January 29, 2019—It is with more than a little irony that I note that on the current, fiery issue of politics in Venezuela, our U.S. President, Donald Trump, is following the traditional, U.S. capitalist/cold war line, while I am siding with Russia, China, Cuba, and the U.S. socialist, anti-imperialist Left. To be honest, I am more than a little surprised that President Trump is breaking with President Vladimir Putin and Russia on this one. I have taken President Trump to task in earlier posts on this blog for cozying up with Vladimir Putin at a recent joint press conference with him, yet here I am taking the side of Russia and Vladimir Putin, myself, as against traditional U.S., imperialist policy in Latin America, which President Trump is currently upholding and continuing (Mid-term Post-election Recap, 11/10/2018). Wow, Mr. President, such independence from Vladimir Putin. What a surprise! Perhaps you should re-think that, however. In this case, I think a little deference to Russia, in the best interests of the Venezuelan people, of course, would be a good thing. Why so much of the “America First,” for Venezuela? That is not really new, after all. I think we need a little “Venezuela First,” for Venezuela. What’s more, if you ask any of the participants in the now fluid, quickly unfolding events in Venezuela, including you, including Russia, including both sides of the bitterly divided conflict in Venezuela, itself, and including, of course, all afore-mentioned and not-yet-credited U.S. socialists, including, of course, socialist parties, such as the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the on-line media networks of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS), and including big-name, ULTRA-LIBERAL intellectuals, such as Noam Chomsky, including everybody involved, directly and also, not-so-directly, including just about everyone, if you ask any of these players in Venezuela, and regarding Venezuela, they will tell you, in one, very rare moment of agreement, that their steadfast, unyielding position has everything to do with the interests of the Venezuelan people. All that anyone does, including attempts to set up parallel governments in Venezuela, including jailing the opposition in Venezuela, with whom they wish to negotiate, including cutting off the desperately poor people of Venezuela from billions of U.S. oil consumer dollars, including denouncing the U.S. government for imperialism in Latin America, etc. etc., including everything, all sides can agree that everything they do is for the betterment and wholly in the best interests of the people of Venezuela.
Here here. All agreed.
As a U.S. socialist blogger, myself, speaking up on behalf of socialism and democracy in Venezuela today, which hopefully are not too far divorced from one another in Venezuela, either, as a U.S. socialist speaking up about Venezuela, myself, I feel the need to concern myself, largely, with U.S. policy in Venezuela, and in Latin America, in general, traditionally, and apparently, still today. It is on that note that I fall on the refrain, “U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!” In this vein, I echo the words of the Venezuelan President, himself, Nicolas Maduro, who is quoted as saying, in a direct response to President Donald Trump, on Monday, January 28, addressing the new sanctions against the Venezuelan state oil company, announced by the White House earlier the same day, Maduro said, “Hands off Venezuela!” as quoted in the associated press from Washington in an on-line news story on Earthlink.net (“US Hits Venezuela with Oil Sanctions to Pressure Maduro,” 1/28/2019).
Apparently, according to the Earthlink.net article, we are talking about $7 billion in current assets, cut off now, and projected income from future oil sales over the next year to the U.S. of about an additional $11 billion, all U.S. dollars. That is a lot of American currency for Venezuela, currently a cash-starved nation, to lose.
The U.S. has pursued “big-stick diplomacy,” traditionally, which meant, historically, sending in the marines, traditionally, in Latin America. Now, under President Trump, as of January 28, 2019, we have what I would call, “big-purse diplomacy,” at this point. The U.S. has not taken the military option off the table, as of January 28, 2019, but it has already exercised the option of economic sanctions.
Meanwhile, it is sad and ironic that President Trump is threatening to hold hostage hundreds of thousands of U.S. federal workers in the ongoing immigration fight over his border wall. He is threatening to close down the U.S. government again, over this issue, leaving all Americans, and pretty much everyone, wondering if he will actually do this, again, to fight for his border wall. He will shut down the U.S. government, again, that is, but U.S. imperialism in Latin America will remain wide open for business. One would think that you cannot have your imperialism in Latin America if you actually shut down the U.S. government. The government (in the U.S., that is) actually has to be open, with its employees actually paid for their labor, in order for the U.S. government and president to throw his weight around with unnecessary intervention in the domestic politics of Latin America, and in particular, Venezuela. It just seems odd, that’s all. We talk of the harm to the people of Venezuela, and what is in their best interests, no doubt, but we also, simultaneously, talk about what is in the best interests of the people of America, and federal workers, in particular. Antonio Gramsci comes to mind. This pattern is all too familiar to U.S. socialists during the course of the cold war, workers in America and countries, abroad, all being oppressed by U.S. imperialism. We need to break this pattern.
Therefore, I implore you, President Trump, listen to your friend, Vladimir Putin. Remember, the Cold War is over. If the Cold War were still on, you, President Trump, would never have been elected President. You could not have benefited from Vladimir Putin and Russia to the extent that you did, in your campaign in 2016, if the Cold War were still on. So, if the Cold War is, in fact, over, then let Venezuela live. Trade with former, and current, socialist countries is a good thing, President Trump. Rescind your silly sanctions, and let the U.S. thaw out relations with the current, socialist government of Venezuela. Then, the U.S. can participate in talks to help end the crisis in government currently unfolding in that country. Starving Venezuela, and the Venezuelan people, of much-needed U.S. capital does not seem to me to be the most helpful thing for them.
Let me be the first to say, “End the sanctions on Venezuela.” After all, these sanctions have not been in effect for even one full day yet.
Remember, President Trump. Latin America today, and Europe, today, are all still in the same world, today. Therefore, although I have called for more independence from Russia in earlier blog posts, forget that. In this case, in the case of Venezuela, listen to your friend, Vladimir Putin. President Trump, listen to Russia. The Cold War is over. Let’s just move on, already, and get over it, like you always say. You know, standing next to Vladimir Putin at an adjoining podium at the same, joint press conference, you announced, “there was no collusion.” Then, in almost lip synch, Vladimir Putin also said, “Again, upon our review by our government in Moscow, we have concluded, also, that, undeniably, there was no collusion.” You see? You can agree! It is not all about just hotel deals and new office towers in Moscow, like New York. It is about a changing international politics in an undeniably changing world. Embrace your new friends on the international scene, President Trump. Embrace, in particular, Vladimir Putin’s traditional, Russian Cold War stance in support of remnant socialist regimes everywhere. Including in Latin America. Especially in Latin America. Even Venezuela.
So, President Trump, here is what I propose for you. Today, economic sanctions on Venezuela. Tomorrow, a second joint news conference with Vladimir Putin of Russia in which you declare that you agree with him, not only on Syria, upon your Presidential review, but also, on Venezuela! End the sanctions on Venezuela!
I think, humbly enough, that if you let the people of Venezuela have their $18 billion US dollars for their oil, you may find that you have a couple million less economic refugees fleeing the country, seeking jobs and a better life, elsewhere. You will not need a wall if you do not starve these Latin American countries, read: Venezuela, of their access to U.S. capital.
O.K. I have said enough. Probably too much. I may be getting myself in trouble now, too, since I should be siding with these new, Venezuelan immigrants to the U.S., before they even arrive here. It is a sad fact, according to the Wall Street Journal (1/28/2019, p. A5), that there are now three million Venezuelans fleeing their country. This reality, I do not actually blame President Trump for, to be honest. That migration is the result of desperate conditions in a country currently undergoing a constitutional crisis. I just hope that the U.S. attempts to make the situation better, and not, in fact, worse.
You can do the right thing, President Trump. End the sanctions, and begin the process of honest talk, real dialogue, between the U.S. and the current, socialist government of Venezuela, and even, between the contending parties in Venezuela, itself. Starving the country of U.S. capital will not help. It will only worsen the situation there.
You can do better than this, Donald Trump. If nothing else, pick up the red phone in the White House, designed to protect against nuclear annihilation with the Soviet Union, and talk to your friend, President Vladimir Putin, in today’s Russia. If you do not want to listen to me, then don’t. Listen to your friend, Vladimir Putin. He will tell you. He will tell you the same thing I just told you in this blog post. I fear that I repeat myself too much.
End the sanctions. Begin the talks.
—Nicholas Patti, Charlotte, NC