U.S./Canada/E.U. Hands Off Venezuela!

The Venezuelan opposition in 2016. Maduro has the support of the poor and the working class in Venezuela. The opposition boycotted the 2018 election and Maduro won handily.
~ Protest photo from Business Insider by Marco Bello (Reuters), Election photo from USA Today

By Alison Bodine, originally published on Fire This Time

Nicolas Maduro was re-elected as President of Venezuela on May 20, 2018, with an outstanding majority – 68% of the ballots cast. President Maduro was far ahead of any other candidate, with Henri Falcon receiving just 21% of the vote, and the other two candidates following far behind. This election is a great victory and step forward for the people of Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

The governments of the U.S., Canada and the European Union (E.U.) were quick to respond to the re-election of President Maduro. As they had already declared the election to be “illegitimate” and “antidemocratic” – their statements condemning the people of Venezuela for their democratic decision were of no surprise. Also, of no surprise were the threats to further sanctions and continued meddling in the internal affairs of Venezuela that these same statements contained.

“The United States condemns the fraudulent election that took place in Venezuela on May 20… Until the Maduro regime restores a democratic path in Venezuela through free, fair, and transparent elections, the government faces isolation from the international community.” – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

“Yesterday’s presidential elections in Venezuela are illegitimate and antidemocratic… the Maduro regime has shown itself unwilling to make any serious attempt to ensure the elections meet international democratic standards of freedom and fairness.” – Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada

“…the EU calls for the holding of fresh presidential elections in accordance with internationally recognized democratic standards and the Venezuelan constitutional order…the EU will act swiftly, according to established procedures, with the aim of imposing additional targeted and reversible restrictive measures.” – European Council resolution, May 28, 2018

In one fell swoop, the U.S. government and their allies have unanimously refused to recognize the legitimacy of the election, called for further sanctions and “measures” against Venezuela, and offered aid to the people of Venezuela (who, by the way, are suffering due to a brutal U.S.-led sanctions regime).

The day after such a clear electoral victory for President Maduro, the headline should have been, “Venezuela Re-Elects President Maduro.” However, this was not the case at all. Instead, major media was right in lockstep with the U.S. government and their allies, calling into question the validity of the May 20 election in a well-coordinated chorus of headlines. As reported by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), “Amid” was the buzzword used across the board:

“Venezuela’s Maduro Re-elected Amid Outcry Over Vote” (Reuters, 5/20/18)

“Venezuela Election Won by Maduro Amid Widespread Disillusionment” (New York Times, 5/20/18)

“Venezuela Election: Maduro Wins Second Term Amid Claims of Vote Rigging” (BBC (5/21/18)

“Venezuela’s Maduro Wins Re-election Amid Opposition Boycott” (Wall Street Journal, 5/21/18)

“Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Wins Re-election Amid Charges of Irregularities” (Chicago Tribune, 5/20/18)

Perhaps, as with the statements from the U.S. governments and their allies, this unanimity is possible because their headlines are also pre-written?

Among others, there is one major “Amid” that all the mainstream media headlines are missing – Over 6 million Venezuelans elect President Nicolas Maduro to a second term Amid a brutal U.S.-led sanctions regime and threats from the U.S. and their allies to increase sanctions and intervention in Venezuela if Maduro is re-elected.

Given the escalating campaign of sanctions and intervention, the people of Venezuela had every reason to believe that the U.S., Canada and the E.U. would make good on their pre-election threats. If President Maduro won the election, Venezuelans knew that more imperialist attacks and hardship would be coming.

But, of course, mainstream media isn’t presenting any of that perspective at all, as Human Rights lawyer, and international observer to the May 20 election Daniel Kovalik wrote in the article, “The Real Venezuela Is Not What You Think”,

“Grateful for a government on their side and flouting U.S. extortion, the poor came out to vote in large numbers for Mr. Maduro. These are the same poor, by the way, who came down from the mountains in 2002 to demand the return of Hugo Chavez to power after he was overthrown in a U.S.- backed coup and kidnapped.

But you never hear the voices of these poor people in the U.S. press. You never hear their side of the story, how they have benefited from the Bolivarian Revolution and how desperately they do not want to go back to how things were before.”

More Elections = More Sanctions & Attacks

The May 20 Presidential election in Venezuela was the fourth election to take place in Venezuela since the election of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) in July 2017. In each of these elections, the ANC, elections for state governors, and elections for mayors, revolutionary forces have triumphed overwhelmingly. In due turn, with each election, has also come increasing sanctions from the U.S., Canada and the European Union.

On May 21, U.S. President Trump immediately issued an Executive Order further preventing Venezuela from having normal relations with the world market, including severely restricting their ability to pay off and re-structure debts, sell assets, or to receive any profits or dividends from the U.S.-based Citgo oil company that is owned by the government of Venezuela. This has also led to a decrease in imports to Venezuela, including shipments of food and medicines which are withheld or trapped offshore due to the financial restrictions of the sanctions.

At every opportunity, the U.S. government is working to strangle the Venezuelan economy and bring the people of Venezuela to their knees – a vital part of their campaign to overthrow the government of Venezuela and turn back the gains of the Bolivarian revolutionary process. As the economist Mark Weisbrot stated, “By starving the economy of foreign exchange, this action will harm the private sector, most Venezuelans, the poor and the vulnerable.” (The Hill, August 2017)

The government of Canada also moved quickly to implement diplomatic and financial measures against Venezuela. As a leader in the so-called Lima Group, a coalition of 14 right-wing Latin American governments and Canada, the government of Canada immediately announced that it would “downgrade the level of their diplomatic relations with Venezuela.” Although, downgrading relations further would be difficult for Canada, because, in December, Venezuela stripped Canada’s Charge d’Affaires in Caracas of their credentials for meddling in their internal affairs.

The Foreign Minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland also announced that the government of Canada was adding 14 more Venezuelans to their list of sanctions. This included the First Lady of Venezuela, who is also an elected representative in the National Constituent Assembly, Cilia Flores. This means that Canada now sanctions 54 Venezuelan individuals.

These illegal sanctions are dangerous because they demonstrate the extreme hostility of the government of Canada to the sovereign government of Venezuela and violate the human rights of those that they target, but they are also in a way ridiculous. Take, for example, one of the people to appear on the newest list Carolyn Helena Pérez González, a revolutionary, Afro- Venezuelan who is the Assistant Secretary of the National Constituent Assembly. The government of Canada has sanctioned her by closing her accounts in Canada and taking away her possibility for getting a visa to Canada, but she doesn’t have any Canadian accounts and has no need or desire for a visa to Canada.

Democracy for Who?

The governments of the U.S., Canada and the European Union have weaponized the word “democracy,” thrown it around and changed it’s meaning to achieve their imperialist objectives. They have done the same with principles such as “freedom” and “fairness.”

The only form of “democracy” that these governments support is one in which they come out on the side of the victors. In Venezuela, this means that the U.S. government and their allies had nothing bad to say about the 2015 elections in Venezuela, where-in a right-wing majority was voted into the National Assembly. Their allies, the violent, counter-revolutionary opposition in Venezuela had won, therefore the election was democratic.

This is the same reason that imperialist governments and the mainstream media have been silent regarding the election at the end of May in Colombia. Their ally, right-wing Ivan Duque, is set to win in the run-off election, so it doesn’t matter to them that “democratic elections” in Colombia mean widespread accounts of voter-fraud, or that one social leader murdered in Colombia every three days (Atlantic Magazine).

The U.S. and Canada have also been silent about the impossibility of a “free and fair” election in Mexico, where Reuters reported that 82 candidates and elected officials have been murdered since September.

There are numerous examples of this deliberate bias, where the response of the U.S. government and their allies has ranged from a refusal to recognize the democratically elected government to bloody military intervention to overthrow them: Hamas, Palestine (2006); Islamic Salvation Front, Algeria (1991); Salvador Allende, Chile (1970); Mohammad Mossadegh, Iran (1951), and many more.

It is audacious for the government of Canada to even open their mouths to claim that the May 20 election in Venezuela was “anti-democratic.” Canada prevented the over 6,000 Venezuelans living in Canada from voting in the election at all.

The U.S. government and their allies can’t even get their heads straight about whether elections in Venezuela are a good thing for the people of Venezuela that they claim to care so much about. Again, following the same logic as their definition of “democracy,” elections are only acceptable if their counterrevolutionary allies are sure to win.

Less than a year ago Western government statements and their mass media mouthpiece were on a continuous loop of demanding that the government of Venezuela call immediate Presidential elections. The website Investigaction.net compiled demands from releases of the U.S. State Department, a few of them were:

“President Maduro […] should hold elections as soon as possible.” (March 29)

“We […] echo the Venezuelan people’s calls for prompt elections” (April 10)

“We call again upon the Government of Venezuela to […] hold prompt elections” (April 18)

“It’s the Venezuelan people who should decide Venezuela’s future, which is why we once again call on the Venezuelan authorities to promptly hold free, fair, and transparent elections.” (May 2)

Now that Venezuela has held Presidential elections, the U.S. government seems to have forgotten all about their previous demands.

What is the End Game?

The U.S. government and their allies have one goal in mind: to overthrow the government of President Maduro, reversing the gains made by poor, working and oppressed people under the last 20 years of the Bolivarian revolutionary process, and returning Venezuela to their control.

Over the last 20 years since the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the people of Venezuela have taken a stand for their sovereignty and self-determination. The Bolivarian revolutionary process has vastly improved the lives of the majority of the people of Venezuela. Together with revolutionary Cuba, Venezuela has led the way in building a new Latin America based on solidarity, and independent from U.S.- led, imperialist and colonial policies and organizations.

Building Solidarity Is a Must!

U.S.-led threats against Venezuela are increasing: from the preposterous claim that the government of Venezuela has committed “crimes against humanity” submitted by the U.S.-based and funded Organization of American States (OAS) to the International Criminal Court; to Colombia’s recent admission into the cold war Western military alliance NATO, a direct threat not only to Venezuela, but to any movement fighting against imperialism in Latin America. The people of Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolutionary process are under a ceaseless and brutal assault, where as U.S. President Trump has said the “military” option is on the table.

However, the May 20 elections have shown the world that the people of Venezuela will not be blackmailed or starved into following the orders of the United States. The people have voted to continue building the Bolivarian revolutionary process – and with it, they have voted in defense of their sovereignty and self-determination. With the victory of President Maduro, they have told the world that will continue to stand up against the most powerful military force in the world and their dangerous allies – shouting loud and clear “Venceremos! – We will win!”

As people living in Canada, the U.S. and beyond we must stand with them in their struggle to end the criminal sanctions and all imperialist intervention in Venezuela. We have no option but to echo their demands and work to build a consistent, creative and united movement in solidarity with Venezuela. This means educating, organizing and mobilizing people in Canada and around the world in defense of Venezuela and against U.S./ Canada/E.U. threats and sanctions. We also must look for allies in our struggle, in labour unions, community groups, students and poor and oppressed communities. We must do this because, for poor, working and oppressed people, Venezuela is an example of what it means to struggle, and to win. If the government of Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolutionary process is overthrown, it will be a huge set-back for all of us.

The government of Canada, the U.S. and the E.U. are increasing their attacks on Venezuela because they know that the people of Venezuela are only becoming more resolute in their determination to build a different future then one dictated to them from the north. It is our responsibility as people living in North America to do everything that we can to weaken the hands that are attempting to strangle them into submission. United we will win.

Alison Bodine is an  Anti-War and Social Justice Activist, Writer and Researcher with MAWO (Mobilization Against War and Occupation) Vancouver.  Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette

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