U.S. Intervention in Venezuela and the role of the OAS

by Alison Bodine
Reprinted from Fire This Time!
May, 2016

“Venezuela is desperately in need of political intervention by its neighbors,” begins the final paragraph of the April 12, 2016 editorial in the Washington Post. The final words of the Editorial read: “An explosion is probably not far off.”

Since the late President Hugo Chavez took power in Venezuela in 1999, the Western mainstream media apparatus has been running a fierce campaign to demonize the government of the Bolivarian Revolution and its leaders. With each new wave of foreign meddling, imperialist governments like the United States and their violent and counter-revolutionary allies in Venezuela work hand-in-hand with mainstream media to create the climate of confusion and fear that they need to carry out their intervention.

What is the OAS?

The Washington Post editorial goes on to explain itself when it suggests that these “neighbors” of Venezuela “have a ready mechanism in the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Democratic Charter, a treaty that provides for collective action when a regime violates constitutional norms.”

But before we get into why the OAS is being called upon to act, there are two questions that need to be asked, first, what is the OAS? And secondly, what is the Inter-American Democratic Charter?

The Organization of American States (OAS) is an organization made up of 35 member states in the Western hemisphere, including Venezuela, as well as the United States and Canada. Since its formation in 1948, it has become known across Latin America for its support of policies in favor of U.S. government’s interests and against the interests of the vast majority of poor and working people in Latin America. This conclusion is no wonder, given that, in 2014, the OAS received over 59% of its funding from the United States (and a further 10% from Canada).

Venezuela’s Counter-Revolutionary Opposition Receives a Nod of Approval from the U.S. Government

Discussion about the intervention of OAS is Venezuela is not new; in fact, the current president of the OAS, Luis Almagro has already threatened to invoke the charter, publishing a letter on the OAS website in January, 2016. However, Venezuela’s violent counter-revolutionary opposition is now beginning to take more action on their demands.

In the last week of April, 2016 a delegation made up of right-wing members of the National Assembly went to Washington, DC to do just what the Washington Post had suggested, to ask for aid and foreign intervention from the OAS. Those that traveled to the U.S. included Luis Florido, the head of the delegation and a deputy in the National Assembly of Venezuela, who said to the news agency EFE, “We demand that the OAS discuss urgently the situation in Venezuela and move towards a resolution where the political crisis and political prisoners are is recognized, and the people of Venezuela are permitted to hold an election for the departure of President Nicolás Maduro.”

Venezuela’s Opposition Struggles to Oust President Maduro

In December of 2015 a majority right-wing representatives were elected to the Venezuelan National Assembly for the first time in the nearly 16 years of the Bolivarian Revolution. From the first days they took office in January, this counter-revolutionary majority has been very clear about their goal to roll back the great gains made by poor and working people in Bolivarian Revolution, as well as their intent to oust the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

So far, their strategy to force the removal of President Maduro has been focused on attempts to pass laws in the National Assembly. One such law that passed was supposed to cut the Presidential term from six to four years, as well as change some of the procedures of the recall referendum, but a review by Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) determined that this law was unconstitutional (it altered the spirit of the constitution fundamentally and therefore required a vote by the people of Venezuela to be made into law).

Now, outside of their calls for foreign intervention, the counter-revolutionary opposition is also starting the procedures to complete a recall referendum against President Maduro. This process is built into Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution and applicable to any elected official that has served at least one-half of their term in office. As per the Constitution, the first step to begin the referendum is that 20% of the electorate must sign a petition declaring that they want a referendum, in Venezuela this means that the opposition must collect about 4 million signatures.

Following the completion of this step, the opposition must collect more votes for a recall then President Maduro received in the 2013 election for President, or over 7.6 million votes, and they have to do it before January if they want to trigger another Presidential election. If the signatures are not collected by next year, the Vice President of Venezuela will take office for the remainder of the term.

Other Tactics of the Counter-revolutionary Opposition in Venezuela

Beyond the legislation that the right-wing opposition has proposed in Parliament related to deposing the current government, there have also been other laws introduced, such as those to privatize public housing and reverse some of the progressive changes made in labour law. There is also a piece of legislation that was passed in the National Assembly called the “Amnesty Law.” This law would have released around 115 people currently imprisoned in Venezuela for crimes including terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and fraud, including criminals convicted of involvement in the 2002 attempted coup against President Chavez and the 2014 violent opposition protests known as the “Guarimbas” that killed 43 people.

U.S. Intervention in Venezuela Continues

Political support for Venezuela’s counterrevolutionary opposition is only one tentacle of the U.S. strategy for intervention in Venezuela. The big picture of how the U.S. government is working to defend their interests against the Bolivarian Revolution and the interests of the vast majority of people in Venezuela is stated clearly in a 2004 cable released through Wikileaks. In this cable, the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela at the time outlined a five-point strategy: “Strengthening Democratic Institutions, Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, Dividing Chavismo, Protecting Vital US business, and Isolating Chavez internationally.”

In March of 2016, U.S. President Obama renewed an unnecessary and inflammatory Executive Order declaring Venezuela an, “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States”, and with it enabled the renewal of U.S. economic sanctions against Venezuela. These sanctions, called the “Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014,” have already been extended until 2019 by the U.S. Senate, and are now awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.

Beyond the lies and media manipulation coming from U.S. and Western mainstream media outlets, there is also an abundance of right-wing, opposition media in Venezuela. Direct ties between the U.S. government and media in Venezuela have also been exposed in recent years, including a 2010 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that revealed the U.S. government had been paying off journalists in Venezuela and other Latin American countries though the Pan American Development Foundation.

President Maduro, the Bolivarian Revolution and Venezuela Are Not Alone!

In the face of over 16 years of constant U.S. intervention, the Bolivarian Revolution has continued to fight against a violent counterrevolutionary opposition and capitalist class that still control major sectors of the Venezuelan economy including food production and distribution.

So far President Nicolás Maduro, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the Bolivarian Revolution have held strong against U.S. imperialist intervention and attacks from the counter-revolutionary opposition. In fact, all three main strategies in the “road-map” of the right-wing coalition in the National Assembly, called the MUD, have failed. They have tried to “carryout street mobilizations to push for Maduro’s resignation,” but each time the Bolivarian Revolution has been able to organize massive counter-protests and demonstrations in support of Nicolás Maduro. They tried to use their majority in the Venezuelan National Assembly to “to pass a constitutional amendment reducing the presidential term to four years, leading to elections this year,” and to “begin to mobilize for a recall referendum, starting with a new law on referendums, to impede it from being blocked or impeded,” but both of these laws have been determined to been ruled unconstitutional by Venezuela’s Supreme Court.

Now that the right-wing opposition is directly appealing for intervention from the OAS it is also clear that they have forgotten even their short-term history. According to an article by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) thinktank, “Despite U.S. and Canadian backing, During the crisis in Venezuela in 2014, even if the U.S., Panamanian, and Canadian governments wanted to do more to interfere in Venezuela’s local situation and use the Democratic Charter to promote a more energetic and interventionist active policy, 29 member states chose to vote in favor of a resolution supporting the elected government of President Nicolás Maduro.”

They had forgotten about institutions that the Bolivarian Revolution Venezuela has fought so hard to build and strengthen, such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States (CELAC) and the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).

Viva Venezuela!

There is another infamous editorial in the recent history of U.S.-Venezuela relations. On April 13, 2002, the New York Times published an editorial titled “Hugo Chavez Departs.” The editorial continues, “With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.” Little did the New York Times know that despite U.S. funding and political support, the people of Venezuela would triumph later that day and President Hugo Chavez would be returned to power less than 48 hours after his forced resignation.

On May 1, 2016 the people of Venezuela mobilized alongside workers from all around the world to celebrate International Workers Day and demonstrate their support for the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution. These mobilizations took place in a different political situation then the day that President Chavez was triumphantly returned to power in 2002, but they do take place in the same current.

President Nicolás Maduro and the people of Venezuela led by the United Socialist Party (PSUV) are fighting to maintain and advance the gains made for poor and working people in Venezuela. From imperialist countries like the United States and Canada it is our responsibility to defend the sovereignty and self-determination of Venezuela against imperialist intervention.

Follow Alison Bodine on Twitter: @alisoncolette