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The drums of war and Venezuela – will the US ever learn?

America’s president Donald Trump has again told White House reporters that “All options are on the table” in his drive to bring about regime change in Venezuela according to AFP via EWN.

Trump said this after meeting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who backs America’s bid to pressure Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro into stepping aside.

The US and more than 50 other states recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as the rightful president of Venezuela.

Venezuela responded to this by calling Trump and Bolsonaro apologists for war, and saying that they won’t be overcome by a ‘neofascist alliance’.

My Take

On the Venezuelan crisis

So what happened with Venezuela? When Hugo Chavez led the nation he nationalised a whole of stuff including their oil fields, which constituted about 90% of their exports.

Now during GW Bush’s tenure in the US, America invaded Iraq for reasons which nobody’s entirely clear on to this day. Iraq was no threat to America and while Saddam Hussein was not exactly a good guy, there wasn’t really a plan for what came after the invasion.

Iraq was a major oil producer, and while there were sanctions on that nation at the time, people were cheating and importing from them anyway.

With the war, oil fields burned. Of course Bush also made statements about the “Axis of evil” – which included Iran and North Korea. Nobody cares about North Korea, because they don’t produce anything but Iran is another major oil producer.

So what happened over all of this the oil price rose. That meant that Chavez could raise salaries and improve services on the back of that oil price, while corruption set in at roughly the same time.

During times of plenty people don’t care the same about corrupt activities because they aren’t a survival concern.

So, then the financial crisis happened, which resulted in a drop in the oil price. In 2008 oil cost $107.05 per barrel. In 2009, it cost $62.90 per barrel.

That meant that suddenly Venezuela had problems paying those higher salaries and social benefits. Farm workers went unpaid, and they weren’t particularly charmed when the corrupt officials weren’t missing paychecks, and so they went on strike, which meant that crops withered on the field, and the cities starved.

By 2010 Chavez declared an ‘economic war’ – and the same problems continued under Maduro. In February this year the oil price came in at an average of $48.04.

It doesn’t help that Venezuela is subject to sanctions and the enmity of the capitalist world, but this is the big issue they face.

The production line was nationalised, and everything was funded on the back of commodities, which are unstable – which means its great when the prices are high, terrible when they’re not.

So was it socialism that led to this? Yes and no. Venezuela wouldn’t have fallen as hard under capitalism, but it would still have fallen and it wouldn’t have had the same pre-fall boom.

The major problem was relying on commodities to fund the state. The same problem crops up in the US’ timber country – in counties where the sheriff’s office is funded by the lumber industry, when that industry suffers suddenly there isn’t the same funding for law enforcement.

This is actually my biggest gripe with the EFF’s economic model, they want us to be reliant on funding from commodities which are highly unstable, in order to fund the expansion of our state. It is not so much about socialism, as the need to diversify our economy.

On war

So now we get onto the current state of affairs – and I can’t help but look at this “all options on the table” statement and wonder if America’s ever going to learn anything.

Saddam Hussein was a genocidal dictator, who, though largely contained, was still pretty bad and the Iraqi people were suffering under his reign.

And when the US toppled him – things got worse, not better. The US expected Iraq to be grateful for getting rid of the evil man, but its difficult to be grateful for being landed in a civil war.

Toppling Saddam, and later Muammar Gaddafi, paved the way for the rise of ISIS.

You can’t bomb a nation out of an economic or humanitarian crisis – bombs don’t work that way.

And this is actually something I have previously viewed as a positive with regards to Trump – for all his bluster he’s historically been quite gun-shy. For example his decision to withdraw troops from Syria was pragmatic, Syria wasn’t America’s problem, so why should America be obliged to solve it?

And that goes for Venezuela. Venezuela is at the end of the day, the Venezuelans’ problem. It sounds callous and cold to say that, to say the starvation and poverty over there is fundamentally their problem, but it is also a matter of respecting their autonomy.

To try and force change for their own good, it rarely works out that way because the people most familiar with the situation and the costs involved in regime change are often the people under the regime.

One can refuse to support their decisions, one can try to convince them that a different way is better, one can even help them achieve that different path, but it has to be help – any change has to be driven by the will of the Venezuelan people. Attempts to impose a new order for their own good will just result in chaos.

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