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Issue #1777      May 17, 2017

Venezuela

US eyes oil reserves

If you remember one thing about Venezuela in the coming months, it is that the context to every story in the media is the Donald Trump administration cranking up intervention aimed at regime change. To give a clear example, a recent press leak revealed that US senators have submitted another Bill calling on the government to add more sanctions on Venezuela and to isolate it internationally.

According to a report on Venezuelanalysis.com, the senators recommend sanctions on those accused of “undermining democracy” or “corruption” as well as calling for a report from US intelligence services into the “involvement of senior officials of the government … the National Electoral Council, the judicial system, and security forces, in acts of corruption.” This report, they said, should also detail how these officials represent a threat to US “national security.”

US hostility since Trump’s election represents a continuation of intervention aimed at “regime change,” but also a ramping up of hostility.

Several Venezuelan government officials were sanctioned in December 2014 and February 2015. Then in March 2015, the US issued an executive order labelling Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat to US national security.” This year more sanctions were imposed on Vice-President Tareck El Aissami, the highest level Venezuelan official to be harassed.

The Bill would also commit the US government to invoke the Organisation of American States (OAS) InterAmerican Democratic Charter against Venezuela thereby giving a veneer to US intervention.

The US and its allies have tried unsuccessfully to have Venezuela suspended from the OAS as some member states resisted this approach.

Venezuela has recently announced that it would be the first country to officially withdraw from an organisation becoming a cloak for US intervention.

Other “pro-democracy” initiatives included in the senators’ proposals are a number of ideas seeking to extend funding to Venezuela’s anti-democratic right-wing opposition, which has already been funnelled tens of millions of dollars in the last decade via NGOs linked to USAid and the so-called National Endowment for Democracy.

The proposed Bill would allocate funds for the Department of State and USAid to provide “humanitarian assistance” – code for funding rightwing activities.

If this Bill is approved, the Caribbean region would also come under renewed lobbying by the US government to strengthen its “energy security initiative” (CESI) project – a move designed to undermine Venezuela’s support in the region and opening up new markets for the US.

At the end of 2016, Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA used its US subsidiary CITGO in the US as collateral to secure a substantial Russia-backed loan. Now, the proposed Bill calls on Trump to stop Russian state oil company Rosneft from taking over CITGO in the event of a Venezuelan default: “A Russian government-controlled entity, currently under US sanctions, would pose a significant risk to US national security and energy security,” reads the text. Clearly the key reason behind US intervention in Venezuela’s internal affairs is the grabbing of control over the country’s massive oil resources.

The Bill will go before the Senate at a time when the State Department is releasing numerous statements condemning Venezuela, therefore progressives around the world need to be clear that whatever problems Venezuela is facing, the purpose of the Bill is neither to help solve the country’s economic crisis, nor bring a peaceful solution to the political crisis.

In justifying the intervention the US and its willing allies in much of the Western media are seeking to give the impression that Venezuela is a unique case, and that the Bill doesn’t represent a broader policy of reclaiming their so called “backyard.”

Yet the reality is that it is not just Venezuela that is singled out by the US for regime change.

In a move ominously reminiscent of the aggression against Nicaragua, governed by the Sandinistas in the 1980s, when the US waged a brutal clandestine war by proxy (the Contras) – legislation was put last month before the House of Representatives that would, if enacted, destabilise Nicaragua.

As the British Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign put it: “Almost 40 years after a war that cost 30,000 lives, the US is once again threatening Nicaragua with another war, this time an economic one, which would severely undermine the widely praised progress of the Nicaraguan government in reducing high levels of poverty.”

Known as the NICA Act (Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act), the legislation would mean that the US, which effectively has veto powers within the World Bank and InterAmerican Development Bank could block all loans to Nicaragua.

Currently running at £194m annually, these loans are being invested in education, social programs, electrification, roads and other infrastructure initiatives.

The Bill calls for the US to oppose loans unless Nicaragua promotes democracy, strengthens the rule of law and respects freedom of expression to the satisfaction of the US State Department.

Since 2007, Nicaragua has undergone a remarkable transformation under the leadership of the Sandinista government. Health and education are free and maternal deaths has been halved. Poverty and extreme poverty have also been halved and the country has been praised by the UN for achieving the millennium development goal of halving malnutrition.

Nicaragua has been declared illiteracy-free by UNESCO and currently enjoys growth rates which are among the highest in Latin America.

It has peace and stability and has been declared the safest country in Central America by the United Nations Development Program. Regime change in Venezuela has been official US government policy under George W Bush, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump – worryingly it is becoming a policy with regards to Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Progressives everywhere have to be increasingly vigilant. We must stand by those under threat and stand up to Trump’s interventionist policies.

Morning Star

Next article – Firefighters hose down plans

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