By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star
“Our struggle today, the historic battle of the Revolution and the Venezuelan people, is to put an end to all forms of modern slavery, a dark and subtle slavery no longer exerted through the whip, the iron and the shackles, but through invisible chains of brutal and perverse mechanisms of capitalist exploitation: alienation, domination, estrangement, oppression and commodification of human relations.”
The exhortation was from Hugo Chavez, the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and former president who died in office on March 5, 2013.
A key element of the “historic battle” has been the nationalization (state takeover) of the oil industry –Venezuela’s main source of revenue – and other vital aspects of the economy. Such policy has enraged the US and Venezuelan big capitalists. But it has uplifted from abject poverty millions of the country’s 30-million population, the formerly poor who constitute the government’s base of support.
In 2002, a US-instigated coup deposed Chavez but popular protests soon restored him to power. In March 2014 another coup was plotted against Chavez’s successor, President Nicolas Maduro, but it also failed.
On the second anniversary of Chavez’s passing, Maduro has undertaken a series of actions – pursuant to the above exhortation – against Venezuela’s “capitalist elites,” whom he accuses of “unleashing an economic war” against their countrymen, as well as against US interventionism.
First, his government scuttled a second coup plot last Feb. 12-13. It arrested 10 military officers and opposition political figures against whom it claims to have evidence of their link with the US embassy in Caracas. It also detained some Americans, including a pilot captured in Tachura state, allegedly for espionage activities.
Recently the government gave the US two weeks to reduce the number of its diplomats in Caracas (estimated at 100) to 17 – to equal the number of Venezuelan diplomats in Washington. It also imposed the following: 1) visa requirements for Americans travelling to Venezuela; 2) prior government authorization for any meeting between US diplomats and Venezuelan civilians; and 3) restricted movements for US diplomats it accused of plotting with the opposition to oust Maduro.
President Maduro has accused Venezuela’s big capitalists of seeking to create a “climate of dissatisfaction” through “hoarding, speculation and contraband… to deprive the Venezuelan people of their main food and hygiene products.” (The international media has been reporting about shortages and rising prices of staples and such products as toilet paper.)
Maduro assailed rightist opposition leaders’ published anti-government statements, including calls on the Bolivarian National Armed Forces “to break the constitutional order” and Venezuelans living in the US who urged the BNAF to “liberate us from the yoke of the totalitarian mafia that exercises power and has led Venezuela to ruins.” (The rhetoric reflects the bitterness of the ideological conflict.)
More telling is Maduro’s accusation about the US “carrying out a whole series of actions, involving public declarations and legislative measures, with the aim of discrediting and harming the Bolivarian Government… and the democratic institutions of Venezuela.” He noted the following:
• Since 2014, the US government has maintained a “perverse conduct of publicly attacking the policies enacted by the Venezuelan state to confront the situations of crises provoked by ultra-right political forces.”
• On July 30, 2014, the State Department imposed restrictions in granting visas for Venezuelan public officials, allegedly because a situation of “judicial intimidation against political dissidence exists in Venezuela” and that excessive force was used to control protest actions.
• In its National Security Strategy for 2015, the US maintains a “distorted opinion about human rights violations in Venezuela, the criminalization of political dissidence and the banning of free speech.” The NSS advocates continued support to the Venezuelan political opposition towards overthrowing the existing government.
• The US Congress has passed a law, signed by President Barack Obama in December 2014, titled “Venezuelan Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act.” Presuming the Venezuelan government violates human rights, the law prescribes unilateral sanctions such as “US assets blocking [freezing]” and “exclusion [travel ban]” on Venezuelan government officials for alleged acts of violence against anti-government protesters beginning February 2014.
Such sanctions, the Bolivarian government argues, are not authorized by international law and go against the Venezuelan people’s interests. Under International Court of Justice jurisprudence, the US law violates the basic principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It points out: “(Non-intervention) is enshrined as a universal obligation in the international legal framework that regulates international relations between states with the aim of guaranteeing peace and international security.”
On this issue, Venezuela has won the backing of three major regional formations in Latin America: the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and the Common Market of the South (Mercosur).
CELAC has called on the US to respect its commitment to its member states not to intervene in their internal affairs and to observe the principle of national sovereignty, equality of rights and self-determination of peoples. The UNASUR has advised the US to abstain from imposing unilateral sanctions that violate the principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other states.
But the sole superpower has ignored these calls of its neighboring states. Hence, the Venezuelan government appeals to the international community for support.
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Published in The Philippine Star
March 7, 2015