Statement by the Chicago Anti-War Coalition (CAWC)
This Statement is part of a series by the Chicago Anti-War Coalition (CAWC) updating the latest on the U.S. government’s brutal and illegal sanctions and attacks on various countries. It is meant to help us build our opposition, and further join in the International Campaign Against U.S. Sanctions.
This Statement mainly focuses on the U.S. sanctions attacks on Venezuela— which have the aim of making Venezuela open to U.S. domination. We also bring out how we are inspired to further action by the fight back of the Venezuelan people and government.
As many people know, the U.S. government has been very rough with Venezuela—with attempted coups, stealing billions, sabotage, threatening military intervention, and sanctions. But obviously not rough enough as shown by the resilience of the Venezuelan people.
The Venezuelan people have not buckled and allowed a renewal of U.S. government domination.
- They have not allowed further theft of their oil and gold by the U.S.,
- or the dismantlement of their social programs or the political structure, which includes participatory democracy of self-determination in local areas,
- or giving up their alliance with other countries in Latin America opposing U.S. imperialism, such as Cuba or Nicaragua.
Because of this staunch stand of the Venezuelans and their government, both Trump and Biden have promised to continue U.S. sanctions and other attacks on the Venezuelan people and government and to work for a pro-U.S. regime change. Ditto Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.
Though people may have decided to vote for one or another of the presidential candidates for various reasons, they need to be clear there is no significant difference between the Trump and Biden tickets on the goal for the U.S. government to impose a governmental change in Venezuela that will be pro-U.S., as we spell out below.
Now to give some more details about the brutal and unjust and illegal sanctions and other attacks on Venezuela by the U.S. ruling class, and their serious impact on Venezuela, as well as the fight back. This leads to the question of what can we do to oppose this and to support the strong resistance of the Venezuelan people and their government.
(1) First, a rundown on U.S. sanctions and other attacks on Venezuela and their impact.
Under orders from the U.S. government some $5.4 billion of Venezuelan money is frozen in 50 banks, including 31 tons of gold that the Bank of England has refused to release to the Venezuelan government. The U.S. government seized $18 billion in assets and dividends of the CITGO oil and gasoline company.
U.S. sanctions were imposed on Venezuela first by President Obama in 2015 with the ridiculous statement that it was an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the security of the United States.” Sanctions have been expanded since from targeting individuals in the Venezuelan government to companies doing business with Venezuela. The U.S. has threatened international shippers and purchasers of Venezuelan oil. Because of this and the U.S. effort to undercut the value of the bolivar, Venezuela has lost some $169 billion. (See Pasqualina Curcio in Orinoco Tribune, 7/17/20)
The oil industry has generated 95% of Venezuela foreign currency revenue from exports. A decrease in these exports to a 77 year low because of the U.S. threats on shippers and recipients of the oil has affected revenues available to the Venezuelan people. There has also been a blockage of imports of needed supplies for the oil industry, including machinery and spare parts. As a result, production of oil has decreased 64%, making for a tighter squeeze on funding social programs.
This year, the U.S. government further hit Venezuela’s oil sector by imposing secondary sanctions against two subsidiaries of Rosneft, a Russian energy giant. It had been carrying a large portion of Venezuela’s output before rerouting it to various destinations. Because of U.S. action, it closed its Venezuela operations, further hitting the Venezuelan income.
Venezuela’s own fleet of oil carriers has also been hard hit by U.S. sanctions. For example, insurer Standard Club revoked protection and indemnity insurance for the Venezuela’s supertankers and their cargo, making it difficult for them to carry out international business. One ship has been seized as a U.S. glassmaker tries to gain more money through a U.S.-dominated World Bank court (the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes) from the nationalization of two of its factories in 2010.
U.S. sanctions are a violation of international law as stated in the United Nations Charter, which the U.S. has signed. The Charter states, “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state….”(Section 2, Article 4) The illegality of U.S. sanctions is also spelled out in Section 7 of the UN Charter, which reserves the sole right to impose country sanctions to the UN Security Council and denies that right to individual countries, including the U.S.
The sanctions are a form of collective punishment that is the complete opposite of the basic principles of justice and human rights, including the right to life, and adequate food and health care.
The U.S. government attack on the currency, the bolivar, has made matters even worse for the Venezuelan people. As a Republican politician, Richard Black, has analyzed it, the U.S. government “demonetized their currency and, through the international banking system, made the Venezuelan currency worthless and then we go and say: ‘Look how bad this government is, your currency is worthless.’ Well, it wasn’t them, it was us who made their currency useless” (Orinoco Tribune, 12/24/19). The attack on the bolivar has produced hyperinflation and the consequent loss of purchasing power for the working class, and loss of much national production.
In recent months the U.S. government has been further doubling down, even in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic. In April and May, the U.S. began cracking down on swap deals that provide Venezuela with food, fuel and other vital imports in exchange for crude oil. For example, the Mexican company Libre Abordo was to provide hundreds of water trucks to Venezuela in exchange for 30 million barrels of Venezuelan crude oil. In late May the Mexican government began taking steps with the U.S. to sabotage this. The U.S. has acted similarly against other companies bartering goods for oil. This has included companies bartering goods for Venezuela’s subsidized food program known as CLAP.
To summarize, with the $169 billion lost through U.S. attacks, Venezuela could have paid its entire external debt of $110 billion. Or had enough resources to import food and medicine for 45 years, and not have suffered the loss of 40,000 lives from lack of health care supplies. But the aim of the U.S. has been, in the words of former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, to “accelerate collapse” of the Venezuelan government (He said this on Voice of America 10/18/18 reports Telesur).
But there are concerns that the U.S. government thinks that even this is not working well enough. There has been talk citing evidence that the U.S. may be having troops from Colombia and other countries massing for an invasion of Venezuela. The Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN, Samuel Moncada, has, for one, been sounding an alert for this possibility.
(2) How have the working class Venezuelan people and their allies in Venezuela been handling these attacks?
The Venezuelan people and their government have been very active in resisting the impacts of the U.S. sanctions, and in gaining international support.
On the agricultural front, the people have been actively growing food where they live so they do not suffer from the shortages and high prices of imported food. “We’re doing this to combat the economic warfare so that they can’t have us on our knees again,” 69 year old Luisiana Galvis from Caracas is reported to have said. She and 17 other people cultivate vegetables on shared land.
The Bolivarian Revolution has plenty of examples of communities organizing to take control of their own destiny, with President Nicolás Maduro calling for food sovereignty. A Ministry of Urban Agriculture has worked to send seeds, equipment and educational projects to the communities. The government has urged citizens to plant in every available space — private terraces, communal areas, jails and schools among other sites as they say properly planting one square yard can yield nearly 45 pounds of fruits and vegetables.
And the government has ensured widespread distribution of subsidized food in a program known as CLAP (The Local Committees for Supply and Production; Spanish: Comité Local de Abastecimiento y Producción, CLAP; are food distribution committees in which the communities supply and distribute food through a house-to-house delivery method.)
Venezuela has also been fighting possible malnutrition with 3,000 “Food Houses.” Around 1.7 million Venezuelans are working in the provision of essential services during the pandemic. Over the last decade, Venezuela has reduced the malnutrition rate from 13.5 percent to 2.5 percent. This achievement was possible thanks to the participation of “The Cooks of the Homeland,” a group of women who dedicate an hour of their daily work to activities carried out in a network of 3,117 restaurants feeding vulnerable communities. The current goal is to consolidate some 6,000 food houses linked to home grown food. Each Food House can provide lunch to hundreds of people with children, adolescents, the elderly, and people with physical disabilities or in situations of social vulnerability receiving priority attention.
Also the State sends food to homes every two weeks with each basket containing 24 pounds of products. This is the CLAP program which benefits over six million Venezuelan families, despite efforts by U.S. sanctions to sabotage it.
Projects such as the Pueblo a Pueblo initiative has linked organized rural and urban communities. They have been solving the problem of locally produced seeds and organic fertilizer.
It’s important for us to see what the Venezuelan government is doing in terms of food sovereignty in the middle of this economic warfare on the country. The Venezuelan people are definitely resisting in this way the problem of imports caused by U.S. sanctions and activities.
And they are also ready to fight militarily in defense of their Bolivarian Revolution.
Venezuela’s Civilian Militia has grown to 3.7 million men and women volunteers, according to President Maduro in January, and the aim is to provide each of them with a weapon as soon as possible. They all go to an Anti-Imperialist School for training.
The militia is to be incorporated into the Armed Forces as a “combat unit.”
President Maduro, speaking recently before 30,000 militia members brought out that 2020’s goal is to have four million members.
Last month, 6950 militiamen and women were deployed to safeguard electrical installations following government claims of sabotage. The militia members were also charged with cleaning, maintenance, and forest fire prevention in areas around the installations as Venezuela entered its dry season.
The millions of militia members will be supplementing the regular armed forces of 1.5 million.
The Venezuelan armed forces stopped an armed mercenary incursion on May 3. Venezuelan police and military foiled an attempt by armed men to disembark in Macuto, La Guaira, 20 miles from the capital Caracas. In the clashes, eight mercenaries were killed and weapons were seized, both from speedboats and stored on land.
As part of its resistance and defense preparations, Venezuela has obtained ground to air missiles from Russia, China, and Iran.
Venezuela has been bringing out the illegality of what the U.S. has been doing in international courts.
On another front of resistance to U.S. sanctions, Iran has helped. It sent commercial airliners to Venezuela airlifting technical components and personnel to revive its oil refineries. In return, Caracas paid in its own gold bars. In May, Iranian oil tankers delivered fuel to Venezuelan ports in a move that defied U.S. sanctions against Caracas. The Iranians also ferried food supplies to Venezuela in June to support an Iranian-established supermarket in the country. These recent actions follow many years of close relations between the Islamic Republic and the Bolivarian government.
We here in the U.S. should offer support, and do this mainly by strengthening our opposition to U.S. imperialism. This would be the best support for Venezuelan sovereignty and self-determination. This needs to include opposition to the Democratic and Republican actions of illegal and unjust interference in Venezuelan affairs, including the economic warfare of sanctions.
(3) The Democratic and Republican parties are united on illegal and unjust sanctions and other interference with Venezuela, and attempts to not allow self-determination and to overthrow its elected government.
When it comes to Venezuela, policies of regime change and sanctions, Biden and Trump are basically the same. Biden, like Trump, and the entire U.S. ruling class, is very worried about an independent Venezuela. They use lies to try persuade the American people to support their agenda for a supposed “democracy” for Venezuela.
As Biden lied in March (to the Americas Quarterly), Venezuela’s elected President Maduro “is a dictator, plain and simple.” But he did not lie when he said that “the overriding goal in Venezuela must be to press for a democratic outcome through free and fair elections, and to help the Venezuelan people rebuild their country.” A supposedly democratic outcome, which will be domination by the U.S. government.
Biden is also very worried about the competition between the U.S. banks and corporations and China and Russia. “Pulling back from Latin America will lead to gains in the region for Russia, China and others.” He tries to veil over those fears with the following pseudo democratic boilerplate drivel. He calls to envision a hemisphere that is “secure, middle class and democratic, from the northern reaches of Canada to the southern tip of Chile…. It is vital that we maintain our leadership role in the region.”
Biden goes on to say it is “not because we fear competition, but because U.S. leadership is indispensable to addressing the persistent challenges that prevent our region from realizing its fullest potential. China and Russia seek economic and diplomatic benefits but do not invest in democratic institutions or good governance. We do, because we benefit from the success of our neighbors and we are impacted by their struggles… U.S. leadership is needed more than ever…. [needed are] intensified sanctions on Venezuela…”
Trump said in his 2020 State of the Union address, also lying about Venezuela, that “Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people, but Maduro’s grip on tyranny will be smashed and broken.” Trump said in his speech, “Here this evening is a very brave man who carries with him the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all Venezuelans. Joining us in the gallery is the true and legitimate president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó” (who was hand chosen by the U.S. government and has little support in Venezuela).
Very telling for our point about the similarity of Democrats and Republicans on Venezuela, Trump’s remarks gained a standing ovation by the entire Congress. As National Public Rado (NPR) reported, “It was one of the few times that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats stood to applaud during Trump’s speech.”
Even though we have focused on the similarity of Democrats and Republicans on this aspect of U.S. foreign policy, we should make it clear that the Chicago Anti-War Coalition does not advocate that its readers approach the upcoming election in one way or another.
(4) What is needed?
To conclude, we think this all shows U.S. imperialism, its real nature. This is capitalist rule by banks and corporations. The ruling class runs the U.S. government. This means that for us to oppose the criminal U.S. interference in Venezuela, we need to unite to oppose and get rid of U.S. imperialism and establish a government of peace and justice. Chicago Anti-war Coalition (CAWC) hopes you will join in alongside us to work for this.
Chicago Anti-War Coalition (CAWC)