In this context, what is the role of the US Left or those who feel solidarity with Venezuelan socialism? A chief responsibility for US activists is to oppose US intervention on behalf of the rightwing forces. This is our responsibility, activists in other countries are not in the same position to do this. A central demand should be to cancel the sanctions, which would have important political impact. However, the press and public opinion in the US has created a difficult political situation, there is nearly unanimous one-sided anti-Chavista coverage, from both liberal and rightwing corporate media. A basic task therefore, is to present the other side of the story to the public, to educate about the real situation. This can be done in different ways, with forums, articles, protests and lobbying Congress and the President. Connecting local and national efforts will enhance impact.
by Duncan McFarland, US-Venezuela Solidarity Committee
These are difficult times for Venezuela economically and politically. The socialist government of Maduro is in a crisis situation; the US government is trying to take advantage by applying pressure to support the right wing opposition. The goal is regime change to a neoliberal government or other US friendly regime. Transnational capitalist corporations are also involved in this effort. This is the reason that Obama ordered emergency sanctions against Venezuelan officials in 2015, which were subsequently supported by Congress on the basis of a national security threat. Travel and financial restrictions are in place against a number of leaders; but the actual impact involving a few people is not very significant. However, by labelling Venezuela a danger to national security, the US hegemonists create a cover in public opinion for US intervention, which is possible in different ways — covertly as well as militarily. The sanctions are also a way of legitimizing the right wing in Venezuela as global neoliberalism signals approval of their political program which includes violent confrontations. By having Congress sign on to the sanctions with a large majority, Obama has got commitments and support from both the Republican and Democratic parties. The US attempt to isolate Venezuela in the Organization of American States is another example of attacking and pressuring the Maduro government.
US policies towards Venezuela, however, can only be understood in the context of a larger strategy to re-establish its position in Latin America by achieving regime change in a number of different countries. Since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, the US has considered itself the dominant power in the Western Hemisphere, enforcing this doctrine through numerous military interventions. However, in recent times the rise of Chavez, coupled with US focus on wars in the Middle East, have led to a decline in US power. Today the strategy is to regain the former position of unquestioned hegemony. Leftist or overly independent governments are to be replaced with Rightist governments or those who cooperate with the global neoliberal agenda. If this is accomplished, it will also be a practical blow to the “21st century socialism” of Chavez as activists in the US and elsewhere will need to grapple with the inability to sustain the leftward shift in Latin American politics.
Solidarity activists should also reach out to other movements; for example, if the US is successful in re-establishing its neoliberal position in Latin America, and using soft power to re-establish capitalism in Cuba, it will be a major blow in the work to contain and stop militarism and build peaceful relations in the world. This is the basis of cooperation with the antiwar movement. The situation in Venezuela should also be of concern to socialists and other solidarity activists in the region. Defending people’s power in Venezuela is thus an important issue for the US Left.