Venezuela Reverberates with ‘Trump No More’
R Arun Kumar
NEARLY one in every two people in Venezuela have signed on a petition stating, ‘Trump No More’, expressing anger against the interference of imperialist US in the internal affairs of their country. This petition is going to be submitted in the United Nations General Assembly. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced that he will not attend the UN General Assembly, but in his stead, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will represent the nation and hand over the ‘letter of condemnation and accompanying signatures’ to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Compare this with our prime ministers’ upcoming visit to the US, where he too will address the UN. Our prime minister and his shenanigans are gung-ho that a meeting with Trump is arranged and that they – birds of the same feather – will be sharing the dais in an event called Howdy Modi. After all, Trump is a ‘dear friend’, in spite of all his coercive policies that are ruining our economy. While the Venezuelans are preparing to expose Trump and his interventionist policies that are harming them, our prime minister is eager not to rub the US on the wrong side by raising Indian peoples’ concerns – the growing racial hatred crimes in the US and resultant attacks on Indians or the H1B visa issues or the rise in tariffs on Indian goods or question the coercion on India to stop purchasing oil from cheaper sources. Notice the glaring difference between patriots and pseudo-patriots!
TIAR – ANOTHER WEAPON TO DESTABILISE
Since the election of Hugo Chavez as the president of Venezuela, US had been trying to destabilise the country by various means. It had used many of its tricks to topple the governments led initially by Chavez and now by Maduro. These include – funding opposition parties and groups, sneaking in para-military groups to unleash violence, imposing economic sanctions, waging an economic war, encouraging military to carry out coups and now trying to asphyxiate Venezuela by further tightening the screws of economic sanctions and threatening military intervention. The latest weapon to be unleashed by the US from its arsenal is the threat to apply Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR).
TIAR is a colonial era treaty, which the US coerced various countries of Latin America to sign in 1947. TIAR guarantees military assistance to those countries that feel threatened by any power in the region or outside the region. This was signed in the Cold War period, to ‘legitimise’ the military interventions carried out by the US for ideological reasons. According to this treaty, “an armed attack by any State against an American State will be considered an attack against all American States”. And hence, “each of these contracting parties undertakes to help cope with the attack, in exercise of the immanent right of legitimate individual or collective defence”. This treaty is another expression of the infamous Monroe doctrine, that declares US free to intervene in any country in the region.
US is now threatening Venezuela with this treaty, as Colombia had recently complained in a meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) that Venezuela is allowing its soil to be used by armed groups against Colombia. Incidentally, the OAS had voted on September 11 (remember the US military intervention in Chile that dislodged the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende on the same day in 1971), castigating Venezuela as ‘a threat to the security of the region’. Colombia is unable to substantiate its claims with any concrete evidence, as nothing exists on the ground to support its claims. Moreover, in this one year, across the long border between the two countries, there were nearly 44 incidents of aggression from Colombia on Venezuela. Instead of putting a stop to such incidents, Colombia is acting like a US stooge in the region.
Progressive governments like Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, no longer recognise the US-imposed TIAR and they formally withdrew from it in 2013. Encouraged by the US, the self-declared president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido had ‘rejoined’ this treaty.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza responded to the OAS decision stating: “It is painful that countries which were invaded by US troops and whose peoples were massacred by the application of TIAR, endorse today a similar crime against a brother country”. President Nicolas Maduro, reacted by saying: “Any intent to apply the TIAR within Venezuela will be considered an act hostile to national sovereignty and an aggression against the territory, the people, peace and international law”. The Venezuelan Armed Forces, ignoring the appeals of the US to defect to its side, reaffirmed their loyalty to the country and its people. “The Bolivarian armed force will defend Venezuelan territory against the attempts by very powerful interests to destabilise the government, including such attempts by the United States and the right-wing opposition”.
Countries like Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico and Uruguay denounced the OAS resolution and expressed their solidarity with Venezuela. Cuban government stated that invocation of TIAR “is a deliberate attempt to provoke a situation that could lead to the use of force to overthrow the legitimate government of President Nicolás Maduro Moros, in flagrant violation of the principles of international law and the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace”. It called upon the “governments and peoples of Our America and the world to resolutely oppose this measure that pretends to justify, via an artificial legal framework, intervention in the internal affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”. Though Cuba is fighting the impact of the new sanctions imposed by the US, it had declared that “Cuba doesn’t betray its brothers nor its principles”. China and Russia, along with some other countries from the world, joined these countries in denouncing the invocation of the TIAR.
EMBARGO ON VENEZUELA
US’ TIAR weapon closely follows its decision to further tighten the economic sanctions and virtually impose an ‘embargo’ on Venezuela. In early August, the US administration approved new restrictions against Venezuela, ordering the freezing of all Venezuelan assets in the US, as well as banning commercial and financial transactions. It has imposed a sweeping economic embargo against Venezuela by ‘blocking’ all Venezuelan State assets in the US and prohibiting them from being “transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in”. Most importantly, this decision authorises the administration to sanction ‘non-US third parties’ deemed to have “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to the Venezuelan government”. The present US order expands the ‘blacklist’ to encompass ‘all business’, from the already existing sanctions on ‘oil, mining, and banking sectors’. It warned foreign companies and governments dealing with Venezuela: “We are sending a signal to third parties that want to do business with the Maduro regime: Proceed with extreme caution,” adding that those who flout sanctions “risk (their) business interests with the United States”.
The US has threatened to impose sanctions against all foreign citizens, companies, institutions or organisations, that are supporting or trading with Venezuela. This is shifting its position from ‘sanctions’ to ‘economic embargo’. Maduro declared: “Donald Trump says that he is considering imposing an embargo on Venezuela, meaning that no vessel enters or exits. It is a blockade. Criminal imperialism will not cope with Venezuela. The waters of Venezuela will be free, sovereign and independent. We will sail there the way we choose to. Get ready for a fight if you want to introduce an embargo on Venezuela”.
The government of Venezuela decided to join the fight against the US policies of intervention. It had conducted huge rallies. Starting from August 10, signatures are being collected from the people condemning US policies, under the slogan, ‘No More Trump’. The initial target was to collect 6 million signatures, but seeing popular response, the campaign was continued and nearly 13 million signatures were collected.
The reason for this overwhelming response from the people is due to their long suffering from the adverse effects of economic sanctions imposed by the US. Arreaza, in his speech before the UNHRC stated: “A report published by the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Political Research in April found a 31 per cent increase in mortality in Venezuela from 2017 to 2018, equivalent to around 40,000 excess deaths, because of ‘sanctions (that) are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports’. Sanctions have cost the country billions of dollars in oil revenues while sovereign assets abroad have been seized or frozen”.
US-backed opposition leader Guaido was isolated today because he had openly supported the sanctions. Recently, old documents detailing US advice given to Guaido and his friends, asking them to sabotage electricity production in order to destabilise the government, saw light. These plans were put to practice, causing widespread blackouts, adding to peoples’ hardships. A section of the opposition groups dejected with the attitude of Guaido and the US, denounced both of them and positively responded to the government’s offer of talks. While, Guaido and his team backed out from the talks initiated by Norway, these opposition groups continued their discussions with the government and had come to certain agreements. These efforts also convinced people about the government’s sincerity to address the issues plaguing the country.
The anti-imperialist consciousness that Chavez tried to inculcate among the people, helped them realise US threats and made them join forces opposing the US and its lackeys. As long as the Venezuelan government takes people into confidence and mobilises them exposing the US interventionist policies, it can withstand any imperialist offensive.