Latin America

A US invasion of Venezuela?

The US embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.
All remaining US personnel are being removed.

The announcement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that all remaining US personnel will be withdrawn from the US embassy in Venezuela is ominous. The NY Times reported that he said their presence “has become a constraint on US policy.” What kind of “constraint”?

According to the same article, Pompeo also said that their role up until that time has been “to remain in touch with Venezuelan officials and citizens.” Considering that the Trump administration has cut its diplomatic ties to Maduro, this can only mean that the role of their representatives there was to help Guaido & Co. It is in this light that we should consider recent events there involving US imperialism and Guaido:

  • In mid February, Trump sent “humanitarian aid” to Venezuela, via Colombia. The amount of the aid was so pitifully small that its only possible purpose could have been to embarrass Maduro. That is especially true considering that previous sanctions under Trump have severely harmed the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans. Maduro responded by blocking the border through which the “aid” trucks were to pass.
  • On February 21 and 22, supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaidó rallied at the border in an attempt to provoke a confrontation with Venezuelan troops. One of the protesters threw a molotov cocktail that set the aid trucks afire.
  • On February 24, US Vice President Mike Pence met with Guaidó.
  • On March 4, Guaidó returned to Venezuela, risking arrest.
  • On March 11, Pompeo announces the withdrawal of all remaining US personnel from its embassy in Venzuela.

US aid caravan entering Venezuela from Colombia.
Guaido was not able to mobilize a large crowd for this event.

In light of subsequent events, it seems likely that the Pence/Guaidó meeting was more than just a propaganda photo opportunity. What may have been discussed?

Many were surprised that Guaidó actually returned to Venezuela shortly after that meeting, since he was threatened with arrest. However, it is known that the Trump administration wanted him to return quickly, and Pence almost certainly encouraged him to do so. But what kind of inducement could Pence have offered, if not the promise to “liberate” him? And if the Trump administration was planning an invasion, and they were and are planning to install Guaidó, then it simply wouldn’t do for Guaidó to have been out of the country and only return on the heels of the US army. This political reality was likely explained to him.

The meaning of a US invasion of Venezuelan
All we need to know about a possible US invasion of Venezuela is contained in the appointment of Elliot Abrams as special US envoy for Venezuela. One event serves to show who he is: The El Mozote massacre in El Salvador. At that time, Abrams was a senior official in the Reagan state department and was intimately involved in Reagan’s policies in Central America. In 1981 in El Mozote, some 900 Salvadorean peasants in El Mozote were rounded up by Salvadorean government soldiers. The men were led away and shot. The women and children, some as young as three years old, were herded into a Catholic Church which was then set afire, burning them all alive. Abrams helped cover up if he didn’t actually help organize this barbaric act.

This is the man now responsible for bringing democracy to Venezuela.

Elliott Abrams and the remains of the El Mozote massacre for which he bears responsibility.
This is the real face of US imperialism in Latin America.

In August of 2018, Trump raised the idea of a US invasion of Venezuela. Both US Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opposed the idea. Since then, Tillerson has been replaced by Mike Pompeo and McMaster by John Bolton, both of whom are hard-core neo-conservatives. This term refers to the belief that the only thing that matters in world affairs is US military might. There is no need for allies nor any need to consider the longer term perspectives; “we” can go anywhere, invade anywhere, and nobody can stop us.

Just as with Bush’s phony “coalition of the willing” for his invasion of Iraq, Trump & Co. have patched together a coalition in Latin America now. These include the semi-fascist Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the right wing Juan Hernández of Honduras (who came to power through a coup and remains in power through fraudulent elections), the right wing Iván Duque of Colombia (who is indirectly tied to drug traffickers), the right wing Mauricio Macri of Argentina (who owes Trump since the latter helped secure Argentina a large loan), and the right wing Lenín Moreno (who owes a similar debt to Trump).

That this coalition may not be as secure as Trump & Co. would like is shown by the about-face of its most important member: Jair Bolsonaro. In early January of this year, Bolsonaro reversed his previous position and said that a US military base in Brazil would not be allowed. This reversal followed opposition from Bolsonaro’s own military high command. The practical meaning of this is that a US invasion of Venezuela would have to come through Colombia, from the sea or from the air; it could not come through Brazil. The reason for the opposition from Brazil’s military brass is that, as opposed to the Brazilian Trump – Bolsonaro – the military leaders know how explosive a US invasion anywhere on the continent would be. There would be an outcry throughout Latin America so huge that it would threaten regimes including Bolsonaro’s.

Domestic political affects
A US invasion of Venezuela would have a shock effect within the United States.

The Republican “Party”, which now is nothing but the apparatus of one man, the simpleton Donald Trump, would tend to line up in support. This would be constrained by the disaffection of a significant layer of the hard core Trumpeteers. Many would oppose the invasion for racist reasons. “Why should we risk American lives and waste American money on those ___’s?” they would ask.

Wasserman-Schultz (left) and Shalala (second from left) in Colombia.
They support Trump’s policies in Venezuela.

The Democrats would be further divided. Bernie Sanders has already made clear his opposition to any such invasion, and his view would carry the day within his wing. But in any foreign adventure, all representatives of US capitalism tend to come together to support “our” country in the face of a foreign threat. This includes the more mainstream wing of the Democrats. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Shalala, Democratic congresswomen from Florida, have already introduced bills seeking to attack Maduro as a representative of Russian imperialism. They also had held meetings with Colombian President Duque. In that meeting, Wasserman Schultz commented that “Democrats and Republicans in the United States are united” in their opposition to Maduro. Then there is the role of Hillary Clinton, who is distinguished among influential Democrats only by the fact that she’s one of the only ones who won’t be running for president. The role of this wing of that party can be seen in Clinton’s own admission that while she was Obama’s Secretary of State she had conspired to help the coup in Honduras succeed.

Hillary Clinton
She supported the coup in Honduras

US soldiers
A US invasion and occupation of Venezuela would tend to divide the US military. Forty percent of US enlisted soldiers are black or Latino. These soldiers would tend to be reluctant to play the role of repressing the Venezuelan working class – a role they would inevitably openly play. On the other hand, of that same group, 42% report having seen white racists in the military. Those groups and individuals would tend to carry out repression in Venezuela with gusto. Of course, there would be many white working class soldiers who along with their black and Latino sisters and brothers would tend to oppose playing that role. In a situation of general opposition at home, huge sectors of US soldiers would be open to a class appeal from the Venezuelan working class.

US working class
Even before the US invasion of Iraq, there was significant opposition in the United States. By 2007, up to 58% believed it was a mistake. Today, with the economic crisis facing tens of millions of US workers, that opposition would immediately be far higher, especially among the youth and younger adults. As we saw during the Vietnam War, an appeal to the rank and file soldiers would be possible. Such an appeal would necessarily involve a struggle for a decent future for the soldiers once they leave the military, meaning for free higher education and guaranteed jobs for all at a thriving wage.

All wings of the Democrats, including the Sanders wing, would oppose such an appeal. They would also try to avert if not directly oppose any campaign to establish direct links between US and Venezuelan workers and youth, but such direct links are a necessary part of any campaign against a US invasion of that country.

Given the general social and economic crisis that tens of millions of US workers face, a working class opposition to a US invasion is entirely possible. Such an opposition would tend to draw together in an organized way. And what is a national organization that brings together and organizes and advances a major sector of the working class but the beginnings of a national working class political party! That is what could develop and what socialists should encourage in opposing any US military invasion of Venezuela (or anywhere else).

Member of the “bolibourgeoisie” Ricardo Fernández Barrueco.”
He rose from being a small time capitalist to being a billionaire due to his links with the Chavez/Maduro regime.

It is not possible to build direct links between the US and Venezuelan working class while denying the corrupt and anti-worker nature of the Maduro regime. Acknowledging this has nothing at all do do with supporting US imperialism; it’s simply taking a working class position in regard to both capitalist classes. Oaklandsocialist has carried a number of articles explaining the reality of what is happening inside Venezuela. That includes some background articles like this one and some reports from socialists inside Venezuela like this one. US workers will not be fooled by denials of these realities.

Perspectives: Venezuela
Especially from here in the United States, it’s impossible to really know what would happen in the Venezuelan military. What seems most likely is that this corrupt, self-serving caste would try to maintain their privileges and wealth by negotiating with the invaders. In any case, if successful, such an invasion would result in a far right and repressive government being installed, probably under military rule. The military tops have already shown the level of corruption and cronyism they are capable of under Maduro. It would get no better.

In Iraq, the new rulers immediately went to fighting among themselves, to an extent along religious sectarian lines. It seems from here, Henrique Capriles (presently banned from political activity), Leopoldo López (mentor of Guaidó and currently under house arrest) and others could end up fighting among themselves for power.

As far as the popular response, we have seen estimates of anywhere from 15% to 25% support for Maduro. One Venezuelan socialist estimates the support as being at 10%. The low level of support for Guaidó , incidentally, does not necessarily mean support for Maduro; it just means little illusion in the old Venezuelan capitalist class and their US backers. We are told that despite the corruption and repression of Maduro there is very little illusion in a US invasion among Venezuela’s workers. To what extent they would actively resist such an invasion from the start is impossible to know from here.

It does seem certain that there would be massive protests throughout Latin America. In fact, that is exactly why Bolsonaro reversed course and prohibited the US military from operating on Brazilian soil.

Perspectives: Unites States
Severe tensions have been building in US society for several years now. One symptom of that is the series of strikes, especially among teachers. However, often a shock is required for things to really break loose. A US invasion of Venezuela could be that shock. It could serve as the opportunity for socialists to start to make a real inroad into the working class movement. But we can only take advantage of that if we start from the position of independence from and opposition to all capitalist elements, including both the Democratic Party and the Maduro regime.

  • For an independent working class struggle against any US intervention into Venezuela
  • For direct links between the US working class and our brothers and sisters in Venezuela and throughout Latin America. Such links are only possible independent of and opposed to all capitalist elements, including the Maduro government and both capitalist parties in the United States.
  • For linking all this up with the other class issues facing US and Venezuelan workers.
  • For a mass working class party in the United States.

Addendum: We are not seeing the media propaganda campaignfor an invasion like we saw in the build up to the US invasion of Iraq. That is a symptom of the fact that the mainstream of the US capitalist class has lost control over its president. This is exemplified by the replacement of former national security advisor H.R. McMaster and former secretary of state Rex Tillerson with John Bolton (security) and Mike Pompeo (state). The latter two are hard core neoconservatives. The former two stayed Trump’s hand when he proposed a US invasion back last August. The question is whether the mainstream of the US capitalist class will be able to do the same now. Nobody, including Trump, knows the answer to this. So a US invasion is still not certain. But we have to consider the perspectives for one, which is what we are doing here.

Elliott Abrams and the remains of the El Mozote massacre for which he bears responsibility.
This is the real face of US imperialism in Latin America.

4 replies »

  1. John, I saw your comment on the Unrepentant Marxist about the electrical grid in Venezuela. I have been going to Venezuela since 2006,have been doing solidarity work with the grassroots since 1999 and I am married to a Venezuelan woman and we live in Mérida ( I stay there about 6 – 8 months out of the year) . The electrical grid has been attacked for years, people have died and been electrocuted trying to destroy sub stations and attacking the lines going across bridges or the towers. Same with the telephone and cable systems. There has been some analysis in Spanish about these attacks at the hydro electric dams.

  2. Cort Greene’s comment is in reply to a question I’d posed on the email list he refers to, rather than in direct reply to the above article. My question, in turn, had been in reply to an article supporting Maduro. In that article, the writer had said that the recent blackouts were caused by sabotage. In its context, it basically was saying that it was US sabotage that had caused the blackouts. I had asked for any evidence that that was so. I asked because despite Maduro’s claims, no evidence has ever been provided. Cort Greene’s comment above also provides zero evidence. He mentions people “trying to destroy sub stations” in the past. In the economic chaos that is Venezuela, there has been widespread looting of all sorts of different buildings, including hotels. Fixtures and even the copper wires have been ripped out in a desperate attempt to get some money somehow. How do we know that that is not what Greene is referring to? Greene also ignores the massive lack of maintenance, including allowing weeds and other vegetation to overgrown the sub stations and transformers. And, if it had been a physical attack on a sub station that caused the blackout, there would be evidence of that which Maduro certainly would have provided.

    Cort Greene’s comment does not even begin to provide any evidence.

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