— US President Barack Obama
Obama made that statement on the eve of the recent Summit of the Americas convened in Panama City, Panama. The statement came out of the Emperor’s mouth just one short month after he signed Executive Order (EO) 13692 declaring that Venezuela was “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” Now, I know it’s rare for any President of the USA (POTUS) to tell the truth about anything, but in the statement above, Obama did state a half-truth.
In this piece, I will demonstrate that Venezuela is NOT a threat to the US, and not a threat at all. HOWEVER, the US is not only a major threat to the sovereignty of Venezuela, but also to the planet at large.
Before Hugo Chávez became president of Venezuela in 1999, it was indeed a client state of the US and the country’s elite lived in luxury while most of the rest of Venezuelans lived in very poor conditions.
Since 1999, the people of Venezuela re-wrote the constitution and created the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (after Simon Bolivar who tried desperately to unite Central and South America), the nations and their citizens of Latin America have experienced (mostly) a sense of empowerment that comes with the sense that their societies care about them and that they matter and their voices can be heard by governments.
How did this change come about from the election of one man, Hugo Chávez? Well, he electrified the poor and disenfranchised in Venezuela by enshrining human rights as law and then setting about to make sure the will of the people was fulfilled.
The citizens of Venezuela have seen a decrease in poverty and an increase in their health and education. But there is a subset of Venezuelans who still do not like this empowerment: the elite, or the ‘oil’-garchy as I call the elite in Venezuela. Chávez once famously called them the “los escaulídos” or “squalid ones.”
(As a side note, isn’t that a great way of naming and shaming the “elite?” Instead of “elite” which connotes some kind of elevation of some over others, to say, instead, “the squalid ones?” Those that waste resources and spread their squalor over the planet like a fungus: I like it.)
Since Chávez was elected, many of “los escualídos” have worked overtime with the CIA and other US government entities and NGOs to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution: So far it hasn’t worked, but not because the US hasn’t tried.
Once, in 2011, I was on a plane heading to Caracas and, next to me in the row, there were two people from Venezuela. With my limited Spanish, and their limited English, I found out that they owned a hotel at a resort in Venezuela and they had gone to Salt Lake City, UTto go shopping. (Shopping in Utah?) Anyway, I had my computer with me and I showed the woman a picture of me with their president (who was still alive). For some reason, she thought it was Chávez and Lady Di at first, but after I convinced her it was actually I, she said, “You like him?”
“I like him a lot,” I replied.
“He has been very good for the poor,” she admitted.
I think it’s pretty well established that the Bolivarian Revolution helped the poor of Venezuela, but how did it help Latin America in general?
In 2010, I was given permission to travel to Venezuela to interview President Chávez for what eventually became my book: Revolution, A Love Story. During that trip, I was invited to travel to Uruguay with President Chávez in his version of Air Force One to attend the inauguration of leftist President Felipé Mujica.
First of all, Chávez made other Latin American leaders like Evo Morales possible (but Chávez was only possible because of the Cuban Revolution, in my opinion), but it also inspired the other desperately poor people in Central and South America.
Here in the Evil Empire, to even be in the same zip code as a US President, one has to go through many levels of security, but in Montevideo, I witnessed Chávez confidently stride into a crowd of cheering Uruguayans to shake hands and speak with them. No one had gone through any screening, but when a person is generally loved and admired, that’s not so much of a problem.
Author/Activist Eva Golinger documented from Freedom Of Information (FOIA) requests that the US was a profound part of the attempted coup against Chávez in 2001 and since then Golinger claims that the US has spent 100 billion dollars trying to destabilize the Revolution.
Also, during the Bush years, the Empire maintained nine military bases in neighboring Colombia, ostensibly to fight the “drug war” (the CIA is in the global drug trade business), but to also further isolate Venezuela just as the Empire is now doing in Ukraine to isolate Russia, for example.
When it comes to foreign policy, Chávez and current President Maduro have taken the route of spreading goodwill among Venezuela’s neighbors. Cuba receives oil and beef (in exchange for doctors and teachers) and poor people in the US receive subsidized or free heating oil, for example.
It seems like the only thing the US exports are bombs and troops.
It was indeed a sad day for the world when Hugo Chávez passed away in 2013, and many people asked me if the Bolivarian Revolution would die with Hugo Chávez. My answer was and is, “I have been there, I have witnessed the advances in Venezuela and the political engagement and empowerment of the citizenry, and I can’t believe that they would want to return to the days when the gap between the rich and the poor was so great.”
With the new president Nicolas Maduro, I have seen that the US government is still supporting the former coup traitors but I also see the people of Venezuela courageously fighting to retain the legacy of Chávez, in his name. Is the Bolivarian Revolution perfect? Far from it because true Socialism puts control of work places and the government totally in the hands of the people. But with the Community Councils and social benefits, Venezuela far surpasses the so-called wealthiest nation on earth.
My response to right-wingers (like Obama) when they say that Venezuela is a “threat” to the US, is to ask a series of questions:
Q: “In how many countries does Venezuela currently maintain military bases and occupying forces?”
A: One: Venezuela
Q: “In how many countries does the US currently maintain military bases and occupying forces?”
A: Hard to pin down with “classified” sites, but around 150 out of a total of 195 countries.
Q: “How much money (percentage of GDP) does Venezuela spend on its military?
A: 1.2% [about $5.3 billion]
Q: “How much money (percentage of GDP) does the US spend on its military?
A: 3.7% [about $620.4 billion]
So, this is my question to Barack Obama:
“What nation is THE threat to global peace?”
Heck, with the police state crackdown here in the USA, it is not the Venezuelan government and people but the armed force of the US imperialist state apparatus (the police, national guard, etc.), representing the US ruling class, that is an actual threat even to the citizens of the USA!
(Source: Ray O’ LightNewsletter, May-June 2015, Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA)
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