By Tommy Sheridan
9th April 2019
You are mugged in the street by a gang of powerful and well organised thugs who rob you of your money and personal possessions. You are knocked to the ground and subjected to violent blows to your body and head that almost render you unconscious. You notice other citizens observe the assault but they appear too frightened to intervene. The attackers are big and powerful. They also shout loudly that you deserve to be attacked as they aim further blows at you. There is a look of fear, confusion and apprehension in the faces of those that look on.
The innocent by-standers are consumed with fear of reprisals if they dare to help or raise their voices in protest but they are also confused by the loud claims that you are deserving of this assault and robbery. Some satisfy themselves that their cowardice in failing to intervene on your behalf is justified by the proclamations that you deserve this treatment. You lie in the street battered, bloodied and bruised. You are frightened and sore and your personal dignity has also been undermined. Then one of your attackers offers you a hand to raise you from the ground. He promises you medical assistance and now the people observing this episode are even more confused. The individuals responsible for this violent episode appear to be offering the targeted victim medical help. How can this add up?
Then it becomes clear that the offer of medical attention to treat your open wounds, cuts and bruises is dependent upon you cooperating with a continuation of their theft from you. Only if you give them the pin number to your bank debit card to allow them to empty your account will they call an ambulance. You refuse and begin to fight back despite the overwhelming odds. Some of the observers cannot fathom your futile resistance and call on you to give the attackers the pin number to allow medical help to be summoned. Others realise their silence is cowardly and shout in protest at your treatment and call for the police to be summoned. They are both disappointed and cowered when your brutal attackers who have robbed you turn to those protesting and announce ‘we are the police, we are the forces of law and order’.
This short allegory illustrates almost perfectly international relations between the world’s self-appointed policeman, the United States of America (US), and the rest of the world but particularly smaller countries which ever dare step out of the neo-liberal free market line and consensus and embrace socialist ideas and policies.
The principle character in the allegory has been a cast of hundreds over the years but today is Venezuela. Since the democratic election of socialist Hugo Chavez in 1998 and his inauguration as President in 1999 the US has consistently denounced Venezuela’s socialist policies and sought to undermine them economically through the use of sanctions and trading restrictions.
That approach has been pumped up several notches since the economic downturn of 2015 which combined with US sanctions to strangle Venezuela’s economy as oil prices plummeted and reduced the value of its principle export.
The US despises the socialist policies and Bolivarian spirit of revolution and radical wealth re-distribution which Chavez and the Chavismo movement represented and continues to represent under the former bus driver President, Nicholas Maduro, who was re-elected last year with more than 6.2 million votes in a multi-candidate election described as one of the fairest in the world by international election observers. Although decried by countries obedient to the US, who failed to send observers, those elections have been validated by hundreds of independent international observers:
“In reality, Venezuela had free, fair and transparent elections and manages the most sophisticated and accurate voting system in the world. Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center has a Democracy Program, said, “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” This is consistent with others who have monitored Venezuelan elections. In the recent election, there were 150 international observers from over 30 countries who also noted the advanced nature of the election system and validated the results” https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/13843.
However fair and free elections which produce results contrary to US neo-liberal consensus are never acceptable as the US only promotes democracy when it suits them to do so. The election of a fascist President in Brazil is acceptable but the election of a socialist in Venezuela is not. International law and respect for national sovereignty is not a principle to the US but an option they can choose whenever it suits their interests. The US is the biggest hypocrite on the planet and deserves the label as the most dangerous Rogue Nation on earth.
Those who take America at its word and believe the humanitarian aid and concern for human rights and international law propaganda from the powerful media it controls really stand guilty of short memories, grotesque naivety or wanton ignorance.
There are scores of examples which illustrate the US disregard for international law and national sovereignty when it suits them, far too many to mention in one column. However never forget what the Ronald Reagan administration did in the name of human rights, international law and via ‘humanitarian aid’’ in Nicaragua in the early 1980’s.
The democratically elected socialist leaning government of Nicaragua accused America of illegally funding a brutal terrorist group intent on overthrowing the elected government of Daniel Oretega through acts of terror, extreme violence and deliberate sabotage of the economy. Ortega and the Sandinistas were elected in 1979 much to the displeasure of the US. They proceeded to use the cover of ‘humanitarian aid’ to channel armaments, military vehicles and training worth millions of dollars to a group of mercenaries determined to violently overthrow the Sandinistas. This group was called the Contras. The US support for them was in direct violation of international law and in breach of Nicaragua’s sovereignty as a nation.
After the presentation of evidence to the International Court of Justice, effectively the World’s Court, and despite the deliberate attempts to hinder the uncovering and presentation of evidence the US was found guilty of violating both international law and the principles of humanitarian law by laying mines to destroy ships in the waters surrounding Nicaragua and funding and training an opposition group which dished out terror, torture and violence in its campaign to overthrow the elected government. The investigation exposed the US (via the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)) use of supposed ‘humanitarian aid’ as a cover to transfer the weapons and means of torture to the Contras. The 1986 Judgement is a stark warning to the world of what the US is capable of and is one major reason why Venezuela’s elected government is right to oppose the sham ‘humanitarian aid’ currently presented by the US and world’s Western media as genuine.
The Judgement should be read by all concerned with international affairs and how they are really conducted behind the newspaper headlines and massaged news bulletins:
(8) By fourteen votes to one,
Decides that the United States of America, by failing to make known the existence and location of the mines laid by it, referred to in subparagraph (6) hereof, has acted in breach of its obligations under customary international law in this respect; […]
(9) By fourteen votes to one,
Finds that the United States of America, by producing in 1983 a manual entitled Operaciones sicológicas en guerra de guerillas, and disseminating it to contra forces, has encouraged the commission by them of acts contrary to general principles of humanitarian law: (https://casebook.icrc.org/case-study/icj-nicaragua-v-united-states)
The US was found guilty by the World Court of violating international law and encouraging the brutal Contras of breaching the general principles of humanitarian law and it ordered the US to desist from its illegal actions and pay substantial reparations to Nicaragua. It ruled that the aid channelled to the mercenaries that made up the Contras was military aid not humanitarian and was thus illegal.
For a commentary on this exposure of the darkness at the heart of US international relations and many other bigger and more devastating examples read ‘Rogue States’ by Noam Chomsky (www.plutobooks.com 2000).
America’s desire for regime change in Venezuela recognises no international law or respect for national sovereignty. The continued existence of a Chavismo government which conflicts with current US foreign policy objectives in Latin America is all that matters to them. What should be a blessing is a curse for Venezuela. It possesses the largest oil reserves in the world, bigger even than those of Saudi Arabia.
America is not concerned with poverty in Venezuela or human rights. Their only concern is for strategic control over Venezuelan oil reserves and revenues.
Earlier this year John Bolton, US National Security Advisor, effectively admitted why America was proactively supporting an unelected stooge as interim President and keen to provoke an overthrow of the Maduro government when he said;
“It will make a big difference to the US economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce oil capabilities in Venezuela” https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/trump-adviser-john-bolton-admits-venezuela-coup-oil.
US political hostility towards Venezuela has had negative repercussions for the economy. The introduction of trade restrictions in 2006 were followed by the imposition of international economic sanctions, and then the withdrawal of multinational corporate investments.
The new oil embargo is currently costing the Venezuelan economy $30 million a day while a prohibition on corporations under US jurisdiction from purchasing oil from PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, is denying PDVSA $11 billion in revenues during 2019 to date https://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/27554.
The assets of Houston based PDVSA subsidiary, CITGO, with a value of $7 billion, have been frozen in the US. Prior to this most recent escalation, US financial sanctions have already cost the Venezuelan government over $6 billion in lost revenue since August 2017.
Moreover, the British government has blocked the transfer of £1.2 billion of Venezuelan gold deposits in the Bank of England in an act of modern day international piracy which should shame them https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/26/uk/venezuela-maduro-bank-of-england-gold-withdrawal-gbr-intl/index.html.
Venezuela is now entering its sixth year of economic contraction. The severe economic and financial sanctions by the US and other Western governments are weapons of international warfare and are having a devastating effect upon the economy which faces hyperinflation, collapsing oil prices, a black market economy, and corruption.
Since the beginning of March, electricity blackouts and water shortages have caused new hardships. It is widely suspected this happened due to a targeted cyber-attack on the country’s main electricity generator aimed at inciting popular outrage as part of a destabilisation strategy against Maduro’s government https://countercurrents.org/2019/03/10/stay-true-to-chavismo-says-maduro-as-power-outage-continues-due-to-cyber-attacks-on-venezuelas-power-grid/.
After deliberately undermining the Venezuelan economy through the sanctions, trade restrictions and asset seizures leading to severe hardship across the country the US, like the thugs in our allegory at the start, proposes a humanitarian aid programme which has nothing to do with aid and everything to do with further undermining of the elected Maduro government.
This plan is being coordinated by the US appointed puppet Juan Guaido but the Venezuelan government has wisely refused USAID personnel access to the country claiming the aid programme is a cover for foreign intervention to topple the elected President. They have clearly read the ICJ Judgement of 1986 https://casebook.icrc.org/case-study/icj-nicaragua-v-united-states.
The Venezuelan government are not the only ones to see through the US humanitarian aid ruse, used so cynically in Nicaragua and elsewhere. Both the United Nations (UN) and international Red Cross have raised serious objections to what they call Washington’s ‘politicised’ aid plan.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said;
“Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military, or other objectives” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-un/un-warns-against-politicizing-humanitarian-aid-in-venezuela-idUSKCN1PV2GF.
Former UN rapporteur Alfred Maunier de Zayas went even further when he told Al Jazeera that it was justifiable to describe the US aid as a ‘publicity stunt’. He described this aid as a potential Trojan horse comparable to how it was used in Nicaragua in the 1980’s to import contraband and weapons to support the Contras. He said that because the US is the cause of the crisis it is inevitable Maduro will refuse US aid, but accept it from other countries.
De Zayas said pointedly;
“Things will improve (in Venezuela) the moment financial and economic sanctions are lifted, and the moment Venezuela is allowed to trade fairly like other countries” https://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/27554.
In the developing drama that grips Venezuela every socialist, humanitarian and democratic should choose the side of the legally elected Maduro government and reject the illegal interference of Trump’s mad dog warmongers like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. Bolton served under Bush in the run up to the disastrous invasion of March 2003 which resulted in the loss of over one million lives. His manipulation of intelligence to justify the unjustifiable is known and must steadfastly be opposed.
He truly is a shameful individual who deserves to be in a dock at the Hague on trial for international war crimes not on TV supporting illegal US activities in Venezuela https://taskandpurpose.com/john-bolton-shame.