The Deserted Cities – XV

Image: Cyrus Saurius


Comments on recent events in international politics

More than 40 million people have died in Venezuela since 2017 as a result of US sanctions, says the report by economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot: Economic sanctions as collective punishment: the case of Venezuela (Economic sanctions as collective punishment: the case of Venezuela), published in April 2019. This is not about economic problems, but about a collapse, a catastrophe, say Sachs and Weisbrot in their study.

Later, in an interview with Amy Goodman, Sachs elaborated on the subject. From the beginning of the Trump administration, it was about overthrowing the Maduro government. It is a common practice, as we know. Trying to overthrow Latin American governments that move independently of US interests. The case of Popular Unity in Chile in 1973 was probably the most scandalous. But they continued to do the same, including the new lawfare, or “legal war”, with which they try to eliminate undesirable candidates through the abuse of legal rules.

The case of former President Lula in Brazil is the most scandalous. This not only prevented him from winning an election in which he was a strong favorite, but also opened the country's doors to anti-national interests, which have been taking over companies and natural resources, but, above all, aligning national policies with foreign interests. . Trump was very explicit about his intentions in Venezuela. “Why can't we invade Venezuela?” he asked Latin American presidents. He was told no, that it was not a good idea, that it would upset the continent. What is certain is that this is no longer possible, as it was in the Dominican Republic, in Grenada, in Panama… It is not difficult to imagine the political costs of something like this today.

If the suffering is enough...

But Trump didn't see it that way. Anyway, they made him another suggestion. In the political field, they formed the so-called Grupo de Lima, meeting on August 8, 2017 in the Peruvian capital. Fourteen countries aligned with Washington's policies to serve as a sounding board for Venezuela's appointed president, Juan Guaidó. Which was not, of course, the acting president. In fact, without US recognition, he is nothing. In its statement, the group called for a "peaceful exit" to the Venezuelan situation.

On the other hand, however, the economic sanctions, to which Sachs refers, have been intensified. The objective was to strangle the Venezuelan economy. “It essentially started with sanctions in 2017 that prevented the country's access to the international capital market and the oil company from renegotiating its loans. This has driven Venezuela into hyperinflation. This was the total meltdown. Oil prices plummeted. Resources, which were used to buy food and medicine, collapsed”. Now, Venezuela is in a complete catastrophe, “in large part created by the United States”, with its illegal sanctions against the country.

The idea is to block government access to financial markets, bankrupt companies, impede trade, confiscate Venezuelan government assets (such as gold deposited in English banks), with the pretense that, “if the suffering is enough, then there will be a military uprising to overthrow him.” Sachs recalls that the same norms of the Organization of American States (OAS), currently used to give political support to all these actions – the most recent against Bolivia, where it played a key role in the coup after the 2019 elections – also prohibit them. .

The same Inter-American Democratic Charter, often invoked to support them, states at the beginning that the General Assembly of the organization “recognizes that representative democracy is indispensable for the stability, peace and development of the region and that one of the objectives of the OAS is to promote and consolidate representative democracy with respect to the principle of non-intervention”. Even in this scenario, they could not fail to include the necessary respect for the principle of non-intervention. Even if they have no intention of respecting him.

No policy of sanctions – also illegal – has been more enduring than the one adopted against Cuba 60 years ago. And it is also being applied against Nicaragua. But not against Honduras – a government whose links to drug trafficking are no longer in doubt – nor against Colombia where, since March, there have been 179 massacres and 342 murders of social leaders. “The country faces a large-scale massacre that demands to be treated as genocide. There is a systematicity that guarantees the existence of a plan designed to destroy some communities, through successive massacres that undermine the resistance capacity of entire peoples”, said Manuel Humberto Restrepo in an article published in the Alainet on the 8th of December last. But, far from sanctions, Colombia is a US base of operations for its policies against Venezuela.

They ask for democracy

But the opposition demands more sanctions. This is their card. They make politics in Washington. As we will see, the effect of this is devastating. With the country in pieces, they demand democracy. Several countries in the region reject the Venezuelan elections, said the Brazilian newspaper last week. The state of Sao Paulo: beyond Brazil; Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia signed. For the European Union, added to the sanctions policies, the Venezuelan electoral process cannot be recognized as reliable, inclusive and transparent. An opinion that is not shared by the former head of the Spanish government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. “I hope the EU will reflect better,” he said.

“I call on all opposition to abandon the extremist path (…), that we ask with one voice for the lifting of all sanctions against the new US government of Joe Biden, with one voice… that we restore all mechanisms of national dialogue ”, said President Maduro. For the president appointed by the United States, "there was no election", what happened was blackmail. For Guaidó, “president in charge”, “the dictatorship is evident. After blackmail, hijacking parties, censorship, fabrication of results, instilling terror; they announce what they said: a fraud with 30% pure falsehood, which is not even enough for them to show themselves in public (they don't even celebrate, they know they are alone)”, he wrote on Twitter. Bribery? How then to call eventual elections in the midst of the devastating sanctions imposed on the government? Journalists and Venezuelan election observers indicated that on election day there were more people queuing at gas stations for fuel than at polling stations. This is the reality imposed on the country.

Popular Will leader Leopoldo López, responsible for an attempted revolt against the Maduro government that left dozens dead, demanded free elections within six to twelve months. In his opinion, this is essential to resolve the country's political crisis. No word on sanctions. How can we have “free elections” with the country torn apart by these sanctions? A congressman from his group, who lives in Houston, also rejected the election. “Hand over my charge? Never!” he said, until there is a free and democratic election, with all the conditions. Do these conditions include the end of sanctions and a period of recovery for the country's economy? I don't think he intends to do that.

The good cop and the bad cop

What is at stake is not always obvious to everyone. Last Friday, the with the BBC published a note on “attempts by British secret services to interfere in Latin American politics in the 60s”. “Recently declassified files have revealed British attempts to influence various electoral processes and condition unions in different countries,” he told the with the BBCProfessor Rory Cormac of the University of Nottingham”. “This included propaganda and falsification of documents with the aim of influencing the public, mainly against communism”, adds the note. "The main mission was to fight communism using propaganda and working with churches, unions and political parties."

Operations included Brazil, Chile, and other countries, probably most of the Latin American ones. Also Venezuela. “A British official described the latter country as 'a major prize'”. “It is a very rich country and its government is an important source of investment capital”. Of course, without an end to sanctions and without an acceptable period of economic and social reorganization, there can be no democratic elections anywhere. Nor with the measures of lawfare in force, as in Brazil, against Lula, or in Ecuador, against ex-president Rafael Correa, just two months before the general elections in that country.

There will be no democratic reconstruction in Brazil without the return of Lula's political rights. National elections are not valid without the right of participation of all protagonists, said journalist Breno Altman, editor of the portal World Opera. The story of the “good cop” and the “bad cop” is well known in Central America. It functioned for a decade as an instrument against the Sandinista revolution, which had defeated the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in July 1979. With Reagan in the White House, they mounted a systematic war against the Sandinista regime. The government had to create mandatory military service, at high political costs, while also facing severe economic sanctions. Then they demanded free elections. They were the good cops. They remained in the midst of war and sanctions, with the threat that if they won, both war and sanctions would continue. They lost. And what were the consequences?

the political devastation

Political instability is one of the characteristics of Latin American institutions. Look at the current case of Peru! But this is just a recent example. One of the fundamental causes of this instability is precisely the permanent intervention of foreign powers (first and foremost the United States) in its policies. Every hint of independence is met with conspiracies, sanctions and coups. Politicians without sufficient popular support take over the government and promote policies that are devastating for the majorities and for the nation, whose resources are subjected to foreign interests. The case of Macri's Argentina (a case with its own variations) laid bare this submission, indebting the country in more than 15 billion dollars to pay vulture funds that had rejected the payment agreement negotiated by the government of Cristina Kirchner.

 With representatives of these interests in power without sufficient popular support (in fact, with dwindling support as the failure of the neoliberal model they promote becomes evident), politics becomes unstable. Countries cannot build their own social fabric, rooted in national reality. US interference makes this impossible, it destroys these relationships, but it also does not provide enough support for conservative groups to promote solutions. This has been the situation for over a century. For a while, it worked. Dictatorships were maintained with the support of Washington and sold some idea that prosperity was coming. Today this is impossible. The result is chaos, a certain despair at seeing national development efforts confronted with overwhelming power from abroad, without being able to raise the enthusiasm that, in the not-too-distant past, was aroused by the danger of “communism”. Facing these devastating interventions is indispensable for our countries to find their way, ending up rebuilding a social fabric in which only those who seek to make politics with the support of foreign intervention have a place.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.



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