Make no mistake, your future is being written in Venezuela, perhaps more so than elsewhere. The only real question is whether or not you will allow Donald Trump and his crew of ’80s retreads, Elliot Abrams and co., to be the authors. Remember that we have 136 months to reverse the entire planet’s dependence on fossil fuels, but the power grab that originates in obscure corporate HQs and coordinated through Foggy Bottom, Langley, and field offices in Bogota and Brasilia is one for the world’s largest oil reserves.
Three futures are possible: In one, an embattled but sovereign Venezuelan government persists and out of necessity opens the spigots of extinction to maintain power; in the second, a US-puppet government—sure to be christened “democratic” by Fox, CNN, the Times and the Post—welcomes back Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, and others to open the spigots, albeit with the latest tech. More oil, more quickly. Hasten the end, why don’t you? Or, a third option prevails—principled anti-Trump resistance recognizes that Venezuelan solutions to Venezuelan matters count before any other, the path of dialogue and diversification follows… and the spigots are gradually ratcheted back. To be sure, Brazilian, Colombian, and US forces are poised to ensure that one of the first two prevails.
But there is an equally important reason for Americans to challenge Trump’s bumbling but lethal agenda in Venezuela: His foreign agenda complements an equally disastrous domestic one. Over two decades, the Venezuelan people’s attempt to reset their economy, redress extreme inequality, recover indigenous and Afro-Latino identities, and empower women and the elderly has met with intractable and implacable opposition. Once the opposition was mostly a minority, scarcely able to reach 40 percent in elections. However, over the years, it has been fortified by continuous US interference that makes Putin’s alleged cyber burglary of the US election process seem like a minor misdemeanor. Today the opposition has forged a negative unity that approaches a majority. On the other hand, the besieged and tightly sanctioned government, robbed of its reserves, has far less room to maneuver.
No wonder then that Donald Trump has signaled his intention to make his 2020 re-election bid a referendum on his caricature of socialism—a critical element of which is his redirecting blame for Venezuela’s travails away from US sabotage and a harsh international economic environment to that country’s socialist aspirations.
Foreclosing on the Venezuelan people’s right to experiment and to repurpose their economy and national patrimony is essentially foreclosing on the American people’s right to correct or replace its economic system should their turn come to do the same (see how Fox News plays this game). The war abroad is also a vicious domestic war with the future—one based on unlimited corporate power even as the planet boils and against a Green New Deal or some other new logic—perhaps one that replaces corporate interest with democratic initiatives at the community, state, and national levels.
The war abroad always comes home.
But there’s always blowback. Three million Venezuelans have fled their borders already; more will follow if the Trump agenda of Syrianizing Venezuela is allowed to continue. Better build that wall, eh? To put things in context, though, neighboring Colombia’s own US-fueled civil war has left 7.7 million people displaced within that unhappy land (5.6 million Colombians, mostly of African descent, live in Venezuela, a little-noticed fact in Western media). Ironically, Venezuelan diplomacy over the last decade was critical to ending that war—reverse karma to be sure! What if armed incursions into Venezuela reignite the Colombian war or even a broader regional conflagration?
Now as never before is a dangerous moment; Americans who support Trump’s regime-change agenda in Venezuela cannot hope for a meaningful resistance to its domestic incarnation.
Although the Maduro-led government has confounded expectations that his overthrow will be a quick and easy coup, those who support Venezuela sovereignty have a tough fight ahead—Republicans and Democrats (save for a few honorable leaders) are united in their desire to intervene. There are many places to mount the challenge locally. Several local universities have faculty members who are closely connected to Venezuela’s far right; surely now is the time to engage with them and challenge the complicity in the attempted destruction of that country’s sovereignty. Where a genuine democratic opposition exists in exile, the Boston left should disabuse them of the oxymoronic notion of “humanitarian military intervention” and point out that even the threat of foreign involvement exacerbates an already sharply polarized country (I noted this problem with respect to the West’s great Libyan experiment) and preempts negotiated solutions.
Suren Moodliar edits the journal Socialism and Democracy, sdonline.org.