By Gerry Conover
July 23 (Orinoco Tribune) In the face of the continued onslaught of U.S. mainstream media misinformation and disinformation, let’s look at what led to the attacks on the Venezuelan embassy in Washington D.C. by members of the Venezuelan opposition at the end of April of this year, all part of what threatens to become a U.S. invasion in Venezuela.
What is at stake in Venezuela
Who in Washington, D.C. is promoting an invasion of Venezuela, and why?
Venezuela has what U.S. oil companies want and it has set an example the ruling circles in Washington would like to have you never hear about.
While owning the largest oil reserves in the world, the government of Venezuela, since Hugo Chávez came to office in 1999, has served as an example for working people throughout the world by embarking upon a process of using its resources to lift millions of Venezuelans out of poverty. It began with a nationwide referendum that installed a new constitution and created the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Poverty in Venezuela was reduced from 31.2% to 19.12% between 2002 and 2015, and extreme poverty from 13% to 4.76%. 95% of Venezuelans are guaranteed a pension, including housewives and farmers.
In Venezuela, 74% of the country’s budget is dedicated to social services, including food, housing, health care and education programs for low-income working families.
The government has built and delivered over two million homes to low-income Venezuelans.
Venezuela now has the lowest homelessness rate in Latin America.
These social programs are funded largely by income from Venezuela’s vast natural resources. Venezuela has not only the world’s largest proven oil reserves and one of the largest fresh water reserves in the world, it is also rich in natural gas, aluminum, iron ore, manganese, gold, phosphates and diamonds.
The Venezuelan government did not stop there – Venezuela extended assistance to other South American and Caribbean countries in the form of greatly discounted petroleum, and provided heating oil free of charge to poor working people in the U.S. who could not afford to pay for oil in the harsh winters. In doing so, the Venezuelan government and its people serve as an example of international solidarity and as an example of how you can eradicate poverty.
However, at the same time, the Venezuelan government has stood against – and consequently inflamed – the imperial economic forces that for centuries have drained resources from the continent, concentrating wealth in the hands of a few while leaving Latin American nations underdeveloped and impoverished.
The administrations of both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have worked to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution by misrepresentation and manipulation of laws through international bodies; economic attrition from sanctions to block the country’s international trade; direct dirty war tactics by hiring paramilitaries; infiltration of weapons; creating false flags and narratives (“humanitarian aid”); and an aggressive and deadly mass media campaign against the Venezuelan government.
On March 9, 2015 President Obama extended the sanctions issued by the U.S. Congress on December 10, 2014 and signed an executive order declaring Venezuela “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the U.S. national security and foreign policy,” yet provided no credible evidence of how a developing nation of about 30 million people with no history of aggression against the U.S. whatsoever was in any way threatening the national security of the largest and most actively violent military power on the globe. Obama then ordered economic and coercive sanctions against high government officials. Since then the U.S., and its allies under pressure from the U.S. government, have intensified their attacks and threats. On May 9, The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a bill containing sanctions against the Venezuelan government and approving millions of dollars to Venezuelan “opposition groups.”
On May 20, 2014, representatives from a delegation of the Cook County Workers Benefit Council spoke before the Chicago Committee on Human Relations to attempt to stop that committee from passing a resolution that aimed to interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela instead of doing anything to end poverty and violence against working people in Cook County, pointing out there were a million people living in poverty in Cook County. Instead, the Chicago Committee on Human Relations passed a resolution criticizing Venezuela, which built two million homes for low-income Venezuelans, while Chicago has done little to nothing for its million in poverty.
Make the economy scream
The explanation by the Obama administration for the sanctions was to “advance respect for human rights, to protect democratic institutions, and to protect the U.S. financial system from illicit financial flows of public corruption in Venezuela.” This explanation displayed the height of hypocrisy because, in actuality, the sanctions blocked the sale of food and medicine to Venezuela. They cut Venezuela off from refinancing foreign debt, greatly interfering with its ability to conduct international trade. The Trump administration heralds its imposition of further suffocating sanctions on Venezuela, then points to alleged food shortages and inadequate heath care as evidence of a “humanitarian crisis.” These U.S.-imposed sanctions are illegal under the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations charters.
And, as if sanctions were not enough, the U.S. government has seized billions of dollars from Venezuela through: A) expropriating Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of the Venezuelan national petroleum company PDVSA, which represents a loss to Venezuela’s national economy of $7 billion in assets and more than $11 billion in loss of trade in 2019; and B) attacks on the Venezuelan currency and the contraction in national production through political manipulation of the exchange rate, worth $91 billion. Further, the Bank of England seized $12 billion of Venezuela’s gold reserves and Euroclear (a Belgium-based financial services company) seized $1.6 billion that was destined for importing foods and medicines. The total amount, $112 billion, is equivalent to roughly one-year’s GDP for Venezuela, or the amount needed to import food and medicine for the next 26 years.
On January 23, 2019, Juan Guaidó, rotating president of the rump National Assembly, representing his tiny party, someone only 85% of Venezuelans had even heard of at the time, proclaimed himself president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Only minutes after a staged “swearing-in” with no basis in Venezuelan law, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. President Donald Trump issued a statement officially recognizing Guaidó as the “Interim” President of Venezuela. They ignored Nicolás Maduro’s lawful reelection as President of Venezuela in May 2018, with a landslide 67.8% of the vote, in which 31.7% of all registered voters participated. Compare those figures with those of the U.S., where Donald Trump won the presidency with only 46% of the vote, while only 27.3% of voters participated.
This interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela is a violation of its national sovereignty and international laws under the charters of both the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
Mere hours before Guiadó anointed himself with the contrived position of “interim president,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had pledged to Guiadó that the U.S. would back him if he invoked a clause in the Venezuelan Constitution, thus signaling to attempt a coup.
Yet, there IS no clause in the Venezuelan Constitution that even recognizes the status of “interim president” to legitimize Mr. Guaidó’s attempted power grab.
Donald Trump went on to say that he would use “all economic and diplomatic power of the United States to achieve the restoration of democracy in Venezuela” and called on other governments to recognize “Random Guy” Guaidó, the current puppet of convenience, as president in charge.
Venezuelan President Maduro noted of the U.S., “Never before has a high-level official said that the opposition should overthrow the government… this has no historic comparison in the 200 years of U.S.-Venezuela relations.”
And, who is Juan Guiadó?
Guiadó is 35 year old. He has spent his career in a violent faction of Venezuela’s most radical opposition party. He has been groomed for over a decade in the tactics of regime change. He has dismissed as a “myth” the well-documented deaths resulting from guayas – a tactic involving stretching steel wire across a roadway to injure or kill motorcyclists, which resulted in the killing of unarmed civilians, perpetrated by adherents of his political faction. 43 people were killed in Venezuela during the 2014 guarimbas (violent clashes in opposition-controlled areas) alone. Three years later, the number killed by guarimbas were triple that. He also was involved in founding a political party called Popular Will, which cast aside any pretense of non-violence to advance a plan using violence to destabilize Venezuela.
Dialogue and peace vs. threats and violence
Despite these and other failed attempts to unseat Maduro, such as OAS General Secretary Almagro’s declaration in spring 2017 that Venezuela is in a “humanitarian crisis” requiring foreign intervention; or the August 4, 2018 U.S.-backed drone assassination attempt on Maduro and the military general staff, the Maduro government continues to call for dialogue and peace.
In his January 23 speech, President Maduro gave the U.S. Embassy 72 hours to evacuate and broke relations with the U.S. over this latest coup attempt. However, on January 26 he granted the U.S. diplomatic staff a 30-day window for negotiations, but the U.S. government has shown that it is not interested in dialogue or peace.
U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo stated that Venezuelan President Maduro does not “have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations with the United States or to declare U.S. diplomats persona non grata” and vowed to “protect” them. Senator Marco Rubio called on the U.S. to expel Venezuelan diplomatic staff and accept a new set of diplomats appointed by Guaidó.
On March 7, 2019 Venezuela suffered a cyber-attack on its electricity system, specifically on the Guri hydroelectric plant, the country’s main electricity generating power plant that left the entire country without electricity for five days. In the midst of the recovery, Secretary of State Pompeo announced the decision to withdraw the remaining U.S. diplomatic personnel in Venezuela due to the “deterioration” of the Venezuelan situation. However, it was the Venezuelan government that had initially given them 72 hours followed by an additional 30 days specifically for negotiations, but the U.S. refused to negotiate.
On March 18, Guaidó’s representatives in the United States escalated tensions by appropriating Venezuela’s military attaché building in Washington and the Venezuelan Consulate in New York City, while announcing plans to take over the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C.
On March 30, Guaidó attempted another coup against the elected government of Maduro. At 6:00 a.m., he called on the people of Venezuela to take to the streets and announced that the national armed forces were in support of this action. He posted a video, staged outside a Caracas military base, showing some 30 soldiers standing behind him, (armed not with Venezuelan-issue rifles by U.S.-issue rifles!). The people did not go to the streets and the armed forces stayed in their barracks, and within hours yet another attempt by Guiadó to foment an uprising had fizzled for lack of popular support.
As U.S.-based provocations against Venezuela escalated, a group of peace activists sought and received permission from the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to form an Embassy Protection Collective. On April 10 they moved into the four-story Venezuelan Embassy in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Since April 15, they had been living in the Embassy.
At first, the legitimate Venezuelan diplomats were still working in the building, but the State Department ordered them to leave the country by April 25 and the diplomats handed over the keys to the Collective, attempting to prevent an illegal seizure of the building until a diplomatic solution could be worked out.
On April 30 opposition forces descended on the peace activists lawfully occupying the embassy at the request of the Venezuelan government, banging pots and pans, blaring sirens, horns and megaphones and blocking delivery of food and medicine to the activists. The opposition also damaged the embassy building with sledgehammers while the Secret Service stood by. Ultimately, the D.C. police intervened and removed the four remaining members of the Embassy Protection Collective, arresting and issuing them Class A misdemeanors, which carries a penalty of a year in jail.
A takeover of an embassy of a sovereign nation whose government holds power and is recognized by the United Nations is illegal according to the 1961 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations. The Convention states, per Article 22, “1. The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission. 2. The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity…” During World War II the U.S. respected international convention and did not even disturb the embassies of Germany or Japan.
Guiadó supporters have now moved into the Venezuelan Embassy and installed fake “ambassador” Carlos Vecchio who has asked the head of the U.S. Southern Military Command to begin “strategic and operational planning” toward intervening in Venezuela. The vast majority of political opposition to Maduro in Venezuela staunchly opposes U.S. military intervention in Venezuela, and many consider it treasonous that a Venezuelan would invite a military attack on their own nation.
Who are the Venezuelans inviting military attack on Venezuela?
The opposition figures massed around the embassy claimed to be ordinary Venezuelan citizens who wanted the embassy seized by Guiadó forces simply to renew their passports. Yet, a look at some of those who stood outside the Venezuelan Embassy in D.C. attacking U.S. peace activists gives some indication of whose interests they really represent.
While they coalesced on social media under the hashtag, “#AskaVenezuelan,” they include Dilianna C. Bustillos who works in management for Oracle, a multibillion dollar computer technology corporation, which works with the aerospace and defense industry. They work as managers and strategists at marketing firms such as MarketBridge from which they advocate for U.S. sanctions and intervention. Some, such as Francisco Márquez, are associated with Harvard’s Ash School for Democratic Governance and Innovation’s “Democracy in Hard Places Initiative.” Others include Emerson Hevia, who works as a Senior Principal Architect at Raytheon, an arms manufacturer and one of the biggest war profiteers in human history. The crowd included Cesar Caminero, who works at the U.S. Department of Defense, and Moises Rendon, employed at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank backed by defense contractors and Persian Gulf monarchies. Yet another is Alejandro Perez Barrios, a senior manager at the International Finance Corporation and a member of the World Bank group.
Keep in mind, the Venezuelan opposition has received as much as $40-$50 million a year from U.S. government organizations like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, extensions of the U.S. State Department that are aimed at destabilizing governments that do not subordinate themselves to U.S. foreign policy dictates. In other words, you are helping to pay for the Venezuelan opposition’s provocations!
The takeover of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. by Guaidó’s appointees is blatantly provocative and illegal. They cannot fulfill diplomatic or consular activities without holding power in Venezuela in accordance to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
The actions of Guaidó’s opposition group are creating a pretext that the U.S. administration’s war hawks, such as national security adviser John Bolton, U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams and Vice President Pence, will use to sell the necessity for military aggression.
Bolton’s own credentials include his aggressive advocacy for the invasion of Iraq while Abrams is a convicted felon (afterwards pardoned by President George H. W. Bush) for lying to Congress over his role during the Iran-Contra affair.
It is the children of the working class, not those of the likes of Mike Pence, John Bolton or Elliot Abrams who will be called upon to do the fighting and dying if the U.S. government continues to move in the direction of war. Military attack on Venezuela, which wealthy and powerful interests are attempting to initiate, will be disastrous for the vast majority of citizens of both Venezuela and the U.S. It is up to us to prevent it.
The authors of preplanned suffering in Venezuela, in violation of international law and the United Nations charter are right here in the U.S., and the mainstream media has been complicit (at best) at every turn. Americans cannot be allowed to know that poverty can be ended, that health care for all, including the poorest and most isolated can be made available, illiteracy can be wiped out (while we have 30-40% functional illiteracy in the United States). It is on us, here, to change that. We must organize ourselves to get the truth out, and to demand and command the change that we need right here in the U.S. – the sooner the less devastation.