In 1999, Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela and served in that capacity until he died in 2013. Chavez was a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and, therefore, very unpopular with the US government. Anything with the word socialist is not well received in the US.
Chavez was elected to office on four separate occasions . . . 1998, 2000, 2006, and lastly in 2012, each time with a plurality around 60% of the vote.
Chavez had some strange, unusual beliefs. He began nationalizing some key industries because he thought that the people of Venezuela should benefit from their country’s natural resources. He also thought that the redistribution of the country’s assets, expanding people’s access to food, education, healthcare, and housing would bring people out of a life of poverty.
Venezuela was and is primarily a petroleum economy and when the price of oil suddenly dropped, Venezuela’s economy struggled.
In 2013, Chavez died from cancer and Nicolas Maduro assumed control of the country. However, he took control of a struggling economy with many unhappy and angry Venezuelans.
While it is true that there exists economic hardship for many citizens of Venezuela, the question that the so-called experts fail to ask is what caused the oil prices to drop so precipitously? Why was Saudi Arabia refusing to cut back on its oil production and creating a glut of oil in the marketplace that predictably caused prices to drop? Is it possible that the US and the Saudis conspired to drop the oil prices?
It is agreed that those countries that have suffered from the lowering of oil prices are Russia, Iran, and Venezuela. Is it merely a coincidence that all three counties are not on the US’s friendship list? Also, it’s worth noting that Iran and Russia are not popular in Saudi Arabia.
While the lowering of oil prices had a dramatic effect on Chavez’s Venezuela, Maduro inherited the problems when Chavez died.
During Chavez’s presidency, it should be known that the US actively supported two attempted, failed coups of the Chavez government. It is well known that the US does not hold favor with governments that nationalize their industries and prevent US investors from exploiting their country’s assets and labor.
Maduro’s government is under a lot of pressure because of the economic problems. In Venezuela, nearly 90 people have died and more than 1,500 have been injured since April, when opposition groups began organizing a new round of street demonstrations. Maduro has accused the US of economic sabotage that is adding fuel to the fire.
Enter Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! with a “debate” about Venezuela. One could legitimately ask, what is there to debate? The right-wing, corporate and US friendly “opposition” is attempting to overthrow a democratically elected government. The pro-government people are the workers, the poor, those who have benefitted these past 18 years from the efforts of the socialist government to provide them with the tools to make a better life for themselves.
Amy’s gusts were Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, columnist for the Venezuelan newspaper, El Nacional and a lecturer of finance at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and President of Just Foreign Policy.
It should be noted that the newspaper, El Nacional, is a publication that supports the so-called opposition and, therefore, we cannot look at Lansberg-Rodriguez’s assessment as uncontaminated and free of bias.
It became quite evident after Lansberg-Rodriguez attacked Maduro’s handling of the economy and his lack of popularity that this was not going to be a “debate.” Both guests seemed to have agreement than disagreement. Weisbrot’s immediate response was, “Well, I think a lot of what your other guest said is true, I mean, in terms of the overall situation. I mean, I could add to it: Inflation is over 500 percent, and you have scarcities of food and medicine, and the economy is in a very deep recession.” Weisbrot’s main concern was in avoiding a civil war and getting both sides to the negotiating table. .
The only saving grace was Weisbrot’s comment, “And it’s very important to distinguish that [Maduro’s political and economic struggles] from what’s going on in the Organization of American States, which is just an attempt by the United States and its allies to use the organization to delegitimize the Venezuelan government so that it can be overthrown, something they’ve been trying to do for the last 15 years.”
What did not get covered was the role of the US and Venezuela’s landed gentry in crushing the Venezuelan economy to facilitate the overthrow of the Maduro government and the fact that the so-called “opposition” were a right wing, fascist element in the country.
The US has a long history of creating economic suffering in other countries such as Cuba, Iraq, Iran, and even an attempt on Russia. One cannot look at Maduro’s performance in Venezuela without considering the extent to which the US was involved in sabotaging the economy.
Just as there should be no “debate” regarding Assad’s government in Syria, Gaddafi’s government in Libya, there is no debate in Venezuela’s situation. The “debate” should instead focus on the US intervention in the workings of foreign governments.
If Amy Goodman wanted a real “debate,” she could have invited a knowledgeable supporter of the Maduro government . . . maybe even one who is Venezuelan to counter Lansberg-Rodriguez’s point of view. But the argument I make is moot. One does not negotiate with fascists, one destroys them.
Who are we, in the US, to “debate” whether or not the overthrow of the government of a foreign sovereign nation is justified?
What will happen to the people who have benefitted from the past ten years if a right wing, fascist government replaces Maduro?
Maduro is facing an armed insurrection and his best bet is to arm the people and kick ass.
THERE IS NO “DEBATE!”
Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.