During the Clinton regime, the US enacted The Iran Sanctions Act (ISA)–ironically first called the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA)–but then Libya became our friend during Bush before it recently became our enemy again. The ISA was enacted to prevent foreign countries from selling oil to Iran to stop its nuclear program. The point Venezuela is trying to make now is that it is being “sanctioned” for allegedly breaking an internal US law that has no jurisdiction beyond US borders. Again, why should Venezuela make US corporate interests primary to its own?
The hilarious thing about the new economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela’s state oil company: PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela, SA) is that Venezuela does not borrow money from the US, has repaid all of its debt and the economic sanctions do not stop Venezuela from selling petroleum to the US. More importantly, Pdvsa and its US subsidiary, Citgo have helped over 250,000 US citizens by giving, or greatly reducing prices, on heating oil to our own desperately poor. No other oil company, including US oil companies, has done the same.
The newest sanctions are clearly symbolic to undermin Venezuela’s credibility and further demonize President Hugo Chavez because Venezuela ranks 4th behind Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia in providing the black gold to the gluttonous US. Why now? Well, for one thing, there is a hysterical Congressman from a very conservative district in Florida named, Connie Mack (R), who has been seeking the overthrow or assassination of President Hugo Chavez. Clearly, Chavez’s support of the poor runs counter to everything the oligarchy of the planet believes in.
The Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela enshrines basic human rights as law in a country that has reduced the gap between the rich and the poor by 50% since Chavez first won office. Chavez and his revolution are a thorn in the side of Capitalism and the “threat of a good example” must be neutralized.
This weekend also saw another big event in Latin America, Manual Zelaya of Honduras returned to his country after he had been in exile for nearly two years in a USbacked military coup. The intense diplomatic efforts of President Chavez and Venezuela helped facilitate this return with Zelaya flying back to Tegucigalpa from Managua, Nicaragua in a Venezuelan plane. The US taketh away and Venezuela giveth back.
Another reason for the sanctions right now is that President Chavez is leading the hemisphere in advocating for strategic alliances to bring peace and continued prosperity to Latin American and Carribbean countries. When I was here last year, Chavez had just returned from a meeting of Latin American leaders in Cancun where it was decided that the Organization of American States was an anachronistic institution that exists to be a tool for US continued exploitation of the region— so the leaders of Latin American countries planned to form a new alliance to exclude the US and Canada. The new alliance will be launched on July 5th in Venezuela on the 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain. Will the alliance be a threat to the OAS? Probably not right now, but just the fact that Hugo Chavez is one of the leaders of this alliance must be grating to an Empire that has done everything possible to undermine and overthrow him.
The unification of South America was long a dream of freedom fighter, Simon Bolivar, and indeed he led Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Panama to independence from the Spanish monarchy in the early 1800s. Bolivar died a brokenhearted man after his dreams of unification were not realized. Hugo Chavez has the same dream and the new alliance is one more step closer to being able to resist US imperialist neoliberalism.
Today, the thousands of Venezolanos who came to the rally to oppose the new US sanctions are rightfully proud of their accomplishments in a short 12 years and still support the leader who is making it all possible.
Another reason the sanctions appear now is because as the US wanes in the region, China ascends— according to an editorial in the Miami Herald: “The share of US exports to the region has dropped from 55 percent of Latin America’s total imports in 2000 to 32 percent of the region’s imports in 2009, says a new report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac). Meanwhile, China’s trade with the region has soared, the study shows”.
In my opinion, the announcement of the new sanctions against Venezuela, while no doubt a very hostile act, is nothing but the US flexing its increasingly weak and flabby muscles. The over-extension of the US military combined with its plunging credibility over such continuing programs as torture and illegal regime change, has turned us into a big international laughing stock—still feared, because the US is nothing but a big imperial bully—but a joke, nonetheless.
This is the 3rd time I have been to Venezuela, but as evidence of this new US paradigm in the region, for the first time I saw signs that read: Yankees, Go Home. Yes, I agree: “Yankees,” go home! Hands off of Venezuela and get your bloody imperial storm-troopers out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and even Palestine where US tax dollars fund an immoral Israeli occupation.
For sure, it will be a great day when the “mighty” US military empire falls and something new is born in its place. To we nine who travelled here to a real and vibrant democracy that is lead by Chavez but fuelled by the revolutionary struggle of the people, the Phoenix that arises from the ashes of imperial collapse will hopefully look a lot like the structure of Venezuelan society: healthcare for all, free education for all, investment in an aging infrastructure and care for our elderly, community control and activism, respect for our indigenous cultures and protection of the environment.