Wednesday, Jun 3, 2020
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Caution and clarity needed on Venezuela policy

Dear Editor,

What we are seeing play out in Venezuela today would probably have horrified Dwight Eisenhower.

The last U.S. President to actually command troops in a serious war, General Eisenhower seemed to have genuinely abhorred both state-sponsored violence and the western colonizing impulse that has spawned most of it in the last two centuries. In Britain he is not remembered fondly. In 1956, he abandoned Antony Eden to his own imperialist devices (and ultimate humiliation) in the Suez Crisis with Nasser’s Egypt. It was the end of the British Empire to most historians. It was also maybe the last time a U.S. president was on the right side of history on the issue of the right of developing countries to full sovereignty over their own resources.

Eisenhower left office with a warning that the U.S. was increasingly in the grips of a cadre of corporate interests and military-oriented industries, which in turn held sway over politicians. If left alone, these groups would come to have a life of their own and exist only for their own perpetuity and enrichment, outside the control or even the active knowledge of the mass of the population. He coined a term to describe them, which is still in use: the Military-Industrial Complex.

Eisenhower’s fateful advice was ignored by his immediate successor, John Kennedy, whose romanticized image is considerably at odds with his historical status as the progenitor of an aggressive era of economic imperialism (beginning with escalations against Cuba and Vietnam) which continues to this day.

‘Imperialism’ may be a bad word to describe the enduring post-Eisenhower nature of the American corporate state, both because it denotes antiquated and inapplicable notions of pomp and heredity and because it has lost some of its original potency due to overuse and over-politicization.

But in using it I merely refer to a pattern in which the U.S. government and its allies actively undermine the economy of a selected country with crippling sanctions, use the resulting economic implosion as an excuse to overthrow the government and then help themselves to the resources. The selected countries all have two things in common: resources critical to U.S. corporations and a government determined to use them on its own population, rather than surrender control of them to those corporations.

In the Middle East, the preferred tactic is a campaign of lies and propaganda (viz. ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq; the allegation that Gaddafi was ‘about to’ massacre an armed rebellion, etc.) followed by surgical bombing and tactical alliances with various extremist groups on the ground.

In Latin America, the West usually allies itself with a tiny, ultra-wealthy elite (often Miami-based) that has long monopolized the wealth and resources coveted by U.S. corporations and is eager to get them back with the support of a U.S. congress that is, in turn, deeply corrupted by the power of those same corporations’ money in U.S. politics. Hence the likes of Marco Rubio at the forefront.

Venezuela, under Chavez, had the temerity to use its oil wealth for massive investments in education, healthcare and social spending. It transformed itself from one of the most unequal to (by far) the most equal country in South America and it brought up living standards dramatically. Its government (like most of Europe since 1945) describes itself as ‘socialist’. But in reality it is far less socialist than France, in terms of state ownership of resources and capital.

At any rate, both Chavez and his successor have long been in the crosshairs of U.S. administrations and now, with oil prices manipulated downward with the help of Saudi Arabia (unlike Venezuela, a genuine human rights monstrosity), the weakness of the Venezuelan economy makes it ripe for the intervention now playing itself out under the guise of ‘humanitarian aid’.

In The Bahamas, we have always maintained good relations with the U.S. (notably by having close economic and historic relations with the American people themselves, who are largely impervious to what is taking place, thanks to a frankly mind-tranquilizing television news industry) while maintaining a sensible distance from the mischief that the U.S. government creates further field in the hemisphere. This is one of the few tangible benefits we get from being part of CARICOM, a group that is rightly wary of U.S. ‘democracy’-promoting initiatives and composed of governments with high marks for good governance, which are not compromised by the Latin American plutocratic model.

Suddenly, however, there has been a shift. Whether with the consent of his boss or not (one never quite knows these days) our neophyte foreign minister seems to have signed us up (with Britain and the other usual suspects) to the latest U.S.-sponsored regime change project by recognizing an unelected, hand-picked pretender to the presidency over the recently re-elected Nicolas Maduro.

This move is not only unprincipled (and unnecessary for our continued friendship with the U.S.), but it is at odds with our commitments and obligations to CARICOM. Adding to the confusion, at a subsequent CARICOM meeting, Dr. Minnis again repeated our commitment to regional comity on the issue of non-intervention in Venezuela.

It is time for the government of The Bahamas to make clear just how our position of non-intervention in Venezuela squares with our recognition of a U.S. proxy, who is himself calling for another military misadventure against his own country.

— Andrew Allen

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