A co-ordinated, virulent and sustained campaign for "regime change" against the government and people of Venezuela is occurring around the world right now. Led by the US, the campaign involves a systematic stream of "fake news" in the international media, backed up by an unholy alliance of right-wing and "liberal" politicians and commentators, all singing from the same song sheet -- that Venezuela is a "socialist dictatorship" with a collapsing economy, and that the unfortunate people of that country are yearning to be free of that regime.
Current examples in Australia of media complicity in the imperialist drive to bring down the progressive government of President Nicolas Maduro include the ABC, SBS and news reports on Venezuela in the commercial TV channels.
Most recently, we have seen right-wing ideologue Andrew Bolt, on the one hand, and Tasmanian Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, on the supposedly "progressive" side of politics, on the other, launch broadsides in support of the extreme right, quasi-fascist gangs of thugs, otherwise known in the West as the "democratic opposition," in Venezuela.
Latest to weigh in on the campaign is Matthew Lesh, a research fellow at the conservative think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, writing in the August 29 Australian newspaper.
In an article headed, "Australia can't be silent amid the misery of Venezuela," Lesh asserts that, "Venezuela is a failing socialist state.... The opposition is being severely repressed, even murdered.
"Today, the failed socialist state is brutally cracking down on democracy through violence against protesters and a constitutional rewrite."
Lesh quotes British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who tweeted that Maduro was "acting like a dictator of an evil regime and has destroyed [the] Venezuelan economy, eroded human rights and imprisoned thousands." He went on to quote US President Trump who, after imposing sanctions on Venezuela, and even threatening a "military option," said, "The [Venezuelan] people are suffering and they are dying."
It appears Lesh and Johnson have mixed up the two leaders, with Trump actually "acting like a dictator of an evil regime," and the US people "suffering and dying."
The truth is that the Venezuelan economy has been affected by a concerted attack involving systematic boycott, hoarding and currency manipulation by big business and the oligarchy of the country, backed by the US, together with corruption that is deeply entrenched in society.
Moreover, the violence unleashed by the right-wing opposition has hit hospitals and health clinics, schools and other public institutions, as well as military and police bases, including assaults on and burning of pro-Chavista civilians. These co-ordinated attacks have led to scores of deaths, with a majority
– where cause of death is known – caused directly or indirectly by the right-wing gangs.
In the face of these alarming provocations, far from being a repressive dictatorship, the Maduro government has acted with remarkable restraint in the circumstances.
And despite these attacks, the Venezuelan government has continued the policies of socialist former President Hugo Chavez in providing free health, education and public housing for the majority of poor people.
Now, the successful election of a new Constituent Assembly, in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution, has provided a renewed momentum to the Chavista people's power movement which has driven the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela for almost 20 years now.
More immediately for us in Australia, Lesh goes on to criticise the Turnbull government for not taking a stronger stand in support of the US-led campaign of economic sabotage and war threats against Venezuela.
"So, where does Australia stand?.... Well, the Australian government has said -- nothing.... The Foreign Minister's office did not even respond to a request for comment."
Lesh quotes a report in The Australian that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had reassured Venezuelan charge d'affaires in Canberra Daniel Gasparri Rey that the criticism of Venezuela by Senator Whish-Wilson "Is not necessarily the position of Australia."
Let's hope it stays that way. Lesh is calling for the Australian government to take a stronger public stand against Venezuela, joining the worldwide campaign of aggression against the Maduro government -- including threats of further sanctions and even military intervention by the Trump administration and some European countries.
Meanwhile, the progressive governments of Latin America and the Caribbean, together with many other Third World nations, have united in condemning US threats to Venezuela, joined by the leaders of Russia, China and Iran (all current enemies of the US Empire). The only regimes which have backed the US push for intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela are the corrupt, right-wing governments of Brazil, Argentina, Peru and some others.
According to Lesh, "This situation [in Venezuela] presents an opportunity to clearly position ourselves in world affairs, and express our solidarity with the Venezuelan people and the thousands of Venezuelans in Australia. Most important, it is an opportunity to stand up for our values."
It certainly is a chance to stand up and express solidarity with the Venezuelan people. Leaving aside the debate on "Australian values," it is clearly a chance for us to show genuine friendship with the Venezuelan people, who are struggling to maintain their independence from the US Empire and its myriad tentacles.
The Venezuelan people have clearly demonstrated over the last two decades their commitment to the slogan, "No volvaran!" ("No return to the past!") This means we should join them in demanding an end to US interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela, and the rest of Latin America.
What we in Australia, and the rest of the Western world, should do right now is stand up and oppose the US war drive, and in particular its escalating attacks on Venezuela and its heroic people. Far from expressing support for the US intervention in Venezuela, as Lesh demands, our government should publicly condemn this undemocratic attack.