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Hands Off Venezuela!

The US is gearing up for another attempt at regime change, this time in Venezuela. The first attempt in that country was on April 11, 2002. That coup lasted only a few days before millions of mostly poor, mostly brown and black Venezuelans took to the streets to demand the return of their democratically-elected president, Hugo Chávez. The power of the people prevailed, and the US-backed usurpers retreated with their tails between their legs.

Most people I've talked to about Venezuela say the same thing, that the situation seems overly complicated to fully comprehend. However, I assure you that this isn't complicated, nor is it unfamiliar. Do you remember Iraq, and how that went down, and how it turned out? Okay, then you understand what's going on in Venezuela: a nation of mostly brown people sits atop one of the world's largest oil reserves, and has refused to allow Western business interests to have full access to the nation's markets and resources. The corporate media pops onto the scene to report on a human rights crisis in the country that urgently requires the US and its allies to intervene to restore justice. All that's required is either a coup or military action, followed by a puppet government that violently suppresses the population while instituting neoliberal policies (privatization of previously nationalized institutions, giant contracts for the likes of Halliburton, dissolution of social welfare programs in order to repay giant IMF loans, etc.)

The US and its allies claim that the current leader of Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro, is a bad dude who does bad things to his country and his people. Namely, they claim that he is a dictator who came to power in a rigged election, and since in office he has irresponsibly bungled the nation's economy, plunging a once prosperous country into poverty. Further, he has stubbornly ignored the demands of the opposition party that he hold truly democratic elections, and he is refusing foreign aid that would provide the Venezuelan people with much-needed basics such as food and medicine. As a result, there is no other option but to have the World's Superman come to the rescue to restore peace, justice and, well, the American Way.

Did any of that description of Maduro and his "regime" sound familiar? Can we think of any other country with an authoritarian leader who came to power via dubious means, and who has ignored the concerns of the opposition party who are demanding justice and a restoration of their democracy? Oh! Right! That's a fairly apt description of the political situation in the United States, is it not?

Of course, the only difference is that no one in this country would be okay with the Chinese army bringing aid across the Mexican boarder, while the Chinese government not-so-secretly supplied millions of dollars to various anti-Trump opposition movements, all while a state representative that very few people have heard of---say, Connor Lamb---suddenly one day swears himself in as the president. That last part is exactly what happened with Juan Guaidó, the previous nobody who recently swore himself in as president of Venezuela. He just so happens to have studied at Georgetown University, where he became well versed in the neoliberal philosophy/religion of the Chicago School, and he just so happens to be backed by the US, its allies, and the western corporate media.

Look, if you think it would be okay for China to install Connor Lamb as president, rather than us in this country handling our own political affairs, then I totally understand how you'd be supportive of the US agenda in Venezuela. You see, your worldview would at least be consistent. But if you think that the US, as a sovereign nation, should be left to handle its own affairs, without the intervention of another country, then your support of a Venezuelan coup, under the auspices of US aid to the country, etc, would be rather inconsistent. While there's no requirement for consistency in one's beliefs, it is helpful in making the actions of the US around the world seem less confusing.

Further, if you are interested in social justice at home, then you should certainly care about social justice abroad. One of the things I've learned over the past few years is that the features of racism are largely scale-invariant. A double standard along racial lines as applied by one person to another is racism. For example, a white person might report to the police a suspicious-looking person in their neighborhood on the basis of them being Black. This should be easily recognizable as interpersonal racism. If that Black person is subsequently shot by police officers arriving on the scene, one might be able to see how this is racism scaled up to the institutional level; as racism embedded in the police, with its historical roots in citizen militias battling Native Americans, or as slave patrols. And if the majority of that Black person's family lives in poverty despite making every effort to work or find jobs, then we can see how that is racism systemically woven into the fabric of society.

In each step of scaling racism from interpersonal to the national level, white supremacy and the attendant, often implicit belief in race, provides the narratives and ready-made explanations for the double standard at play. "Well, what was that person doing in that neighborhood? That hoodie did make them look like a potential burglar. The police say he was resisting arrest. Black people do tend to be violent. Why don't they just work hard like everyone else, instead of taking advantage of welfare?"

Well, in my view the scaling continues up to the international level. As white supremacy is to racism, american exceptionalism is to us imperialism and neocolonialism. "The US needs to intervene until those people can take care of themselves. Their leader does bad things to their people!" Does another country need to intervene here until we can get the DNC to stop rigging their primaries, or until trump stops ripping off poor people through his regressive tax policies? Venezuela is a country mostly populated by the descendants of colonized and enslaved people, that so happens to sit atop one of the richest supplies of oil in the world. Their current leader may not be perfect, but he was elected via a democratic process widely regarded as far more fair and free from corruption than the elections in the US. If the Venezuelan people have a problem with him, they have a constitution in place that provides means of fixing the situation without the need for intervention by a country founded upon colonization and slavery, or any other country for that matter. The key word here is sovereignty.

Want to learn more about Venezuela? Well, the corporate media are consistently presenting a single, unified narrative, so feel free to pick up the latest edition of the Times or whatever your favorite source of State Department stenography (the same folks who brought you yellow cake uranium!). But if you'd like a few non-corporate sources of information, here are some excellent resources that I've cross-checked against other non-corporate sources, and also done some background reading on. Should you believe them on this basis? Of course not! As always, you should do your own cross-checking while developing your own basis of trusting various sources of information.

The War On Democracy (English subtitles) from John Pilger on Vimeo.


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