What’s that crisis in Venezuela about — in which Canada has meddled so unbecomingly? Technically, it’s Yanqui imperialism — less a political cliché than an empirical reality imprinted over centuries on Latin American territories and bodies. It’s not about human misery — which is now widespread there — since the U.S. has been out to crush that regime since it was first elected in 1998, when the economy was thriving.
It’s not about democracy — though there are issues of repression — since members of the Lima Group, which Canada convened in Ottawa this week, could also be decried for undemocratic faults: Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil.
U.S. imperialism is always a mix of lust for resources with ideology. In 1954, Guatemala it was bananas and mild nationalism that led to a U.S.-backed coup. In Venezuela today it’s oil and socialism. There’ve been U.S. invasions: Dominican Republic (1965), Panama (1989), tiny Grenada (1983); U.S.-incited coups: Chile (1973), Argentina (1976); insurrections fed by special American schools for torturers: El Salvador, Nicaragua (1980s); and welcome to Venezuela today.
As for our role: Justin Trudeau says we’re involved due to “a dictatorship willing to use force, fear and coercion to retain power,” which is “inexcusable and unacceptable” — an awesome level of Canadian cant, considering the coups and tyrants we’ve accepted and excused there — like Honduras recently.
Chrystia Freeland topped him on the hypocrisy chart by saying she opposed a coup but wanted the Venezuelan military to depose current president Maduro and install the unelected U.S. dauphin, Juan Guaido. He hasn’t even run for president.
This is Trumpian in its ability to blithely combine opposites but perhaps she took notes during the time she spent in D.C. for NAFTA negotiations. She’s literally asking Latin Americans to embrace their worst demons and nightmares.
Justin says he loves his father but isn’t his father, and this surely proves it. His dad, Pierre, could be brutally Realpolitikal but wouldn’t have gone this route. Perhaps Justin’s last attempt to embrace that legacy was his response to Fidel Castro’s death: “deep sorrow.” etc. He was fiercely attacked for it and chose not to attend the funeral, though Fidel had been in Montreal for his dad’s.
And how’s this for authoritarian and anti-democratic: At the Lima Group meeting hosted by us this week, Russian and Venezuelan media outlets were denied access “because of concerns they would spread misinformation.”
But enough kvetching. What to do? Fortunately there’s an alternative to the stale binary of backing the current regime or installing The Manchuzuelan Candidate, Guaido. It’s negotiations between the sides and it’s backed by Mexico’s president, Lopez Obrador, along with the Pope (a Latino who lived through the hellish military dictatorship in Argentina), Uruguay, the UN and others. Obrador, by the way, had two previous presidential elections stolen from him but never declared himself president or requested a coup.
They’re meeting in Montevideo late this week, a counterpoint to Ottawa’s duplicityfest. The point of negotiations? To prevent economic disaster and political stalemate from turning into slaughter. Venezuela is so divided, and so evenly, that a civil war, with military on both sides, is entirely possible. Guess whose marines would then be ready to invade and impose an imperial peace?
The economic crisis there — famine, medical shortages, three million people leaving — complicates the situation. But those elements exist elsewhere without serving as excuses for regime change on U.S. orders, with Canada barking along behind.
Also adding to the confusion is that the current government has been inept, incompetent (especially on oil policy and the currency), increasingly repressive and in denial. They blame all their problems on U.S. sanctions and threats. Maduro told a rally that a bird spoke to him in a chapel and it was the spirit of his much loved predecessor, Hugo Chavez. This week, he blockaded bridges to Colombia, to stop aid provocatively sent by right wing U.S. organizations. He and Trump may deserve each other.
Canadians tend to sympathize with nations trying to survive in the face of U.S. pressures. What a shame that we’re caught in the middle of this mess — or rather, that we’re not closer to the middle, where we might do some good.
This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star.