just as there are moderates in the Venezuelan opposition who support dialogue, which the mainstream media have pretty much ignored, there are moderates in the international community who are also in favor of dialogue. These figures include Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Pope Francis, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, and the UN’sHigh Commissioner for Human Rights and ex-president of Chile Michelle Bachelet. What they are proposing represents the best hope for this battered nation.

Steve Ellner is associate managing editor of “Latin American Perspectives” and is the editor of “The Pink Tide Experiences: Breakthroughs and Shortcomings in Twenty-First Century Latin America” (2019).

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54 comments for “The Radicalization of US Policy on Venezuela

  1. Skip Scott
    January 30, 2019 at 08:09

    I found this in an article by Michel Chossudovsky at Global Research. Trump would be wise to rethink his position. Guaido’s position in Venezuela is similar to Pelosi’s.

    “Theater of the Absurd? Imagine for a moment what would happen if a US politician or the president of a foreign country were to demand that Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House of Representatives and majority leader of the House were to be confirmed as interim President of the US, to the detriment of President Trump. Not an impossibility?”

    • ACM
      January 31, 2019 at 00:12

      Not only. Maduro (according to Consortium News) won his second presidency with almost 70% of the votes. Trump got less than half the popular vote. And the meddling of the Democrats in Bernie’s campaign is known to all.

      The one to one analogy isn’t perfect but couldn’t Maduro call the US election fraudulent and claim that Bernie Sanders should be el Presidente?

      Stay calm and look for the signs!

      • Skip Scott
        January 31, 2019 at 08:49

        Yes, Putin could announce that he recognizes speaker Pelosi as interim president while we schedule new elections, since our 2016 election was fraudulent. There is certainly more evidence to back up that claim. BTW, I’m thinking of declaring myself as interim president. I’ve got as much legitimacy as Guaido. Why not?

      • Realist
        February 1, 2019 at 00:39

        I like it.

        The foreign and domestic political philosophies you’ve expressed on this forum are far more sound and egalitarian than anything articulated by any of the elected buffoons (or their wanna-be counterparts) in Washington.

        So, until dozens of federal agents kick in your door and nab you in the middle of the night like they did Roger Stone, I am pleased to recognise you as President Scott. I do hope the deep state and its media pit bulls are not much of a bother to your administration.

        Hey, this declaration protocol is so much more quick and efficient than those corrupt, chaotic elections that just serve to piss everybody off.

  2. Taras 77
    January 27, 2019 at 21:01

    This may be a tad unusual but I could not find a transcript: this is a video link of the Russian UN Ambassador’ s opening round at the 26 jan Security Council meeting. It is scathing as reflected in pompeo’s expressions.

    It runs about 15 minutes, has closed caption in English at the bottom-runs a tad slow because ambassador waits for interpretation .

    I think pomp and that cretin abrams realize that this is not going to be a walk in the park at the un (if that really matters to these thugs and bullies)

    http://thesaker.is/permanent-representative-of-russia-to-the-ussc-on-the-topic-of-the-situation-in-venezuela-must-see/#comments

    Link to abrams third para down in intro provides some sanitized info on abrams from wikipedia.

    • Hank
      January 28, 2019 at 10:20

      I see a glaring hypocrisy in the USA making such a big deal out of ALLEGED Russian election meddling in the 2016 elections and turning right around and meddling in other nations’ affairs. It is WORSE than meddling! It is outright subversion of other nation’s democratic processes! The USA has lost ALL moral high ground, if it ever had it. Trump’s “Great” America will only be realized when the “leaders” of the USA are not subservient to corporatism and it starts to respect ALL peoples on this planet! Bullying and militarism are signs of a WEAK nation, not a strong one.

    • Skip Scott
      January 29, 2019 at 08:49

      Thanks for the link Taras 77. It is always worthwhile to see what the MSM leaves out in the coverage of the situation.

    • Tom Kath
      January 27, 2019 at 21:01

      Very well expressed John. Unfortunately, trying to correct these massive wrongs via the media is very much the same as women trying to assert equality on the football field or in weight lifting. We must engage these varlets on terms and in an arena where we have some advantage!

    • Kyle
      January 28, 2019 at 15:19

      Well said, John.

  3. January 27, 2019 at 09:17

    Good piece but…”radicalization” has typically carried with it left-notions of social transformation toward more justice, equality, freedom, dignity and democracy. The U.S. policy is not radical, it is imperialist. The Bolivarian revolution was/is an attempt to radicalize. U.S. policy is anti-radicalization as it is pro-corporate, pro-capital, pro-militarization, pro-domination…

  4. Antonio Costa
    January 26, 2019 at 16:54

    These regime changes are about controlling oil. The operative word is “controlling”. Chomsky put his finger on this as a mission of US hegemony. As the US moved away from USD backed by gold, it replaced gold in a two step process to oil. The dollar maintains its dominance, so far, by controlling oil access and exchange. Trust will only go so far in keeping a currency dominant.

    Controlling the world’s oil and sea lanes, air and land is mission #1. Venezuela has the largest known oil reserves. This and our economics of growth speaks to our inability to significantly effect CO2 and climate change. China and Russia have made inroads into Venezuela (hence the imperial sense of urgency, with little disguise.

    Without oil hegemony the US imperial empire collapses. Of course we’re stuck with a suicide oligarchic mission.

  5. OlyaPola
    January 26, 2019 at 16:14

    “Not since the Cuban revolution, has the U.S. government played such an overtly activist role in Latin America, writes Steve Ellner.”

    “Overt”.

    A key question is overt to whom.

    A case could be made for Chile rather than Cuba if overt to whom includes the Chilean population and possibly doesn’t include the “United States of America’s” population.

    Another two salient questions irrespective of Brasil or Chile or Cuba or Venezuela are these:

    1. Why did the assay of the amalgam of local/external “efforts” change in the examples of Brasil or Chile or Cuba or Venezuela ?

    2. What opportunities are created for others not restricted to Brasil or Chile or Cuba or Venezuela as a consequence of why did the assay of the amalgam of local/external “efforts” change in the examples of Brasil or Chile or Cuba or Venezuela ?

    • OlyaPola
      January 26, 2019 at 17:51

      If assets are added but not acknowledged as added, does this afford others opportunities of subtraction whilst re-inforcing at least externally the adders reliance on both assets have neither been added nor subtracted?

      What happened to body counts?

  6. David G
    January 26, 2019 at 14:25

    “Obama issued an executive order calling Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security and created a list of Venezuelan officials who were sanctioned.”

    Obama actually declared a “national emergency” to that effect in order to enable the sanctions. (Trump extended the “emergency” last year.)

    As of August 2017, there were “currently 28 concurrent active national emergencies in America”. https://www-m.cnn.com/2017/08/12/politics/national-emergencies-trump-opioid/index.html?r=https%3A%2F%2Fduckduckgo.com%2F

    It’s worth keeping this ridiculous state of affairs in mind, with the concept of “national emergency” reduced to expedient meaninglessness, as Trump considers declaring one to allow him to blow a few billion federal dollars on his make-believe wall.

    We reap as we sow!

  7. elmerfudzie
    January 26, 2019 at 13:10

    Not entirely sure my first post went through: Let’s step away from the current headlines and openly discuss the bigger picture. There’s an old cultural energy, once described as Puritanism, and remains here in the U.S. as a force to be reckoned with. This Puritanism is attached to racism (directed against brown and black skinned people). Yes, it all bears repeating, once again. An aprori assumption that the North (Western Occident Nations) are simply superior to the southern hemispheres cultures and peoples. This (white race) stigma persists and was once identified as belonging to the British Empires’ basic philosophy, that is or was, simply, that the English know best because we’re superior to everyone else. Again, this almost apriori notion is based on a mental image or picture, rather than any wordy descriptions. That South American countries and African ones too, are “below the pant belt”, a pant belt that roughly goes around the equator. The better half of humanity resides above the pant belt. As if, all our exploration(s) into outer space show a world where the white races are geographically on top and the rest below, forgetting that from outer space, there is no north or south. From space, The Strait of Magellan could just as easily be “the top of the world” So, this white superiority complex runs very deep, is a distortion, in a visual, spacial perspective (eye) and as well as the mind. These prejudices are only enhanced all the more, when the physical size certain south American peoples come into play, smaller stature is somehow equated with “inferior”

    As a nation, the U.S. has been, in a word?, Brutal to it’s southern neighbors, and needlessly so. The Monroe Doctrine fostered attitudes of domination rather than cooperation. Fear, I suppose, that the “lesser” would overtake the “greater”or that somehow our nation would become diluted by some compromising method of fusion resembling real equality among nations, once again regardless of size. One sees a glimpse of this attitude in Japanese culture. I bring Japan into the commentary only to serve as an example, where some part of that culture assumes, “mixing the white race with blacks” reduces intellectual abilities, lowers IQ and work performance in the USA.

    Let’s return to our American style Puritanism, where for example, the dance(s), color and erotic overtones of Rio (Rio de Janeiro) might invoke a revulsion among them. The Puritans, most of whom are arch conservatives, still wield most of the power in the USA. This “baggage” is and remains the back drop to our current political interactions with South America. I ask that CONSORTIUMNEWS readers take a few moments to review the (long) list of horrific interventions by our deep state, visit https://www.yachana.org/teaching/resources/interventions.html. It shows twenty U.S. interventions that occurred over the last one hundred years in South America alone. Readers may also wish to review an additional eighty or so Western Occident Intel, interference’s and or interventions in foreign government elections, political affairs, economies, by visiting the web page at https://sites.evergreen.edu/zoltan/interventions/. However this list does not include the many, many assassinations sponsored by the CIA’s Gladio Program in Europe.

    What did we (USA) gain by choosing the path of fear, a strategy of domination, over the Southern Hemisphere Countries? The grim picture of today could have looked quite different had a benevolent spirit and sharing of cultures been the choice and not fear. Venezuelan oil could have been the new Fort Knox of “currency reserves” for the U.S. backed by black instead of yellow gold. The list of rare earth metals, gemstones, found in several South American countries, and other commodities like lithium could have easily and seamlessly been bartered in exchange for high speed rail, bringing visitors, advanced technologies and higher education, all in a simple exchange for car battery components (lithium). But NO!, the un-elected corporate entities overshadowed, sovereign state power(s), and conspired with Puritanical ideologues in the U.S.. These two forces gradually created our American brand of English colonialism, that had it’s roots in the Monroe Doctrine.

    Time for a total reevaluation here. Time for a whole new approach and paradigm between the South and North Americas. Our continents can re emerge as the “envy of the world”

    • Sam F
      January 26, 2019 at 21:28

      “As a nation, the U.S. has been…brutal to it’s southern neighbors…the Monroe Doctrine fostered attitudes of domination”

      While the US was fearful of British incursions in S America resulting in the Monroe Doctrine, it was not interventionist until economic concentrations after the Civil War created interests in coffee, bananas, etc. and at last TR’s great white fleet and the Panama Canal. The growth of US imperialism closely follows the growth of corporate oligarchy: it retrenched a bit under Wilson and FDR, but after WWII the US mass media and democratic institutions sank under the control of oligarchy. Without restoration of democracy the US has no constructive role in the world, other than technical contributions.

      Structural changes are necessary to restore democracy. The tools of reform are the very mass media and formerly democratic institutions controlled by oligarchy, so change cannot be democratic.

      Executive overreach might work but seems unlikely. A reform president would have to (with preparation) dismiss Congress repeatedly, and place the mass media in the hands of state universities for several years, to ensure informed and fair elections, with campaign finance thereafter monitored to ensure a very low maximum political donations, solely from individuals. Then such a president should accept stronger limitations of executive power.

      • elmerfudzie
        January 27, 2019 at 12:26

        Reply to Sam F from elmerfudzie. Aside from the various historical perspectives, a greater problem looms limitless over both the Americas, North and South. It must be dealt with first, if true democracy is to flourish, anywhere. The international corporation, the way incorporation papers are drawn, the lack of oversight by governments or citizens at large, needs our special attention. Through these well established, legal entities, much evildoing has spawned. The corporate entity tends to smother any chance for fairness, democracy voter representation, environmental regulation, thus creating a “deep state”. A deep state who’s influence pedaling assumes the shape of bought and paid for political representatives, be they congresspersons, monarchs or oligarchs. Hiding behind legalisms, these entities skirt personal liability, devise long term strategies that not only interfere with but actively oppose competition, engage in tax evasion and larger corporations have their own policing and intelligence agencies that all too often overshadow sovereign state authority. Visit https://ratical.org/corporations/TCoB.html, and discussions by the late (and great) Richard Grossman.

      • Sam F
        January 27, 2019 at 19:08

        It would be productive to hear debate of the regulation of international business with rigorous controls, such as:

        1. allowing only UN corporations to trade between UN members;
        2. allowing only the UN to tax international trade;
        3. prohibiting economic sanctions;
        4. prohibiting international cashflows except via UN banks;
        and thereby prohibiting members from engaging in or permitting proxy wars, unapproved arms transfers, economic subversion, etc.

        This would require the UN to inspect cargoes, operate customs facilities, operate a world bank, etc.

        Perhaps step one is to tax members and expel or control those like the US that subvert the UN with economic power and corruption. The incentives include ability to trade with the largest trading block, obtain development aid, prevent capital flight, prevent economic subversion, etc.

      • elmerfudzie
        January 27, 2019 at 22:29

        Reply from elmerfudzie to Sam F… I won’t cherry pick the statements you’ve made but rather will add a few items to these commentaries. I’m more concerned with fair taxation both personal and corporate. Without fair taxation we will have a global , grass roots dynamic towards populism and socialism. Allow me to draw on a few ideas promoted by Eva Joly Mep, Vice President and Chairperson for the Panama Papers Committee established by the EU parliament. At bottom, her concerns are not only about international corporate architectures designed for purposes of tax evasion but also taking some time to reevaluate the instrument layers commonly refer ed to as “trusts”. There exists some concrete proposals out there and here’s just a few. Stop public councils (UK) from issuing public contracts to corporations operating out of tax havens. To create public registries of owners who benefit through the use of corporate trusts and foundations (the Clinton syndrome). Introduce a transparency of secret deals between corporations (or companies) and governments. ASIDE, Never mind the trite joking and perhaps fowl lingo between Trump and Putin! What a piece of claptrap, designed for the MSM talking heads. A worthless attack launched against our new POTUS! Finally, introduce a bill in Congress that will demand listing available for public review, all country by country reporting by multinational corporations. For example; who are the CEO’s, where do they reside, what were (in the past) and what are their current corporate functions? perhaps this information base will be based on a SIC or Standard Industrial Code classification system.

    • Deniz
      January 28, 2019 at 01:24

      Puritans and Racism.

      While I accept that the British and Puritans believe they are inherently superior by birth, not withstanding the logical fallacy of calling an entire country and religion racist, I believe that this line of reasoning obfuscates what is actually happening.

      What I see is that our criminal ruling class has once again decided to engage in a war crime. This has nothing to do with the Puritans or British people’s racism, except as it serves as an instrument to illicit the their people’s support in committing their crimes to cover them up. These individuals who benefit from an illegal regime change are a tiny group of criminal ruling, oligarchs and oil barons, that none of us will ever meet or be associated with. Whenever our criminal rulers decide to engage in a crime, the firsts thing their media sycophants is create a chorus singing about the evil, bad, bad, foreign man that must be destroyed at all costs. In order to obfuscate their crimes, they can always rely upon the tried and true “Barbarians at the Gate” rhetoric to rile up the citizenry to help them in their dirty work. This is not because our criminal rulers care about whether someone is foreign, what they care about is that a leader is trying to create a system that is not completely subservient to their pillaging and whatever it is they are attempting to steal. This is what is intolerable to them, not someone’s race.

      This is not a matter of race, it is a matter of class.

      • elmerfudzie
        January 28, 2019 at 12:26

        To Deniz from elmerfudzie. Your arguments seem A Okay with me and I might add this tidbit. Adopt and equalize some language currently not found in (internationally recognized) statutory law, prohibiting secret trusts and modify this legal instrument (trusts) in a way that points to actual ownership by revealing that persons name or corporate entity name. This is a job for the UN security council and in cooperation with the world court or the IJC in the Hague.

        To maintain global peace we must first prevent legal mechanisms or tools that hide corruption(s) such as political pay-offs, narcotics trafficking, tax dodging, every kind of extortion or any other laundering methods that mask names of specific individuals engaged in a criminal enterprise. This statutory law must somehow also regulate cryptocurrencies as well, tho I don’t know how this can be accomplished.

      • Deniz
        January 28, 2019 at 20:33

        In the US there is an absolutely no shortage of laws on the disclosure offshore funds and very severe penalties including both prison and bankruptcy. These are implemented by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) reporting known as FATCA and multiple disclosure requirements by the IRS enforced by a very scary criminal investigation branch. Over 140 countries have signed onto an intergovernmental agreement which states that requires foreign banks to audit their books for US individual accounts. This are the crimes they charged Paul Manafort with when they could not get him for colluding with Russia. Further, most non-US countries have similar laws to enforce financial crimes of other countries, this is referred to as CRS. These laws have come about since 9/11 and there is very serious enforcement.

        However, in the real world, these laws will apply to everyone except our criminal aristocracy, who are immune to such laws because they are too powerful for DC law enforcement bureaucrats to take on. They would have to be able to take down a Clinton, or a Bush, a Rockefeller a Cheney or a Rothschild, or the various CIA heads or Generals who engage in wars for profits. In fact, the Clinton Foundation is undoubtedly in violation of numerous tax laws governing non-profits.

        Laws are not something US rulers need to concern themselves with.

  8. elmerfudzie
    January 26, 2019 at 11:04

    Let’s step away from the current headlines and openly discuss the bigger picture. There’s an old cultural energy, once described as Puritanism, and remains here in the U.S. as a force to be reckoned with. This Puritanism is attached to racism (directed against brown and black skinned people). Yes, it all bears repeating, once again. An aprori assumption that the North (Western Occident Nations) are simply superior to the southern hemispheres cultures and peoples. This (white race) stigma persists and was once identified as belonging to the British Empires’ basic philosophy, that is or was, simply, that the English know best because we’re superior to everyone else. Again, this almost apriori notion is based on a mental image or picture, rather than any wordy descriptions. That South American countries and African ones too, are “below the pant belt”, a pant belt that roughly goes around the equator. The better half of humanity resides above the pant belt. As if, all our exploration(s) into outer space show a world where the white races are geographically on top and the rest below, forgetting that from outer space, there is no north or south. From space, The Strait of Magellan could just as easily be “the top of the world” So, this white superiority complex runs very deep, is a distortion, in a visual, spacial perspective (eye) and as well as the mind. These prejudices are only enhanced all the more, when the physical size certain south American peoples come into play, smaller stature is somehow equated with “inferior”

    As a nation, the U.S. has been, in a word?, Brutal to it’s southern neighbors, and needlessly so. The Monroe Doctrine fostered attitudes of domination rather than cooperation. Fear, I suppose, that the “lesser” would overtake the “greater”or that somehow our nation would become diluted by some compromising method of fusion resembling real equality among nations, once again regardless of size. One sees a glimpse of this attitude in Japanese culture. I bring Japan into the commentary only to serve as an example, where some part of that culture assumes, “mixing the white race with blacks” reduces intellectual abilities, lowers IQ and work performance in the USA.

    Let’s return to our American style Puritanism, where for example, the dance(s), color and erotic overtones of Rio (Rio de Janeiro) might invoke a revulsion among them. The Puritans, most of whom are arch conservatives, still wield most of the power in the USA. This “baggage” is and remains the back drop to our current political interactions with South America. I ask that CONSORTIUMNEWS readers take a few moments to review the (long) list of horrific interventions by our deep state, visit https://www.yachana.org/teaching/resources/interventions.html. It shows twenty U.S. interventions that occurred over the last one hundred years in South America alone. Readers may also wish to review an additional eighty or so Western Occident Intel, interference’s and or interventions in foreign government elections, political affairs, economies, by visiting the web page at https://sites.evergreen.edu/zoltan/interventions/. However this list does not include the many, many assassinations sponsored by the CIA’s Gladio Program in Europe.

    What did we (USA) gain by choosing the path of fear, a strategy of domination, over the Southern Hemisphere Countries? The grim picture of today could have looked quite different had a benevolent spirit and sharing of cultures been the choice and not fear. Venezuelan oil could have been the new Fort Knox of “currency reserves” for the U.S. backed by black instead of yellow gold. The list of rare earth metals, gemstones, found in several South American countries, and other commodities like lithium could have easily and seamlessly been bartered in exchange for high speed rail, bringing visitors, advanced technologies and higher education, all in a simple exchange for car battery components (lithium). But NO!, the un-elected corporate entities overshadowed, sovereign state power(s), and conspired with Puritanical ideologues in the U.S.. These two forces gradually created our American brand of English colonialism, that had it’s roots in the Monroe Doctrine.

    Time for a total reevaluation here. Time for a whole new approach and paradigm between the South and North Americas. Our continents can re emerge as the “envy of the world”

  9. January 26, 2019 at 09:37

    Regime change is a good descriptive term. We have used it throughout history although the label is recent. We did it in Iran once and have tried it several times since. Latin America, since our country was formed. It’s just the way we do business. What is unique is that the oligarchs in America have decided, if anywhere else in the world, why not here. Using the same formulas, they embarked on a campaign to weaken the presidency. Whatever the merits of the attacks on Trump, we should understand this is not only an attack on Trump, but the Office of the Presidency. Until some structural changes occur to address the power possessed by the few at the expense of all our citizenry, things will not get better and likely worse.

    The other point regards the sanctions on Venezuela. We steal their assets and then accuse Maduro of mismanaging his assets and pointing our finger at him for the failed economy.

    Again, Iran comes to mind. Make the people suffer enough and voila, regime change. I wonder if any thought has been given to the difference in the cost of producing a barrel of oil in Iran compared to the US and even the North Sea. Figure I saw was in the neighborhood of $10 for Iran and $40 for us. d
    Don’t know how recent the figure but suspect they are in the ballpark.

  10. jc
    January 26, 2019 at 09:11

    where the hell is russia and china who have investments there???

    • Skip Scott
      January 26, 2019 at 09:18

      jc-

      Be careful what you wish for. Things have gotten dicey.

      https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-46522358

    • January 27, 2019 at 18:24

      They are both active.

      Russia has just sent private military contractors to protect Maduro.

      • Taras 77
        January 27, 2019 at 21:13

        I seriously doubt your comment that Russia has sent military contractors to protect Maduro. I also noted the reports in the press but Putin’s spokesman says it is not true.

        http://tass.com/politics/1042008

        In almost all cases (99.5%) when it comes down to Western press reports versus what the Russians are saying. I will go with the Russians.

        We could review a linked source if you have one but hardly worth the effort.

  11. AnneR
    January 26, 2019 at 08:28

    Economic sanctions are war by non-military means. NO country should be able force other nations to bend to its will via deliberately impoverishing those nations’ populations. And when such an arrogant, avaricious, imperialist country inflicts such misery, potential starvation, death on another nation’s people, no other country should fall in line and go along with the sanctions. But they do, especially the usual suspects. (Frankly, it is more than time that FUKUSIS felt their own medicine.)

    And it is more than time that the western nations, particularly the FUKUS trio, minded their own business and left other countries to manage – well or ill – their own affairs, to become neo-con-neo-liberal, to be socialist, to be communist, to be apart from or integral to the wider world “economy” (for as long as it shall last which, given climate change alone won’t be all that long).

    Undoubtedly there are not a few countries with human rights abuses, in some definitely galore (SA, IS, and BR immediately spring to mind). But the so-called exceptional nation(s) are hardly without their human/civil rights abuses – and here I’m thinking of the UK & US : grotesque economic inequality, large numbers of their populations in poverty, homeless, in the latter poor to no healthcare among the impoverished, and again in the latter an obscenely large prison population, increasingly housed in for-profit prisons, that is also (the Constitution allows for it) all but slave labor for multi-national corporations. Not to mention their record on torture, bombing other peoples for profit (the Maybot’s husband is an executive at BAE – how she can be PM AND have a spouse involved in war materiel production even as she flogs that materiel to Saudia, doubtless also to the UK military for its use in the ME is beyond me), to ensure that western corporations can grab the resources… on and on.

    Perhaps Russia and China and others should declare Tulsi Gabbard president. Why not? If the US can determine who is to be president of Venezuela, never mind that Maduro was legitimately elected as president, then why can’t other nations do likewise to/for the USA?

    • OlyaPola
      January 28, 2019 at 01:08

      “Economic sanctions are war by non-military means.”

      Some define war as coercion which takes various forms.

      Some seek to assert that ends justify means whilst seeking to obfuscate that means condition ends.

      The temporary social relations presently self-described as “The United States of America” has from inception been facilitated by coercion in various forms both internally and externally.

      Strategies, including means subsumed within, condition strategies thereby rendering strategies “hopes” and tactics “wishes” with some regularity, which the opponents seek to displace/obfuscate through resort to belief – sometimes subsumed in the concept of “unforseen consequences/it was the fault of others not us”, unknown unkowns in the rendition of Mr. Rumsfeld or “evil doers” in the rendition of Mr. Bush – to bridge doubt to attain/iterate certainty/comfort/self-delusion.

      Not all are so immersed.

      “why can’t other nations do likewise to/for the USA?”

      To some degree your framing is predicated on ideological beliefs/practices inherent in temporary social relations presently self-described as “The United States of America” which include but are not restricted to, the can do/must do conflation, resort to emulation as a sub-set of conformance/conformity, and related levels of reliance on projection.

      Perhaps a more illuminating framing would read: “why don’t other nations do likewise to/for the “USA”?

      Some understand the above and hence don’t do likewise to/for the “USA” since it does not serve some’s purpose, given that for some strategy design/evaluation/implementation/monitoring/modulation are functions of purpose that does not resort to belief to bridge doubt to attain certainty, thereby facilitating the increasing sum of some and lateral transcendence rather than immersion in linear emulation.

      That some understand the above poses an existential threat to temporary social relations presently self-described as “The United States of America” and “other nations” is to some degree perceived, and hence accelerates and widens the resort of temporary social relations presently self-described as “The United States of America” and “other nations” to their iterations of the above in order to preclude their transcendence which they seek to obfuscate using the concept “chaos” in emulation of Mr. Bourbon who was previously known as Louis 16th.

  12. David G
    January 26, 2019 at 00:09

    I see now Elliott Abrams will be the State Department’s lead guy on Venezuela destruction. Standing right behind him, there’s the shade of Ronald Reagan.

    This morning the man in the news was Roger Stone. Behind him, Richard Nixon.

    And over it all, Trump. Behind him, Roy Cohn.

    Even when we think we’re rid of these guys, we’re not really rid of them.

    • January 26, 2019 at 02:22

      “Standing right behind him, there’s the shade of Ronald Reagan.” I would say that Abrams was the shadow of Reagan back in Reagan years, a bit like an oprichnik (henchman of Ivan the Terrible, executing inconvenient boyars etc.). In those good old days USA would not need to beg allies to torture more expertly, instead School of Americas was training all techniques necessary to foster the cause of freedom, be them torture, massacres or death squads.

  13. mrtmbrnmn
    January 25, 2019 at 23:34

    This smells like the Nixon-Kissinger-Pinochet-Chicago Boys Chile Shock Doctrine revisited. Make the economy “scream” then set up the fascist thieves and murderers to take power, crush the gen pop and loot the country. America’s finger prints and DNA are always all over these international crime scenes!!

  14. January 25, 2019 at 22:19

    Elliott Abrams just assigned as “point person” by Pompeo is bad news, as Trump shows his neocon tribe dominates him; Abrams of the El Salvador, Nicaragua years of Reagan/Bush. USA is trying every hand possible since China and Russia won’t surrender, fortunately. Trump either has been a fool or has played supporters for fools. Oil is key, Venezuela has it and US shale is a joke.

  15. dhinds
    January 25, 2019 at 22:18

    The U.S. government is not playing an overtly activist role, it is committing criminal acts, internationally.

    • SteveK9
      January 28, 2019 at 18:50

      I noticed that as well, just correct the sentence by substituting imperialist for activist.

  16. January 25, 2019 at 21:45

    Apparently they may be immediately arresting Guaidó for corruption. If true US will really look good.

    • anon42
      January 26, 2019 at 20:07

      He would certainly be arrested in the US for plotting the overthrow of government.

  17. David G
    January 25, 2019 at 21:17

    A scary aspect of this, beyond the Venezuela context, is how the U.S. will evidently be using “frozen” (i.e. partially stolen) Venezuelan assets and fully stealing them in the name of the guy they just declared president to use in furtherance of the coup, and possibly even an armed intervention.

    The power of the purse is really the only clear-cut power Congress still has in the so-called national security realm, and attempted end runs around it are really worrisome – which is not to say the actually existing U.S. Congress does much with this power to rein in the military and “intelligence” agencies, but once these entities no longer need appropriated funds to operate it’ll be game over.

    Iran-Contra was a scandal, rather than just another black op in Nicaragua, only because the perpetrators had to scramble for funds Congress wouldn’t provide.

    The Coalition Provisional Authority in post-invasion Iraq, which had no statutory existence whatsoever (unlike the post World War II occupations), moved some way along this path by taking control of “frozen” Iraqi funds and freely spending them, at least for a while.

    Matt Taibbi recently wrote about new Federal accounting standards that may allow huge new avenues for agencies to spend funds in undisclosed ways and then lie about it in public statements (though the secret state got its foot in the door on this one back in 1949). https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/secret-government-spending-779959/

    If the U.S. administration (and what starts under Trump could continue under Biden or whoever) gets away with this steal-and-spend scheme it will be another retreat from even the semblance of democracy and constitutional government in the U.S.

    And while I wouldn’t expect global capital to give a fig about the “spend” aspect and its constitutional implications, maybe even that bunch will be alarmed by the “steal” part, featuring as it does such a naked and politicized trampling of the Venezuelan state’s property rights.

    • SteveK9
      January 28, 2019 at 18:52

      Played the same game in Libya. It worked there, so why not?

  18. Realist
    January 25, 2019 at 20:09

    They need “dialogue” in Venezuela, you say? Is that what Mueller is practicing at the behest of Clinton and the Dems in a blatant attempt at regime change in Washington? What the world needs is for the entrenched plutocrats to accept losing elections and to refrain from seizing power at the barrel of a gun after their media monopolies fail to win over the people. It also needs for Washington to mind its own business and stop trying to rule every crack and crevice on the surface of this planet, casually employing genocide to enforce its will the way a home-owner might use pesticides to exterminate vermin. It needs to realise that not Trump, Clinton, Obama or their plutocrat string pullers have the slightest prerogative to hand-pick the leaders of other sovereign countries, especially not those elected by the local citizenry. Maybe they should re-read the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution to refresh their memories of the values and practices this republic was instituted to stand for. It was NOT world hegemony and scorched earth militarism.

    • Skip Scott
      January 26, 2019 at 09:06

      You are talking about the end of empire Realist. I like the idea, but the empire doesn’t. They want the whole pie, and they’ll blow up the world rather than share.

      • Realist
        January 26, 2019 at 15:20

        We definitely seem to be following in the footsteps of the Third Reich. I wonder if our nationale Führung appreciates the denouement to that drama?

        Sadly, we are either more guilty or more clueless than the “good Germans” who allowed that tragedy to happen. At least we still have free speech (on the books). Delivering that speech, however, becomes problematic when the modalities of mass communication are monopolized by corporate fascists and when the supreme court of the land declares speech essentially fungible like money. They will blow up the world, and impose regime change even in America. How many Americans will be taken by surprise?

      • January 27, 2019 at 23:01

        Realist – absolutely on the money. The Nazis thought themselves a “master race,” while we consider ourselves the “exceptional nation.” I fail to see a practical difference between these ideological constructs. At least not one that allows differentiation based upon their respective mass slaughter of foreign nationals about the globe. I would say quite clearly that in terms of illegal immoral military mayhem that “master race” = “exceptional nation.”

        The Nazis also proclaimed a plan for a “thousand year reich,” while we in the U.S. claim a plan for a somewhat more modest proposal to realize: “the American Century.” Both plans of course quite simply intend nothing short of total world domination as their ultimate goals. Again, in practical terms I’d have to say that a: “thousand year reich” = “the American century” as yet simply another completely amoral nationalistic undertaking by yet another completely megalomaniacal nation, one that shuns the rule of law like the plague. Meanwhile the Pentagon’s strategic planning for “full-spectrum idiocy” clearly appears to be progressing nicely and on schedule to boot.

      • OlyaPola
        January 28, 2019 at 01:29

        “Meanwhile the Pentagon’s strategic planning for “full-spectrum idiocy” clearly appears to be progressing nicely and on schedule to boot.”

        When lying on your stomach even a dog can seem tall – perception is a function of perspective.

        Varied perspectives aid perception and varied perspectives are attained through varied opportunities.

        When the opponents promulgated the “End of History”, the continuing odyssey towards “Full Spectrum Dominance” and “Project for a New American Centrury” some had honeyed blinis with their afternoon coffee.

        Some with varied perspectives derived from various opportunities are of the view that in respect of the opponents, that which they seek to represent as “strategic planning” could better be described as wishes, this view being corroborated on various ocassions through implementation/monitoring/evaluation.

      • OlyaPola
        January 28, 2019 at 01:13

        “they’ll blow up the world rather than share.”

        Like the opponents you appear to continue to conflate wishes with facility whilst immersed in the exceptionalism of sole agency.

  19. David G
    January 25, 2019 at 19:48

    Steve Ellner obviously knows who the president of Brazil is, but this confusing paragraph needs editing:

    “But the rightist presidents of … Brazil (Michel Temer) rejected the statement by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro that military intervention in Venezuela should be considered. … Bolsonaro ha[s] pushed these rightist presidents to an even more extreme position on Venezuela.”

    I’m guessing maybe this was adapted from something written when Temer was still in office, but in any case it should be revised.

    • Steve Ellner
      January 26, 2019 at 01:04

      Hi David. No it wasn’t a mistake. Temer was president at the time that Almagro stated that the military option for Venezuela should not be discarded.

      • David G
        January 26, 2019 at 13:44

        Unfortunately the CN editor changed it in response to my comment. Sorry I made things worse!

        Though your text could have been clearer on the timing of the Almagro incitement, and when Bolsonaro “pushed these rightist presidents …”, including Temer.

        Thanks for the reply and the informative piece, Mr. Ellner.

        (And I’m glad you were on Democracy Now as counterweight to the NYU prof who seemed more interested in piling on Maduro.)

  20. Jeff Harrison
    January 25, 2019 at 19:45

    No wonder there’s no money in Venezuela. Their major source CITGO is blocked from sending their profits to Venezuela. The US takes blaming the victim to new heights.

    • Tom Kath
      January 25, 2019 at 20:48

      Yes Geff, this is the policy. The US creates the shortages that lead to hardship, discontent, and unrest, and then “liberates” the poor downtrodden people they’ve created.
      It’s not looking good, and has the potential to become the battleground for major world powers and interests. Not a preferred one I would say, for powers on the other side of the planet, and therefore possibly sacrificed.- It’s a wicked world.

      • Fiscal Policy for All
        January 26, 2019 at 11:45

        Don’t think that same tactic wasn’t used in the mid-70’s to manufacture the oil shortage in the US in order to implement the neoliberal economic policy.

        “If you’re not willing to kill everybody who has a different idea than yourself, you cannot have Frederick Hayek’s free market. You cannot have Alan Greenspan or the Chicago School, you cannot have the economic freedom that is freedom for the rentiers and the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) sector to reduce the rest of the economy to serfdom.” ~ Michael Hudson

        And now that this economic policy is seen for the sham that it is and people like AOC and the MMT movement are demanding the return of fiscal policy for public purpose, neoliberal globalists are trying to conflate normal government operations with “socialism” and radicalism. No, what was radical was the corporate coup 40 years ago:

        “The “nation-state” as a fundamental unit of man’s organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state.”

        ~ Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages, 1970

        “The Trilateralist Commission is international…(and)…is intended to be the vehicle for multinational consolidation of the commercial and banking interests BY SEIZING CONTROL OF THE POLITICAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES. The Trilateralist Commission represents a skillful, coordinated effort to seize control and consolidate the four centers of power – political, monetary, intellectual, and ecclesiastical.”

        ~ Barry Goldwater, With No Apologies, 1979

    • Skip Scott
      January 26, 2019 at 09:04

      If I recall correctly, a few years back Citgo was offering heating oil to folks in poverty in the Northeast USA at reduced rates. No good deed goes unpunished.

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