The post-1980 conservative restauration has sought to shore up the increasingly evident decline of the nation through the imposition of neoliberal economic policies, which reduce the role of the state and give priority to the market, with the intention of extracting more capital from labor in the core and from the peripheral and semi-peripheral regions of the world-economy. Initially, the neoliberal project was successful as a short-term remedy for international capital (see posts in the category Neoliberalism).
However, beginning in the late 1990s, the neoliberal project provoked a reaction of resistance among the peoples of the world, which attained its most advanced expression in Latin American and the Caribbean. Popular social movements led to progressive and socialist governments dedicated to taking control of national resources and protecting the social and economic needs of the people. Regional associations were formed, seeking to put into practice the classic call of the Third World for South-South cooperation and mutually beneficial trade among nations. Looking for necessary financial support, the progressive states and regional associations strengthened commercial and diplomatic relations with China and Russia. A post-neoliberal era was beginning to emerge, and the United States, having never attended to the structural sources of its relative decline, was losing control of the neocolonies in its backyard (see posts in the categories Third World, Latin American Unity, and South-South Cooperation).
Trump wants to restore the greatness of America, and in accordance with this vision, the Trump administration is undertaking a desperate attempt to restore its hegemony over Latin America and the Caribbean. The attempt is misguided, because it is not based on an understanding of the sources of the nation’s relative decline, and because it underestimates the force of Latin American resistance to the neocolonial world-system. Although not well understood in the USA, Latin American resistance is rooted in historical consciousness, social scientific knowledge, and universal human values; and therefore, it is capable of unifying diverse political forces and marshalling the necessary support of the people.
In accordance with its desperate and ill-advised effort to reestablish its hegemony over Latin America and the Caribbean, the USA has launched what Cuban journalists call an unconventional war on Venezuela. Eight dimensions of the unconventional war can be identified.
(1) Unconventional war makes extensive use of national leaders who have been formed in the ideological assumptions and beliefs of US hegemony, including the belief in a free market and a minimal role of the state in the economy, and the definition of freedom as synonymous with the structures of representative democracy that have been developed since the late eighteenth century in the USA. Such national leaders formed in U.S. ideology play a central role in the political dynamics and in the destabilizing tactics in the targeted nation, and they give legitimacy to the regime change strategy in the USA. To this end, NGOs since the 1980s have developed academic interchanges, scholarships for study, and leadership courses. They place the recipients of these programs in positions of importance in the economies of the South, and to the extent possible, in the governments.
Consequently, when Juan Guaidó, self-proclaimed “interim” president of Venezuela, presented a national plan for Venezuela at the Central University of Venezuela on January 31, he noted that the presentation was written by economic experts and national assembly deputies. The presentation argued that the socialist government had destroyed the economy through arbitrary regulations and state controls that enabled corruption. It proposed giving state power back to the people through the free market, the elimination of state controls on private property, the recapitalization of banks, the privatization of public companies and public services. Barry Cannon interprets the documents emitted with the presentation as reflecting a philosophy of individualism of the U.S. variety.
Both documents are characterized by a negative attachment to the “state,” with a preference for terms such as “government.” Additionally, they shun the concept of collectivity, with “the people” (pueblo) replaced by the much more general and less political “people” (gente). Politics and the state, therefore, are demonized in favor of private, individualized initiative, which is depicted as the true nature of the Venezuelan people, and most perfectly expressed by the market.
(3) The unconventional war includes robbery of assets. Venezuelan bank accounts in the USA, Venezuelan gold in the Bank of England, and the Venezuelan owned CITGO gasoline distributorship in the United States have been frozen. Venezuelan frozen assets amount to approximately 30 billion dollars. Funds from Venezuelan frozen assets have been channeled to Guaidó and his “government.”
(4) Unconventional war includes sabotage. From March 7 to March 9, there was a series of attacks on the Venezuelan National Electric System. An initial attack was ordered by the Southern Command of the U.S. military, and it involved hacking the main computer and control system, carried out from Houston and Chicago. The cyber-attack affected electric services in 80% of the national territory, with consequences for banking services as well as the distribution of water and gasoline. Recovery proceed rapidly during the next 48 hours, but it was disrupted by further attacks on the electric system carried out locally. Nearly full recovery was attained on March 10, and the government declared victory over the sabotage. By March 12, the system had returned to normal.
The US government and Latin American governments of the Right allied with it blamed the government of Venezuela for the power outage. Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, in fulfillment of the historic role of the OAS as a Latin America colonial office of the USA, declared that “the energetic crisis . . . is a result of corruption, incompetence, and lack of investment for many years by the usurper dictatorship.”
The intention of the sabotage on the electric system was to provoke social fragmentation and chaos, and to generate a popular uprising. But the popular reaction was not what had been hoped. The people did not turn to violent protest or looting, and they turned to family and community structures to attend to their needs during the emergency. Rather than taking to the streets in protest, most opposition supporters stayed at home during the three-day energy crisis, a tacit rejection of the sabotage strategy.
(5) Unconventional war includes recognizing an alternative government. According to news reports, the decision to declare an alternative “government in transition” in Venezuela was made in a meeting at the OAS headquarters in Washington on December 14. With assurances of support from Washington, Guaidó declared himself president on January 23, and some fifty nations of the world have recognized him. Efforts have been made to appoint ambassadors and take possession of embassies.
(6) Unconventional war includes threats of military intervention. In recent weeks, the threat of a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela has been constant, with frequent proclamations that all options are on the table.
(7) Unconventional war includes the lie. Inasmuch as the role of conquest and colonialism in promoting the economic development of the nations of the North has been excluded from public debate and the evolution of American national consciousness, U.S. foreign policy from the beginning has been conducted on the most fundamental of lies, the erasing of colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism from modern history. In the context of the most fundamental lie of the colonial denial, there are other fundamental lies, such as erasing from human history the successes of the socialist governments of the world and the Asian tigers in promoting economic and social development through a strong state role in the economy; and erasing from human experience the achievements of popular democracy in promoting open expression and discourse, popular control of the political process, and political stability, standing as a successful alternative to representative democracy. However, above and beyond these fundamental lies, there are specific lies that have been disseminated by the U.S. government in order to justify U.S. military invasions and interventions and support for coups d’état and military dictatorships in Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. In this context, there is a long history of exaggerations of threats to national security by the Pentagon, in order to justify government expenditures in support of the military-industrial complex.
In the case of U.S. justification of economic war and possible military intervention in Venezuela, the specific lies have included the erasure of the social gains of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, led by Hugo Chávez. Such gains include the reduction of poverty, illiteracy, and inequality, with the result that Venezuela, prior to the launching of the economic war, had a high rating on the UN Human Development Index. And the lies include the false claim that Maduro was not legitimately elected in May 2018, leaving aside fundamental facts (see “The legitimacy of Maduro and Venezuela” 01/15/2019 in this category Venezuela). In Venezuela, as in other interventions in the past, U.S. foreign policy is based on normalizing the lie, which constitutes the false foundation of an ideological attack.
The ideological attack on Venezuela to some extent has included an anti-socialist discourse. In a speech in Florida before Cuban-American counterrevolutionaries, Trump declared that socialism has created human misery where ever it has been implemented. However, the anti-socialist discourse occurs in a rhetorical context different from that of the Cold War. In the 1950s, viewing the Soviet Union as militarily expansionistic, and seeing communism as an international conspiracy, the people of the United States felt threatened by the spread of communism in the world. But in the current historic moment, the people do not feel threatened by communism or socialism. Therefore, the anti-socialist discourse is effective today not by touching fears but by drawing upon stereotypes with respect to socialism and Latin American politicians and military dictatorships. The anti-socialist discourse is integral to a pro-democratic, human rights, anti-authoritarian discourse, presenting the United States as a defender of human rights against authoritarian regimes. Mike Pompeo used this ideological strategy when he described U.S. policy as involving an effort to free the people of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela from the “yoke of authoritarianism.” It is a question of repeatedly referring to targeted nations as “dictatorships,” ignoring the highly participatory democratic structures that they have developed. It is an effective ideological strategy, because of the lack of knowledge of the people of the United States concerning the political processes of the targeted nations. It is effective, not because it convokes fear, but because it draws upon popular stereotypes and exploits the limited political consciousness of the people.
(8) Unconventional war enlists the support of the mainstream, corporate-owned media for the dissemination of lies and ideological distortions. In the case of Venezuela, a survey of U.S. journalistic opinion found no example of an article or video report that opposed the U.S. policy of regime change. During the March 7-9 blackout, NGOs released false reports of widespread chaos, seeking to create a perception of a humanitarian crisis that required U.S. intervention, which the media disseminated. Some media outlets have disseminated the absurd lie that the Russia and Cuba are propping up the Maduro government.
The unconventional war on Venezuela has not had the results its instigators had hoped. The anticipated popular uprisings and military desertions have not occurred. The people have increasingly taken to the streets in defense of the government. The fundamental flaw of the unconventional war is that it is premised on an underestimation of the moral and political force of popular revolution.
Venezuela is defending itself. It has developed a civic-military union, in which a popular militia of 2 million combatants in 335 municipalities serves as a rearguard for the Armed Forces. The government recently convoked a National Day of Dialogue and Rectification, involving 16,800 popular assemblies in 2,500 communities, with the proposals of the people recorded by members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. The emphasis on the assemblies is on making corrections in the revolutionary road, changing what ought to be changed. At the same time, the government is seeking to compensate for the losses in trade by expanding commercial relations with China, Russia, and other nations that have been seeking an alternative to the trading patterns defined by the U.S.-European dominated world-economy. In addition, it is adopting measures for the progressive increase of petroleum production and for the diversification of production.
As I have argued previously, the long-term tendencies of the world-system favor the endurance of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and other alternative projects from below, requiring adjustments in U.S. foreign policy to this global political reality (“Venezuela and world-systemic tendencies” 03/08/2019 in this category Venezuela).
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