Critical perspectives missing in Canada's response to Venezuela crisis

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Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó seated. Image: ZiaLater; Kingsif/Wikimedia Commons

While the outcome of recent events in Venezuela still remains indeterminate, some things can be said for certain. The first is that not all has gone according to plan as far as the United States is concerned. Otherwise, President Nicolás Maduro would be long gone. The fact that he isn't surely indicates that there is more support for the existing Venezuelan government than the U.S. would have the world believe, and that even many who may be unhappy with Maduro are not prepared to pretend that an American-orchestrated ouster of Maduro would be some sort of victory for democracy or Venezuelan sovereignty.

Unfortunately, one of the other things that can be observed about the Venezuelan situation is the outrageously uncritical way in which both the Canadian government and the mainstream media have reported on the matter. The dire economic circumstances faced by Venezuelans, often cited as grounds for "regime change" are blamed almost entirely on the Venezuelan government, with the odd reference to the collapse of the price of oil as a contributing factor.

No mention or inquiry is ever permitted of the ways in which U.S.-led sanctions have contributed to the crisis that America now so altruistically wants to remedy.

No mention or inquiry is permitted of the fact that a Canadian delegation observed the Venezuelan election in 2018 and found that it was conducted properly, let alone that one Canadian observer, from the United Church, noted that: "The problem is that at least since their failed coup attempt in 2002, most opposition forces have shown little or no interest in any solution other that either complete capitulation or regime change through force."

No mention or inquiry is ever permitted of the fact that current U.S. policy on Venezuela is part of a longstanding pattern of American intervention in Latin America, not to foster democracy but to obstruct the development of alternatives to domination by U.S. capitalist interests and ideology, even when such alternatives are democratically achieved. Public ownership of resources like oil is particularly frowned upon.

No mention or inquiry is permitted of the way the conflict in Venezuela needs to be examined in light of what is at stake for the poor and the Indigenous peoples of Venezuela.

During the 1980s, thanks to the coming to power of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, much attention was paid to what was going on in Central America. This led, among other things, to a Special Parliamentary Committee on the Peace Process in Central America being set up to study and make recommendations as to how Canada could constructively help. The peace process referred to was the agreement reached between the five Central American countries in 1987, known as the Esquipulas II Accord. I was one of the five MPs on the committee. In May 1988 we visited all five Central American countries, we met with presidents, opposition political figures, representatives of churches, unions, human rights organizations, and business organizations, and NGOs in the region. Some meetings were not well publicized so as not to endanger the safety of those we were meeting with.

There are of course significant differences between Central America then and Venezuela now, but one factor remains constant -- and that is the American will to power in the area that is always looking for ways to undermine or delegitimize governments not subservient to the U.S. worldview. In a time when many Americans are concerned about foreign interference in U.S. elections, I was reminded of something Speaker Jim Wright of the House of Representatives said to the committee when we visited Washington. Reflecting on the long-term changes needed in U.S. policy in the area, he remarked, "We must get it through our heads that we don't have any God-given right to decide who should win their elections."

Having said this, I also recall a conversation I had in 1990 with the Nicaraguan Ambassador to Canada about the fact that real elections always contained the possibility of authentic defeat, and transitioning to the democratic opposition. This is what the Sandinistas did in a subsequent election, though they have been re-elected since. Time may tell whether Maduro would be willing to do the same, but for the moment, it is arguable that the conditions that would put him to this kind of test do not obtain.

Bill Blaikie, former MP and MLA, writes on Canadian politics, political parties, and Parliament.

Image: ZiaLater; Kingsif/Wikimedia Commons

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