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Venezuela’s Maduro mocks US criticism of democracy

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Democracy and human rights are the two issues on which USA claims advantages and therefore criticizes the weak or anti-capitalist –imperialist nations and, whenever possible, it attacks to further weaken and destabilize them.

Destabilization of entire world except USA thus is basis of US democracy that USA seeks especially in the Islamic world. It is indeed a perfect anomaly that the super nation which has killed maximum people across the globe during its existence after “discovery” as the closest ally of its English master UK and has also terrorized the humanity, is still talking about democracy, human rights and rule of law.

USA can still talk because it is the super nation effectively controlling entire world, including the nations that oppose US domination. Though these days Washington does not speak much about democracy deficits in other nations as many human rights are denied to American citizens on some flimsy grounds, recently it did criticized democracy of Venezuela in Latin America where, like in West Asia, it does not have many friends or allies. 

Seeking to make the world of global US colonies to help advance military supremacy forever, USA, even after the fall of the mighty Soviet Russia and weakening of non committed China,  still hates socialism and communism, though both themselves have not been able to provide safety, security and prosperity to the common global people.

The atomic bomb is too dangerous to be loose in a lawless world. That is why Great Britain, Canada, and the USA that have the secrets about its production, do not let others make nukes and do not intend to reveal that secret until means have been found to control the bomb so as to protect ourselves and the rest of the world from the danger of total destruction.

The USA, which intervenes in the domestic affairs of any weak or totally independent nation which does not promote US interests in the region, refuses to let them advance their legitimate interests if that does not toe the US line, has a long sordid history of interventionist meddling and regime change in Latin America and around the world, and that is what’s going on in Venezuela.

Maduro wins Venezuela

Venezuela is one the few remaining countries that claim to be socialist but continue to ignore the popular concerns while the super power USA considers them as shame nations without essential human rights. The main concern of Venezuela is to save the nation from the western propaganda manipulative tactics to showcase Socialism as anti-human.

Last week Venezuela’s socialist government won a popular mandate with all seats having been won to dramatically recast the country’s political system against the will and fancies of capitalist USA. Electoral authorities said more than 8 million people voted July 30 to create a constitutional assembly endowing President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling party with virtually unlimited powers, while opposition members and independent analysts put the total number from between 2 to 4 million.

The official result would mean the ruling party won more support than it had in any national election since 2013, despite a crisis ridden economy, spiraling inflation, shortages of medicine and malnutrition. President Nicolás Maduro has suggested the constitution needs to “restore peace” to the country so that measures could be implemented to  improve the living conditions of the people. .

A newly-elected body, consisting mostly of Maduro allies and even his wife, will be given the ability to dissolve state institutions and possibly rewrite the constitution. The people have delivered the constitutional assembly,” Maduro said on national television. “More than 8 million in the middle of threats.  It’s when imperialism challenges us that we prove ourselves worthy of the blood of the liberators that runs through the veins of men, women, children and young people.”

Maduro said he had received congratulations from the governments of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, among many others. Maduro and his supporters have dismissed criticism of the assembly as merely the latest in Washington’s attempts to interfere in Venezuela and other Latin American countries.

Maduro promised that the new assembly would quickly “restructure” the office of the chief prosecutor.

Rejection

Maduro called the vote for a constitutional assembly in May after a month of protests against his government, which has overseen Venezuela’s descent into a devastating crisis during its four years in power. Due to plunging oil prices and widespread corruption and mismanagement, Venezuela’s inflation and homicide rates are among the world’s highest, and widespread shortages of food and medicine have citizens dying of preventable illnesses and rooting through trash to feed themselves.

Venezuela is in turmoil following the contentious vote over the weekend which critics say is an attempt by Maduro to consolidate power. More than 120 people have died this year in clashes protesting the Venezuelan president’s rule, including a candidate for the assembly killed in the night of the election.

The opposition, which the USA considers as its own ally against the regime, estimated only 2.5 million ballots were cast. Opposition leaders estimated the real turnout at less than half the government’s claim in a vote watched by government-allied observers but no internationally recognized poll monitors.  Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, the governor of the central state of Miranda, urged Venezuelans to protest against an assembly that critics fear will effectively create a single-party state.

Opposition leaders had earlier called for a boycott of the vote, declaring it rigged for the ruling party. Ahead of the vote, the opposition organized a series of work stoppages as well as a July 16 protest referendum that it said drew more than 7.5 million symbolic votes against the constitutional assembly.  The president of the opposition-led National Assembly, Julio Borges, told Venezuelan news channel Globovision that Maduro’s foes would continue protesting until they won free elections and a change of government. He said Sunday’s vote had given Maduro “less legitimacy, less credibility, less popular support and less ability to govern.”

Opposition decried the vote as a fraud and called on supporters to protest again as of midday.  “The constitutional assembly will not resolve any of the country’s problems, it just means more crisis,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles said. “As of tomorrow, a new stage of the struggle begins.”

Several countries refused to recognize the results, while Spain and Canada joined in the condemnation. Latin American nations from Argentina to Mexico, which are historically wary of siding with Washington in hemispheric disputes, sharply condemned the vote.  The EU said the constituent assembly could not be part of the negotiated solution to the country’s crisis, noting it was elected under doubtful and often violent circumstances.

Throughout these past four months of often violent protests in Venezuela, the country’s army has, several times, reaffirmed its “unconditional loyalty” to President Maduro. Despite the incident as well as demonstrations, the situation appears to be calm in the country. Meanwhile a search is under way in Venezuela for 10 men who escaped with weapons after an attack on a military base, according to President Nicolás Maduro.

Protests

Venezuela has been rocked by months of protests against the government of Maduro, who was elected in 2013 following the death of Hugo Chavez, and there have been at least 125 deaths. Opposition leaders call the election a naked power grab meant to keep the Socialist Party in office despite anger over an economic crisis that has spurred malnutrition and left citizens struggling to obtain basic consumer products.

Countries across the Americas, as well as the European Union, denounced the creation of the assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the constitution. The USA – the top market for the OPEC oil – called the vote a sham, and officials in Washington said they were preparing oil-sector sanctions. “A spokesperson for Emperor Donald Trump said that they would not recognize the results of Venezuela’s constituent assembly election,” Maduro told a crowd of cheering supporters following the completion of the vote. “Why the hell should we care what Trump says?” he added. “We care about what the sovereign people of Venezuela say.”

Opposition leaders call the election a naked power grab meant to keep the Socialist Party in office despite anger over an economic crisis that has spurred malnutrition and left citizens struggling to obtain basic consumer products. Opposition leaders decried the vote as a fraud and called on supporters to protest again as of midday.  “The constitutional assembly will not resolve any of the country’s problems, it just means more crisis,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles said. “As of tomorrow, a new stage of the struggle begins.”

Meanwhile, the Vatican has urged Venezuela’s president not to proceed with a controversial new assembly that his critics say would give him unprecedented power. In a statement issued on the day  Maduro was set to install the new assembly – a vote for which last week was boycotted by the opposition parties and denounced as “rigged – the Vatican called on “all political actors, and in particular the government, to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the existing constitution”. “The Holy See appeals firmly to all of society to avoid all forms of violence and invites, in particular, the security forces to refrain from excessive and disproportionate use of force,” it said. The statement also it urged the government of Maduro “to prevent or suspend ongoing initiatives such as the new Constituent Assembly which, instead of fostering reconciliation and peace, foment a climate of tension”.

At least 10 people were killed in protests against the unpopular Maduro, who insists the new body known as the constituent assembly will bring peace after four months of protests that have killed more than 120 people. Countries across the Americas, as well as the European Union, denounced the creation of the assembly, which will have the power to rewrite the constitution.

Maduro has also said he would use the assembly’s powers to bar opposition candidates from running in gubernatorial elections in December unless they sit with his party to negotiate an end to hostilities that have generated four months of protests that have killed at least 125 and wounded nearly 2,000. Maduro says a new constitution is the only way to end such conflicts.

US agenda

USA has a major agenda globally – to ferment troubles in every region by suing the opposition parties. It obstructs peaceful environment everywhere and invades energy rich Arab nations, among others, maintain military superiority. It uses  major powers even in Mideast to its own advantage and help sustain the tensions in every region.

As the super power, the USA has a vast nuclear arsenal capable of blowing up the planet several times. The World commemorates the 72nd anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6, 9, 1945)- the worst  human tragedy ever inflicted upon the people of Japan by the corporatist American regime. .

Fishing in the troubled regional waters has been the key foreign policy parameter of USA and every president- white or black- dutifully pursued imperialist policies by promoting global capitalism. . .

USA badly wants a regime change in Venezuela in order to make entire Latin America pro-American. Opinion polls highly influenced by outside forces showed 85 percent of Venezuelans disapproved of the constitutional assembly and similar numbers disapprove of Maduro’s overall performance.

Maduro said the opposition had been backed by anti-government leaders based in the USA and Colombia. Maduro has threatened that one of the constitutional assembly’s first acts would be jailing opposition leader Freddy Guevara inciting violence.

The USA quickly pledged potentially devastating oil sanctions and condemnations of the process poured in from governments around the capitalist world and the opposition at home. Many capitalist countries, among them the USA, the UK, and Mexico, have denounced the move by Maduro, claiming it is a move to seize additional power for his party at a time when his approval rating stands at just 20 per cent. The USA has issued sanctions against Maduro and 13 of his close advisors and threatened more.

The European Union and nations including Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Spain, Britain and the USA criticized Sunday’s vote. The Trump government promised “strong and swift actions” against Venezuelan officials, including the 545 participants in the constitutional assembly, many of them low-ranking party members.

Crippling sanctions are indeed economic terrorism being imposed by USA and its powerful western allies on weak nations that do not subscribe to US agenda. After Iran and North Korea now USA and its cohorts seek to impose sanctions on Venezuela with which it has problems.

Politicians throughout the Americas, as well as leaders from the UN, expressed concern with the decision and demanded its reversal, though the Venezuelan government justified its decision as a reaction to “coup-like actions” allegedly performed by the opposition. On 1 April 2017, the TSJ reversed its decision, thereby reinstating the powers of the National Assembly.

Under pressure from USA, Latin American nations from Argentina to Mexico, which are historically wary of siding with Washington in hemispheric disputes, sharply condemned the vote. Several refused to recognize the results, while Spain and Canada joined in the condemnation. The EU said the constituent assembly could not be part of the negotiated solution to the country’s crisis, noting it was elected under doubtful and often violent circumstances. ‘Nobody can escape the food shortages and spiraling inflation faced by millions every day’.

Perspective and Problems

Like Turkey, Venezuela is also facing troubles from outside especially USA that uses the opposition to advance its capitalist and anti-national objectives.

The people of Venezuela are struggling with food shortages, economic hardship and an inflation rate of around 600 per cent. If the US goes ahead with its threat to sanction the oil industry – Washington currently purchases 700,000 barrels a day from Venezuela – the situation would likely worsen considerably. Many supporters of Chavez appear to have lost faith in Maduro, yet reports suggest most of them are still supporting him in fear of what might follow him. The conservative opposition parties in Venezuela have long had ties to Washington, and some of their leaders were involved in a 2002 coup that briefly unseated Chavez.

America believes economic terrorism in the form of sanctions would weaken the Venezuela and make people fight against the regime.

The US sanctions are planned to cripple the economy of Venezuela, make the life of common pepole miserable so that they oppose the elected government.  In a strike at Venezuela’s already flailing economy, the Trump government is preparing to levy new sanctions on Venezuela, following through on threats to impose penalties if the country went through with the weekend election. The new sanctions could be imposed and will likely target Venezuela’s oil sector, including possibly its state owned petroleum company. One official said an announcement was imminent. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Many experts believe the US has been seeking a change of government in Caracas since Chavez was elected in 2002. During  past years, Venezuela has been facing serious crisis alongside protest era.

Following the death of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuela faced a severe socioeconomic crisis during the presidency of his successor, Nicolás Maduro, as a result of their policies. Due to the country’s high levels of urban violence, inflation, and chronic shortages of basic goods attributed to economic policies such as strict price controls, civil insurrection in Venezuela culminated in the 2014–17 protests. Protests occurred over the years, with demonstrations occurring in various intensities.

The discontent with the Bolivarian government saw the opposition being elected to hold the majority in the National Assembly for the first time since 1999 following the 2015 parliamentary election. As a result of that election, the lame duck National Assembly consisting of Bolivarian officials filled the TSJ with allies. Into early 2016, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) of Venezuela alleged that voting irregularities occurred in the 2015 parliamentary elections and stripped four lawmakers of their seats, preventing an opposition super-majority in the National Assembly which would be able to challenge President Maduro. The TSJ court then began to approve of multiple actions performed by Maduro and granted him more powers.

After facing years of crisis, the Venezuelan opposition pursued a recall referendum against President Maduro, presenting a petition to the National Electoral Council (CNE) on 2 May 2016. The opposition organized an unofficial referendum over Maduro’s plan earlier in July, when more than 7 million voters overwhelmingly rejected his constituent assembly and voted in favor of early elections. On 21 October 2016, the CNE suspended the referendum only days before preliminary signature-gatherings were to be held. The CNE blamed alleged voter fraud as the reason for the cancellation of the referendum. Western observers criticized the move, stating that CNE’s decision made Maduro look as if he were seeking to rule as a dictator.

Days after the recall movement was cancelled, 1.2 million Venezuelans protested throughout the country against the move, demanding President Maduro to leave office, with Caracas protests remaining calm while protests in other states resulted in clashes between demonstrators and authorities, leaving one policeman dead, 120 injured and 147 arrested. That day the opposition gave President Maduro a deadline of 3 November 2016 to hold elections, with opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Days later, then National Assembly President and opposition leader Henry Ramos Allup announced the cancellation of 3 November march to the Miraflores presidential palace, with Vatican-led dialogue between the opposition and the government beginning. By 7 December 2016, dialogue halted between the two and two months later on 13 January 2017 after talks stalled, the Vatican officially pulled out of the dialogue. Further protests were much smaller due to the fear of repression, with the opposition organizing surprise protests instead of organized mass marches.

Actions by President Maduro and his Bolivarian officials included a 7 February 2017 meeting which announced the creation of the Great Socialist Justice Mission which had the goal of establishing “a great alliance between the three powers, the judiciary, the citizen and the executive”, with Maduro stating that “we have been fortunate to see how the judicial power has been growing and perfecting, carrying a doctrine so complete with the constitution of 1999” while stating that the opposition-led National Assembly “took power not for the majority not for the people but for themselves”.

On 29 March 2017, the TSJ took over legislative powers of the National Assembly. The Tribunal, mainly supporters of President Nicolás Maduro, also restricted the immunity granted to the Assembly’s members, who mostly belonged to the opposition. The dissolution of assembly was termed as a “coup” by the opposition while the Organization of American States (OAS) termed the action a “self-coup”. The decision was condemned by some media outlets, characterizing the move as a turn towards authoritarianism and one-man rule.

Observation

USA is eager to unseat President Nicolás Maduro. American worry is compounded by a communist model poll in Venezuela as allies of the Socialist Party won all 545 seats in the new assembly, which will also have the power to dissolve state institutions such as the opposition-run Congress and sack dissident state officials.

The electoral council’s vote counts in the past have been seen as reliable and generally accurate, but the widely mocked announcement appeared certain to escalate the polarization and political conflict paralyzing the country.  

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro celebrated the election of a new legislative superbody that is expected to give the ruling Socialist Party sweeping powers and mocked US criticism that the vote was an affront to democracy. Venezuela’s socialist government says a national election has given it a popular mandate to dramatically recast the country’s political system even as condemnations of the process have poured in from nations abroad and the opponents at home.

The 545-seat constituent assembly will have the task of rewriting the country’s constitution and will have powers above and beyond other state institutions, including the opposition-controlled congress.

On Friday, the new 545-member assembly was formally opened. Maduro promised that the new assembly would quickly “restructure” the office of the chief prosecutor.   The assembly unanimously elected well-known Socialist Party leaders to its leadership, with former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez to serve as the president and former Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz as First Vice President. The constituent assembly would hold sessions in the same legislative palace as the existing congress, which the opposition took over in a landslide 2015 victory. 

Calling itself “The Binary Guardians”, a hacking group has attacked Venezuelan government websites in an operation targeting the “dictatorship” of President Nicolás Maduro. The group posted messages appearing to support the actions of a group of armed men who attacked a military base in the central city of Valencia on Sunday.

Meanwhile, supporters of President Maduro marched in the capital Caracas. They called for an end to months of opposition protests and unrest.

Interestingly, Americans, while criticizing polls in countries like Russia, China, Venezuela, are unable to control their own presidential poll.  Americans blame Russia for interference in US presidential poll that demolished the hopes of Democratic Party’s Madam Clinton just like the besieged Palestinians and their children have real hopes of a future under the continued attacks and genocides by Israel which keeps the occupational crimes and control mechanism to squeeze the youth of Palestine.

Maduro made it clear in a televised address that he intends to use the assembly not just to rewrite the country’s charter but to govern without limitation. Describing the vote as “the election of a power that’s above and beyond every other,” Maduro said he wants the assembly to strip opposition lawmakers and governors of constitutional immunity from prosecution — one of the few remaining checks on ruling party power. Declaring the opposition “already has its prison cell waiting,” Maduro added: “All the criminals will go to prison for the crimes they’ve committed.”

Any country, and particularly any socialist governed country, that nationalizes their oil industries (or any other US corporate interests, i.e., United Fruit Company in Guatemala and Honduras) become targets for regime change by the USA by using the opposition parties. Iran, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan et al are living examples. The methods begin with economic warfare, destabilizing their economies via sanctions and withholding of investments and loans, denial of access to markets and imposition of punitive tariffs. When the people feel the economic pain they blame the government and this is exacerbated by covert CIA teams and CIA fronts like National Endowment for Democracy (see Ukraine) who infiltrate and organize, fund and foment “democratic” opposition.  USA achieves total destabilization thanks to Neocon plans.

It is unfortunate that any independent nation must also obey the “democratic” US dictates in order to survive in the comity of nations. Any refusal to dance according to the CIA-Pentagon muse should be ready for a terror attacks.

Who can tie the ball around US neck?

Only in fairy tales a super hero emerges to save the weak ones from monsters.

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Americas

America’s Deep-seated and Almost Universal Bigotry

Eric Zuesse

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On May 12th, Politico headlined “‘A dream ticket’: Black lawmakers pitch Biden-Harris to beat Trump”, and reported that:

The Congressional Black Caucus may have found an answer to its Joe Biden dilemma: Vice President Kamala Harris.

Some black lawmakers are agonizing over whether to back Biden or two members of the close-knit caucus — Sens. Harris and Cory Booker — who are also vying for the White House, according to interviews with a dozen CBC members.

But with the former vice president jumping out to a huge, if early, lead in the polls, several CBC members are warming to the idea of a Biden-Harris ticket to take on President Donald Trump.

“That would be a dream ticket for me, a dream ticket!” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). “If she is not the nominee, that would be a dream ticket for this country.”

Harris is everything the 76-year-old Biden is not. The freshman senator from California is younger, a woman and a person of color. …

America’s billionaires — who love it when the public are so obsessed with “Blacks versus Whites” or “women versus men” or other such distinctions amongst the public — hire politicians and ‘news’-media that play up to those distinctions instead of to themselves versus the public, because this way the public will accept those billionaires’ controlling the government — as they do.

Blacks are just as bigoted as Whites, and women are just as bigoted as men — and that goes also for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and every other distinction within the public — every other rage by the public, that’s being redirected away from the billionaires (who virtually own the government) to being instead against some mass of the public who DON’T control the government, and who AREN’T the cause of this country’s massive economic inequalities of opportunity, and who DON’T benefit from extending the American empire by bombs (or otherwise) to Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Libya, and Syria, and Iran, and Venezuela, and Ukraine, and Russia, etcetera.

Therefore: the first question that should be asked of every Democratic Presidential candidate isn’t (like it is) “man or woman?” or “Black or White?” or “Muslim or Christian?” or anything like that, but instead: Did you vote for the invasion of Iraq, and of Libya, and for economic sanctions (which are the first step toward declaring a nation officially as being an ‘enemy’ and thus the first step toward war) against Iran, and Syria, and Venezuela, and Russia? 

Those international hostilities are just great for the billionaires’ corporations, such as Lockheed Martin, but they bring billions to the billionaires and nothing but increased taxes and death and disabilty to the public and to our soldiers — and vastly worse to the people who live in the tragic lands where we are sanctioning or invading, or doing regime-change by means of coups. So: they hire the distractors. 

This isn’t to say that Trump isn’t a racist, but it’s about how the billionaires’ Democratic Party agents who are in Congress deal with this in such a way that the racist distractionism is on both sides and drowns-out any authentic progressivism (that being what the billionaires of both Parties fear). Part of progressivism is an opposition to regime-change wars — international dictatorship (including not only invasions but also the earlier stages: economic sanctions, and coups). The U.S. violates international law whenever it does those, and it does the vast majority of the ones that are done. The U.S. is thus the last nation in the world that should be pontificating to other countries. Whenever the U.S. Government does it, we should all be ashamed of it. 

So: the billionaires need the distractionaires. 

The Congressional Black Caucus, according to Fact Check, as posted in 2008 and never since revised, “has never had a white member in its 36-year history” (and, today, that would be never in its 47-year history), so that if for example Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg or maybe even the warmongering Joe Biden himself, were to apply to join and then be turned down by them, and this were to become public, then the resultant bad publicity for that Caucus would likely reduce, instead of increase, that candidate’s standing with black voters. Consequently, he probably won’t even apply to join.

In any case, being a member of a victimized group doesn’t mean that one is less bigoted than other groups are. And who is to say that Americans weren’t bigoted against Iraqis when we did to them the catastrophe that we did

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A More Nakedly Aggressive United States

M Waqas Jan

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Of all the instability and unrest the US has been accused of fomenting over the last three years, no other example comes close to the lengths the US has gone to in its unilateral attempt at isolating Iran. Long accused by Russia and other major powers as the leading cause of instability in the Middle East, the recent escalation of tensions between Iran and the US forms part of a wider more troubling trend. This has included the US ratcheting up tensions with both friends and foes alike such as the escalating trade war with China, calls for regime change in Venezuela and the estrangement of its allies across both the European Union and NATO.

The last bit, regarding the US’s growing differences with the EU’s major powers such as France and Germany is also to a large extent directly linked with its hardline stance on Iran. This is evident in the clearly divergent stances both the US and EU have taken regarding Iran’s Nuclear program. President Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last year had brought about considerable shock and dismay amidst European powers that had spent years negotiating the agreement with Iran alongside the US. Signed back in 2015, the JCPOA had set a historic precedent in international diplomacy, garnering support from China and Russia as well as the US, UK, France, Germany and the EU. Based on years of painstaking negotiations it was widely hailed as presenting a successful model for Nuclear Arms Control and non-proliferation.

In fact, a number of experts had hailed the JCPOA as being even better than the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in a number of ways. Its emphasis on monitoring other research and attempts at nuclear weaponisation beyond the involvement of nuclear materials was a major step in further expanding the role and scope of the IAEA’s monitoring mechanisms. These same mechanisms which based on the consensus of world powers have been successful in both monitoring and limiting Iran’s attainment of Nuclear weapons capability. The only exception has been the United States, and particularly the Trump White House that has made it a policy imperative to undo the years of work put in by both former US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

President Obama had even quite recently publicly lamented how reneging on the JCPOA not only undermined the United States credibility as a negotiating partner, but also dismantled a whole non-proliferation mechanism that was to prove crucial in addressing the growing threat from North Korea as well. As apparent in the failure of the recent talks between the US and North Korea in Vietnam, the US’s seriousness and commitment to the non-proliferation regime has been openly questioned as it continues to prioritize its own geo-political imperatives. Its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran, which is flirting dangerously with yet another large-scale military conflict involving US armed forces, threatens to undo the last decades’ painstaking rollback of US troop deployments throughout the Middle East.

Since the end of the Cold War, the US’s unilateralism and more maximalist approach was never in question considering its series of interventions particularly in the Middle East. There was however a semblance of unity and International leadership which either under the aegis of the UN or NATO still more or less carried the garb of a multi-lateral consensus. That instead of simply employing naked aggression as accused of by its adversaries, the US was justified by its ideology and the success of its international diplomacy. This perhaps was best and most positively evident in the JCPOA, which had brought all the world’s major powers into a concerted agreement on one of the world’s most pressing issues, namely Nuclear Proliferation.

However, as the Trump administration beats its war drums to the tune of nothing short of a regime change in Iran, there is most definitely a marked difference in how the US has previously built its cases for military intervention in the Middle East. In the absence of any international support from its partners, or in the lack of any overarching ideal based on non-Proliferation or plain old human freedoms (à la Iraq), the recent case for the US military intervention in Iran appears outright indolent if not unjustified as has mostly been the case with US hegemony over the last few years.

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The crisis in Venezuela and its strategic significance

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Venezuela’s economy – in a country that has better oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and Iran – began with the OPEC oil price crisis, when Chavez was still alive, until the heavy fall in oil prices in 2013.

  The social spending of Venezuelan “Bolivarianism” was very high and a country living on oil permanently needs stable and growing markets. This is inconceivable with the current dislocation of strategic roles within OPEC and in the context of the struggle between Iranian Sunnis and Shiites.

  Saudi Arabia will decrease production as soon as prices fall – and this will be the rule for everyone.

 With Maduro, the primary choice for oil – i.e. Venezuela’s true economic policy -has remained in the wake of Bolivarianism. Oil resources, however, have fallen to less than half of those recorded during the Chavista boom and inflation has quickly grown to such a point that it is currently the largest in the world. It reminds us of the Weimar Republic and for the same reasons. The State of Caracas prints money with the same criterion with which newspapers in crisis print more copies.

 At the beginning of the Chavista era, the inflation rate was already 29.5%. In 2005, when the oil market was still bullish, the inflation rate dropped to 14.4% instead.

 Eight years after the former city bus driver in Caracas, namely Chavez, had risen to power, food prices in the capital city were nine times higher than at the beginning of Chavez’ new Bolivarian regime, while salaries had decreased by 40%.

 The full nationalization of the oil company PVDSA was the first step that Chavez made down to the road for total economic disaster.

 Currently the oil companies operating in the Orinoco Basin – which is one of the largest in the world – do no longer make the necessary investment to make extraction possible, and nowadays oil extraction has leveled off at merely one million barrels a day.

 Certainly, we need to consider the US sanctions on exports, but extraction could still halve down to half a million by the end of 2019.

 Companies such as Malaysia’s Petronas and even the Russian Lukoil already left Venezuela in 2014. The Iranian company Petropars did the same in early 2015 and PetroVietnam in late 2015. Finally Exxon and Conoco had to leave quickly under the threat of Venezuela carrying out a punitive nationalization, with both companies’ related and immediate starting of formal proceedings before the international courts.

 Moreover, there is no legal framework – not even in Venezuela-delimiting possible operations, in the case of ongoing confiscations of foreign capitalists’ assets or of nationalizations. Hence those who remain, paying bribes left and right, obviously do not extract the amount of oil they could. This also applies to the Venezuelan non-oil economic sector.

 Even PDVSA – the always open coffer of Bolivarianism – has reduced its oil production from 5 million barrels a day to the current one million barrels a day. Later, with the embargo imposed by the United States, this trend will continue.

 The national oil company has long been heavily indebted with China and Russia, as well as with other countries, such as Iran.

 China has already requested the quick and full payment of its credits. China is not used to the structural inefficiency of Latin American countries.

 It is a process that China has started also with Brazil.

 Furthermore, Russia has already granted a rescheduling of its Venezuelan debt, which is already three billion and seven hundred million US dollars.

 Obviously, from a strategic viewpoint, Russia is interested in maintaining its own area of influence in a Latin American continent that, after Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil, is fully siding with President Trump’s policies.

  Hence, where possible, it is subject to Russian specific pressures.

As can be easily imagined, Venezuela’s weight in the OPEC area is now less than minimal- and this creates further difficulties.

 But the entire oil producers’ organisation, whose relations of its Sunni area with Trump’s America are currently very strong, has now a fixed rule we have already clarified: cutting production when the oil barrel prices decrease –  exactly the opposite of what Venezuela currently would like to do.

 Moreover, Venezuela keeps on exporting only 800,000 oil barrels a dayto the United States.

 Here not only geopolitics, but also the first global commodity, namely oil, has a role to play in this respect.

 For the United States, buying oil from Venezuela means trying to counter Russia’s weight – although with increasing difficulty.

 The United States clearly sees how Russia and China still support Venezuelan Chavism – also to recover their huge credits. Hence a geopolitical rather than economic clash between opposing blocks emerges in the country with the largest oil and gas reserves in the world.

 Inter alia, with shale oil and gas the United States is becoming a net oil exporter. Hence it is ever less interested in the fate of the countries that were once powerful suppliers, but are currently only tired competitors.

 Even the deep crisis of Madurism could favour the US oil and natural gas export market. Hence there is not much desire in the USA to solve the Venezuelan crisis, but only the desire to prevent Venezuela from choosing Russia, Iran, China or even the crazy and silly European Union.

 Moreover, the United States has an extreme need for high oil barrel prices, so as to recover the extraction costs which are still higher than the traditional ones.

 Hence, paradoxically, a regional production crisis near the US territory could even be good for the United States in the medium term.

 Therefore, apart from the usual creation of petrodollars, the United States is entirely in favour of an increase in the oil barrel price- and hence indirectly in favour of tension in Venezuela.

 The United States does no longer even need Venezuelan oil – as was the case in the past.

 There is no more room for Venezuela to even export its oil to the Caribbean at the usual low prices – a clear sign of an old and now impossible local hegemony.

 Hence, as is currently the case, the Hezbollah – currently guarding also Maduro – set in, while the Cuban intelligence services have defined a precise program for opposing Guaido’s possible “counter-revolution” and also the Russian contractors of the Wagner group are present, in force, in the Venezuelan territory to defend the wells and the other nerve centres of the former Chavista regime and, currently of Maduro’s regime, for which Russia has no esteem.

 The relationship between Hezbollah and Chavez was very complex – and it is still so currently with Maduro.

 At the beginning of Guaidò’s campaign against Maduro, the members of the Lebanese militia – that was Imam Khomeini’s “eye – hoisted a poster with Chavez’ and Maduro’s faces alongside that of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Shiite militia.

 Furthermore, the Hezbollah were the first to advertise and make public the US hidden presence in favour of Guaidò in Venezuela.

 The reason for this particular relationship between the pro-Iranian Lebanese Shiites and the “Bolivarian” regime is simple and concrete: right from the start, Chavez and Maduro gave carte blanche for the laundering of Hezbollah’s secret funds in Venezuela, especially through drug trafficking activities.

  Furthermore, the Lebanese group operating in Venezuela collected essential data on international crime, which was useful exactly for Hezbollah to find its place into the global cycles for money laundering and acquisition of illegal funds.

 Even Cuba – which, despite the all-too-touted “liberalization” of the post-Castro regime, kept on serving as air passage of drugs to the United States – used the Venezuelan “Bolivarians” for money laundering activities, as well as a basis for the operational shift of South American drugs to the ever more drug-addicted United States.

 Some Hezbollah’s people also have important positions in Maduro’s government.

 Just think about Tarek el Assaimi, the 28thVice-President of Venezuela and later Oil Minister, who currently “covers” many of the Lebanese from Hezbollah that very easily acquire a Venezuelan passport.

 El Assaimi has also been reported to the US Drug Administration since 2017.

 Why does Iran need Venezuela?

 Firstly, to avoid US trade restrictions. Iran sees the US support for Guaidò as a direct threat to its interests in Latin America, which are manifold and very widespread.

 Coincidentally, the Venezuelan gold – that was said to have so far been exported to Turkey for security reasons -is currently heading for Iran.

Cuba’s drug system has been essential to maintain Castro’s regime as early as the time of Ochoa, who had supported the Medellin cartel in the cocaine shipments to the United States. At the time, however, the proceeds were in the banks of Noriega, the President of Panama who laundered 80% of Cuban illegal cash flows.

 Now the system works in favour of Venezuela, which no longer has the financial controls that were previously unavoidable in a fully pro-American country like Panama.

 Certainly, for Cuba, the Medellin cartel’s drug transfer to the United States was also a purely political operation to plague the American society and make it powerless and unproductive.

  It has largely already succeeded to reach this goal.

 After Noriega’s fall, that network has largely moved to Venezuela and is currently operating at full capacity and in full swing.

 Meanwhile, the Cuban intelligence services were directly connected to the Colombian FARC and later to the Venezuelan security forces, formerly regional leaders of drug trafficking at the time.

 As is the case today, since then the Cuban secret services have trained the Bolivarian intelligence services. In fact, at the time, the former eliminated most of the Venezuelan opposition to Chavez.

 Indeed, after the Cuban training, Chavez’ intelligence services established the Cartel de los Soles(the “Cartel of the Suns”) and in fact the name comes from the “sun” insignia of Venezuelan generals.

 Currently, it is precisely corruption and the illegal drug trafficking led by Maduro’s generals to directly support the regime and to strengthen and fund the fight against Guaidò’s forces.

 The Venezuelan narcomilitaries know all too well that, if they lose power, they will soon be judged by some US or international court.

 This kleptocracy removes from Venezuela’s coffers an officially declared sum worth around 70 billion US dollars, but some Latin American security services speak of about 300 billion US dollars taken away for paying bribes inside the kleptocratic regime in Venezuela.

 Hence an inflation triggered and maintained only by the criminal kleptocracy of those who also organize a highly lucrative drug trafficking, even within the regime and the whole country.

 Furthermore the controls on money and prices, introduced by Chavez in February 2003, quickly turned Venezuela into a Mafia-State.

 At the time of the founder of “Bolivarianism”, the illegal system created by those price controls, was even larger than it currently is.

 It should be remembered that in 2002 a military coup  ousted Chavez from office for 48 hours only.

 With a view to avoiding the return of the military, Chavez delegated most of the State functions to criminal gangs – and also to the very inefficient Armed Forces.

  The illegal gangs were mainly two, namely the Colectivos and the Pranes.

 The Colectivos took power mainly in the suburbs of Caracas.

 Currently, despite having been supported and often created by the government, the Colectivos are not answerable to anyone – much less to the opposition.

 The democratization of kleptocracy.

 They live mainly on extortion and drug dealing.

 Currently, however, they have been essential to repress Guaidò’s insurgency and make some areas of Caracas  support Maduro again.

 The Pranes are instead criminal gangs operating within the Venezuelan prison system.

 However, they have also expanded outside prisons, in collaboration with the so-called megabandas.

 The “peace zones”, reached after a long negotiation between criminal gangs and what remains of the police, are just eight in Venezuela.

 Nowadays, the most widespread illegal activities among criminal gangs are those relating to the smuggling of subsidized fuel to Brazil and Colombia.

 There is an ever more limited market for this fuel in the countries of arrival and an increasing number of buyers in Venezuela, which experiences the paradox of being a huge oil producer, but with empty pumps for its citizens.

 Other key sectors, left in the hands of the bandas, are the smuggling of food and pharmaceutical products. This was the reason why the Red Cross aid could not work at the beginning of the crisis.

 In Caracas people die very easily: 89 murders per 100,000 people a day.

 In 2017 there were 26,616 murders – over 5,535 of which carried out by the security forces, while the others were carried out by the gangs of the Operativos para la Liberacion del Pueblo.

 A network created exactly by Maduro.

Furthermore, as already seen, Venezuela is the favorite base for the Colombian narcocrime, while the hungry e Venezuelan proletariat is pushed right out of the cities of Bolivarianism towards Colombia, where the Venezuelan poor people become members of the “cartels” or victims of them.

 In just one year, the last for which we have complete statistics, namely 2017-2018, at least one million Venezuelans fled to Colombia alone, with a rate of at least 37,000 citizens of the Bolivarian State who crossed the border with the territory of Bogotà everyday.

 Panama, which now has no interest in the survival of Maduro’s “Socialist” regime, also included 37 “big shots” from the current Venezuelan regime into a “high-risk list” for money laundering, including Maduro himself, as can be easily imagined.

 That list also included Diosdado Cabello, the No. 2 of Venezuela’s regime and Party, as well as other figures, well known to the Venezuelan public, such as Gustavo Gonzales Peres, the former Head of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service.

 Panama is also part of the “Lima group”, an organization of 14 Latin American countries in the region, which is above all opposed to maintaining the Maduro system in Latin America.

 Even the European Union – with its well-known quick decision-making in foreign policy – imposed personal sanctions on figures such as Interior Minister Nestor Revarol, the President of the Supreme Court, Maikel Moreno, and even the Head of the External Intelligence Service, Gustavo Gonzales Lopez and, finally, to the aforementioned No. 2 of the regime’s Party, Diosdado Cabello.

  They can no longer travel to EU countries and their bank funds deposited there will be frozen.

 The appeal for a general upheaval that interim President Juan Guaidò had announced on the morning of April 30th – together with the recently-released military Leopoldo Lopez, and with a military group from La Carlota air base – seems to have failed.  In a country like Venezuela, the “Arab Spring” model does not work at all.

 US intelligence services’ greater intellectual imagination would be needed.

 Meanwhile Lopez has recently taken refuge at the headquarters of the Spanish embassy in Caracas, while the Spanish government has declared it will never release Lopez to the Maduro government.

  25 other rebel military applied for asylum at the Brazilian embassy, but it should be noted that Lopez had previously addressed to the diplomatic offices of Chile, although he declared – after being accepted by the Spanish diplomacy in Venezuela – he had never asked for political asylum.

 Nevertheless many Venezuelans have anyway agreed to take to the streets, where two other young people have recently died, thus rising to 55 the number of victims of Maduro’s repression since the beginning of this year.

 Meanwhile, the opposition denounced a toll of other 74 severely injured people, followed by 168 arrests, including at least a dozen journalists.

 Meanwhile Guaidò goes from one hiding place to another, but he was seen by the crowd on May 1stwhen he called for a strike of all Venezuelan workers in the short term.

 Maduro responded to Guaidò’s call to strike only the day after, but it was a clearly recorded TV broadcast.

 Shortly afterwards, in his official capacity as Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton – an old heir to the neocon foreign policy – informed the international media that Defense Minister Valentin Padrino Lopez, Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno and the Director of the DG for Military Counterintelligence, Ivan Hernandez Dala, had negotiated directly with the USA to oust Maduro.

 Instillation of suspicions in Maduro’s elite, or also truth? Hence evident psychological war or US indecision between the choice of staging a coup inside Maduro’s Party, with some US trusted elements, or the reaffirmation of US trust in Juan Guaidò?

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s Secretary of State and former CIA Director, also stated that Maduro was already on a plane to Cuba, immediately after the May 1st demonstrations, but that Russia harshly ordered him to stay in Venezuela.

 Could the reason underlying the US support to Guaidò’s attempted coup – which is now not matched by the same support it had gained at the beginning of the insurgency – beoil, as usual?

 With the oil barrel price around 50-60 US dollars, the price of Venezuelan oil is still acceptable, but we are talking about heavy hydrocarbons, which need successive and obviously expensive further refining.

 Exxon-Mobil is still trying to acquire the Essequibo extraction area, where sovereignty over it is still being discussed between Venezuela and Guyana.

 In Venezuela, there are still 15 billion barrels a day of not extracted oil, in addition to as many as 42 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

 It should be considered that Venezuela is still the second country – if not the first, depending on explorations- in terms of oil and gas reserves available.

 The USA, however, is mainly exploiting its national basins and is selling natural gas and oil, by sea, even to some European countries.

 Hence, currently for the United States the issue of Venezuelan oil and gas is not to acquire them – although the oil barrel production cost in Venezuela is still lower than the shale oil and gas of the US Permian basin – but above all to prevent those oil and gas reserves from being used by China and the Russian Federation.

 In fact, in the years of the sharp drop in the oil barrel price, until 2016, Maduro chose to assign as much as 49.9% of a PVDSA subsidiary, namely CITGO, to Russian Rosneft – in exchange for a loan against the transfer of the company shares to the tune of 1.5 billion dollars directly to the Venezuelan State.

 Also Russia, however, is a net exporter, and Goodness knows how powerful that country is in terms of oil and gas, with a primary focus of its markets on the EU.

 In this case, however, for Russia the Venezuelan oil could be a strong way to put pressure on the United States – exactly due to the lower price of the Venezuelan crude oil – with a view to reducing the negative impact of the US (and EU) sanctions on Russia for the Ukrainian issue.

 Hence, by spending a relatively little sum, namely 1.5 billion US dollars, Russia became the true arbiter of Venezuelan oil to use it as a leverage over the United States – indeed, really for purposes of blackmail against the United States.

 In fact, it is by no mere coincidence that, in February 2018, a group of US investors of unclear complexion tried to buy back the Russian shareholding of CITGO, asking the Venezuelan government to accept payment to them of the remaining Russian loan and also asking Rosneft to transfer the remaining amount of the loan already granted in Venezuela to the new CITGO.

 Needless to say, the offer was declined.

 As always happens in these cases, the United States is also operating with economic pressures and embargoes.

 It is imposing a further embargo for Petroleos de Venezuela SA, namely the whole PDVSA, which legally began in early January 2019.

 This means that the proceeds from Venezuelan oil will be very limited, as if Venezuela were an economic hostage.

 With a view to favouring – even among the elites of the “Maduro system” – the shift to the US camp, instead of remaining within the sphere of Russian economic control (and of Iranian control for the non-oil criminal economy).

 President Trump’s desire to invade Venezuela is now well-known to the international public, at least based on his statements of June 2018, when, at a meeting in the Oval Office, President Trump expressed that clear desire to the then Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, former President of Exxon-Mobil, and also to the then National Security Adviser, General MacMaster.

 It should be clarified that neither of the two advisors was favourable to the operation.

 In late 2018,Maduro – increasingly under pressure as a result of the international economic crisis and of the huge internal crisis, particularly heavy for the oil-dependent countries – gave to the companies of the strong Russian mining sector access to the Venezuelan gold mines – those that had created the myth of Eldorado in Spain in the  seventeenth century.

In Venezuela there are also mineral reserves of nickel, diamonds, iron, bauxite and aluminum.

  Clearly, however, Latin America’s new strategic and political positioning – especially after Bolsonaro’s victory in  Brazil – is fully in favour of the United States and, specifically, of President Trump, while the assets in favour of the Russian Federation are diminishing.

   This means that Russia, along with its traditional allies, such as China, will keep Venezuela very close, especially for geopolitical purposes and ever less for strictly economic ones.

  While the real strategic variable will soon be China. Will it accept to participate in Russia’s very interested support for Maduro’s regime, taking what remains of the Venezuelan economy, or will it accept the US proposal of taking a large part of Venezuela after breaking China’s ties with Russia, at least in Latin America?

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