Friday, 8 March 2013

Why our thoughts should be with the people of Venezuela

Last Wednesday (March 5), hours before the Venezuelan government announced the death of President Hugo Chavez, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a right-wing ‘think tank’, was already setting-out what the United States must do to ‘free’ the people of Venezuela.

The idea that they are not ‘free’ will come as a very big surprise to most Venezuelans, particularly those who freely voted to elect Hugo Chavez on four separate occasions since 1999. The fourth of those democratic elections took place just last year and was carried out in the full gaze of international election monitors led by former US President Jimmy Carter. Mr Carter, who won the Nobel Prize for his work in monitoring elections, described the Venezuelan process as “the best in the world”. Despite this, capitalist-owned American and British media-outlets still regularly referred to Hugo Chavez as “a dictator”.

Of course, there is a simple reason for the money-men’s open hostility towards the democratically-elected Venezuelan President - he was a socialist. American government and big business despised Chavez, principally because he threw-out US oil corporations when he nationalised Venezuelan oil fields so that substantial financial profits were used in the interests of the Venezuelan people, instead of flowing into the bank accounts of already-wealthy American company directors and shareholders.

Chavez’s socialist reforms also redistributed national wealth from the rich to the poor. In almost two decades immediately before Chavez was first elected (1980 – 1998), while the country was essentially being run by US-based multi-national corporations, the income of ordinary Venezuelans had fallen by 14%. In addition, Chavez’s socialist government halved poverty levels, with extreme poverty slashed by 70%. Because of Chavez’s socialist policies, for the first time, millions of ordinary Venezuelans now have access to free healthcare, and enrolment at state-run colleges has doubled, with free tuition provided for most students.

Chavez not only presided over the delivery of rapid social reform in Venezuela, improving the living standards of ordinary Venezuelans, he also tweaked the nose of corporate America. However, as we have seen with Afghanistan and Iraq, America believes it has an automatic right to plunder the oil wealth of other sovereign nations, and it doesn’t like when the people of those countries exercise their democratic right to elect governments that put people before profit, which is where the announcement from the American Enterprise Institute comes in.

Unable to even wait until President Chavez had died, the AEI stated: “The [US] State Department should set aside any plans that would legitimize a successor regime in Caracas, at least until key demands are met”. So much for democracy and the right to self-determination of the sovereign people of Venezuela. Why should a future Venezuelan government agree to demands from the American government?

The AEI statement continued: “Now is the time for US diplomats to begin a quiet dialogue with key regional powers to explain the high cost of Ch├ívez’s criminal regime, including the impact of chavista complicity with narcotraffickers who sow mayhem in Colombia, Central America, and Mexico. Perhaps then we can convince regional leaders to show solidarity with Venezuelan democrats who want to restore a commitment to the rule of law and to rebuild an economy that can be an engine for growth in South America.” Notwithstanding the unsubstantiated allegations that the Chavez government was criminal and working with drug-dealers, the AEI unambiguously advocates that US government officials work with capitalist free-marketeers in Central and South America to ensure a pro-big business, capitalist government is put in place in Caracus, irrespective of what the people of Venezuela want.

Then, removing any doubt as to just how far AEI believes the US Government should go to take control of Venezuela and its oil wealth, the ‘think tank’ states: “As Venezuelan democrats wage that struggle against chavismo, regional leaders must make clear that Syria-style repression will never be tolerated in the Americas. We should defend the right of Venezuelans to struggle democratically to reclaim control of their country and its future. Only Washington can make clear to Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and Cuban leaders that, yes, the United States does mind if they try to sustain an undemocratic and hostile regime in Venezuela. Any attempt to suppress their self-determination with Chinese cash, Russian arms, Iranian terrorists, or Cuban thuggery will be met with a coordinated regional response.” So, if necessary, the capitalist ‘think tank’ appears to advocate US military action to impose a pro-big business regime in Venezuela.

Should we be worried? Yes, of course we should be worried. Venezuela is a sovereign nation, and if its people choose to elect a socialist President who transforms the country for the better of the people through socialist policies, then that democratic expression of free will should be supported and defended. It is not for profit-hungry, American corporations to advocate the military overthrow of democratically-elected governments.

Of course, some might argue that the American Enterprise Institute is just one pro-capitalist ‘think tank’, it is not the US Government, so why should we pay any attention to what it says? The AEI has been in operation since 1942 and is funded by much of corporate America’s big-hitters, the same banks, financial institutions and businesses that hold great sway in Washington’s corridors of power. Current AEI members include John Bolton, the neo-conservative former US Ambassador to the United Nations; Newt Gingrich, right-wing Republican former Speaker of the House of representatives; Lynne Chainey, former director of arms manufacturer Lockheed Corporation and wife of former US Vice President Dick Chainey; and Paul Wolfowitz, neo-con former US Deputy Secretary of State for Defense and the principal author of former President George W Bush’s strategy on Iraq.

In all, more than 20 AEI senior members have previously held US Government-related positions.

In addition to the immediate family of Hugo Chavez, our thoughts should be with the people of Venezuela who, for simply exercising their democratic right to elect a socialist government, now have the potentially-lethal twin-barrels of American corporate and military power pointing in their direction.

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