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  • The CELAC heads of state met early this month in Costa Rica. They condemned the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.

    The CELAC heads of state met early this month in Costa Rica. They condemned the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. | Photo: AFP

Published 20 February 2015
Even the OAS, until quite recently a reliable U.S. lap dog, rejected Washington’s sanctions against Venezuela. 

Latin American governments have been very united in rejecting the USA’s efforts to have the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela overthrown – and they’ve also rejected the U.S. government’s take on the human rights situation there. When a verifiable diplomatic record opposes U.S. policy, the corporate media (following the lead of US officials) will sometimes quote anonymous foreign “diplomats” who allegedly support the USA. But the more common tactic is to ignore the diplomatic record entirely. It’s a good way to avoid an awkward question. Why is the region so united against the USA?

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) rejected the U.S. sanctions on Venezuela. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) also rejected them. Even the OAS, until quite recently a reliable U.S. lapdog, passed a resolution of “solidarity” with Venezuela during last year’s violent anti-government protests.

There are three interrelated reasons for Latin America’s unity against the U.S. campaign to oust Venezuela’s government.

1) U.S. government claims about the human rights situation in Venezuela are false.

Venezuela has a much higher tolerance for protest and the expression of dissent than the USA.

Code Pink activists were recently ejected from a congressional hearing for staging a symbolic “arrest” of Henry Kissinger whom they called a war criminal. Kissinger (who really should have been imprisoned for mass murder decades ago) simply chuckled, but John McCain erupted at the spectacle: “Get out of here, you low-life scum" he barked. During the 2008 presidential debates, Obama and McCain each said they had Kissinger on their side and bickered over who could really claim him as an ally. It was a sickening illustration of how remarkably constrained public debate is the USA, and explains why Code Pink feels justified in using mildly disruptive but completely non-violent tactics.

But imagine if Code Pink leaders wrote op-eds every few weeks for leading U.S. newspapers, made regularappearances on its largest TV networks where they spoke at length and were treated respectfully, and had leaders who were governors, legislators, and mayors. Under those hypothetical conditions, anger at them for interrupting hearings (though not as much anger as McCain’s) would be understandable.

Now imagine if Code Pink’s tactics also included major vandalism, killing police officers and setting death traps for motorists. One can only wince contemplating the extreme violence the USA’s political class would endorse against what it would unanimously call “low-life scum”, especially if black men were involved. The hypothetical I’ve outlined still leaves one thing out that applies to the leaders of last year’s violent protests in Venezuela. Imagine if Code Pink leaders had participated in the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.

The international press tries its best to depict the Venezuelan opposition, including its most violent elements, as if it were Venezuela’s equivalent to Code Pink. That follows the lead of the U.S. government where the only debate is over how much support to give the “inspiring” protesters. Propaganda is a powerful thing, but the truth does matter.

2) The US government has lost economic (and with it political) clout in the region.

From 1980-2001 the IMF was the key enforcer of economic policies known as neoliberalism, or sometimes the “Washington consensus”. The IMF was a source of loans but, more importantly, a gatekeeper to other sources. Real per capita GDP in Latin America and the Caribbean grew by a pitiful 7% in that period compared to over 80% in the preceding twenty years. Argentina’s debt default of December 2001 was a major turning point. Assisted with loans from Venezuela’s Chavez government, Argentina boldly defied the “Washington Consensus” and quickly recovered. Defiance spread through the region with the election of numerous left of center governments and drastically shrinking IMF influence. The result was vastly improved economic growth in the region. By 2013, real per capita GDP in Latin America and the Caribbean was already about 50% higher than it was in 2001. Twelve years of widespread rebellion against Washington’s economic dogmas produced about seven times more economic growth than did over twenty years of obedience.

3) Most governments understand how easily they could be singled out for a similar U.S.-led vilification campaign based on distortions and lies.

The U.S. government backed the 2002 coup in Venezuela and directly perpetrated the 2004 coup in Haiti. The 2009 coup in Honduras ousted another democratically elected president, Manual Zelaya. Obama initially declared Zelaya’s ouster a “coup” that was “illegal”, but Obama’s government soon made it obvious to the region’s governments that it was glad the coup happened and helped it succeed. The corporate media in Canada and the USA routinely spread the lie that Zelaya had attempted to illegally extend his term in office. Lanny Davis, a paid lobbyist for Honduran businessmen who backed the coup, and a very close associate of the Clintons, played a key role in spreading that lie. Hillary Clinton was Obama’s Secretary of State at the time.

Zelaya’s government was far from radical. The message was sent loud and clear to the region’s governments that if any were overthrown by the far right the USA and Canada would help the people who overthrew them.

It is a great thing that U.S. clout in the region has declined. Nevertheless, the USA remains so much wealthier than Latin America that it would be foolish to dismiss the threat the USA still poses to democracy in the region. That threat would disappear if U.S. and Canadian citizens were much more widely informed about it. As always, spreading awareness is an uphill battle against a corporate media whose function is to impose ignorance.

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