Venezuela blockaded

Just as the coronavirus is wreaking havoc in the United States, and has also begun to affect Venezuela, the Trump regime has decided to step up its aggression against Venezuela, which can only obstruct the country’s efforts to safeguard the health of its population from the threat of the pandemic.

António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, has appealed for an end to all economic sanctions on account of the pandemic. So has Pope Francis. But apparently President Trump has more important matters on his mind, such as restoring US neo-colonial control over Venezuela and all of Latin America.

“Regime change” in Venezuela has been a major plank in US foreign policy since Hugo Chávez took office in 1998. So far, all their efforts have been in vain, especially with the spectacular failure of the coup d’état in 2002, defeated by a popular uprising.

As their frustration mounted, US presidents imposed ever-increasing economic sanctions. Nice gentlemanly Barack Obama declared Venezuela “a clear and present danger” to the United States, a formula repeated by nasty vulgar Donald Trump. But Trump has openly declared the aim of overthrowing President Maduro and replacing him with his own appointee, the then chairman of the National Assembly (in suspension), Juan Guaidó of the ultra-right wing of the opposition.

Over the past year this has been an abysmal failure. The United States and the European Union, along with their allies and client states—fifty states altogether—recognised Guaidó as president and proceeded to loot Venezuelan assets abroad, including Citco, the Venezuelan petrol marketing company in the United States, and £1 billion in gold lodged with the Bank of England. Meanwhile 120 states continue to recognise President Maduro, as does the United Nations.

Guaidó has three times tried to organise a coup, with no response from the army. The third time he claimed to be speaking from an army base when he was in fact standing on a motorway overpass just outside it. His staff in Colombia were caught embezzling money destined for army deserters.

Finally, the majority of the opposition disowned him, elected a new chairman of the National Assembly, and agreed with President Maduro to organise new elections, due this year.

Guaidó never amounted to much; now he is nothing at all. The leaders who reached this deal have been added to the list of sanctioned individuals. The only force now recognised by Trump is the extreme fascistic right.

Trump, far from recognising that Juan Guaidó is a beaten docket, has, in his frustration and desperation, intensified the conflict to a new and more dangerous level. With his typical disdain for truth, or even credibility, he has blamed Venezuela for the epidemic of drug addiction that afflicts the United States (which the CIA had a major role in creating). President Maduro is planning to drown the United States in cocaine, would you believe.

America’s own Drug Enforcement Agency has reported that the bulk of Colombian cocaine is transported along the Pacific coast to Central America—mainly Honduras and Guatemala—and smuggled through Mexico. Venezuela does not feature at all in its report. Nevertheless, with this transparently mendacious excuse, US warships have been deployed in the Caribbean, with the mission to stop Venezuelan ships carrying oil to Cuba—apparently they could be smuggling cocaine.

Britain and France have agreed to participate in this operation. This is a naval blockade, intended to stop Venezuela trading at all. Totally illegal, it amounts almost to a declaration of war. If pursued, it would make a major war inevitable.

As the Communist Party of Venezuela puts it, “a new threat is hanging over the peoples who resist and confront the oppression of capital, who defend their sovereignty and independence, against all of humanity, the threat of new wars of imperialist aggression . . . There is no other option to maintain the dictatorship of capital over the broad masses who are rebelling but to impose US supremacist fascism on a world scale. We say, with Rosa Luxemburgsocialism or barbarism.”