[The most valuable way the U.S. can help is to stop making the
Venezuelan economy and people scream (on all sides), by lifting its
sanctions and abandoning its failed regime change operation. Only
public education and outrage can make that happen.]
[https://portside.org/] 

 VENEZUELA: THE U.S.’S 68TH REGIME CHANGE DISASTER  
[https://portside.org/2019-02-08/venezuela-uss-68th-regime-change-disaster]


 

 Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies 
 February 6, 2019
Independent Media Institute
[https://www.salon.com/2019/02/06/venezuela-the-u-s-s-68th-regime-change-disaster_partner/]


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 _ The most valuable way the U.S. can help is to stop making the
Venezuelan economy and people scream (on all sides), by lifting its
sanctions and abandoning its failed regime change operation. Only
public education and outrage can make that happen. _ 

 , Alex Lanz / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

 

In his masterpiece, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A.
Interventions Since World War II
[https://williamblum.org/books/killing-hope], William Blum, who died
in December 2018, wrote chapter-length accounts of 55 U.S. regime
change operations against countries around the world, from China
(1945-1960s) to Haiti (1986-1994).  Noam Chomsky’s blurb on the
back of the latest edition says simply, “Far and away the best book
on the topic.” We agree. If you have not read it, please do. It will
give you a clearer context for what is happening in Venezuela today,
and a better understanding of the world you are living in.

Since Killing Hope was published in 1995, the U.S. has conducted at
least 13 more regime change operations, several of which are still
active: Yugoslavia; Afghanistan; Iraq; the 3rd U.S. invasion of Haiti
since WWII; Somalia; Honduras; Libya; Syria; Ukraine; Yemen; Iran;
Nicaragua; and now Venezuela.

William Blum noted that the U.S. generally prefers what its planners
call “low intensity conflict” over full-scale wars. Only in
periods of supreme overconfidence has it launched its most devastating
and disastrous wars, from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq. 
After its war of mass destruction in Iraq, the U.S. reverted to “low
intensity conflict” under Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy
war.

Obama conducted even heavier bombing than Bush II
[https://consortiumnews.com/2017/01/18/obamas-bombing-legacy/], and
deployed U.S. special operations forces
[http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175945/tomgram%3A_nick_turse,_a_shadow_war_in_150_countries/] to
150 countries all over the world, but he made sure that nearly all the
bleeding and dying was done by Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis, Somalis,
Libyans, Ukrainians, Yemenis and others, not by Americans.  What U.S.
planners mean by “low intensity conflict” is that it is less
intense for Americans.

President Ghani of Afghanistan recently revealed that a staggering
45,000 Afghan security forces have been killed since he took office in
2014, compared with only 72 U.S. and NATO troops
[https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47005558]. “It shows who has
been doing the fighting,” Ghani caustically remarked. This disparity
is common to every current U.S. war.

This does not mean that the U.S. is any less committed to trying to
overthrowing governments that reject and resist U.S. imperial
sovereignty
[https://original.antiwar.com/nicolas_davies/2019/01/02/the-hidden-structure-of-us-empire/],
especially if those countries contain vast oil reserves. It’s no
coincidence that two of the main targets of current U.S. regime change
operations are Iran and Venezuela, two of the four countries with the
largest liquid oil reserves in the world (the others being Saudi
Arabia and Iraq).

In practice, “low intensity conflict” involves four tools of
regime change: sanctions or economic warfare; propaganda
or “information warfare”
[http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3011.htm]; covert and
proxy war; and aerial bombardment. In Venezuela, the U.S. has used the
first and second, with the third and fourth now “on the table”
since the first two have created chaos but so far not toppled the
government.

The U.S. government has been opposed to Venezuela’s socialist
revolution since the time Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998. Unbeknownst
to most Americans, Chavez was well loved by poor and working class
Venezuelans for his extraordinary array of social programs that lifted
millions out of poverty. Between 1996 and 2010, the level of
extreme poverty plummete
[https://www.counterpunch.org/2012/12/14/the-achievements-of-hugo-chavez/]d
from 40% to 7%. The government also substantially improved healthcare
and education
[https://www.counterpunch.org/2012/12/14/the-achievements-of-hugo-chavez/],
cutting infant mortality by half, reducing the malnutrition rate from
21% to 5% of the population and eliminating illiteracy. These changes
gave Venezuela the lowest level of inequality in the region, based on
its Gini coefficient
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient].

Since Chavez’ death in 2013, Venezuela has descended into an
economic crisis stemming from a combination of government
mismanagement, corruption, sabotage and the precipitous fall in the
price of oil. The oil industry provides 95% of Venezuela’s exports,
so the first thing Venezuela needed when prices crashed in 2014 was
international financing to cover huge shortfalls in the budgets of
both the government and the national oil company. The strategic
objective of U.S. sanctions is to exacerbate the economic crisis by
denying Venezuela access to the U.S.-dominated international financial
system to roll over existing debt and obtain new financing.

The blocking of Citgo’s funds in the U.S. also deprives Venezuela of
a billion dollars per year in revenue that it previously received from
the export, refining and retail sale of gasoline to American drivers.
Canadian economist Joe Emersberger has calculated that the new
sanctions Trump unleashed in 2017 cost Venezuela $6 billion
[https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14073] in just their first
year. In sum, U.S. sanctions are designed to “make the economy
scream”
[https://www.democracynow.org/2013/9/10/40_years_after_chiles_9_11] in
Venezuela, exactly as President Nixon described the goal of U.S.
sanctions against Chile after its people elected Salvador Allende in
1970.

Alfred De Zayas visited Venezuela as a UN Rapporteur in 2017 and wrote
an in-depth report for the UN.  He criticized Venezuela’s
dependence on oil, poor governance and corruption, but he found that
“economic warfare” by the U.S. and its allies were seriously
exacerbating the crisis. “Modern-day economic sanctions and
blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns,” De Zayas
wrote. “Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a
town, but sovereign countries to their knees.” He recommended that
the International Criminal Court should investigate U.S. sanctions
against Venezuela as crimes against humanity. In a recent interview
[https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/venezuela-us-sanctions-united-nations-oil-pdvsa-a8748201.html] with
the Independent newspaper in the U.K., De Zayas reiterated that U.S.
sanctions are killing Venezuelans.

Venezuela’s economy has shrunk by about half
[https://novaramedia.com/2019/01/28/what-is-going-on-venezuela/] since
2014, the greatest contraction of a modern economy in peacetime. The
World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the average
Venezuelan lost an incredible 24 lb.
[https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-food/venezuelans-report-big-weight-losses-in-2017-as-hunger-hits-idUSKCN1G52HA] in
body weight in 2017.

Mr. De Zayas’ successor as UN Rapporteur, Idriss Jazairy, issued a
statement on January 31st
[https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/01/1031722], in which he condemned
“coercion” by outside powers as a “violation of all norms of
international law.”  “Sanctions which can lead to starvation and
medical shortages are not the answer to the crisis in Venezuela,”
Mr. Jazairy said, “…precipitating an economic and humanitarian
crisis…is not a foundation for the peaceful settlement of
disputes.”

While Venezuelans face poverty, preventable diseases, malnutrition and
open threats of war by U.S. officials, those same U.S. officials and
their corporate sponsors are looking at an almost irresistible gold
mine if they can bring Venezuela to its knees: a fire sale of its oil
industry to foreign oil companies and the privatization of many other
sectors of its economy, from hydroelectric power plants to iron,
aluminum and, yes, actual gold mines.  This is not speculation. It is
what the U.S.’s new puppet, Juan Guaido
[https://grayzoneproject.com/2019/01/29/the-making-of-juan-guaido-how-the-us-regime-change-laboratory-created-venezuelas-coup-leader/],
has reportedly promised his American backers if they can overthrow
Venezuela’s elected government and install him in the presidential
palace.

Oil industry sources
[https://www.spglobal.com/platts/en/market-insights/latest-news/oil/012419-guaido-plans-citgo-leadership-shakeup-new-venezuela-hydrocarbons-law-sources] have
reported that Guaido has “plans to introduce a new national
hydrocarbons law that establishes flexible fiscal and contractual
terms for projects adapted to oil prices and the oil investment
cycle… A new hydrocarbons agency would be created to offer bidding
rounds for projects in natural gas and conventional, heavy and
extra-heavy crude.”

The U.S. government claims to be acting in the best interests of the
Venezuelan people, but over 80 percent of Venezuelans
[https://grayzoneproject.com/2019/01/29/venezuelans-oppose-intervention-us-sanctions-poll/],
including many who don’t support Maduro, are opposed to the
crippling economic sanctions, while 86% oppose U.S. or international
military intervention.

This generation of Americans has already seen how our government’s
endless sanctions, coups and wars have only left country after country
mired in violence, poverty and chaos. As the results of these
campaigns have become predictably catastrophic for the people of each
country targeted, the American officials promoting and carrying them
out have a higher and higher bar to meet as they try to answer the
obvious question of an increasingly skeptical U.S. and international
public:

“How is Venezuela (or Iran or North Korea) different from Iraq,
Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and at least 63 other countries where U.S.
regime change operations have led only to long-lasting violence and
chaos?”

Mexico, Uruguay, the Vatican and many other countries are committed
to diplomacy
[https://sputniknews.com/latam/201901311072009817-usa-venezuela-mexico-uruguay-vativan-maduro-talks/?utm_source=push&utm_medium=browser_notification&utm_campaign=sputnik_inter_en] to
help the people of Venezuela resolve their political differences and
find a peaceful way forward. The most valuable way that the U.S. can
help is to stop making the Venezuelan economy and people scream (on
all sides), by lifting its sanctions and abandoning its failed and
catastrophic regime change operation in Venezuela.  But the only
things that will force such a radical change in U.S. policy are public
outrage, education and organizing, and international solidarity with
the people of Venezuela.

_This article was produced by Local Peace Economy
[https://independentmediainstitute.org/local-peace-economy/], a
project of the Independent Media Institute._

_Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK for Peace
[https://www.codepink.org/], is the author of "Inside Iran: The Real
History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran"
[https://www.amazon.com/Inside-Iran-History-Politics-Republic/dp/1944869654/?tag=tkazmtk-20] and
"Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection
[https://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Unjust-Behind-U-S-Saudi-Connection-ebook/dp/B01LK7GW2G/?tag=tkazmtk-20]."  Nicolas
J. S. Davies is a researcher for CODEPINK
[https://www.codepink.org/] and the author of "Blood on Our Hands:
The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq."
[https://www.amazon.com/Blood-our-Hands-American-Destruction-ebook/dp/B003M68Y8E/?tag=tkazmtk-20]_

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