The Price of Interference

Graphic by Alesandra Bell | Mercury Staff.

Why US Intervention in Venezuelan politics promotes imperialism

Juan Guaido, who did not receive a single vote in Venezuela’s elections, swore himself in as president of Venezuela on Jan. 23.

Guaido’s declaration follows the controversial elections in May 2018. The elections were originally scheduled for December but were pushed up to May. In response, United States officials rejected the re-election of President Nicolas Maduro. In recent days, coverage of Venezuela has been decidedly anti-Maduro, but this coverage fails to see the issues deeply embedded in the Venezuelan opposition.

Guaido did not participate in the May 2018 elections. However, both the United States and the European Parliament recognize Guaido as the leader of Venezuela. According to a report from The New York Times, the U.S. State Department has even given Guaido control over U.S. bank accounts of the government of Venezuela. This interference from the U.S. and E.U. jeopardizes the sovereignty of Venezuela and should be stopped.

Under Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor, Venezuelan oil fields that were previously operated by American companies ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron were nationalized, boosting the Venezuelan economy. Maduro was Chavez’s chosen successor, with Chavez urging voters to vote for Maduro if Chavez were to die. Since Chavez’s passing, Maduro has maintained many of Chavez’s policies, including keeping Venezuelan oil reserves in Venezuelan hands. It is no coincidence that Guaido, in communications via an envoy, has shown a desire to privatize these oil reserves, allowing for American companies to return. Guaido’s communications with the U.S.  encourage political and military intervention to further transfer power to Guaido.

In late January, the Trump administration placed oil sanctions on Venezuela to further damage Venezuela’s hurting economy, stirring political unrest. But Venezuela is not our enemy. President Maduro is not a threat. Under both Chavez and Maduro, Venezuela gave hundreds of millions of gallons of heating oil to homeless shelters, households in poverty and indigenous people in a program that lasted from 2005 to 2017. After Hurricane Katrina, President Chavez donated a million barrels of oil and $5 million to the relief effort.

But beyond these issues, there are problems with the anti-Maduro opposition that are hardly recognized in American media. Chavistas, the term for supporters of Chavez and politicians similar to him, are often stereotyped as being poor, uneducated and dark-skinned. In 2017, during anti-Maduro protests, Orlando Jose Figuera was burned alive by opposition protestors for being a suspected Chavista. Figuera was black.

To interfere with Venezuela’s elections by recognizing Guaido as president is to delegitimize the democracy of a country that has helped Americans in tangible ways. But to profit off a change in regime and the destabilization that comes with it is sinister. UTD is a diverse and understanding community that should see Venezuela as a country that has been damaged by American interference, not one that can be helped by it.

The U.S. has previously used official recognition of illegitimate rulers for personal gain. In 1952, Fulgencio Batista staged a coup three months before the Cuban elections. Despite there being no election, the U.S. recognized Batista as the president of Cuba. By the late 1950s the U.S. owned a significant portion of Cuban industries. President John F. Kennedy recognized this in a 1960 speech.

“At the beginning of 1959,” Kennedy said, “U.S. companies owned about 40 percent of the Cuban sugar lands, almost all the cattle ranches, 90 percent of the mines and mineral concessions, 80 percent of the utilities and practically all the oil industry and supplied two-thirds of Cuba’s imports.”

The U.S. has made the mistake of interfering in foreign elections for economic gain before. We should remember the one-sided profit and instability that comes with it.

One way we can help the citizens — specifically working class people — of Venezuela is to better understand the complexities of the issues surrounding Venezuela. It’s also important to remember that most voices from Venezuela heard in the west are the voices of privileged Venezuelans, not those of the working class or marginalized. U.S. imperialism has many faces and we should know all of them. Supporting any kind of intervention in Venezuela is supporting imperialism.

We have seen the tensions that emerge from imperialist attitudes in our own communities. Don’t mistake American interference for American generosity. Imperialism manifests itself in several ways, and it’s on us as students in a community that values diversity to detect the differences.

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