My comrade from the 1960s Tom Hayden has an important perspective on the current conflict in Venezuela that you won’t get from NPR or most of the media, much less from the politicos who every day send you emails begging for your money. We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives support an extension of democracy both to countries around the world and also to us in the U.S. — please read our “money out of politics” plan called the ESRA (Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution). Until it has mass support in this country, there is no stopping U.S. corporations and the super wealthy from getting their way both here in the U.S. and around the world.
Here’s how Hayden’s piece, “The Urgency of Venezuela,” begins:
It’s difficult to grasp the facts behind the murky fog of Venezuelan crisis. Based more or less on intuitions, but also credible documents, some blame most of the crisis on the CIA. Some national security types, abhorring populism, claim that the Venezuela state is consolidating dictatorial power precisely by winning so many elections! Others, while friendly to Venezuela, blame the Caracas government for failing to address the problems of violent crime and economic malaise.
President Barack Obama may or may not know what various US operatives are doing. We have seen evidence of a “state within the state” before, going back as far as the CIA’s operations against Cuba. In Obama’s time, the president correctly named the 2009 coup in Honduras a “coup”, and then seemed powerless to prevent it. At his first Summit of the Americas, a friendly Obama shook the hand of Hugo Chavez before Obama’s top adviser tried to sabotage the warming of relations.
Call me naive, but I do not believe President Obama wants to see President Maduro overthrown. Chaos would follow. The US would be blamed. Relations with Latin America would freeze below zero. The president probably thinks Maduro should thrash in his own domestic contradictions.
But there’s another US “government”, a secret network that works tirelessly to undermine any Latin American threat to the dominance of American capital and military power. They understand that the president must be provided with “plausible deniability”, and so they keep Obama out of the loop. Sometimes they operate through the CIA, sometimes under Republican-Democratic “democracy promotion” programs, sometimes through third parties such as the Florida-based FTI Consulting. Democratic Party political consultants and pollsters have worked for Venezuela’s opposition. It’s difficult even for a president to keep a grip on it all. And that being the case, transparency disappears for the US Congress and public.
Obama’s public statements this week certainly gave moral support to the street demonstrations. While also including a vague call for “dialogue”, Obama is playing with fire. Obama immediately needs to rein in the entire entourage of US-supported agents of destabilization and issue them a clear cease-and-desist order, or he and the US government will be blamed for what may happen in the weeks ahead. He needs request and support whatever consensus emerges this week from the region’s elected governments and the United Nations.
You can read the rest of the piece, along with more of Tom Hayden’s smart commentaries in the Peace Exchange Bulletin at TomHayden.com.
As we welcome alternative views, I’m including a powerful critique of Hayden’s perspective from one of our readers, Beny Milchgrub, here as well:
For months now I am subscribed to your wonderful newsletter and read some, not all, agree, more or less but, in general, it is very interesting to learn and now about other’s point of view.
Until today that is.
With all due respect, Mr. Hayden knows zilch about what he is talking about. He is mislead and misleads his readers.
The regime in Venezuela ceased to be “democratic” some ten years ago. Some even say that the brief putsch of 2002 was staged by Chavez himself to flush his opponents. But let us leave that issue aside.
Elections: since 2004 all, all, but ALL elections have been rigged. XIX Venezuela has the only fully electronic balloting machines and the ONLY electoral authorities, are completely, fully obedient to the Government. Some call them “the Ministry of Elections”.
Elections 2: One can say that Government intervention is not foreign to Third World countries but using the State Oil company (PDVSA) or the nationalized electric company trucks or the vehicles of all to Government offices to post ads is taking matters too far. Banners hanging on the walls of all Government offices has been the norm. Let alone, using the huge funds of the oil company to fund whatever project they would wish. That is why an oil company with US$100 a barrel (now because it also reached the US$150 mark) IS BROKE!!!
Elections 3: and other demonstrations: Whenever Chavez (and now his pupil) wanted to show “force”, they would, yes, force workers to travel to Caracas. Hey, part of the duty included some US$50 per head, meals and a hefty supply of alcohol. More than 50 have died during those years from either road accidents or fights amongst them, drunk!!!
Separation of powers: If I am not wrong, democracy is based, has to be in the separation of powers or power balance between the branches. No such thing in Venezuela where the National Assembly (and its TV channel) do and say only what the leader says. More than 90% of the judges are “temps” and if they rule something perceived, only perceived as against Government, they find themselves out or, in more than one occasion, IN JAIL!!! People are thrown in jail only because the leader said so.
Property: Government (namely, Chavez) has nationalized land, industries and buildings, at his wish and has all but destroyed the production apparatus and thus, Venezuela is importing 80% of what it eats. Nationalizing the paper mills, there is no toilet paper. No milk, no sugar, no oil, so the Government imports all, distributes it to its followers and people have to stand in line for hours in order to get from the “Big Brother” what he decides to give, with a vengeance.
Speculation and wealth: as all oil income belongs to the Government, and as “Big Brother” has the money, and as there is no production (NO PRODUCTION TOM), a few chosen ones have made all the zillions you cannot imagine. But there is a “but”. 11 years there is no free currency exchange so there is a black market, the “black” currency running almost TEN TIMES the official rate. Those chosen get the dollars to import at the regular rate, use part of it to import the goods and sell the rest in the black market, they themselves manage!
Tens of thousands of tons of food have rotten because the ONLY PURPOSE is to get the currency, NOT TO BRING FOOD.
Fear:10-12-15years people live in fear. The Government has armed bands, not unlike Hitler’s brownshirts, which ride in motorcycles, but swarms. Those are the ones attacking pacific demonstrators.
So, please, don’t talk to me about “Leninists of the Right”. More than half of the population is fed up with all the Hell and catastrophe this band has sown. The other part (less than half, for sure) are naïve enough (or otherwise hopeless) to still believe in the “Process” as they call it.
And I have not mentioned the hatred (including a deep anti-Semitism) and resentment. So please, Mr. Hayden, do please check the facts before you talk.
Anyone who has become concerned about how affairs between nations have developed over the past half century or so would do well to read Stephen Kinzer’s book “The Brothers” (Times Books, 2013). It details how so much of what disturbs us got kickstarted by the Dulles brothers when one of them was Secretary of State and the other headed up the CIA. Really, a must read.
I want to, no, I must thank the editorial staff of Tikum for the evenhanded and balanced point of view and for publishing my comments. To my regret, the number of casualties in a “perfectly quiet” country, not at war but with ourselves, has risen. Please, search any news bulletin of the last two weeks about Venezuela and you will find all the “leninints” fighting with the authorities that behave like not even a conquered army would. Thanks again
Wow. Somehow the elections that every international observer called model elections, including Jimmy Carter, who called them the most transparent elections he has seen, are all rigged somehow, and yet none of them caught it. Beny is so wise to have seen what they missed here. And how wonderful that he can see that Chavez was able to somehow convince the opposition as well as the CIA into faking a coup attempt just to solidify his base of power! (The opposition and CIA did a good acting job, as the whole event was caught on film, as anyone who has bothered to investigate the truth behind the coup attempt is aware.
Not to mention that the anti-Semitic Venezuelan people, just to make their anti-Semitism apparent, elected a President that is descended from Sephardic Jews.
I would like to remind the Tikkun editorial staff that “even handed” and “Balanced” treatment does not mean placing a well-researched piece next to provable and blatant disinformation, based on no evidence whatsoever.
I would request that some level of fact-checking be done, unless the intent is to show the depths to which the supporters of the opposition must sink in order to justify their attempts to undermine Democracy (which, by the way, is based on the rule of the people, not balance of power, which is only one possibly way to achieve the rule of the people – remember, the word has Greek roots, Demos- people – Kratos – rule.)
Beny Milchgrub does not convince me. His criticism of elections in Venezuela is unfounded. International monitors have verified that the integrity of the elections in Venezuela are as former President Jimmy Carter described–the best in the world.
For an example of a rigged election, look no further than the recent one in Honduras that received a thumbs-down evaluation by monitors. Poverty stricken Honduras is virtually a colony of the United States. I challenge us in the United States to harness our power and wisdom to mold Honduras into a model democracy providing as much health and wellbeing for its citizens as Cuba has achieved in spite of our decades of boycotting. Banana republics by definition are controlled by economic forces beyond their borders. Nationalization of resources may sometimes be necessary to stop foreign entities from bleeding a country’s wealth.
Washington’s aim has always been to topple democratically elected governments and not just in Venezuela. The US will go to any length in order to foment unrest while pretending to ‘stand with the people’. As much as I support the Bolivarian Revolution, I think that Chavez – with his charisma, hid a lot of problems and now Maduro is stuck with them. Venezuelans will work it out but foreigners should quit meddling.
The elections in Venezuela have been seen and approved by international observers including the Carter Institute. The opposition has lost every election, including the last one on December 9, 2014. The opposition still refuses to recognize the legitimate government of Venezuela and does not respect the opinion of the majority of Venezuelans.
The opposition is divided between those (a majority) who wish to try winning the next election and those who have decided to ignore elections and take to the streets to bring down the government through a violent insurrection. The peaceful demonstrations of the majority were followed by violent ones that are not about food prices or crime or inflation, which are real concerns, but about getting rid of the elected government.
The scarcity of basic goods is a problem exacerbated by big and small business: the government is concerned about capital flight, which has been a problem since the 1980’s, and so the government sells petrodollars to private enterprises and individuals for specific purposes, such as travelling to the US or importing goods. Private individuals often just turn around and sell the dollars in the black market, where they fetch a higher price than the official exchange, and importers send between 30 and 40 % (depending on who you believe) to Colombia, Trinidad or Curacao (illegally) and sell them for US dollars, then bring the dollars back to Venezuela and sell them on the black market. Because this activity makes scarcity worse, smaller enterprises hide the goods, creating worse scarcity and then sell them on the black market at hugely inflated prices. This all fuels inflation because demand is increasing, due to the increase in the standard of living of the majority poor, due to government programmes, and the restrictions on supply, partly because production of basic goods in Venezuela needs to go from where it was before the Bolivarian Revolution (due to neglect in favour of oil production), to the objectives of the Bolivarian governments of self sufficiency in basic goods. The above illegal activities make the situation critical.
We need to ask: What would the US or any Western Democracy do if faced with such a situation? would it dialogue with those who wish to bring down the government by confronting the police (they have killed some), setting fire to a government facility and barricading essential thoroughfares. Would the governments dialogue with these people or would they arrest them?
Incidentally, I am a Venezuelan Canadian
Jorge (George) Sorger