How Much of Venezuela’s Crisis is Really Maduro’s Fault?

There are several factors for Venezuela’s economic crisis, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to U.S. leaders or following corporate media, writes Steve Ellner.

By Steve Ellner
Special to Consortium News

The recognition by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Joe Biden of Juan Guaidó as Venezuelan president is the latest demonstration of the consensus in Washington over the nefariousness of the Nicolás Maduro government. Not since Fidel Castro’s early years in power has a Latin American head of state been so consistently demonized. But the 1960s was the peak of the Cold War polarization that placed Cuba plainly in the enemy camp, and unlike Venezuela today, that nation had a one-party system. 

The scope of that consensus was evident by the recent faceoff between two figures as far apart as President Donald Trump and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In his State of the Union address, Trump attributed Venezuela’s economic crisis to the failed system of socialism. Ocasio-Cortez responded by arguing that the Venezuelan case is “an issue of authoritarian regime versus democracy.”

President Nicolás Maduro, 2016. (Cancillería del Ecuador via Flickr)

President Nicolás Maduro, 2016. (Cancillería del Ecuador via Flickr)

Taken together, the comments by Trump and Ocasio-Cortez complement one another. According to the narrative that dominates Washington, Venezuela is a disaster from both economic and political viewpoints. The exclusive blame for the sorry state of the economy and for the country’s allegedly authoritarian rule lays with Maduro and his cohorts.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media have refrained from questioning these assumptions. Most of their reporting puts the accent mark on state incompetence and corruption, while skirting the detrimental effects of the economic sanctions implemented by the Trump administration.

In addition, many on the left point to the economic sanctions as responsible, at least in part, for the nation’s pressing economic difficulties, but few critically examine the mainstream’s characterization of the state of Venezuelan democracy. Some oppose the sanctions but join the opposition in bashing the Maduro government.

A recent article by Gabriel Hetland, for instance, posted by Jacobin and NACLA: Report on the Americas claims that Maduro “holds onto power through authoritarian means.” The author then turns to the nation’s economic difficulties by arguing that “the primary driver is the government’s mismanagement of its oil revenue” and corruption.

During my participation in a two-month Venezuelan solidarity tour late last year in the U.S. and Canada, I often heard the statement that knowing the specifics about Venezuela’s economic and political problems is not essential because the bottom line is the illegality of Trump’s sanctions and threats of military intervention. But does international law end the discussion?

If it could be proven that Maduro is a dictator and a totally incompetent ruler, would people enthusiastically rally behind his government in opposition to foreign intervention? I don’t think so. Undoubtedly, it is necessary to take a close look at both political and economic fronts because the effectiveness of solidarity efforts hinges on the specifics. The dominant narrative about Maduro and its assumptions cannot be taken at face value, even while there are elements of truth in it.

How Far Back Do the Economic Problems Go?

The Venezuelan opposition frequently argues that neither the sanctions nor depressed international oil prices are to blame for the nation’s economic difficulties, only the mismanagement of the economy. At best, declining oil prices contributed to the problems but were not a root cause. Some opposition analysts deny or minimize the importance of oil prices as a factor by pointing out that the economies of other OPEC nations are as dependent on oil exports as that of Venezuela but have not plummeted to the same levels.

The opposition’s central argument here is that Venezuela’s dire economic problems predate Trump’s implementation of sanctions and even predate the sharp decline in international oil prices beginning mid-2014. That is, government follies with disastrous effects came first, followed by the decline in oil prices and then the sanctions. Two-time presidential candidate for the opposition Henrique Capriles claimed that the crisis began prior to the fall of oil prices but for a long time was “ignored, repressed and covered up” by the government.

 Petare, Caracas, 2014. (The Photographer via Wikimedia)

Petare, Caracas, 2014. (The Photographer via Wikimedia)

There are two fallacies in this line of thinking. In the first place, the so-called economic war against Venezuela, which eventually included the Trump-imposed sanctions, preceded everything else. Washington almost from the beginning of Hugo Chávez’s presidency in 1999 did not stand by idly while he defied the neoliberal Washington consensus as well as U.S. hegemony. Washington’s hostility seriously harmed the economy in multiple ways.

For instance, the George W. Bush administration banned the sale of spare parts for the Venezuelan Air Force’s costly F-16 fighter jets in 2006, forcing the country to turn to Russia for the purchase of 24 Sukhoi SU-30 fighter planes. Furthermore, the international sanctions did not begin with Trump, but rather Obama in 2015 which were justified by his executive order calling Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security. That order was followed by an avalanche of pull-outs from Venezuela by multinationals including Ford, Kimberly Clark, General Motors, Kellogg’s and nearly all the international airlines.

In the second place, oil prices under Maduro have not only been low since 2014 but nosedived, just the opposite of what happened under Chávez. This is particularly problematic because high prices create expectations and commitments that then get transformed into frustration and anger when they precipitously drop. Prices are currently slightly over half of what they were before the decline, in spite of their modest recovery since 2017.

Three factors explain Venezuela’s economic woes, not one: low oil prices, the “economic war” against Venezuela, and mistaken policies. Prominent in the latter category is Maduro’s lethargic response to the problem of the widening disparity between official prices set by the government on certain items in short supply and their prices on the black market. The government has encountered major problems in distributing basic commodities forcing Venezuelans to buy those same goods on the higher-priced black market. The system is conducive to corruption and contraband as many of the products that are supposed to be retailed at reduced prices end up being sold on the black market or sent off to neighboring Colombia.

The Dictatorship Label Repeated a Thousand Times

The media are in desperate need of good fact-checkers in their reporting on Venezuela. Statements about Venezuelan democracy range from blatantly misleading to accurate with most lying between the two extremes. An example of the former is the Guardian’s claim that the Venezuelan government “controls most TV and radio stations which transmit a constant stream of pro-Maduro propaganda.” In fact, of those who tune into Venezuelan TV channels, 80 percent watch the three major private channels (Venevisión, Televén, and Globovisión) which cannot be seriously accused of being pro-government.  

At the other extreme is Hetland’s assertion in his Jacobin-NACLA piece that the decision to strip Henrique Capriles of his right to run for office as a result of corruption charges was politically motivated. The statement is accurate. Actually, the move was worse than what Hetland discusses. For some time before that, Capriles, whose political positions have vacillated considerably, favored a less intransigent stance toward the government than those on the radical right, which has largely dominated the opposition of late. The move, in effect, played into the hands of the radicals and undermined efforts to bring about a much-needed national dialogue.

Those who call Maduro a dictator make two basic assertions. In the first place, the government is alleged to have brutally repressed the four-month long peaceful demonstrations designed to bring about regime change carried out in 2014 and then 2017. In fact, the protests were hardly peaceful. Six National Guardsmen and two policemen were killed in 2014 and protestors fired into an air force base in Caracas and attacked a number of police stations in Táchira in 2017. There are different versions of the circumstances surrounding the numerous fatalities in 2014 and 2017, thus requiring an impartial analysis, which the media has hardly attempted to present. Police repression is reprehensible – and repression there was on both occasions – regardless of circumstances, but the context has to be brought into the picture.

Smoke and fires, Caracas, 2014. (Prensa Presidencial, Govt. of Venezuela via Wikimedia)

Smoke and fires, Caracas, 2014. (Prensa Presidencial, Govt. of Venezuela via Wikimedia)

In the second place, the opposition denies that Maduro’s re-election in May of last year was legitimate because the election was called for by the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), whose existence allegedly has no legal basis. One of the nation’s foremost constitutional lawyers, Hermann Escarrá, has defended the ANC’s legality, while others formulate plausible arguments to the contrary. Again, the mainstream media has failed to present both sides or to objectively analyze the issue. Nearly all the opposition parties that refused to participate in the presidential elections in 2018, however, did participate in the gubernatorial elections of the preceding year that were convened by the same ANC. The justification for Juan Guaidó’s self-proclamation as Venezuelan president on Jan. 23 was predicated on the illegitimacy of the ANC.

Violation of democratic norms and cases of police repression do not in themselves demonstrate that a government is authoritarian or dictatorial. If they did, the United States would hardly be considered democratic. The real defining issue is whether electoral fraud takes place in which votes are not correctly counted. That accusation has been largely absent in the controversy over recent elections, even among leaders of the radical opposition.

The mainstream media and Washington politicians freely call Maduro an “autocrat” a “dictator” and “authoritarian.” More than anything that is said about Venezuela’s economic difficulties, the use of these terms has had a profound effect on policy making. A nation’s economic problems should not justify intervention of any sort. The real issue of contention, therefore, is the state of Venezuelan democracy as depicted by the dominant narrative. Amazingly enough, there is no major actor in mainstream politics and the mainstream media willing to challenge that narrative with all its questionable claims regarding the Maduro government.

Steve Ellner is a retired professor from Venezuela’s University of the East and is currently associate managing editor of “Latin American Perspectives.” Among his over a dozen books on Latin America is his edited “The Pink Tide Experiences: Breakthroughs and Shortcomings in Twenty-First Century Latin America” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).

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79 comments for “How Much of Venezuela’s Crisis is Really Maduro’s Fault?

  1. Jimmy Ross
    February 26, 2019 at 04:22

    I wonder if the USA wants Venezuela’s oil
    I bet it doesn’t. Greg Palast wrote before the Iraq war that the real purpose was to keep the oil from flowing.The results were exactly as he predicted. The price of oil Rose and 2003 was one of the most profitable years for US oil companies. By fomenting chaos and war in Venezuela the country would have to drastically reduce the amount of oil it could sell. This would drive prices up an the oil companies here and our allies the Saudis would make a bundle. I am almost certain that the drop in oil prices was orchestrated at the behest of the CIA to punish Venezuela, Russia and Iran by the Saudis. The Saudis are looking to recoup that money and throwing Venezuela into chaos seems like an easy option to make that happen before Saudi citizens get restless and start asking for their rights. Just a thought.

  2. February 22, 2019 at 02:50

    Venezuelans and their democratically elected government of President Maduro have had to endure since 2012 comprehensive sanctions, blockades and financial manipulations in an illegal, devastating economic warfare attack launched by the US and allies on their country. Pres Maduro’s ‘crimes’ are his government’s social programmes that share the great resource wealth of Venezuela with the people, by building millions of affordable houses, free health care and education, etc.
    Mr de Zayas ,UN Expert Rapporteur on promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, in his report of Sept 2018 on Venezuela, compares modern-day economic sanctions and blockades to medieval sieges of towns forcing them to surrender, except that today’s sanctions “attempt to bring sovereign countries to their knees.” A difference is that, “twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by manipulation of public opinion through fake news, aggressive public relations and pseudo-human rights rhetoric giving the impression that a human rights ‘end’ justifies the criminal means.”
    False human rights rhetoric is evident now with US-led allies and their self-declared protegee, would-be president loudly calling for aid to be delivered to relieve Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis. The’aid’ has now arrived delivered by US military planes to the border with Colombia. There’s a potential violent clash imminent with Pres Maduro rejecting the’aid’ which is really a Trojan Horse, and the US protegee planning to run the caravan of trucks with US aid into Venezuela. But it’s the years of crippling sanctions, blockades and financial manipulation that’s devastating Venezuela. Phony “aid’ will not resolve the problem. And this ‘aid’ is entirely suspect, because, as Maduro and his government fear, the ‘aid’ trucks can distribute weapons to the violent opposition cultivated in Venezuela assiduously by the US. Thus the ‘aid’ can bring civil war, which can easily lead to wider regional war. So good for the bank balance of the US military industrial complex. Tthe US protegee, belongs to one of the most violent opposition groups in Venezuela, Political Will. In most western countries he would be jailed, and his party banned. If Venezuela did it, they’d shout, dictatorship.

    UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur, Mr de Zayas reports that if the years of crippling US-led sanctions, and financial manipulations were lifted, Venezuelans would no longer die from lack of medicines, or food and with its many resources the country has a good chance of economic recovery.This is the real answer to Venezuela’s crisis, not implanting an unelected government and president dictated by the US for its own interests, in complete denial of international law and the sovereign, democratic rights of Venezuela and its people. See UN Report of the Independent Expert on promotion of a democratic and equitable international order on his mission to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Ecuador: United Nations 10-28 Sept 2018.

  3. February 21, 2019 at 11:42

    Maduro and Chavez before him made one serious mistake that Castro did not. Castro either kicked out the Elites or had them shot. He understood one thing that was most important and that was if he allowed that nest of vipers to live in Cuba and control the economy that he would have wound up in the same predicament as Maduro finds himself. The 200 families that owned Venezuela and ruled it with an iron fist, kept the vast majority of the population poor and uneducated and kept the oil revenues for themselves, should have been divested of all of their property and given the choice between exile and or imprisonment. Maduro is paying the price for that mistake today. Nicaragua is paying that price as well. Ortega allowed the Elites to own the land and the economy and he has nothing but a headache from them ever since taking power.

  4. SocraticGadfly
    February 20, 2019 at 23:37

    Realistically? Not buying the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, but at the same time, being a **skeptical** leftist? 25 percent of the problem or so is Maduro’s.

    • OlyaPola
      February 22, 2019 at 05:32

      “the problem”

      Some see “the problem” and some see the “opportunities”.

      Some see “the blame” and some see the “interaction”.

      Seeing the “interaction” facilitates the activation of opportunities conditioned by “interaction”.

  5. gerard guay
    February 20, 2019 at 13:01

    The government of Venezuela (with the help of China) delivered 2 million dwellings for the nation’s poor last year. This in a nation of some 32 million. They have been committed to housing everyone since the days of President Chavez.

    Venezuela is a threat to American security because of what would happen in the US if its citizens learned how socialism can benefit the people despite sanctions and more.

    Check out Telesur for accurate news on Venezuela. Their journalists are committed to truth, not propaganda.

  6. Patricia P Tursi, Ph.D.
    February 19, 2019 at 23:36

    There is a play book for all regime changes. impose sanctions, call the leader a dictator, say you have to liberate the people. Whether Mauro is good or bad is not the point. Venezuela, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria are all soverign states. So it is up to them to sort ot their issues…The US is an imperialistic country.

    • OlyaPola
      February 24, 2019 at 05:03

      “There is a play book for all regime changes. impose sanctions, call the leader a dictator, say you have to liberate the people.”

      The opponents tend to believe your assertions and consequently are often blind to what did facilitate, which will facilitate, and does facilitate the change of their regime.

      To rely on playbooks is to seek to deny time.

  7. O Society
    February 19, 2019 at 13:32

    Manufacture consent to bash socialists. Manufacture consent to escalate militarily with China and Russia. And as an added bonus, Venezuelans are wogs. They aren’t Caucasian in the way American WASPS are, now are they?

    It’s what Trump calls a WINNING!!! situation, just as he did with Colin Kaepernick in the NFL. Red meat for the Trumpets!

    Americans love this kind of black and white stuff they don’t have to analyze in any depth. Just take sides already!!! Are you WITH us or are you AGAINST us?

    http://opensociet.org/2019/02/17/the-instincts-of-the-herd-in-peace-and-war

    Of course, this kind of thinking is going to get us all killed. Surprised it hasn’t ended the world already.

    Now where’s my tiki torch and red MAGGOT hat?!? WINNING!!!

    • Aaron Aarons
      February 20, 2019 at 16:52

      Actually, the Venezuelan bourgeoisie is largely white, while the working class (and the peasantry, to the extent the latter exists) is a much darker mix.

  8. O Society
    February 19, 2019 at 13:29

    Economic hegemony, telling Venezuela to trade in $ only. Yet ANOTHER place to send our troops to feed the war machine. The Middle East runs out of places to bomb, doesn’t it? It’s all glass now, isn’t it?

    http://opensociet.org/2019/02/16/time-for-peace-in-afghanistan-and-an-end-to-the-lies

  9. O Society
    February 19, 2019 at 13:28

    So what is going on has other features. Namely, the never ending quest for the US to beat up on Communists and Socialists to make the world safe for global capitalism, aka neoliberalism. The kerfluffle will send a message to the politicians calling themselves “socialist” in the US, that it will be off to gulag for them if necessary. You didn’t thing black people were the only ones the government will murder and incarcerate, did you? Perish the thought…

    Why we can even pretend the Chinese are still Maoist Communist and Russia is back in the USSR with Stalin at the helm. Punish them for not worshiping the petrodollar as the world reserve currency. The average American will believe it all if they see it on TV, now won’t they?

    http://opensociet.org/2019/02/18/worshipping-the-electronic-image

  10. O Society
    February 19, 2019 at 13:27

    America has it’s own “endless horde” of oil in Texas? The Permian. So we don’t need Maduro’s oil, nor the Saudis’ for that matter.

    https://opensociet.org/2019/02/19/how-the-monster-permian-texas-oil-field-made-the-us-a-lone-star-in-the-world-market/

  11. lexx
    February 19, 2019 at 10:56

    How would the US deal with protests of so vicious a character? Or France? Or Israel?
    that question mark is unnecessary we know how they
    deal with protests much less viscous

  12. Baz
    February 19, 2019 at 08:04

    For Venezuela……read….anywhere!

    As early as 1953 the U.S. C.I.A. Instruction book was used in Persia [Iran] to destabilise the Government of Prime Minister Mosaddegh.
    No doubt the same modus will be used in Venezuela to bring them ‘our style’ of democracy!

    [According to the CIA’s declassified documents and records, some of the most feared mobsters in Tehran were hired by the CIA to stage pro-Shah riots on 19 August. Other CIA-paid men were brought into Tehran in buses and trucks, and took over the streets of the city ]

  13. padre
    February 19, 2019 at 07:18

    If all of it was his fault, it is non of USA business, people of Venezuela should resolve it!

  14. 1984
    February 18, 2019 at 19:11

    Well, it’s another coup effort from DC, the last one failed but this might succeed. Not that it explains everything, but if the world’s biggest military force is out to target you it makes a lot of sense from the government POV of to solitade more power to itself.
    In fact, it’s even likely that this is one of the goals from DC as if a country does that then DC can claim that it’s a problem of dictatorship and use it as a propaganda tool to start a war.

    Oil is the reason that anyone pays attention, look how the rhetoric is so different when it comes to this country compared to say Greece which got billions of dollars of aid to get back on its feet. No such thing occurs now, that humanitarian aid comes from USA means nothing since it has made things worse to begin with sanctions.

    So they want the V, for its…fluids.
    The American empire never seems to rest, and it never really does anything competently.
    Sadly the ignorant masses will buy into everything here too, too busy to actually study really anything to any depth.

  15. Jane Christ
    February 18, 2019 at 17:25

    Good to get a realistic Picture. The news media is hardly reliable these days.

  16. Alois Mueller
    February 17, 2019 at 04:07

    I think if we compare it to other Latin American countries, Venezuela in a sense would divorce itself from the so-called Washington consensus, namely the economic and social policies imposed by the Bretton Woods Institutions, e.g., World Bank, International Monetary Fund. It had its own structure for participatory democracy which were in some regards quite successful, particularly the Misiones.

    In fact, the failures that we’re now seeing, rising consumer prices, hyperinflation, those are engineered. They’re engineered by manipulations of the foreign exchange market. We know this kind of mechanism because it’s what characterized the last months of the Chilean government of Salvador Allende in 1973 (left), where persistently the national currency was under attack leading to hyperinflation and so on and so forth. We might say that it’s part of the IMF, World Bank, Federal Reserve “remedy,” or action. It’s very easy for Wall Street to destabilize currencies. It’s been applied in many, many countries.
    https://www.globalresearch.ca/venezuela-from-oil-proxy-to-the-bolivarian-movement-and-sabotage/5667366

  17. February 17, 2019 at 00:55

    What a joke! the US loudly complains for 2 years with very little evidence to show, that Russia meddled in its elections; and now in here is the US blatantly in broad daylight seeking to depose Venezuela’s democratically elected President Maduro. Not only that but the US is dictating that its protegee becomes president, who refused to take part in the election, no doubt because he knew he would never win. Why is there no outrage over this unthinkable assault on international law and democratic norms, in the West, when we have heard nothing but outrage over the unsubstantiated claims against Russia? .

    Hard to believe the US is doing the ghastly regime change antics again after so many this century that have killed millions, caused misery and millions of refugees, the EU doesn’t want.. Why isn’t there a revolt in the EU who so dislike the refugees spilling into their countries after their support for US wars have destroyed their countries. Where are their brains?
    By the way, regarding the “humanitarian crisis” that the protegee and US/EU want to alleviate. It’s a Trojan horse. An excellent Sept 2018 report by Mr Alfred de Zayas, UN Special Human rights rapporteur, says that if years of crippling US-led sanctions, and financial manipulations were lifted, Venezuela would have a good chance of economic recovery. So if the US and EU are so concerned about the humanitarian crisis, why don’t they do this? – Kay Weir

  18. mrtmbrnmn
    February 16, 2019 at 22:39

    Why oh why is RogueNationUSA ALWAYS on the wrong side of history? Are we (and the rest of the world) doomed to be forever duped by the criminally insane evil-doers who govern us and bigfoot murderously over everyone else on the planet? Hugo Chavez had it right when he stepped to the UN podium to deliver a speech just after George W. finished his. “I can still smell the Sulphur”, Chavez remarked about that d-evil who had preceded him at the podium. Mr Ellner’s attempt at evenhandedness (kinda, sorta) about RogueNationUSA’s current coup attempt on Venezuela was admirable. But as ever with such devilry it is always a case of USATAN uber alles, some diabolical dishonest version of projection: Poland Invades Germany. “The Devil made me do it,” the Devil howls accusingly at the likes of Fidel, Saddam, Bashar, Qaddafi, the Ayatollah, Ho Chi Minh, Allende, Ortega, even our old dope-dealing BFF Noriega (remember him?), Kim Jung-il & Kim Jung-un, the Russian stooge Yanukovic, who we replaced with our own crypto-Nazi stooge (whatvever the heck his name is) and, of course, now and forever, Putin. Always the same old same old. The tragedy is the dirty tricks always work, until they don’t. And then we repeat them…

    • beryl benson
      February 19, 2019 at 09:17

      I agree with mrtmbrnmm, the usa is dangerous to the world; it constantly destroys. The current bemoaning of the current administration as being so different and we(the USA) must get back to our good days totally regards our history of destroying and stealing since annihilating the native American population. And it is continuing with the approval of most.

  19. Joe Tedesky
    February 16, 2019 at 19:09

    The link I’m providing is a long read but, a worthwhile read if you are interested in what kind of regimes our USA government supports. I will warn you this article concerning El Morote is not for the faint of heart. I also find it quite amazing it takes a Somalian refugee turned US Representative, one Ilhan Omar, to bust the chops of Eliot Abrams. It’s about time somebody in our congress rattled the war party’s chain. Only too bad there are so few of Ilhan Omar.

    http://www.markdanner.com/articles/the-truth-of-el-mozote?fbclid=IwAR0abDXzsRYybeOd8ZPN1F-arYG-iSCz2OAumFqP8FR84i9g-iIoDWJsA8g

    Everyone should read this regarding too what occurred in El Morote before spouting off to how we should spread democracy inside of Venezuela. Our USA wars of choice are anything but utilizing diplomatic soft power. We are the terrorist.

    • Joe Tedesky
      February 16, 2019 at 21:10
    • Joe Tedesky
      February 16, 2019 at 21:28
    • OlyaPola
      February 17, 2019 at 08:22

      “We are the terrorist.”

      Consistently but not restricted to “state structures” but inherent in the temporary social relations presently described as “The United States of America” and hence often terrorise yourselves/each other with varying levels of complicity, sometimes beneficaries of terrorists, sometimes co-ordinators of terrorists, sometimes facilitators of terrorists, sometimes the financers of terrorists all roles and others performed simultaneously internally and externally moderated/transcended by the efforts of others.

      These are among the reasons why “state structures” and temporary social relations presently described as “The United States of America” and other coercive social relations in other locations require not reform but transcendence as purpose, reform sometimes being useful moments in the continuing process of transcendence, as an increasing sum of some are motivated and skilled to facilitate.

      These are among the reasons that the strategies of others are not emulative since cutters of Gordian knots have been known to succum to snakes.

  20. Idimalnk
    February 16, 2019 at 15:19

    Certainly Venezuela’s Bolivarian leaders made a mistake relying on capitalist markets to earn revenues to be transferred to the impoverished and improve living standards. Although this policy worked initially for Venezuelans living in extreme poverty, oligopoly controlled markets were not going to willingly be used in this way, and eventually the owners of capital recovered their market power. This power, in conjunction with US and Western sanctions, has been used to deny consumers of food and other staples, including medicine. Chavez and Maduro did not redistribute enough land to peasant farmers and institute markets mechanisms for them to profit and expand Venezuela’s domestic food production, and the same could be said for implementing policies to advance the interests of small business entrepreneurs to protect them from monopoly predation. Now Maduro has been boxed in by the Criollos and Yanquis, who have made the Venezuelan economy scream. What should be done now is debatable, but if the Bolivarian Revolution is to be sustained, a seizure of Venezuelan oligopoly wealth, fierce opposition to American spooks, and increased emphasis on domestic production of foodstuffs and consumer goods must be accomplished.

    • Sam F
      February 16, 2019 at 17:33

      Very good points. Venezuela must destroy the economic power of its oligarchy over government and its economy, or be destroyed by them. The same is true of the United States. May the future bring such a southern alliance to the borders of the US and beyond.

    • February 18, 2019 at 19:59

      Venezuela is forced to rely on capitalist markets if they want to purchase anything they don’t make or grow themselves. And it is just these areas– like food and medicine– they have been denied access to, as their foreign exchange accounts have been frozen.

      In retrospect they would have been wiser to embark on an import-substitution program, growing their own food and making other basic commodities for themselves. This episode has proven that US sanctions strategies really work, against countries with mostly just one income source. It’s like if the government were to freeze our savings accounts and inactivate all your credit cards. You’d be left with nothing but the change in your pockets.

      In such a situation hyper-inflation is nearly unavoidable. Your money is literally no good.

    • Mary Saunders
      February 19, 2019 at 10:22

      Thank you for bringing up these issues.

      It is confusing to me why Russia and China have allowed Venezuelan food-production to fail so obviously. Both are aware of small-farm ways of increasing local production and distribution, with surplus for trade.

      Especially Russia could make big global pr points by sharing what has been accomplished in Russia, with clean food that has increasing market share in the world.

      With obstacles to local production far greater than those in Venezuela, Russia is reputed to be producing surplus for export now. According to Dmitry Orlov, Russia could donate wheat to Venezuela and hardly notice.

      I hope someone here will weigh in on this.

  21. February 16, 2019 at 12:21

    (Prominent in the latter category is Maduro’s lethargic response to the problem of the widening disparity between official prices set by the government on certain items in short supply and their prices on the black market. The government has encountered major problems in distributing basic commodities forcing Venezuelans to buy those same goods on the higher-priced black market. The system is conducive to corruption and contraband as many of the products that are supposed to be retailed at reduced prices end up being sold on the black market or sent off to neighboring Colombia.)

    I still fail to see how you can put the blame on Maduro for this issue. Isn’t he forced to either allow the private sector to deplete the product which would create the same outcome, over providing the product to society by some means, reaching a probability more citizens access to the product. Not every situation is that of Kimberly-Clark. Where it was discovered they were holding out on production with a loaded warehouse while claiming they had no raw materials to produce. He can’t possibly step into every situation as he did there. Just what are we talking about anyways? Flour? Which is one of the products I know is hard to find now there. If the private sector is hoarding flour causing high prices, socially or black market, and it’s listed in the sanctions and unable to reach the country outside of the private sector, I fail to see that as a means to blame Maduro as being his distribution management problem. But a problem manufactured by inside and outside sources. You’re just not going to convinced me Maduro is the problem when it’s obvious every problem around him at the this time is being manufactured by those around him that lifting sanctions and private sector strife can solve! When you give him that luxury and he then fails to produce, then I can be persuaded.

  22. Roger Milbrandt
    February 16, 2019 at 11:36

    I think that Ellner’s heart is in the right place, but but there is a major blindspot to “How Much of Venezuela’s Crisis is Really Maduro’s Fault?” which I want to address.
    Ellner says nothing of the cynical, brutal tactics that the white economic elite of Venezuela use against the Bolivarian government.
    The protests of 2014 and 2017 were not peaceful. 23 people were burned alive by the protestors, with nine of them dying. One of the tactics the protestors used, called “guayas,” involved stringing steel wire in areas where motorcyclists passed at the neck level of the motorcyclists. To refer to Maduro’s reaction to protests of so demonic a character as ‘repression’ is sloppy and unfair. How would the US deal with protests of so vicious a character? Or France? Or Israel?
    The some social group that sustained the protests works continually at sabotaging the Venezuelan economy. One of their tactics is to buy so much of the subsidized food and medicine provided to the population as to create a contrived shortage and then to resell the hoarded items at high prices either in the black market or in Columbia. These people also manipulate the currency so as to drive inflation and they are known to organize gangs which attack farmers trying to produce food. There is no textbook on how to deal with a severely sabotaged economy and therefore no basis for pronouncing on the effectiveness of the management of the economy by Maduro’s team.
    Ellner, like many others, assumes that the blame for the current conditions in Venezuela must be apportioned between the Maduro government and the US regime-change enthusiasts. So does John Bolton, though he assigns proportions different from those of Ellner. But there is a third party – the wealthy elite who retain many of the economic levers and routinely use violent, provocative protests to serve their political ends – whose share in the blame must be taken into account in any serious reflection on the current state of affairs in Venezuela.

  23. Calgacus
    February 16, 2019 at 11:13

    Three factors explain Venezuela’s economic woes, not one: low oil prices, the “economic war” against Venezuela, and mistaken policies. Prominent in the latter category is Maduro’s lethargic response to the problem of the widening disparity between official prices set by the government on certain items in short supply and their prices on the black market.

    Right, but not really to the point. Of course, US policy has been criminal. But Maduro really has had horrible economic policies, one in particular. And unfortunately, the “Marxist” left in Venezuela has been pushing him to maintain this horrible policy. The “widening disparity” is more an effect than a cause. The problem is the fixed foreign exchange rate. Maduro has used it as an incredibly inefficient means to support the poor; the actual effect has been massive welfare for the rich – Venezuela’s Bolivarian government subsidizing its opposition. Crackpot fixed exchange rate policy has prevented changing to domestic production = import substitution, fed a black market, caused and exacerbated hyperinflation besides.

    Basically, the answer of what to do about foreign exchange is simple. Let it float. Que sera, sera. Unfortunately much of the left, many “Marxists” are economically illiterate, in Venezuela and elsewhere. Long on rhetoric, short on common sense and accounting. They completely invert things. Exchange rates (fixed too high) almost always play out as welfare for the rich. But the illiterate “left” fantasizes that they are socialist, and considers the truly socialist measure – floating rates as Milton Friedman capitalism. It is an artifact, perhaps of ancient debates on “Socialism in One Country” & the fantasy that this is impossible. Whatever else one says about him, Stalin was right then, not Trotsky.

    The USA has never had such bad economic management – contrary to a misled commenter above. It doesn’t have a US Embassy and IMF loan sharks to provide it with suicidal “advice”. Mark Weisbrot & others have been giving Venezuela very good advice, but unfortunately Venezuela hasn’t listened and stayed on its suicidal course. Maduro is a good person, but his economic understanding is poor. The USA was lucky to have an FDR who understood how important floating your currency is – he told Arthur Krock in 1938 that he was prouder of doing that (in 1933) than anything else he had done.

    • February 18, 2019 at 22:24

      Too bad this forum has no way to upvote your comment. It’s one of the few that has things exactly right. Venezuela’s sorry plight is part crippling US sanctions that make it impossible to do business, part ill-informed Marxist economic policies and part the collapse of high oil prices. A poor, struggling nation can’t survive all three.

    • Aaron Aarons
      February 20, 2019 at 17:02

      What is “Marxist” about fixed exchange rates? I’ve been a left, Marxist-leaning activist for over 60 years and have never heard that before.

  24. Jeff Harrison
    February 16, 2019 at 10:48

    The US is like a Komodo dragon. It kills you by having a filthy mouth, biting you, infecting you with a whole host of lethal bugs, it calmly watches whilst the infection rages and weakens you, and then, finally, after you’ve died or are so weak you can’t do anything, it eats you.

    It doesn’t help that Venezuela, like all the other former colonies of Spain and Portugal in South America, have an incredibly wealthy top crust and a dirt poor bottom crust. Oligarchs do not like to give up their power. That’s why Cuba shot so many of them. Pay attention to this in Venezuela. This is a story coming to your neighborhood.

  25. vinnieoh
    February 16, 2019 at 09:06

    No disrespect to Mr. Ellner, but why is this piece appearing here? I don’t think it’s being “snobbish” to claim that most readers of this site are aware of everything contained in the article, and more. And the tone of the piece – “fair and balanced” – is more appropriate for the thoroughly propagandized Sunday morning church-going crowd. Sorry to seem so harsh, but this doesn’t even scratch the surface.

    The efforts to take down the Chavista government have been going since the day Chavez assumed the presidency. And it helps to take a look at all the methods of destabilization employed there and to generalize those into the methods by which the US empire destabilizes and interferes with every government or nation that doesn’t toe DC’s line. I’ll try to summarize.

    As in Venezuela, so in Syria, and Iran, and many other places too numerous to mention. Spies, assassins, saboteurs, and sappers mingle in the subject population, and through psychological campaigns and by provoking confrontations with the subject police and military, “incidents” occur, the reporting of which gets funneled to the captured MSM and belabored to show how “tyrannical” or oppressive such and such a government is, and how they are a dire threat to “democracy and freedom.” The police and military of such targeted governments have no choice but to hunt down, arrest, and detain those operatives trying to take down their government and their national sovereignty. It’s a tried and true strategy and so thoroughly used by US spooks and spies as to almost seem mundane.

    To put a fine point on it, “suppression of dissent” is the call to action of all the “good and decent values of Americans” to oust such and such government. The MSM will NEVER ask any questions about who is instigating the unrest, because they are all either CIA assets or scared to death of same.

    Since Mr. Ellner’s piece concerns the malfeasance and corruption of the MSM, these observations and comments are pertinent.

    • Joe Lauria
      February 18, 2019 at 01:40

      This piece is appearing here because I asked him to write it just as he has written it. We are a journalism website, not an activist site, that exams all sides of an issue.

      • vinnieoh
        February 18, 2019 at 11:59

        I appreciate and benefit from all that CN staff and contributors do. I re-read the piece and realize my negative remarks were unwarranted. I wonder about the distinction you would hold to. To paraphrase Mr. Ellner’s closing sentence, it seems that any major actor in mainstream politics or media would be engaged in political activism if they delivered the content of this piece publicly, for the record. If one of the necessities of a healthy republic is an informed populace then doing journalism that challenges the truth of the dominant narrative is always an act of political activism. I can only guess at the pressures and pitfalls you increasingly operate under.

        I’ll muster my best writing behavior to petition my Senators and Reps to stop crippling Venezuela, use that semblance of political activism that still exists because it threatens nothing, and amounts to nothing. In 2003 it didn’t matter how many bravely got the truth out or how many joined in mass resistance demonstrations, and today Maduro is just as vilified as Sadam was.

      • B
        February 18, 2019 at 13:20

        I hope you realize that all sides are not equal.

  26. Michael
    February 16, 2019 at 09:01

    Obama’s “National Emergency” against Venezuela in 2015 was just a prelude to invasion (Obama also declared national “emergencies” in Somalia (April 12, 2010), in Libya (February 25, 2011), in Yemen (May 16, 2012), in
    Ukraine (March 6, 2014), in South Sudan (April 3, 2014), in the Central African Republic (May 12, 2014) and in Burundi (November 23, 2015). This is just what passes for American foreign policy nowadays, cut off any foreign support of a country with important resources, and if the country does not capitulate, slaughter, maim and displace the inhabitants and take the resources.
    Trump has declared a national “emergency” in Nicaragua (the only country he has added so far). Of the 32 active national “emergencies”, most are aimed at sanctioning countries, none of which are remotely a threat to National Security beyond the fevered imagination of the Kagans, Elliott Abrams, John Bolton and other Arab/ Israeli think tank scum which run our foreign policies.
    Notably China and Russia are not named in any of these active titled national”emergencies”.

  27. February 16, 2019 at 08:47

    Extraordinary how loosely people use terms like socialism, capitalism, communism, fascism not to describe a government or person but to brand them because they are your enemy or you just plain don’t like them. As far as governments are concerned, most are a pragmatic mix of elements of socialism, capitalism, fascism and communism. Free public education, our road system, collecting tax to spend on public improvements, good grief, what next. Universal health care? A never ending assault by our democracy on private enterprise.

  28. F. G. Sanford
    February 16, 2019 at 04:46

    When I was a kid during the height of the cold war – somewhere in the time frame of the Cuban Missile Crisis – there was a story about how Soviet propaganda had backfired. It seems they took a picture of one of those Southern European barrios where the streets are so narrow you could hand your facing neighbor a cup of coffee across adjacent balconies without leaning very far. Ratty looking kids were playing in the allies, and clothes were hung to dry from improvised lines in every imaginable arrangement. It was supposed to show how miserable and impoverished Western lifestyle really was compared to the “worker’s paradise”. Soviet readers immediately noticed that in that impoverished slum, people had more clothes than they could wear on a given day, the children were well fed and happy with toys to play with, and television antennas were bristling from almost every apartment.

    Now, click on that picture of the Caracas slum, and then click the little “plus” that lets you blow it up bigger. See if you can count how many satellite dishes appear in the picture. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I suspect that Elliot Abrams and his cohorts may be betting good money after bad that their propaganda campaign will provide an easy victory. Time will tell, and the neocons will employ all the resources at their disposal to destroy another dissenting oil-rich country, but…I suspect this ain’t gonna be a cakewalk. As the corrupt Ponzi scheme western economies continue to implode, every desperate measure will be employed to preserve petrodollar hegemony. If Venezuela falls, the “victory” will merely buy a little more time. At some point, the options will be narrowed to managed collapse or global war. AOC obviously doesn’t “get it”, and neither do any of the so-called “progressives” allowing the corruption to run its course. Judging by the failure to prosecute any of the myriad recent scandals, hasn’t anybody figured out that both the Republicans and the Democrats are “in on it”, and nobody can talk because of mutually assured blackmail?

  29. KiwiAntz
    February 16, 2019 at 04:23

    GFC 2.0, which is currently brewing in America, is in the making & will collapse & sink the entire debt based, US Financial System? Comprised of it’s QE Federal Reserve fiat money, Petrodollar recycling System that the US uses to dominate the World, this corrupt System has enabled the US Empire to commit immoral endless Wars, Regime change coups d’états & illegal economic warfare via sanctions to starangle Countries that oppose the Empire? The blatant attempt to demonise Leaders such as Maduro & steal Venezuela’s oil & resources is straight out of America’s Regime change guidebook? Is there any wonder why the USA is the most disrespected, despised & hated bully Nation on Planet Earth because of its criminal behaviour! Nations such as Russia, China & others are on a massive gold buying spree because they know that the US Empire & its $22 trillion dollar deficit & future massive deficits with no end in sight means that the end of the US Dollar & Petrodollar System of Tyranny that the US Imperial Empire imposes on the World is close to collapse? The World is going to return to a Gold standard & the World reserve currency will be in either the Yuan or a basket of currencies, or a SDR or Bitcoin so have fun trying to print your way out of that Catastrophe America? The end is nigh for the worthless US dollar & with it the US Empire!

  30. Harry Barracuda
    February 16, 2019 at 01:55

    Reading some of these comments you wouldn’t think Maduro tore up the constitution and transferred all powers to a body that he picked himself, or loaded the Supreme Court with 13 lackeys.

    How stupid are these people?

    • anon
      February 18, 2019 at 12:33

      The situation is far more complex than that: you should read more of the situation before judging.
      But it appears that you have one source or tribal notion of facts from which you dare not diverge.
      That is an error typical of those immersed in their tribe, from which reading widely will free you.
      Caution and broader reading prevents young people being used as trolls to advance a propaganda notion.

    • Sam F
      February 18, 2019 at 12:33

      The situation is far more complex than that: you should read more of the situation before judging.
      But it appears that you have one source or tribal notion of facts from which you dare not diverge.
      That is an error typical of those immersed in their tribe, from which reading widely will free you.
      Caution and broader reading prevents young people being used as trolls to advance a propaganda notion.

  31. February 16, 2019 at 01:49
  32. Ken Bonetti
    February 15, 2019 at 23:02

    How about getting this article to AOC and finding a local constituent who is knowledgeable about the Venezuela situation to contact and try to inform her of the facts? If she understands the details presented here and is reminded that, even if true, an imperfect democracy in a country does not justify essentially unilateral subversion of its sovereign government in blatant violation of international law. When are Americans going to get it that US interventionism is illegal and always results in more chaos, damage and tragedy than any domestic situation can generate on its own. Witness Lybia, Syria, Chile, 1980s Central America and countless other ruined societies that lie in the wake US interventionism.

  33. CitizenOne
    February 15, 2019 at 22:40

    The article titled, “How much of Venezuela’s Crisis is Really Maduro’s Fault?” has an answer but it is not as black and white as depicted on TV. A quick google search will reveal that the tiny nation has the largest proven oil and gas reserves on the Planet. They have more oil and gas than Saudi Arabia.

    Also the tiny nation of Venezuela (like Iran in the 1950s) nationalized their oil and gas resources in 1976 denying multinational oil companies a stake in claims for extracting those resources. Along with the nationalization of petroleum resources came the birth of Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) which is the Venezuelan state-owned petroleum company. All foreign oil companies that once did business in Venezuela were replaced by Venezuelan companies.

    During 1976–1992, the amount of PDVSA’s income that went towards the company’s costs was on average 29 percent leaving a remainder of 71 percent for the government. From 1993 to 2000, however, that distribution almost completely reversed, to where 64 percent of PDVSA’s income were kept by PDVSA, leaving a remainder of only 36 percent for the government. In other words a large pseudo government corporation began to take increasing amounts of its profits while returning less and less to the government.

    After the election of Hugo Chavez, multinational oil corporations began to have a direct impact on oil exploration as PDVSA chose to rely on foreign investments for exploration rather than spending its own revenues. Since the investors and corporate officers of large multinational oil companies were being asked to invest while all the profits made went to PDVSA and less and less went to the Venezuelan government PDVSA was seen as extorting foreign investors for its own profits.

    However the greed of PDVSA and the effects on the Venezuelan economy now in a freefall was used as a lever by the US government acting on behalf of the multinational oil companies to argue that the government under Chavez was corrupt and to also argue that the people of Venezuela were suffering under a socialist dictatorship when in fact they were suffering due to the policies of PDVSA.

    Chavez began to suffer a two pronged attack. One from his own national oil companies and the influence they had and the other from global oil companies and the US Administration that took advantage of the internal conflicts between the government and the national oil company to paint Chavez as a dictator and a despot who like North Korea was starving its people in a wanton failed socialist state. The real story was how the national oil company of Venezuela had fallen to corruption and greed but that was not the story that the western governments of the democratic nations including the USA wanted to tell. It was all too easy for commercial capitalism to blame the socialist leader of Venezuela for all the problems and it was also the most likely way that they could eliminate their hated middleman and get direct access to the profits being hoarded by the PDVSA. If they could overthrow the government they could get a strongman like the Shah of Iran in place who would return the petroleum resources of the nation to commercial ownership. That is what happened in Iran and so it was a proven strategy.

    In 2000, as PDVSA continued to hoard ever more of its profits, Chavez enacted new laws to decree that 10% of the PDVSAs revenues must flow to government social programs resulting in the beginning of a long battle between PDVSA and the elected government. The national oil company officially became the enemy of the Chavez government and began a long series of strikes and production halts and strikes to break the will of the government as well as to anger the citizens of Venezuela who felt the sting of the economic losses and were encouraged by the privately controlled TV companies to blame the government for all of the turmoil and economic strife.

    Chavez responded by increasing taxes on PDVSA and purchasing ownership of the nationalized corporation until in 2006 the government controlled a 40% share promised another 20% share of which the profits were intended for redistribution to the citizens of the country.

    The election of Maduro, Chavez’s hand picked successor saw a new invigoration of the socialist policies of the Chavez government and also new countermeasures by international authorities such as maritime agencies to ground the Venezuelan tankers carrying oil to China and Brazil for “safety” concerns. These conditions were real and were the result of the long internal conflicts between PDVSA and the government to fork over their profits to the government. As a result, PDVSA neglected basic safety and international regulations requiring them to upgrade their fleets. The result was a fall in production of oil and hyperinflation in the Venezuelan economy which was primarily dependent on the sale of oil for its economic success.

    The collapse of the Venezuelan economy was brought about by an internal struggle between the government of Venezuela, its national oil company was used by the USA which took advantage of the conflict to paint the economic failure as result of the Venezuelan government alone. This conclusion is not entirely incorrect. The economic crisis in Venezuela was the fault of the government so far as its inability to turn the national oil company into the envisioned provider of wealth to the citizens of Venezuela as envisioned by Chavez and Maduro.

    It should serve as a cautionary tale of well wishing socialists hoping that by nationalizing a natural resource they would only find that the nationalized corporation that the government created would succumb to the same greed and penchant for keeping all the cash rather than redistributing it to the citizens of the nation which was the government’s intention. In the end it is an example that it is not what kind of corporate structure be it capitalistic or socialistic that ensures that the economy will be protected by rapacious greedy looters who hoard all the money but the fact that it is human nature no matter what the playing field to behave in selfish and greedy ways.

    It is perhaps beyond the abilities of human organizations to create a system of laws where the wealth of the nation is shared by all. Venezuela is perhaps one of the best examples that when there are huge fortunes to be made within the national borders of a country the efforts of governments to control and direct the money for social purposes is almost doomed to failure at every point.

    Is Maduro to blame? I think the answer is both yes and no. If the outcome to control the flow of capital where the stakes are huge is to be blamed on a government fighting to control corporations who are fighting like tigers to escape the governments control then Maduro’s government is a failure. The tigers are winning. However if the efforts and the ideals of a government to control corporations and force them to benefit the citizens of a country are valued then the government of Venezuela has fought a good fight. We face a similar conflict over health care.

    Of course here at home our “free press” only sides with the giant corporations and doesn’t give a damn if every last person in Venezuela is staeving. We blame the government of Venezuela because that is what needs to be destroyed to grab all that cash.

    The question of what will happen to the citizens of Venezuela if the government falls and a new Shah of Venezuela is elected and hands all the cash over to international oil corporations is never even considered but the history of Iran might provide some clue as to how the Venezuelans will thank the USA for deposing their elected government and replacing it with a puppet government. They won’t.

    While the major media “enlightens” us with the approved propaganda that the government of Venezuela represents an extreme security threat, as President Obama declared and Trump has followed up on, the backstory of the biggest power grab in recent history if it unfolds will not be told. According to the press we are just fighting some evil dictator that has ruined the economy of his country and he must be deposed. It’s a rescue mission!!

    • Skip Scott
      February 16, 2019 at 07:50

      Great analysis CitizenOne!

    • Maxwell Quest
      February 16, 2019 at 19:57

      Thank you for your informative post, CitizenOne! I, for one, was not aware of the PDVSA angle, which sheds new light on the complexity of Venezuela’s (and our own) predicament.

    • Mary Saunders
      February 19, 2019 at 10:49

      This indeed sheds additional detail and light.

      Questions remain.

      Both Russia and China have the expertise to improve shipping. Are they doing that?

      Norway also has resources, and a history of sharing more with their people. Is Norway there?

      The U.S. secret state has been used to enforcing its will, relying in a narcissistic way of its own vision of itself as omnipotent and on using its relationship to monopoly mass media to make so many U.S. people believe the obviously antiquated belief in the U.S. as #1.

      Meanwhile, rather quietly, other seats of. power have been sharing with their peoples to a more meaningful extent that the U.S. regime.

      This will mean change for the confidence men in the U.S. and UK at some point. Are we getting closer? Clearly we are not there yet.

      Another question is whether this change can be accomplished short of H-bombs going off in air.

    • Sam F
      February 19, 2019 at 12:39

      Very useful information. It seems practical for Venezuela to control PDVSA more fully and eliminate most corruption due to greed; the details of that are no doubt complex, but the fault is unlikely to be the intentions of the government. No doubt the investment analysts and advisers of Russia and China have further information on the PDVSA problems.

  34. Roger Milbrandt
    February 15, 2019 at 22:03

    I think Ellner’s heart is in the right place, but he does not seem to understand how vicious and cynical are the tactics of the comprador elite in Venezuela. During what Ellner calls the peaceful demonstrations of 2017, 23 black persons were burned alive; nine of them perishing as a result. Among the tactics used by the ‘peaceful’ demonstrators, was that called ‘guayas,’ which involves stretching steel wire over roadways used by motorcyclists, with the wire placed at the level of the necks of the motorcyclists. To talk about ‘repression’ of protestors resorting to such tactics seems to me to be out of place. (How would the US government deal with protests of this character? Or the French government?)
    The same social group who sustained these vicious protests also sabotage the Venezuelan economy in numerous ways. One of many cynical tactics is that of buying up necessary foods and medicines which are available at subsidized prices so as to create shortages and then selling them either on the black market within Venezuela or else in Columbia. There are many other tricks used by these people to cause economic confusion and chaos. To talk in this context of Maduro’s mismanagement of the economy is silly and beside the point. There are no textbooks available to advise governments on how to direct an economy that is mangled by the level of sabotage to which the elite of Venezuela resorts.
    Like so many commentators on Venezuela, Ellner assumes that the blame for the blemishes in Venezuelan society must be apportioned between the Venezuelan government and the US. But the comprador elite bears a huge responsibility and no serious commentary will ignore this.

    • Sam F
      February 16, 2019 at 13:52

      Yes, the apparent preservation of the upper classes of Venezuela has imperiled its democracy. They would certainly be justified in seizing more oligarchy property and impoverishing them.

  35. February 15, 2019 at 21:36

    Some further historical context for what the Maduro government is facing and why with professor Michel Chossudovsky:

    https://www.globalresearch.ca/venezuela-from-oil-proxy-to-the-bolivarian-movement-and-sabotage/5667366

  36. JVY
    February 15, 2019 at 21:26

    Another reason for the economic crisis in Venezuela dealing with shortages of basic food items is due to opposition supporters hoarding these items in locked warehouses. Some of the oligarchs in Venezuela own companies that manufacture or distribute some of these staple goods. In their zeal to sabotage the economy, they are creating artificial scarcity by hoarding.

  37. JVY
    February 15, 2019 at 21:12

    “The justification for Juan Guaidó’s self-proclamation as Venezuelan president on Jan. 23 was predicated on the illegitimacy of the ANC.”

    From my reading, Guidó’s self-proclamation as Venezuelan President was predicated on a contrived interpretation of the Constitution – Article 233, dealing with a situation in which the president has abandoned the position or is permanently unavailable to serve, in which case the president of the National Assembly will act as president until new elections. Maduro is still serving as president so Guidó’s claim is bogus. (Plus Guidó isn’t the president of the National Assembly.)

    The National Constituent Assembly has no legal basis? That claim needs some unpacking. I never heard this claim. The opposition won most of the races for delegates to this assembly in their recent election and the Maduro administration acknowledged that his party lost. Later there were claims that 5 members who won their seats in the assembly had won by fraud. Two of the five were Chavistas and they were removed by the Maduro admin. The other three refused. Because of this, the Assembly was held in contempt of the court system. It sounds to me like the opposition can conveniently claim the National Constituent Assembly has no legal basis because of this.

    More importantly, thanks to research done by Max Blumenthal, we now know that Guidó had been groomed, trained and set up for this role by the US establishment types who have been trying their damndest to get rid of the Bolivarian Revolution for 20 years.
    https://grayzoneproject.com/2019/01/29/the-making-of-juan-guaido-how-the-us-regime-change-laboratory-created-venezuelas-coup-leader/

  38. Lois Gagnon
    February 15, 2019 at 20:37

    This is a bit long, but the author pulls no punches. As he says, there is no nuance in this situation. It’s straight up imperialism on behalf of the global capitalist class. http://www.thepolemicist.net/2019/02/the-siege-of-venezuela-and-travails-of.html#more

  39. mike k
    February 15, 2019 at 19:26

    US policy is simply to massively abuse Venezuela, then blame it’s victim for the damage. Standard bullying methodology.

    • Sam F
      February 16, 2019 at 17:33

      Very good points. Venezuela must destroy the economic power of its oligarchy over government and its economy, or be destroyed by them. The same is true of the United States. May the future bring such a southern alliance to the borders of the US and beyond.

  40. Tom Kath
    February 15, 2019 at 19:14

    Yes, even famous US presidents have described the Venezuelan electoral system the fairest and most transparent in the world!

  41. February 15, 2019 at 19:10

    At the end of the article:

    “Amazingly enough, there is no major actor in mainstream politics and the mainstream media willing to challenge that narrative with all its questionable claims regarding the Maduro government.”

    I don’t think that surprises many people.

    One healthy response is to call for election in a reasonable time period and for the United States to stop strangling the Venezuela economy which would level the playing field.

    Surprising that Maduro government hasn’t collapsed. Are those devilish Russians trying to pull off another Syria.

    • OlyaPola
      February 16, 2019 at 13:11

      “Are those devilish Russians trying to pull off another Syria.”

      One of the consistent uses of citing Russia is to obscure the efforts/participation of others to the perceived “target audience” – an unusual example of how sometimes the opponents do not perceive more as better.

  42. Antonio Costa
    February 15, 2019 at 17:58

    Firstly, and objectively, AOC is not a socialist, nor is Venezuela with 70% of its economy capitalist and most of its media privately owned. Venezuela must be viewed in historical context or it makes no sense.

    Venezuela is no more nor less poorly managed than most, and one could say, all nations. If you compare it to the US states (one by one) you’ll find enough mis-management to choke a “proverbial” horse. The US is large enough, with its $23 Trillion dollar debt, to play hyper-capitalism to its ultimate demise. California, a state with a GDP larger than most nations, can’t build high speed rail cost-effectively. The US Purchasing Power Parity is 25% less than China’s, expected to be 50% less in 10 years, and by 2023 100%. What that means is that we can’t build anything without huge costs that cripple our ability to upgrade and maintain our infrastructure. What’s up there?

    Put the focus on any nation or national “leader” and one can easily find a heavy dose of ineptitude.

    Given the assessments by Pelosi and Biden regarding Trump where do we begin to split the hairs on leadership “judgment”? Is Columbia an authoritarian regime? Or now Brazil? and the list goes on. France has it’s own leadership troubles.

    It would appear that the transition away from mono-export to a diversified local economy is long and painful when you have oligarchs and US pressing on your neck. That moment when the US looked away after 911, it can be argued that progress for people was being made.

    Bottom line, US is using much of its power to oust Maduro. That in a rational world of laws, lawless.

    • OlyaPola
      February 15, 2019 at 19:41

      “US is using much of its power to oust Maduro.”

      Likely hyperbole in terms of muchness, but of probably greater significance – ineptly.

      “That in a rational world of laws, lawless.”

      Perhaps a more illuminating formulation would read “In a world where some are rational, self-destructively.”

      The hypotheses will likely be tested in vitrio.

      • Skip Scott
        February 16, 2019 at 10:57

        Your algorithm thingy needs tweaking.

    • Isabel Fonseca
      February 16, 2019 at 12:18

      Your comment is spot on , on all aspects . Thank you .

    • OlyaPola
      February 17, 2019 at 04:34

      “Firstly, and objectively, AOC is not a socialist, nor is Venezuela with 70% of its economy capitalist and most of its media privately owned. Venezuela must be viewed in historical context or it makes no sense.”

      Your comment applies to all social relations which by definition are laterally interact thereby changing the assays of the almalga with varying trajectories (including forms) and velocities.

      Assigning a label is a tool in masking these social relations in attempts to limit interactions within linear frames to obfuscate/preclude opportunities of lateral/qualitative change.

      However attempts to limit interactions within linear frames in an interactive environment illuminate paradoxes which can undermine other’s attempts to obfuscate in attempts to preclude opportunities of lateral/qualitative change.

      This illuminates why some do not emulate the opponents thereby rendering the opponents’ “strategies” hopes and tactics “wishes” with varying trajectories and velocities.

  43. February 15, 2019 at 17:48

    The U.S. case against Venezuela is ridiculous on its face. It destroyed the Venezuelan economy with illegal economic sanctions so that the country cannot sell its oil in normal markets; It blocked Venezuela from obtaining IMF short loans to pay for essential imports; and is threatening to invade the country from hostile neighbor Columbia. And then it’s accolytes in the mass media holler from the rooftops, “See, socialism doesn’t work! Bring back the market economy. Please.

    • Realist
      February 16, 2019 at 03:28

      All this American sabotage of the Venezuelan economy “works” only because the tyrants in Washington are able to effectively bully every other sovereign country, foreign business and even all American corporations into breaking every international law on restraint of trade, even if those former trading partners consequently lose a lot of business and profit. Otherwise they will get a taste of the sanctions Washington wants to lay on its hapless target.

      When Russia tries to cut economic ties with the belligerent fanatics in Ukraine, Kiev takes them to international courts or arbitration at Washington’s behest, usually in some pissant Scandinavian country, and “wins” big judgments every time–as that process is also totally rigged by Washington. The only silver lining is that, pretty soon, Washington will crater the entire world economy as it has been in the process of doing to its own since the bipartisan Clinton-era deregulatory fiesta and debt explosion started the dominoes toppling. Maybe then everyone will stop taking orders from the goon squad in DC as the instinct for self-preservation kicks in. Who then will be left holding most of the gold and diminishing resources, as Russia and China “see” Washington’s nukes and raises a pile of hypersonic carrier killer missiles? Dead man’s hand for everyone at the table unless the goons wise up.

      • M Klees
        February 20, 2019 at 21:07

        The tyrants in Washington are made up of multi-national corporations and plutocrats. The government is not inherently bad; the U.S. government has been usurped and taken over by neo-liberal capitalist gangsters. It is the investor class, the plutocrats and oligarchs, and those corporations, who break the laws and use the government to foment coups and civil wars that they can exploit.

  44. Tom
    February 15, 2019 at 16:32

    and my post disappears….its more than just a glitch.

  45. Tom
    February 15, 2019 at 16:31

    Its not up to US to take over any country because of failed polices or abuse of power…..or we wouldn’t be propping up the despicable Saudi’s who don’t even have elections.

    “Venezuela probably has the most excellent voting system that I have ever known,”

    Jimmy Carter

    Was he lying?

    And Why did the supposedly “dictatorial government” plead with the United Nations to send an international observation team to oversee the country’s presidential elections on May 20th?

    meanwhile the major opposition parties are demanding they do not, boycotting the very vote they had been campaigning for last year.

    Then after calling for elections, the Trump administration, funding, training and supporting the opposition, announced months beforehand that they will refuse to accept the results.

    This is the democratic “process” you defend?…..Chavez and his brand of 21stcentury socialism is still popular; a 2017 poll found 83 percent of Venezuelans felt he was the country’s best leader.Maduro,is a victim of USA economic Terrorism….actual terrorism to follow.WAR FOR OIL……nothing more.

    • bsamsin
      February 15, 2019 at 21:42

      An excellent voting system with ‘checks & balance’:
      * It is uniform throughout the country, unlike the U.S. where it varies by state.
      * Fingerprints+photo ID are required to cast an > electronic vote, and then receive a -> printout receipt
      * -> the receipt is submitted to a ballot box
      * -> an audit cross-check of electronic votes vs ballot box votes is then conducted!

      Compare that with the US voting system,
      * where the voting system varies by state location,
      * where there are often no checks and balances (i.e. IDs and fingerprints) to ensure the voters are legitimate, who they claim to be, and as demonstrated in the election,
      * where (literally) millions of questionable votes (both illegals and dead people) were counted.

      American lawyer and professor Dan Kovalik witnessed the Venezuela election, as well as a number of previous elections.
      The Real Story of Venezuelan Elections feat Dan Kovalik (19feb-06) Around the Empire
      >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOn5mUuu9-8

      • Aaron Aarons
        February 20, 2019 at 04:03

        Calling undocumented people “illegals” and claiming that large numbers of them vote in U.S elections is right-wing bullshit. Voting by people not eligible to vote is an insignificant part of what’s fraudulent with United Snakes elections. Overwhelmingly, the fraud consists in (1) using the bogeyman of voting by persons not eligible to vote to make it harder for millions of actual eligible voters to actually vote, and (2) the use of electronic voting machines where the vote tallies cannot be verified.

    • OlyaPola
      February 16, 2019 at 03:55

      “we wouldn’t be propping up”

      The propping is mutual and has been since at least 1944.

      One of previous imperial frames that the opponents use is a derivative of “The White Man’s Burden” paradigm, the contents of which include the presently designated Israel and the “elites” in various geographical spaces included by others in the designation “opponents”, sometimes wryly refered to as “colleagues”, “partners” etc by some in recognition of the opponents’ complicitity in their own transcendence, which the opponents assert/deem/hope derivatives of “The White Man’s Burden/Necessity to protect” act as antidote.

      Enmazement in mazes sometimes leads to amazement.

    • Sam F
      February 16, 2019 at 13:42

      Yes, US policy in Latin America has always been nothing but theft by corrupt US politicians.

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