by James Jordan
With elections in Venezuela less than three weeks away, the Alliance for Global Justice is deeply concerned about the possibilities for US interference in the country’s electoral affairs. Our biggest concern has to do with the possibilities of an orchestrated effort to destabilize or overthrow Venezuela’s elected government in the event of a probable reelection of President Hugo Chavez. Especially troubling are the words of Patrick Duddy, former Ambassador to Venezuela under President Bush. Writing for the Council of Foreign Relations, Duddy recommended that “If the election results appear fraudulent…the United States should encourage international pressure” including such tactics as acting to “…freeze individual bank accounts of key figures…and seize assets in the United States. It could also arrange for the proceeds of Venezuelan government-owned corporate entities like CITGO to be held in escrow accounts” and could “block access to CITGO’s refining facilities….” Duddy goes on to discuss military options, stating that “…while Chavez loyalists dominate the Venezuelan high command, it is not clear to what extent they control the middle ranks.”
Duddy’s concern regarding “fraudulent” elections either is not founded in objective reality or, worse, is the kind of pre-election posturing used to justify some sort of intervention down the line. Most independent and objective polls are showing a commanding lead for Chávez, so commanding that even pollsters normally associated with the opposition, such as Datanalisis, are showing double digit leads for the president. However, a couple of recent and isolated surveys by Consultores 21 and Pedicmatica, have shown gains and/or a slight lead for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.
But, to listen to US-based corporate media one would think Chavez is on the verge of defeat. Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and the Miami Herald all have written stories trumpeting their assertions that Capriles is “gaining ground”, in a “dead heat”, or “leading” against Chávez. The Miami Herald has gone farther, blaming “a run of calamities” on the president and, worse, to allege threats, vandalism and assaults to “Violent groups linked to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution….”
Lest one takes these allegations at face value, it is good to remember a couple of things. Patrick Duddy was expelled from Venezuela in 2008 after a group of military officers undertook a plan to assassinate President Chavez in what was believed to be a US supported plot. Several years prior was the famous attempted overthrow of the Chavez government in April 2002, a coup attempt that the US advised and funded. Key to that effort were the incitement of right wing mobs to violence and the use of snipers to shoot people in the streets and then blame the violence on supporters of Pres. Chavez. This fact is well-documented and painstakingly verified in the documentary The Revolution Will Not be Televised.
That failed attempt was followed by a US-supported effort to cripple the Venezuelan economy with a lockout of oil workers and other forms of financial sabotage. So when we hear Duddy preparing an outline of responses in the event of “fraudulent elections”, when we see the rush to report on isolated polls that Chavez is nearing a possible defeat, and when we see unsubstantiated claims associating Pres. Chavez with all manner of “calamities” and violence in the streets—we would be foolish not to read the writing on the walls and know that there are elements active in both the United States and Venezuela that are prepared to take action against Venezuela should it re-elect Chavez.
We are seeing the evidence for this now. Things are unfolding according to a very specific, predictable and well-worn pattern. We have seen these same tactics in Nicaragua, when the US spent more than $20 per Nicaraguan voter to defeat the presidential bid of Daniel Ortega in 1990; in Eastern Europe, in places like Bulgaria, where elected Left parties have been run out of office by crowds subsidized by the National Endowment for Democracy; in Libya, where news reports were brazenly manipulated and Al Qaeda operatives brought in to fight in a “revolution” that has mainly been distinguished by making Libya’s oil supplies open to mega-exploitation by foreign companies; in Haiti where a coup against popular President Jean Bertrand Aristide employed all these tactics to plunge the country into an era of chaos and violent repression. And we are seeing all the elements coming in place once again in regards to Venezuela.
There is one other component to this strategy that especially concerns us at the Alliance for Global Justice, and that is the weakening of the commitment of US progressives to solidarity with the people of Venezuela. This can take a couple of forms. For instance, there has been a series of negative and misleading articles in the Huffington Post recently. While Hufpo is not exactly a bastion of the US Left, it is widely read by a mainly Center-Left audience.
On August 5th, the Huffington Post re-published an article from the Associated Press by Jorge Rueda alleging concerns about “fairness” in Chavez’ “tightest re-election race yet” (again, despite most polls showing a big lead for the President). The concerns about “fairness” in elections stem from a new system identifying voters by their thumbprints—despite the fact that Venezuelan voters have long used electronic finger print scanners to identify voters. But perhaps there is something inherently more unfair about the thumb versus the finger. Certainly the thumb has given humans an advantage not held by other members of the Ape family…. Perhaps a more fair system would be the kinds of Voter I.D. laws being passed in the US that require official and often costly and hard to get identification documents versus the kind of god-given identification a person is actually born with—something that is available to each and every voter.
But perhaps Rueda has some special qualifications and insight into electoral fairness that give him special expertise. His conclusion is remarkably different than that of former US President Jimmy Carter, who said, “…of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” Carter went on to add regarding US elections that, “”We have one of the worst election processes in the world, and it’s almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money.”
Apparently lacking writers capable of providing a more independent analysis regarding Venezuela, Hufpo published yet another AP article which portrayed the contest between Capriles and Chavez as some sort of David versus Goliath struggle. They then went on to make the predictable accusation that Chavez is unfairly manipulating the media to his advantage—even though it is a well-known fact that print, radio and television are all dominated by the political opposition.
And on September 17, Hufpo published an article by Federico Barriga of the Economist Intelligence Unit that described Chavez as, “The man who has dominated Venezuela’s politics for over a decade — and has often expressed his will to rule for at least one more…suffering…an uncertain health outlook after being diagnosed with cancer in mid-2011.” Barriga goes on to add that, “…the electoral outcome is so uncertain at present that Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate, could find himself in the presidential seat in Miraflores by early next year. But betting on such an outcome is risky, for despite all his administration’s failures, Chávez…will do everything he can to win the upcoming vote.”
It’s hard to believe that at this point Barriga is still making an issue of Chavez’ fight with cancer. We at AfGJ are certainly unable to give any kind of diagnosis about Chavez’ health. We’re not medical doctors, and no one on the staff has ever met Chavez, much less examined him! What is certain is that for the past several weeks and months, Chavez has been able to maintain a grueling campaign schedule and still continue governing. Again—we are not medical doctors, but from what we can see, Chavez’ does not seem to be a man who is dancing with death.
These articles in the Huffington Post are the latest in a long history of disparaging attacks on Chavez from certain segments among US progressives. While most US progressives are probably more favorably inclined toward the Bolivarian Revolution than not, the fact is that attacks and innuendo from other elements of the Left, along with the constant barrage of corporate media attacks, have been successful in sowing confusion and a reticent in expressing solidarity with the people of Venezuela, their revolution and their democratic voices.
And that silence may be the most damaging of all destabilization components. If, indeed, the election is close or, even if not, and the opposition tries to claim fraud and begins to instigate and foment unrest and violence, the silence of the solidarity movement will be an important aid in Empire’s plans.
It is good to remind ourselves how much the fate of Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution are tied to our own liberation here in the United States. Our own people are oppressed and repressed at home because of the militaristic, pro-corporate orientation of our government and because of a political system that is anything but community-based and participatory. It is a system that represents and reinforces the rule of the 1%, not the will of the 99%. It is a system that recognizes corporations as people, and that calls the seemingly unlimited flow of corporate money into electoral campaigns “free speech”.
When the Venezuelan government challenges the hegemony of the US/Corporate Empire in Latin America, when Pres. Chavez speaks out against our military and neoliberal adventurism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Libya, Iran and Syria, he is aiding us in our struggle to end our government focus on building Empire to the benefit of a wealthy few, so it can come back home to meet the needs of our own communities.
The fact is that a defeat of Chavez will be a blow not only to the people of Venezuela, but to the people of the United States and the world. That is why, if we care about real democracy, if we care about ending Empire and militarism and transnational corporate domination, if we care about our future…we will speak out and we will rise up in anger against any US sponsored effort to throw Venezuela’s elections or to overthrow her chosen government.