The US Congress has announced new economic sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The new law contains a list of Venezuelan officials said to be “violating human rights.” These Venezuelan officials will have their assets frozen and be banned from receiving visas to visit the United States. Trade with Venezuela will be further constrained. The already existing economic siege will escalate.
The hypocrisy of this move should be obvious to anyone. Venezuela’s record on human rights is far superior to that of the United States by any basic measure.
Venezuela does not torture. The Venezuelan state does not even employ the death penalty.
Police in the United States routinely kill people. They choke African Americans to death on video without restraint or penalty. And a new report has made public the details of how the US government has been torturing people in elaborately disgusting ways for years — all the while deceiving the public about it.
US prisons hold 2.5 million people, many of whom are frequently subjected to months of solitary confinement. The rate of incarceration in the United States is roughly 4 times higher than Venezuela: 707 out of every 100,000 people in the US are locked up.
While the number of people imprisoned has increased in the US — along with rising government spying and suppression of civil liberties — Venezuela’s course has been the exact opposite.
In 2012, Venezuela launched a still-ongoing program of prison reform. The program was launched after now-deceased President Hugo Chavez declared he wanted to create “open centers where prisoners live decently.” Venezuelan prisons are increasingly focused on rehabilitation, in the context of social programs to address the wider social causes of crime.
Who is the “Venezuelan Opposition?”
As people in the US rise up to protest the epidemic of police brutality, they are being arrested, pepper-sprayed in the face, and hit with heavy criminal charges. However, in Venezuela, the forces calling themselves “the opposition” are allowed to openly operate, despite their increased use of terrorism to achieve their unpopular aims.
The so-called “Venezuelan opposition,” which includes many open admirers of fascist dictators Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet, has received over $100 million in funding from the United States over the last twelve years. Forty-three people died in an the escalation of violence by the US-backed opposition in the short span between February and May of 2014. During this period, the US-backed “opposition” used petrol bombs to destroy university buildings, and engaged in other provocative and violent acts. The intent was to provide a context of chaos and instability for a coup against the elected government.
On Oct. 1st, Robert Serra, the youngest member of Venezuela’s national legislature, was stabbed to death in his home. A growing amount of evidence, including bank transactions and a video recorded confession, links the assassination to the US-aligned regime in Colombia.
The US-backed Venezuelan opposition are not “striving for democracy.” They are not “freedom fighters.” These are forces that seek to overthrow a government which has been elected numerous times, and undisputedly has the overwhelming support of the population. The Carter Center and numerous other international election monitoring agencies have confirmed this.
The opposition comprises forces that openly discuss the merits of some kind of military dictatorship, and view dark-skinned indigenous Venezuelans as genetically inferior to the lighter-skinned economic aristocracy.
With millions of US dollars in funding and a large media apparatus to repeat their falsehoods, the extremists of the Venezuelan opposition have done everything they could to disrupt everyday life in the country, even arranging food shortages.
Why is Venezuela Being Targeted?
The leaders of the United States and their allies have targeted the government because of the widespread Bolivarian movement, which has been embraced by the country’s revolutionary leaders.
After being devastated by decades of US economic domination, the people of Venezuela have risen in revolt. The Bolivarian movement, which now leads the country, can trace its root to a mass uprising in the capital called the “Caracazo,” which took place in response to cuts in public transportation. The movement against economic domination by Wall Street won a great victory and elected Hugo Chavez as President in 1999. In 2002, they successfully pushed back a coup attempt against him.
Venezuela has begun what it calls the “Bolivarian process.” The stated goal, cemented in the new constitution, is for the creation of “21st Century Socialism.” The United Socialist Party, aligned with the Communist Party and several other patriotic anti-imperialist parties, has carried out many popular economic and political reforms.
In a strong alliance with the Cuban government, free healthcare clinics have been established and literacy campaigns have been waged. Millions of people throughout Venezuela have been lifted out of poverty.
A huge amount of investment in education has resulted in illiteracy being completely wiped out, and new universities of science and health are being constructed. Unemployment is gradually being eroded with a mass public works program. Plans to entirely eradicate poverty are being enacted.
Huge efforts are being made to create ecologically friendly infrastructure, with the people rallying around the slogan “Change the system, not the climate.”
The proceeds from the state-owned oil company have been used to subsidize a huge increase in the standard of living of the population. Music programs are enabling children from low-income families to pursue the arts, and new, affordable housing is being constructed.
“Socialist cities” and “communes” are springing up. Worker-controlled factories and enterprises co-exist alongside a large nationalized sector of the economy. Banking, food distribution, and other key centers of economic power are subject to public control and accountability.
The reforms are designed to be a springboard from which a new socialist society can be created, as Venezuela’s leaders actively study the previous anti-capitalist revolutions like those in China, the Soviet Union, Cuba, Korea, and elsewhere in order to learn from their errors and successfully forge a new society.
Popular “Bolivarian militias” are being formed to replace the police and military. Venezuelans from all sectors of society are prepared to beat back any military attack against their country.
Wall Street Attacks Democracy
Russia and China have become increasingly friendly to Venezuela, providing investment and economic cooperation. The governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and other countries throughout Latin America have joined the “Bolivarian movement” and followed after Venezuela in taking measures to erode the power of western corporations and their rich comprador allies.
Support for the Venezuelan government does not come from billionaires and bankers, but from a movement of millions and millions of people. It was revolt of rank-and-file soldiers that rescued President Hugo Chavez from the 2002 coup, and an even larger movement of millions now sees Nicolas Maduro as a legitimate successor who is continuing the Bolivarian Revolution.
The response of the United States to Venezuela’s upsurge in democracy, equality, and independent economic development has been typical. It has been economic sanctions, political subversion, and general media hostility — all justified with propaganda about “human rights.”
In Venezuela’s case, the blatant dishonesty of the US media cannot be more obvious. Even though not a single anti-government activist has been executed or tortured, and the right-wing “opposition” openly controls large sections of the media and the state, the 24-hour US disinformation machine would have us believe Venezuela is somehow a “brutal dictatorship.” Such extreme and obvious dishonesty should call into question all the other “human rights” rhetoric spewed by US leaders and media.
The new economic sanctions are an attempt to suppress something that has inspired millions of people, not just in Venezuela, but all across the world. Venezuela is having great success as it attempts to construct an economic model.
Venezuela’s everyday improvements for its people are a huge threat to Wall Street and the other centers of economic power in the US and Europe. They show that the neoliberal economic model — and all the suffering and inequality that accompanies it — is not necessary. The financial rule of Wall Street is in fact impeding — not advancing — the progress of the human race.
The rich and powerful in the United States fear that such ideas, already highly popular in Latin America, will soon spread. The mass uprising in Mexico, and the upsurge of resistance to police brutality in the United States, show that, even within the centers of the old global economic order, the potential for drastic change is very real.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.