Since George Bush took office in January 2001, efforts to oust Chavez failed three times:
– in April 2002 for two days, aborted by mass street protests and support from Venezuela’s military, notably its middle-ranked officer corps;
– the 2002 – 2003 general strike and oil management lockout, causing severe economic disruptions; and
– the failed August 2004 national recall referendum, Chavez prevailing with a 59% majority.
Nonetheless, disruptive activities continue, including malicious propaganda, CIA subversion, funding opposition forces, sanctions, and militarizing the region, notably in Colombia as well as gunboat diplomacy by reactivating the Latin American/Caribbean Fourth Fleet for the first time since 1950 despite no regional threat.
Ignoring America’s appalling human rights record, on April 11, the State Department issued its 2010 Human Rights Report: Venezuela, claiming Chavez government responsibility for largely uncorroborated, exaggerated or falsified abuses, including:
“unlawful killings, including summary executions of criminal suspects; widespread criminal kidnappings for ransom; prison violence and harsh prison conditions; inadequate juvenile detention centers; arbitrary arrests and detentions; corruption and impunity in police forces; corruption, inefficiency, and politicization in a judicial system characterized by trial delays and violations of due process; political prisoners and selective prosecution for political purposes; infringement of citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of expression; government threats to sanction or close television stations and newspapers; corruption at all levels of government; threats against domestic NGOs; violence against women; trafficking in persons; and restrictions on workers’ right of association.”
Then on May 24, the State Department imposed sanctions for the first time against Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state owned oil company for “deliver(ing) at least two cargos of reformate (a hydrocarbon product for gasoline) to Iran between December 2010 and March 2011, worth approximately $50 million.”
They “prohibit the company from competing for US government procurement contracts, from securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and from obtaining US export licenses.”
They don’t apply to PDVSA subsidiaries (including US-based CITGO) or prohibit crude oil exports to America. In 2010, according to US Energy Information Administration data, Venezuela was America’s fifth largest supplier after Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. In fact, Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, including its heavy and extra-heavy oil.
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg called sanctioning PDVSA a “clear message” to companies violating America’s 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), renamed the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) in 2006, now the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA), warning they’ll “face serious consequences.”
The action came a day after Obama signed an Executive Order, authorizing new sanctions on Iran, as well as giving the State and Treasury Departments more latitude in targeting companies dealing with its energy sector.
Hard-line Rep. Connie Mack (R. FL), Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman, said Washington “needs to move quickly to cut off Chavez’s source of revenue, and bring to an end both his influence in Latin America and his dangerous relationship with the terrorist-supporting Iranian regime before it’s too late.”
Along with extremist Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R. FL) and Jeb Bush (former FL governor and Bush family member), Mack got President GHW Bush (in 1990) to pardon Orlando Bosch’s criminal downing of Cubana flight 455 with Luis Posada Carriles, killing all 78 passengers on board.
As part of their hard-line agenda, Ros-Lehtinen and Mack now wage war on Chavez, failing in 2008 to designate Venezuela “a state sponsor of terrorism” through HR 1049.
In October 2009, Mack again tried unsuccessfully through HR 872, “Calling for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to be designed a state sponsor of terrorism for its support of Iran, Hezbollah, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC).”
Mack also called Ecuador’s Raphael Correa “a pawn for his fellow friend and thugocrat, Hugo Chavez.”
Allied with bipartisan extremists in Congress, today’s Republican controlled House is infested with others like him.
So is the Obama administration, including former National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, naming Chavez in his Annual 2010 Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, calling him a “leading anti-US regional force” by:
– “impos(ing) an authoritarian populist political model that undermines democratic institutions (a convoluted oxymoron);” and
– allying with “radical leaders in Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and until recently, Honduras,” adding that he opposes “nearly every US policy initiative in the region.” For sure, all imperial ones.
Responses to Venezuelan Sanctions
Venezuela rejected them, saying:
“The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela….expresses its strongest rejection to this decision (it calls a) hostile action on the fringes of international law that violates (UN Charter) principles…”
Calling Washington’s action “imperialist aggression,” it “calls on all the Venezuela people, laborers and especially the oil workers, to stay alert and mobilized in defense of our PDVSA and the sacred sovereignty of the homeland.”
An official statement said a “general assessment of the situation (will) determine how these sanctions affect the operational capacity of our oil industry, and therefore, the supply of 1.2 million barrels of oil per day to the US.”
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said:
“We are not afraid of these sanctions, nor are we going to debate the reasons that the North American government may have, but Venezuela is sovereign in making its decisions.”
Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez added:
“The imperialist powers are hoping to dictate the rules to us. They will have to go without, because we are going to keep advancing towards creating unity between oil-producing countries.”
Responding, Chavez twitted:
“Sanctions against the homeland of Bolivar? Imposed by the US imperialist government. Bring it on, Mr. Obama. Do not forget that we are the children of Bolivar,” telling over 1.5 million followers that “the true impact of this latest US aggression is the strengthening of our nationalistic and patriotic morale in Venezuela!”
In other tweets he added:
“We don’t just have the largest oil reserves in the world. We also have the most revolutionary oil company in the world.”
“So, they wanted to see and feel the flame of the people of Bolivar defending the independence of the Venezuelan homeland? Well, there you have it!”
Majority members in Venezuela’s National Assembly also rejected US sanctions, warning Washington to halt hostile actions or face possible oil shipment recriminations.
On May 25, PDVSA workers rallied across Venezuela against US sanctions, supporting their government, president and company. Women’s groups, peasant organizations, communal councils, and alternative media also organized a Caracas march.
The Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of the Americas (ALBA) also condemned US sanctions, its member countries “express(ing) our indignation and reject(ion) in the strongest terms….in the framework of its unilateral policy of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“Faced with this hostile measure, (ALBA members) express our absolute backing to (Venezuela), which, guided by a solid conviction of solidarity, has promoted mechanisms of energy cooperation aimed at strengthening the unity between our peoples.”
ALBA nations include Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as Venezuela. Before Washington’s June 2009 coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya, Honduras was also an ALBA member.
Friends of Venezuela issued a “Declaration of Rejection to US Sanctions,” responding to Washington’s unilateral action, asking US individuals and organizations to oppose it.
Denouncing “a grave and dangerous move by Washington to justify further aggression against the Venezuelan people,” they “unequivocally reject this latest attempt….to demonize (Venezuela) and undermine the vibrant democracy of the Venezuelan people.”
Using its oil wealth responsibly, over 60% of it goes for healthcare, education, job training, subsidized food and housing, community media, reducing poverty, and supporting thousands of communal councils engaged in grassroots participatory democracy.
“We find it outrageous that (Washington) demonize(s) the one (country that’s put) people before profits. And we call on our representatives….to suspend these sanctions….immediately.”
They’ll remain, and so will determined millions against them, weakening Washington’s corrosive influence everywhere.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.