From Popular Resistance.
Here Are Actions You Can Take Now:
1. Post a photo of you holding a sign and send it via social media to your members of Congress. Use the hashtag #FightCovidNotVenezuela.
2. Sign the Open Letter and share it widely. The open letter opposing sanctions being imposed by the United States against many countries will be sent to leadership in the US government and the United Nations. Click here to sign it.
3. Organize for the week of action. There will be an International Week of Action against Imperialism from May 25 to 31 that will highlight the US-imposed sanctions. Visit SanctionsKill.org to register your action.
On Thursday, April 23 2020, Popular Resistance, in conjunction with Black Alliance for Peace, US Peace Council, United National Antiwar Coalition, the Alliance for Global Justice, CODEPINK, the International Action Center and the Sanctions Kill campaign held a webinar, “An Inside View of Venezuela’s Resistance to US Imperialism and How to Build International Solidarity.”
The speakers were Carlos Ron, the Venezuelan Vice Foreign Minister for North America, Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace, and Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers of Popular Resistance. Bahman Azad of the US Peace Council moderated the event. Below is the full video and a transcript of Carlo Ron’s remarks.
Carlos Ron’s Remarks:
It’s always very difficult for Venezuela to provide its narrative, its own account of what’s going on because we have a such a hard media campaign against the Bolivarian government and the whole political process in Venezuela. So having this opportunity is very welcoming and very appreciated.
So what I was asked to talk about in general terms was where this tension comes from and a brief background on what has been going on during the last several years between Venezuela and the United States, and also the more recent wave of attacks. I know we’re going to have a little bit of an exchange, which would be helpful as well, so that I could answer some of the things that are concerning you the most.
I would just start by saying, just to put everything into general context, and there are many things we could talk about the relationship between the United States and Venezuela during the years of the Bolivarian Revolution, but I think that the most important aspect is why. When you ask why the United States has this obsession, this concern with Venezuela, why it needs to constantly promote regime change in Venezuela, I think we could talk about two really important aspects that are key. These are not necessarily the only ones but I think they are fundamental to understanding what’s going on.
The first one is oil and we think it’s a given but when we think about how or what has happened in Venezuela during the last 20 years or so, we were one of those countries that the United States had under its influence before 1999 and was pretty much a friendly country, which was one of those countries that didn’t give any concerns to the United States geopolitically because we felt that it was an ally. And it was when the change of government came about with the election that President Chavez won and with the drafting of a new Constitution with a lot of input by the people that we started re-evaluating our role and the role of every element in our society. And oil was key to producing a society that really took care of its people. It was our main and still is our main source of income and it was necessary to start blowing that income, not like a private company like PDVSA used to do before, but rather as a motor for the economy and for the improvement of the lives of everyone else. And to fulfill the social debt that Venezuela had to its people.
So, why does this become an issue of concern to the United States? Because first of all, it’s the largest oil reserve in the world and second of all, President Chavez began the task of – we needed to recover the price of oil, which at the time was about seven dollars per barrel, and we needed to recover the price of oil so that we could have more income in the country and that we could carry out the social programs that we needed.
So the first thing he did was to go around and try to rekindle what was OPEC, which at the time there was a lot of friction between different leaders and governments. There was a lack of communication. It wasn’t really operating anymore and it was the idea that, President Chavez said, we need to pick this up again. We need to reconstitute this organization of all the oil-producing countries around the world. And we have to talk about how we can improve our situation collectively. And he went around and this is where he crosses the first lines according to U.S. foreign policy because in order to realign OPEC, he had to make some uncomfortable visits from the US’ perspective. He had to visit Saddam Hussein. He had to visit Muammar Qaddafi. He went to Iran. He went to countries that were of concern geopolitically for the United States.
This starts in 2001 and then we begin a process for the re-nationalization basically of the oil industry because until then it was going in the process of privatization. What was being done by prior governments was trying to run down the company so it could be privatized and sold in the private market. And all these companies would come from outside and collect the riches of Venezuela’s industries.
So by 2007, we undergo a process of not only did we stop the privatization but we renationalized, renegotiated many of the contracts that we had, imposed some new terms on companies that didn’t want to take them. For example, Exxon was one of the first that left the country because they didn’t want to accept the new terms that were more favorable to the Venezuelan people. And this is where you get this tension, where Venezuela is using oil as the motor for its development and it’s doing it in a way that would help its people and not in the way that the United States wanted to go.
Then comes after President Chavez passes away in 2013 and President Maduro comes back, I think there was a moment where the State Department and the people that make the foreign policy in the United States realized that this was their now or never moment. At least their first one because I think we’re in another now or never moment and we will talk about that in a little bit, but I think they realized, look this is the time where prices are starting to come back down again and Venezuela’s weaker and Chavez, which he was a very popular leader, is no longer there. So this is the time we could come back in and take over the oil resources and this is the time we can try to come back.
What happened was that during the 2015-16 years, which were very bad for the price of oil, President Maduro started doing the same tactic that President Chavez did that would be going also to OPEC countries to start a movement to try talking again about how the OPEC countries could help the price of oil come back and strengthen the economy. When that process began, it was when they realized that they couldn’t afford a come back of the Revolution. They needed to do something to weaken it the most. And this started under President Obama with the issue of the executive order that allowed for the first sanctions to come in against Venezuela. And then once Trump comes into office, it gets even worse.
And we could discuss the type of sanctions that we have been looking at here. Just so you get an idea, Venezuela no longer can sell oil to the United States directly. Venezuela can’t renegotiate its debt. So in the middle of an economic crisis, it’s not allowed to do what any other country would do to try to buy debt, or to sell bonds or to do the kind of things that other countries do in order to address her debt. Venezuela can’t. We were basically robbed of our sister company in the United States, which is Citgo. It is now under the control of the Venezuelan opposition, illegally, of course. And the revenue that would come from Citgo is no longer being able to come back to Venezuela. And Venezuela has been subjected to a terrible financial blockade, which doesn’t allow us to make timely purchases of food, medicine or anything.
So there’s always an argument by the State Department and by the Treasury that sanctions don’t affect the people. This is not true because we have licenses that allow for the buying and purchasing of food and so forth. This is not true. And it’s not true because once you are blocked financially, it doesn’t matter whether you’re going to buy a car or whether you’re going to buy a piece of bread, the transaction just won’t go through. And they have complete control over the financial system.
So there’s a blockade of that system. Banks, not only do they do it because they’re asked to do so, but also there’s an issue called over compliance where banks in the fear that they’re going to get hit with tougher sanctions, they decide that they don’t want to deal with Venezuelan money. And any accounts the state has, they don’t want to touch them. Some of them have closed them. Some of them have frozen our assets and said, once we determine if this is legal money or not, if this is not a product of corruption or whatever, then we can give it back to you. And in this whole atmosphere, we have ended up with at least five billion dollars blocked currently in accounts throughout the world, not necessarily U.S. accounts, but these are accounts at banks that because they don’t want to deal with US sanctions, they decide to block them.
Okay, and in the amount of money we have lost with Citgo, it runs up to 30 billion easily. If we ask now to make a transaction, then comes this bizarre response that we can’t make transactions on those accounts because we are no longer the government of Venezuela because they, the State Department, decided that the real president is somebody never elected who proclaimed himself president and who’s not even president of the National Assembly anymore because he lost the election in January. So this is the bizarre context that we are in as Venezuelans.
And that drives us to the second point that I think is key as to why this is going on. It is because geopolitically Venezuela represents an alternative model that they don’t want to deal with. This is an alternative model that crosses other red lines as well. Let’s forget about the oil for a second, but let’s think about the other things that we did. And we are undermining what has been policy for the Western Hemisphere for the United States for the last 50 years or so. And this is basically, we were able to establish friendly and cooperative relationships with countries they need as enemies. For example, Cuba, primarily. And that’s important because the current people in charge of the foreign policy of the United States towards Latin America, for some strange reason, they all belong to the same group of people that have ties to the ancient Cuban aristocracy that was there during the dictatorship of Batista before the Cuban Revolution. And they’re trying to live out this Cold War fantasy where they think that by attacking Venezuela and by achieving the overthrow of the government of Venezuela, they’re going to fulfill what they weren’t able to do with Cuba all those years ago.
This is extremely dangerous because these people actually believe this. And they are joined by the neocons who are also very dangerous because they also have their Cold War frustrations and also because these are the type of people that have made the wars for oil that we see in the last 20 years or so. And these have been terrible wars, gruesome, where a lot of American people have lost their lives as well as the people in the affected countries. But it’s an ongoing motor that kind of needs to replenish itself because it uses oil to propel its advances. By this I mean the military is one of the key sectors in the United States that still needs oil. There is a lot of talk now about well, we’re going maybe to a greener economy and oil is no longer as important and now the prices are falling so, it shouldn’t be a big issue anymore. But that’s not true for some sectors and one of these key sectors is the military because I, you can tell me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen a fighter jet fly on solar power or batteries. I mean you really need oil to move and have domination throughout the world You need fossil fuels to do that. So it’s the importance of that.
Venezuela has a relationship with Cuba, established relationships with countries such as China, Russia, Iran, countries that were troublesome for the geopolitical strategy of the United States. And it feels that it needs to go back to the Monroe Doctrine principles and tell countries in Latin America who we should deal with and who we are allowed to have relationships with. And this is a very dangerous concept. But this is something that this Administration at least is pushing forward. And at the beginning of March, there was a conference where they openly said, “Look, we are promoting our Monroe Doctrine 2.0. This is our maximum pressure strategy.” And that is sort of what brings us to what’s going on right now.
This maximum pressure strategy in the last couple of months has been again the second now or never moment. I think now they see that with the pandemic, they feel that Venezuela is not going to be able to deal with both a health crisis as well as political destabilization at the same time. So these people are doing this very crazy crazy move where they’re putting all their efforts in at the same time in order to force this change of government.
How do they think they’re going to approach it? How do they think they’re going to achieve it? They think that it is going to come because the military or some parts of Chavismo are going to ultimately betray president Maduro and turn against him and then all of a sudden everybody just moves on. And so what they do is they are using tactics in order to promote those divisions within the Venezuelan government structure. In the recent weeks, they started by doing this ludicrous indictment on March 26 against President Maduro and a whole group of high-ranking government officials, basically accusing them of drug trafficking. Now, it was in the middle of one of those COVID-19 press conferences that the administration is having, they brought in the whole team, the Attorney General and the whole Pentagon and it was like a huge, and very dangerous by the way because of the virus, but the huge gathering of people just so that everybody could say how dangerous Nicolas Maduro was because he was a head of a drug cartel that he was trying to take advantage of the pandemic so he can flood the United States with drugs and destroy the United States. I mean this is taken out of a movie almost. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. And it’s very concerning.
The funny thing is that you have people even in the liberal establishment such as the Washington Office for Latin America, (WOLA) who came out and said, “Well, if you look at the real problems with the drug trade from South America to the United States, really the routes that are mostly used, about 80 or some percent, to bring drugs into the United States go through the Pacific Ocean.” And Venezuela has no Pacific Coast. It shows you that even if this was a point of concern, it was not the main point of concern. And there’s proof in their own reports by the Department of Defense about this.
So, then we were attacked by another action, which was the United States promoted the issuing of a democratic transition plan. And basically, they are resorting to the same old practice that they had, which was to ask for President Maduro to leave, to basically pretend that we’re going to violate our Constitution, that we’re going to forget the elections that we held in 2018 and basically give up. The President has to give up the government and they establish a plan where they will set up a council and have some sort of a coup government between Chavista forces and forces that back Guaido and then somehow everybody’s going to get along together. And then that would be fine for the United States. And then afterwards, very afterwards, after they’ve done that for a year and we’ve had another election and somebody else has been elected and they approve of those elections and they put their observers in and they decide that those are acceptable actions, then they would consider lifting the sanctions.
So this is being sold and you see Elliott Abrams coming out at some of these meetings of the think tanks and saying things like this is a new approach and we’re extending this offer, this a negotiation. But, they start from the point that they’re basically overthrowing your government. They take away the capacity of the main political movement in the country to continue in government and they pretend that this is something new and that this is something that could be minimally acceptable for anyone.
Lastly, they came up with another in a way that we first accuse you, then we give you this sort of program so that you could accept it and we can negotiate, but if you don’t do that, then we send the military. And they’ve ordered the largest deployment of US military in the last 30 years to come to the Caribbean Sea, again not where the main routes of drug trafficking are. And with the purpose of conducting whatever type of operation and it’s something that we don’t really understand what is driving at.
But if we look at the history of Latin America, having a military deployment so close to Venezuela is a very dangerous situation, especially from an administration that has often said that they don’t rule out a military option for Venezuela. And especially in the middle of a pandemic that the US government hasn’t been able to handle, which right now the epicenter of the pandemic is in the US with the highest number of deaths around the world, and where we know also a practice the US government has made whenever you come into a time where you know in general politics are not doing well, then you decide that you need to create some sort of distraction. The wag the dog type of scenario. And all of a sudden this is happening now towards Venezuela.
So we’re in this very particular situation. Again, this is something that we are facing with our convictions, with our commitment to this deep democratic and revolutionary process. And this is something that is not going to make us change our disposition or change our objectives or change our responsibilities that we have acquired with the Venezuelan people. But it is important for you to understand in the United States that it is a very dangerous situation when the US government rather than pay attention to its own internal problems is trying to seek this moment in time to launch this multiform aggression, this hybrid war against Venezuela. And in a time that they believe is the final attempt so they could finally get rid of this revolutionary government that is so uncomfortable for them, that gives them so many problems geopolitically, that has so many alliances and relationships that are crossing the line and then at the end they could control Venezuela’s oil.
Today, probably because of the recent fall of prices and because of the necessity of bailing out the shale oil-producing companies in the United States, probably one thing that is key for the United States is to maintain those sanctions in place so that Venezuelan oil doesn’t reach the market and doesn’t make the situation worse. So it’s key for them to have that control. Politically, yes, we have had problems in Venezuela and I’m not saying that we haven’t. Again, the fall of oil prices has had strong repercussions for us. But there were things that we were able to do. We were starting to recuperate and deal with it and we could have even overcome if it weren’t for this sanctions war that has been launched against Venezuela. And also internally, the conversation between the political forces political actors in Venezuela is probably closer right now to an understanding than there has ever been between the government and the opposition.
But there is this one element of the opposition that is the group that is controlled by Juan Guaido and that is together with all these other four main political parties who take their directives directly from Washington and they have been blocking over and over any idea of dialogue within this country. You have people in the opposition now criticizing them, criticizing the idea that they’re calling for an invasion of Venezuela to overthrow the government, criticizing the sanctions and all these policies that hurt all of the people of Venezuela and not just the government and you have a lot of people in the opposition who want to come back and play politics and resolve our disputes politically. But, at the end of the day, it’s one group that is controlled by Washington and it is basically Washington that doesn’t allow real dialogue to take place between Venezuelans.
So, if there was really a concern about the Venezuelan people and it was really concerned about political dialogue in Venezuela it’s the United States that has to step aside now, not President Maduro, not Chavismo. It’s the United States that has to step aside and allow for the opposition to have real political engagement with us.
I’ll leave it at that and we can discuss more things afterward.