CARACAS, VENEZUELA — The United States’ various forms of intervention in Venezuela have generally been dressed up and sold to the American public in pro-democracy and humanitarian costumes.
The high-minded rhetoric notwithstanding, here are the top five real reasons the U.S. wants regime change in Venezuela.
1) Venezuela is a Bolivarian Socialist Republic
The United States has never much liked a socialist Cuba less than a hundred miles from its border. Even worse is much bigger, resource-rich socialist Venezuela, just over a thousand miles from Florida. However, it isn’t a military invasion that Washington fears. Rather it’s that the ruling party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, is far from the U.S. ideology that benefits Western corporations.
This socialism in practice keeps the U.S. and other Western nations’ companies from carving up Venezuela’s natural resources for plunder. Instead, the policies of former President Hugo Chavez and current President Nicolás Maduro concerning oil and minerals have been to nationalize the industries so that the Venezuelan people can benefit from them, not other nations or foreign corporations. This keeps the profits within the country, benefiting the Venezuelan populace and far from the pocketbooks of Western companies.
This policy is alive in neighboring Bolivia. It has recently existed in Ecuador and Brazil, but coups in recent years have ensured that right-wing leaders are now in power there.
In the past half-decade, the U.S. has put pressure on the Maduro regime with sanctions. Washington’s purpose was to keep Maduro from attaining the socioeconomic success and cult of personality that Chavez had. The ultimate goal was to overthrow his government.
2) Venezuela’s Alliance with Russia and Iran against U.S. hegemony
Venezuelan allies include Russia, China and Iran. All of these countries are strongly opposed by Washington, which hardly shrinks from meddling in other nations’ affairs or from economic sabotage. Both Russia and China have interests in Venezuelan oil. They wish to buy it at a fair price, which the U.S. doesn’t. While the U.S. has an enduring policy of increasingly brutal sanctions against Venezuela, Russia has an enduring policy of bailing Venezuela out. China has $60 billion worth of loans and interests in Maduro’s government.
In the 2000s, the U.S. and NATO allies engaged in military actions in numerous countries and went unchecked. However, in the past half dozen years, Russia has become more active in the military sphere, most notably in Syria. This hindrance to the U.S. military agenda in the Middle East can lead Washington to lash out against other Russian allies — especially if they are closer to the U.S
The reason for the alliance of Russia, China, Iran, and Venezuela is simply that they oppose Washington’s policy of world domination via the dollar as the world reserve currency and the economic warfare propagated by the U.S. Other opponents of world domination by means of the U.S. dollar have been Syria under Assad, which caused military intervention by the U.S. First Washington decried Assad, then the official stance of the U.S. was that it was there fighting ISIS but also wanted to replace Assad. Even stronger opposition came from the late leader of Libya, Muammar Qaddafi, who was the last leader to be executed by forces backed by the U.S. and its EU allies.
The U.S. is targeting Russian investments in the Venezuelan oil sector. Venezuela owes Rosneft, the state-backed oil company of Russia, $2.3 billion. It was revealed to the media that there were calls to get investors to raise the money to pay off the loan. Then Rosneft would be required to terminate the loan and transfer it to investors more friendly to the West. According to a businessman speaking to Reuters under the condition of anonymity:
The [Trump] administration should recognize that if it doesn’t do something pro-active here, it will face…limited options under almost any scenario, whether it is an attempt to foreclose by the current lienholder, further restrictions on Venezuelan crude oil imports into the U.S., or even in the event there is a positive political change in Caracas… This is a private sector solution to a public policy problem.”
3) OIl + Resources
Venezuela has vast amounts of oil, owning 25 percent of the world’s reserves of crude. In their nationalization efforts, Venezuelan governments have disrupted the abilities of Western gas companies to be active in Venezuela. Citgo is owned by the state-owned oil company of Venezuela, PDVSA.
In the early 20th century, Chavez used high oil prices to collect profits. He fairly redistributed the oil wealth to his citizenry and gained widespread support. The collapse of oil prices, coupled with the death of Chavez, led to a much more uncertain future for the Venezuelan economy. Despite Maduro’s best efforts in trade deals, the economy has struggled throughout his presidency, leading to food and basic necessity scarcity. This has allowed Western forces to exploit the crisis and throw support behind Juan Guaidó and his armed opposition.
The U.S. government barely hides that it operates for the benefit of its corporations. Especially when it comes to its foreign policies. In a press conference, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said:
We’re in conversation with major American companies now…it would make a difference if we could have American companies produce the oil in Venezuela. We both have a lot at stake here.”
This is history repeating itself in a more blatant fashion than in the 20th century. The Essequibo region on the eastern edge of Venezuela, claimed by both Venezuela and Guyana, has been of strategic interest to Exxon/Mobil, hoping to steal oil from PDVSA “on behalf” of Guyana.
A more business-friendly Venezuelan government would surely lessen these expensive legal battles.
4) IMF and World Bank financial control
Upon his election in 1999, former President Hugo Chavez reaped massive gains for the Venezuelan people by nationalizing the oil and gas sector and redistributing the wealth to bring fairness, opportunity, and a high quality of life to the populace. Before his election, mass privatization of every industry, all owned by Western-based firms, reigned supreme. The 1990s were immeasurably worse for Venezuelans than were the Chavez years.
The U.S. had corporate interests thwarted by Chavez. This continued under Maduro. The U.S. had no mind to play fair; neither did its allies. U.S. ally Saudi Arabia unnecessarily flooded the market with cheap oil in 2014, engaging in economic warfare with countries with state-owned oil companies. As a petrostate, the Venezuelan market took a massive hit and the country has had a ramping up of unrest since then, culminating in the crisis we see today.
In 2007 Chavez severed ties with the World Bank, claiming he wanted no part in institutions “dominated by U.S. imperialism.” After taking power Chavez paid loans off at a rapid pace, finishing five years ahead of schedule. While doing so, he was removing ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Exxon/Mobil and BP from his country and placing the oil and gas sector under state control.
He and other leftist leaders of the same time period in Latin America criticized the lending policies of the U.S.-dominated institution as predatory and perpetuating the poverty of their respective countries.
For Latin America, the 1980s were often referred to as the “lost decade.” During the 1970s market shocks in the oil and gas sector created massive deficits for Venezuela. During the decade the amount owed by Latin American countries rose from $29 billion to $327 billion.
Ten years after ties with the World Bank were severed, the World Bank announced that it was “ready to help if asked.” Maduro refused to go back to the well that had left the region impoverished for decades.
5) Expanding U.S. Empire: The occupation of Latin America
The U.S. has attempted to overthrow the government of Venezuela in an even cruder way in the recent past. In 2002, the Bush administration orchestrated and attempted a coup against then-President Hugo Chavez, a gambit that ultimately failed as Chavez regained control of the country.
The news out of Venezuela today is deeply rooted in U.S. foreign policy towards Central and South America since the end of World War II.
The Eisenhower administration overthrew the Guatemalan government in 1954. Kennedy’s administration enacted the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. The 1965 military invasion of the Dominican Republic was orchestrated by Lyndon Johnson. Richard Nixon installed Pinochet in Chile in 1973. Ronald Reagan armed the Contras in Nicaragua, leading to a massive scandal. In addition, there were also brief invasions of Grenada and Panama, in 1983 and 1989 respectively.
The U.S. has had mixed success in its attempts at destabilizing countries, arming right-wing militias, overthrowing leftist governments, and installing puppet regimes in the region. That policy seems good enough for Trump’s Washington, as it keeps to the same path in Venezuela.
Now, according to the Venezuelan government, Maduro has survived three assassination attempts. One, where he was to be kidnapped at his presidential palace, was named Operation Constitution; and another, where he would be assassinated at a military parade, was called Operation Armageddon.
Top Photo | An anti-government protester holds a shield brandished with photos of President Nicolas Maduro, government officials and a gun sight, during clashes with security forces in Caracas, Venezuela, July 22, 2017. Fernando Llano | AP
Nick Rehwaldt is a MintPress News intern. He is an author, artist, and standup comedian focused on political issues, with much of his material ripped from the headlines on any given week. He’s also a proud non-voter and global citizen who happens to live in the U.S.