Mohsen Abdelmoumen: Can you tell us what the current situation is in Venezuela?
Dr. María Páez Víctor: There are 6 key issues to understanding the situation in Venezuela.
1) Petroleum: The first thing to understand is that it is all about the oil. Venezuela has the largest known oil reserves in the world in a highly strategic geographical location. It takes 43 days for an oil tanker to travel from the Middle East to the Texas refineries, while it only takes 4 days for one to go from Venezuela there. The oil companies, and governments they support, covet Venezuelan oil. If the country only produced mangos no one would care what happened there. The Venezuelan government took control of its oil company (PDVSA), opened up private/partnership contracts for oil exploitation but with the state owning the majority shares, made them pay taxes that had been at 1% for 60 years. The oil income –instead being distributed to elite businesses- has been used to fund the necessary public services that for decades had failed to meet the needs of the population.
2) Sovereignty: A government that does not tow the USA line, does not kowtow to the neo-liberal dictates of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, insisting that its people are sovereign and will decide their own future and aspires to build a socialist, humanist society, will not be tolerated by the remaining super-power. Especially one from the region the USA still considers its “back yard”. How dare the Venezuelan government nationalize its natural resources, pull its army out of the infamous Military School of the Americas, and sell its oil to other countries not exclusively to the USA!
3) Economic warfare: There is a systematic, strategic plan devised by Washington to deny Venezuelans food and medicines. Its executors are the large corporations, commercial elite and the banks. It could not be clearer. In 1972-73 the USA, outraged that Dr. Salvador Allende, a Communist had fairly won the elections in Chile, vowed to get rid of him. President Nixon famously said: we will make the economy of Chile scream. And so it happened. Before the awful coup that took Allende’s life, the economy of Chile was subject to hoarding, induced scarcity, inflation, monetary manipulations, sabotage and contraband. It is the same scenario in Venezuela but even worse. It is now 5 years of economic warfare, whereby Venezuelan economic elites, lackeys of foreign powers, are so thoroughly financially backed they can implement the hoarding, sabotage, warehousing, monetary manipulation, financial exclusion, and contraband.
4) Corrupt, racist elite: Venezuela’s elite controlled the government for years – they were the beneficiaries of all the petroleum income. During 40 years they appropriated and ill spent the equivalent of 12 Marshall Plans. In 1999 when President Hugo Chávez was elected, poverty was between 60-80% and extreme poverty and malnutrition affected one third of the nation. The Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela has dramatically reduced poverty, malnutrition, homelessness, and has provided universal health care and free education from daycare to university. It has built these last few years, 2 million public housing units.
The Venezuelan elite has shown by its appalling violence in opposition that it is selfish, vile, and racist, to the point of paying criminals to set fire to public buildings, killing passersby, attacking a maternity hospital, throwing grenades from a helicopter at the Supreme Court, destroying public busses and most horrific, setting fire to young men “who looked Chavista”, in other words, they were dark skinned. These elite do not care how much their own people suffer so long as the foreign powers hand them over the government they are incapable of winning at the polls. Main opposition leaders have travelled the world asking powerful countries to sanction and isolate diplomatically and financially their own country, not caring that food and medicines would become scarce.
5) Excellent election process: It is outrageous, even in this political climate of lies and misinformation, that anyone could consider that Venezuelan government is not democratic and President Maduro is a dictator. In 19 years there have been 23 different elections, all monitored by domestic and international witnesses and the government has won most but also lost a few. And, most relevantly, the ex-president of the USA, Jimmy Carter declared in 2012 that: “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” The anti-fraud protection of the system is very effective as each vote has three guarantees: fingerprint, an electronic vote and a paper receipt. Furthermore, there is a robust presence of domestic and international observers. Ironically, the USA, Canada, nor most European countries accept international observers to their elections.
6) Presidential elections on 20 May 2018:
The USA and its allies are involved in subversion and disqualification of Venezuela’s democracy by discrediting the coming 20 May presidential elections. After aggressively demanding these elections, now they decry them and demand they stop– because they know the majority of Venezuelans support their own government.
In an astonishing example of colonial mentality hypocrisy, the European Parliament on May 3 passed a resolution (492 in favor, 87 against, 77 abstentions) demanding that Venezuela suspend the presidential elections. European arrogance obviously stretches to demanding that another country (even one outside Europe!) disregard its own rule of law, its electoral regulations and its negotiated arrangements with the leaders of their opposition.
The USA, Canada, the European Union, the OEA and the so-called Lima group of lackey right wing governments of the region, are attacking the very elections that last year they had clamored to take place. The Venezuelan laws prescribe that the elections were to take place in December 2018 but they wanted the elections last year. The government negotiated with the opposition in the Dominican Republic and an April 2018 date was agreed upon. The opposition asked for more time; the government again agreed and they settled on the 20 May 2018 date.
Now the European Union, says it “does not accept” the elections because there are no “guarantees” without specifying what they mean, they ask for a “return to the constitutional order” without allusion or attempt to know and understand Venezuelan laws and Constitution.
Actually, it is the USA strategy of abstention that the main opposition leaders are following so that the elections can be disqualified. They refused to stand for election and are urging the people NOT to vote. The government has repeatedly asked these opposition parties to stand for election. They are trying to demonize an otherwise sterling electoral system. In sum, it is a montage, a theater scenario to continue to demonize, antagonize, and sanction a government they wish to overthrow. Fortunately, the opposition is all divided among themselves, and a few leaders are running in the elections, despite the fierce criticism of their own fellow oppositionists.
Meanwhile, a most respected polling company in Venezuela has had some recent interesting results related to the presidential elections of May 20:
- 86% of Venezuelans reject any international intervention in the country
- 70% of Venezuelans say they are going to participate in the elections – this is another defeat for the section of the opposition, Washington backed, that is calling for abstention
- 55% state they will vote for Maduro
- 11% state they will vote for Henri Falcon
- 2% state they will vote for Javier Bertucci
- 50% state that they consider the workings of the National Constitutional Assembly as: “Very Good, Good, or Regular to Good”
- 71% consider that Maduro will win the elections. (2May 2018, TELESUR)
There is strong confidence that democracy in Venezuela is alive and well, and that is why the USA, Canada, European Union and its allies are afraid of it.
In summary USA and its allies in Canada and Europe are involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the democratic and popular government of Nicolás Maduro because they want to control the richest deposit of petroleum in the world that lies in Venezuela and they want a sheepish, obedient government that will accept the bribes and allow the USA and its multinational corporations to rule and oppress the Venezuelan people as they did in the past 40 years before President Hugo Chávez.
How do you explain the relentlessness of US imperialism to destabilize all the progressive governments of Latin America?
Is there an adequate explanation for greed, prejudice and the hubris of wanting to dominate the world?
There is the question of natural resources, which the USA needs for its voracious type of capitalism. They have used up or are losing resources due to reckless lack of environmental protections and unbridled consumerism. The Latin American region sparkles with untold riches – another El Dorado for this “savage capitalism” as Chavez called it.
The USA’s quest for power is masked under the idea of its “exceptionalism”, similar to that of the British Empire’s taking on “the white man’s burden” as excuses for oppressing other nations. There is a historical record, clear evidence, that the USA has opposed, destabilized, overthrown or assassinated every progressive reformer that has appeared on the political scene in the region for more than a century. Its aggressive policies started back in the 19thcentury when it openly stole from Mexico by wars and duplicity 50% of its present southwestern lands that include California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. The Monroe Doctrine is a document of blatant colonialism in which the USA attributes to itself the “protection” of the region. The creation of the Organization of American States is the implement by which the USA has maneuvered to impose its policies on the region and the sinister School of the Americas the means by which it controlled the armed forces of the different countries. The IMF and the WB became the poisonous lure by which their economies were ensnared by usury. The USA’s relentlessness is a mix of greed -in wanting their natural resources and expansion for its capitalist corporations – and also prejudice. Its racist proclivity goes very deep into USA culture and history. The remnants of its bloody Civil War remain visible today in the treatment of Black citizens, who are disproportionally imprisoned and killed by police. Latin American and Caribbean black and brown people seem to be viewed as lesser beings. Just recently President Trump referred to Mexicans as criminals and rapists and to African nations as “shithole” countries.
What is your analysis of the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the imprisonment of President Lula? In your opinion, is it a coincidence that President Lula is imprisoned when all the polls gave him victory in the future Brazilian elections? Do you not think that this is a vulgar manipulation and a plot?
We are witnessing the corruption of the very framework of democracy, as we have understood it so far. It is called LAWFARE, by which parliament and judicial powers are manipulated in such a way to eliminate political opponents and make a mockery of a people’s electoral preferences. This is how Dilma Rousseff, Lula, and Cristina Fernandez have been sidelined. They are trying to do the same to Rafael Correa who even out of power is considered a threat. They try to do the same to President Maduro by holding ridiculous extra-territorial trials trying to manipulate international laws. Nothing of this has to do with justice or democracy, but for eliminating powerful political opponents by other means than elections because the right wing cannot get the popular vote. Their bigotry, narrowness, “austerity measures” to reduce the welfare state, all are issues that do not make people want to vote for them, unless, of course, they lie about what they intend to do (like Macri and Lenin Moreno did).
Lawfare is twisting and deforming the rule of law, which is a very dangerous thing to do. These right-wingers do not respect the rules of representative democracy. In order to control the government administration they are prepared to bash the pillars of the State itself. In their corruption, to suit their ambitions, they bring into disrepute the Judicial Power and the Legislative Power. This will inevitably lead the left wing, progressive government (and they will come to power again) to re-write the rules of democracy by strengthening Participatory Democracy, by democratizing the banks and the media both which have prostituted themselves in the altar of unbridled fawning before the powerful and, by implementing new creative laws to protect the human rights and will of the people.
How do you explain the fact that the far right is coming back in force in Latin America, especially in Brazil and Argentina, after having progressive governments?
Some progressive governments, notably Brazil, Argentina and even Ecuador, believed that winning the political elections was power enough. They were playing with a deck of cards that they did not realize were marked against them. The power of the right wing (and their foreign backers) was underestimated, and the foreign influence was not checked. For example, despite knowledge that the USA embassy staff meet with the opposition, awarded them and financing them, little effectively was done for many years. Foreign consultants and foreign money flowed to opposition NGOs. None of this would have TOLERATED in the USA, Canada or Europe. In Brazil, the political change under Lula was not reflected in structural legal changes, like they were in Venezuela and a strong alliance with social movements was faulty.
One of the first things President Chávez did was call for a new Constitution that was crucial to carry out the kind of change that the country needed. As well, in Venezuela the social movements of every sort (indigenous, agrarian, cultural, student, gender focused, workers, etc.) were incorporated as actors in the political scene, this led to a deep “conscientisation” (as the famed Brazilian educator Paulo Freire would have said) in which a people become conscious of their oppression, of their situation in the political sphere and begin to act as a united class unto itself (as Marx would have said). This happened less in the other countries where the right wing came back into power. But experience and necessity are great teachers, and the people in the countries where today the right wing have control will soon take a different course.
The truth is that it is the left wing governments that repeatedly restore human rights and protect democracy in the region. The right-wing governments in Latin America today are unable to command the popular vote and have come to power through corruption (Peru, Colombia, Panamá), fraud (México), coup d’état (Honduras) and with parliamentary and legal coups (Brazil, Paraguay). Macri and Ecuador under Moreno being the only exceptions, as they clearly won the elections, but some would say by masking their real intentions. We will see a new “red tide” and sooner rather than later in the region as once people have tasted sovereignty, they are not likely to crawl back to their chains.
We have information about the presence of Daesh terror elements that will be used against what remains of progressive governments in Latin America, for example Venezuela. Do you have any information about this?
I have no personal information, only what people along the border with Colombia have told me: the danger of continuous raids by paramilitary, the murder of community leaders by said paid killers, and the blatant organized contraband that occurs there. Colombia has a terrifying history of violence, murder and massacre. Just last week collective graves were found in that country with 9000 bodies. The cooperation of the Colombian army with paramilitary and narco-traffic mafias is legendary. And with seven USA military bases in Colombia, it is not at all unlikely that there are plans to unleash terror in Venezuela to overthrow the government. Currently, there are 3000 Colombian troops at the border, sent there, according to Colombian President Santos, in readiness for a “humanitarian” intervention in Venezuela. If any kind of invasion happens there will be full-scale war and it will engulf the region.
One important news that the world press has refused to publish is that just a few weeks ago the United Nations independent official rapporteur, Professor Alfred M. Zayas has most emphatically declared that there is no “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela despite media reports and generalizations. “…the population does not suffer from hunger as for example in many countries of Africa and Asia – or even in the favelas of São Paolo and other urban areas in Brazil and other Latin American countries…“humanitarian crisis” can be easily exploited to justify “regime change”, under the pretext that the government lets the population starve. Some states pretend that the Venezuelan government can no longer guarantee the rights of the people. Hence, a humanitarian crisis emerged and now they want to intervene militarily to “save” the Venezuelan people from a failed socialist experiment.”( )
I interviewed her Excellency the Ambassador of Venezuela to Belgium and the European Union, Mrs. Claudia Salerno Caldera, and I asked her about the possibility of a US military intervention in Venezuela. She answered me in the affirmative. Do you think that the US can intervene militarily against the legitimate government of President Maduro?
With such an unbalanced fellow in the White House any recklessness is possible. However, I think that they would use Colombian troops and possibly from Brazil and Guyana. Why risk your own soldiers when you have easy cannon fodder available to you from such willing, debased governments?
However, Colombia is having presidential elections on May 27th that is 7 days after the Venezuelan elections (May 20). This means the Colombian government cannot invade Venezuela before this date lest it risk its electoral campaign, which is not looking good for the government. As well, there are millions of Colombians who feel favorably towards a Venezuela that has treated so well their 2 million compatriots that now reside there. So a Colombian incursion inside Venezuela may also risk serious domestic unrest for the government, this is certainly what has stopped Colombia from entering Venezuela all these years.
The Colombian army is three times the size of the Venezuelan army. It is experienced in war as it has been battling guerillas for 50 years, and it has resources and arms available to them through the seven USA army bases stationed there. However, it is largely a demoralized army that does not have a quarter of the morale and determination of Venezuela’s army, the army of Bolívar. And anyone who knows about military matters will tell you that an army’s morale is crucial for success. Furthermore, Venezuela has a united, inspired and very proud people that will fiercely defend its land.
The Venezuelan government also is not alone; it has the backing of many non-aligned countries, of China and Russia, and not the least, most of the Caribbean, including of course, Cuba. Russia and China have both cautioned the USA not to interfere in the government of Venezuela. Their investments in Venezuela are substantial and they would not stand by to see Venezuela invaded. These investments are very welcomed by Latin American countries as they do not come with policy “strings attached” as the IMF and WB investments do. They are another sore issue for the USA.
How do you explain the sanctions that the United States and the European Union want to impose to the legitimate government of President Maduro?
The USA sanctions are part of their economic war against Venezuela. They are a violation of international law: they are against the charters of the UN and the OAS, against the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant of Economic, Civil and Cultural Rights and constitute a crime against humanity because they are intentionally creating suffering of people. In short, they are immoral as they prevent the country from buying food and medicines.
The Canadian and European governments are shamefully bowing to a most ignorant and venal president of the USA. Venezuela means nothing to these countries, so they think: “Let’s give Trump his pet peeve and let him have Venezuela. These sanctions do not affect us at all, and maybe we can get on the “good” side of Trump.” Pathetically, they think he has a good side. Canada is bending backwards to please Trump so he won’t trash the NAFTA agreement and the European Union still thinks Trump is a worthy ally. One would expect that allies, USA-friendly governments such as these, would try to influence a neophyte and erratic USA president towards peaceful co-existence with other countries. They should learn dignity and uprightness from the Caribbean nations instead of patting the bully on the back.
In your opinion, will US imperialism and its flunkies ever stop wanting to destabilize countries and impose their dictates on the peoples?
In the short term, under this Trump administration, no. However, in the long term when their many trillion dollars deficit finally hits the wall, and they see that the dollar is no longer the universal currency of commerce, they might relent as domestic issues will take priority for them instead of trying to dominate other lands. What I wish for the people of the United States, is a leader, a party, a government that will take care of their educational, health and housing needs, that will realize that being the policeman of the world is not worth their suffering and that cooperation and solidarity with the peoples of the world will reap many riches that they now do not even guess exist. For this they must come to the conclusion that their military/industrial complex has only brought them disease, depression, poverty, deaths and, the scorn of most of the world.
I was very impressed that Bernie Sanders was able to attract youth in a meaningful political way, as well the fact that he made the word Socialism acceptable in the US political scene – quite a feat! So maybe there is hope yet for the USA – and the world.
What remains of credibility to these media in the service of imperialism that are financed by the multinationals and who spend their time not to tell the truth but to diffuse brainwashing and to relay the propaganda of imperialism to remove legitimate political powers like the one of President Maduro?
It is not such a complicated problem, all it would take is for courageous governments to dismantle media conglomerates, disallow those monopolies. If this happens, we can have many media outlets, independent thinkers, creative journalism, and at last, a media that has true standards and regulations. In other words, we need the democratization of the media, de-coupling it from large corporations, from the Murdochs and such of this world. When very few people own newspapers, TV and radio, when it is large corporations that decide what we hear and learn, then we become enslaved to their misinformation and untruths for the sake of their economic and political interests. We are conned with vague notions of “the right to know” and “freedom of the press” which only work one way.
Venezuela has been a clear victim of a media campaign of lies and exaggerations to vilify a government that the US State Department wants to destroy. Thus stories of “Venezuelans eating zoo animals” “people killing horses”, “mothers abandoning children by the road side” “people dying of malnutrition”, “indigenous people being taught Arabic (as if this were a crime)” “Maduro want to be president for live” all elaborate lies that are presented as facts.
When President Chávez was confronted with the open, militant opposition of the main TV and radio of his country that are privately owned, he did not shut them down (as a dictator would have done). He provided the means by which hundreds of poor neighborhoods and communal councils were able to establish their own local radio stations and even TV stations, where people could express their own concerns, make up their own programs that truly interested them. It was one way of democratizing the media. These are not government-controlled media, they are genuine independent community media, indeed, they are not shy to criticize and point out deficiencies in the administration.
US imperialism and its allies continue to bore us with « human rights, » « democracy, » and « freedom of speech, » while they do the opposite by destabilizing countries and intervening everywhere in the world. How do you describe these hostile acts that target sovereign states? In your opinion, is the United States a true democracy where the people hold power, or is it rather a minority that is leading?
In Canada, we get, unsolicited, the New York Times with the Sunday edition of one of our main newspapers. Since I am dismayed by the lies of the NYT about Venezuela, the only part that I read is its Sunday Book Review insert. A week ago, they reviewed 4 books, all of which had a variation of the title: what is wrong with democracy in USA. So, it is not only those of us outside the USA that have observed the steady deterioration of their social and political life, but thoughtful, intelligent people of the USA who are noting and experiencing this deterioration.
The War Idol permeates that society with its wars of conquest, its bombs and drones, its secret prisons, its acceptance of torture, its revolting treatment of Black and Hispanic people, its predatory stance toward Nature, its gun culture, its shameful imprisonment record, its poor voter participation, its gun massacres, its arms industry, and its violence and sex-obsessed entertainment industry, all wear down the sane, positive, life-affirming ideals that may float in the collective imagination and longing of US citizens. Its democracy, and the very fabric of their social life as a nation, is an object of worry even to their citizens. The USA is coming to a crossroad where it will have to choose between a way of life that adores Death and Conquest or one that adores Life and Peace.
The situation is serious. I am Algerian and my country which is an ally of Venezuela is targeted by different occult circles related to imperialism. Do you not think that countries like Algeria, Venezuela, Cuba, etc. must form a common front more than ever necessary for the safeguarding of their sovereignty? Is there not a need for a global front against imperialism?
Absolutely, and do not think that this is not happening. Venezuela has cultivated strong bonds with Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, the Caribbean, many African and former Soviet nations, Algeria and may other Arab countries, India, China and Russia. Witness the votes in the UN and the OAS where the USA has not managed to condemn Venezuela because it cannot get the votes.
Just a few days ago, the new USA ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Trujillo, most arrogantly, threatened the Caribbean countries for their support for Venezuela saying: “we will not permit the Caribbean to block the efforts of the majority of the nations of the region to pressure the government of Venezuela.” (2018/05/18 )
There is strength in unity and these countries share similar challenges and are facing practically, the same foes. The ALBA organization is an excellent example of creative international solidarity, in which countries band together to manufacture the medicines they need, promote the agriculture for their domestic consumptions, and meet their educational needs. PETROCARIBE is another example of creative international solidarity in which Venezuelan oil is available to small Caribbean countries under special terms. I wish for more organizations such as ALBA and PETROCARIBE.
Israel continues to kill Palestinians especially in recent demonstrations claiming for the right to return. How is it that Israel remains unpunished for the many crimes it continues to commit?
I have no special insight about the Middle East, not knowing Arabic, not personally knowing the region, or having more information than what I read in the media. And I distrust so much of what there is to read: if the press lies about Latin America that I know so much about, will it not be lying about a region that I know so little about?
However, my personal and in no way an expert opinion, is that you either kill your enemy or you sit down with them and negotiate. There is no middle ground. Violence begets violence and that is a wise truism. The long-suffering Palestinians have borne the brunt of a very powerfully armed neighbor. I am sorry, but I do not know enough about the situation to give any deeper insight except that a two state solution seems to be what may bring peace with justice. And that within Israel, the peace movement there will have to be a key element of that political solution to pressure their own government.
How do you explain that whenever Resisters and Righteous people support the cause of the Palestinian people, they are called anti-Semites?
This is a slur that is very dangerous to throw around as we all know the appalling death and destruction that real anti-Semites have committed historically in Europe. As well, on the other side, there are people that accuse others of being Zionists when they disagree on any point they do not like.
These are ad hominem insults that mediocre people use when they have run out of arguments. In a polarized situation these insults help no one nor do it help find solutions and, are quite despicable.
We live in a time when – unthinkably – fascists rise in all sorts of countries, political charlatans make fun of values we thought were universally held, a time of irresponsible tweets, of cowardly emails, of slinging of mud not caring where it lands, and poor, undiscerning journalism. But we must rise above it all, maintain our principles and values, refuse to play their dirty games, set an example, and preserve our own dignity.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is María Páez Víctor?
Dr. Maria Páez Victor is a sociologist, born in Venezuela and educated in Caracas, New York, Mexico City, England and Canada. For several years she taught the sociology of health and medicine as well as health and environmental policies at the University of Toronto. Dr. Páez Victor has national and international experience in policy analysis and impact assessment, with expertise in the areas of health, environment, and energy. She is an active member of the Latin American community in Canada.
She administered the Sustainable Energy Development Scholarships, an international graduate grant program of the G8 energy companies, 2002-2011. Lecturer at University of Toronto, she taught Sociology of Health and Medicine course; Health and Environment Policies course, part-time, 1992-96 and 2003-2005. She obtains her Ph.D. (Sociology) at York University, Toronto, Canada 1987. She was voluntary work, in Mater Misericordia Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya, 1985-1987.
Published in American Herald Tribune, May 19, 2018: https://ahtribune.com/world/americas/2264-maria-paez-victor.html
In French in Palestine Solidarité: http://www.palestine-solidarite.org/analyses.mohsen_abdelmoumen.200518.htm