Bryan Wall: Oily Business


From top: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro takes part in a military exercise in Valencia, Venezuela yesterday; Bryan Wall

Recent events in Venezuela demonstrate that the US continues to be heavily involved in shaping political events in the region. The idea that an opposition leader could declare himself president without prior approval from the US State Department would be anathema to the mandarins that inhabit its offices.

US history, not only in the Middle East but especially in Central and South America, is replete with interventions, support of dictatorships, and abiding the massacres of civilians. In Venezuela, the former president Hugo Chavez represented an affront to American vying for dominance.

His successor Nicolás Maduro continued with this impertinence by daring to represent ordinary people and not the rich elite. Considering the scale of American violence in neighbouring countries, it is surprising that any kind of socialist government has lasted this long.

Venezuela has not been the victim of outright violence on behalf of American-backed and CIA-trained death squads.

However, it has had to endure years of sanctions and the funding of opposition parties and individuals in an attempt to undermine the successive governments of Chavez and Maduro.

During the coup attempt against the former in 2002, it was discovered that an American-registered plane had landed in order to take Chavez out of the country after his capture by opposition forces.

And similar to recent events, the US government was quick to recognise the new president, Pedro Carmona, who had taken over the role after Chavez was kidnapped from the presidential palace.

What we have seen in Venezuela over the last week, then, is a replay of events from years gone by. This history can be seen not only in Venezuela. The same tactics have been utilised in other countries where the American government has had its interests threatened by democracy and democratically elected leaders.

In Chile, Salvador Allende was seen as a socialist threat which meant he had to be eliminated in favour of a military dictatorship. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas could not be allowed to effectively govern their country given the obvious malignity of their land reforms and socialism.

Therefore, massacres against them and their supporters by the Contras – funded and trained by the CIA – were to be countenanced. In Brazil, the longstanding military dictatorship enjoyed the approval of the US government.

And let’s not speak about the decades of sanctions and terrorism inflicted on Cuba for having the audacity to attempt the implementation of an economic model other than the one that is currently ravaging the globe. What is taking place in Venezuela when we consider the above, is nothing remotely new or unique.

The ideology that informs this behaviour on the part of the US is the Monroe Doctrine. Promulgated in 1823, it declared that Latin and Southern America was to be the exclusively dominated by the US and its interests. All political and military interventions in the region on the part of the US have rested on this racist premise.

Venezuela, with the ascent of Hugo Chavez, represented a slap in the face to the business as usual model of using the region as a cheap source of both labour and resources. Venezuela in particular was utilised for its vast oil wealth.

Historical context such as this tends to be missing in much of the pontificating in the mainstream media about human rights abuses and food shortages in Venezuela. If it was given the attention it deserves, most people would realise that the country did not implode of its own accord due to the supposed failures of state socialism.

Years of continued sanctions, isolation, and the consistent backing of opposition parties and movements in the country has undermined progressive changes made by the respective Chavez and Maduro governments. Instead, the Right-Wing opposition was to be encouraged and funded.

In light of the fact that the US was so quick to recognise the self-declared presidency of Juan Guaidó, it is demonstrative of their continued need to control the region and its leaders.

Having lost some control of the region in recent years to popular leaders, such as  Chavez, Evo Morales, and José Mujica, the US government appears to be attempting to reassert its influence via whatever means necessary.

Part of their tactics to reassert control — and a recurring theme before the US and its allies go to war — is their concern about human rights abuses in Venezuela. This is nothing more than an attempt to cover their real agenda.

The appointment of Elliott Abrams to “help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country” is a testament to this.

Abrams is notorious for his tenure as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs during the Ronald Reagan administration. In this role he supported regime change in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and offered support to CIA-trained death squads.

He was also involved in the Iran-Contra scandal and lied under oath about his role in the scheme during a congressional investigation of the plot.

He would later go on to become a founding member of the Project for a New American Century. This neo-conservative and extremely hawkish group of former government officials and academics, literally wrote the blueprint for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

What lies ahead for Venezuela and its people is uncertain. However, to leave their future in the hands of a man who is, by all reckoning, a war criminal is to ensure the destruction of their society.

Already the self-appointed government of Guaidó has taken the initiative in this regard and has called for assistance from the IMF. Apparently this is to fund his government along with following through with plans to privatise Venezuelan industry, specifically the oil industry.

In plans drawn up before the coup, Guaidó’s opposition detailed that it would aim to introduce a “model of freedom and market based on the right of each Venezuelan to work under the guarantees of property rights and freedom of enterprise.” In other words, a neo-liberal paradise.

For Venezuela to fall once again under the yoke of American imperialism and corporate interests would be a humanitarian disaster. Juan Guaidó and his lackeys understand this.

It is just that profit and cosying up the most powerful nation in history is of much more interest to them than theoretical notions of human rights and economic justice.

Any and all attempts at eliminating, or even lessening the effects of, poverty must be crushed. Otherwise the bottom line would be forced to suffer the ill effects of slightly lower figures.

In 2002, an Irish documentary crew was in Venezuela to film the Chavez government and look into the changes it was implementing when they got caught up in the coup attempt.

The finished product resulted in the great documentary, The Revolution Will Not be Televised. At one point Chavez is filmed telling an associate that the neo-liberals, “They’re the ones who’ll end up destroying the world.”

Chavez may have been correct in this assessment. Right now though, it seems as if they are intent on destroying Venezuela.

Bryan Wall is an independent journalist based in Cork. His column appears here every Monday. Read more of his work here and follow Bryan on twitter:  @Bryan_Wall

Pic: Venezuela gov handout

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50 thoughts on “Bryan Wall: Oily Business

    1. :-Joe

      It’s because ‘murica has been involved in Venezuela since the 1920’s and implemented it’s policies of neo-liberal ” ‘murica 1st ” economics from the start.

      The scam was to convince, coerce, manipulate and force Venezuela into becoming a western style consumerist system where they exported tons of oil for tons of food imports.

      The european sanctions and backing are equally shameful and the act of a spineless coward but they are secondary and by far removed from the gravity of the main ages-old problem of ‘murican interventionism in Latin and South America..


  1. phil

    In this day an age, is it responsible to start a Socialist revolution in your country even if you have 100% support from the people , knowing that certain countries in the world will now allow you to succeed ?

  2. Elizabeth Mainwaring

    As Frosty O’Sullivan used say in the members bar in the Royal, as he downed a stiff one, “Socialism is wonderful until you run out of other peoples money.”

      1. Junkface

        Its amazing just how they accomplished this. From being a wealthy country with oil. Full on socialism just wrecks economies

      2. Jonboy

        Surely their over-reliance on oil and their vulnerability to price changes was one of the biggest factors contributing to their scurrent situation?

        1. f_lawless

          Exactly, a problem which they inherited and as part of the Bolivarian project, were making attempts to diversify from.

  3. rotide

    looks like someone watched The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and hasn’t watched a single piece of news footage about Venezuela in the intervening 20 year or so.

    I would encourage Bryan to go live there or failing that talk to anyone from Venezuela who doesn’t love there anymore and ask them why that is

    1. Rob_G

      Nonsense – ordinary Venezuelans are only delighted to eat family pets and zoo animals if it is in support of the glorious Bolivarian revolution.

    2. Nigel

      True, but apparently neither did what’s left of the US State Department? Elliot feckin Abrams? They’ll be sending Oliver North to Nicaragua next.

  4. Captainpants

    Wow. There is no excuse for this level of blinkerdness any more. There are 1000s of Venezualans in Dublin you could talk to to find out how wrong you are.

    This well worn romanticising of oppressive regimes as long as they are somewhere sunny and latin was just about excusable in the 70s, but not now. Even Owen Jones has gone quiet and moved on at this stage.

    1. spudnick

      Yes, this exactly. You would have to be coldhearted not to have been sympathetic to Chavez back in 2002, but the utter pig’s ear his bolivariano-everything has made of the place since is inexcusable.

      I wore a kitsch Chavez tshirt into work one day, and a Venezuelan co-worker got upset – understandably, in hindsight. It’s no joke and a tired, lazy reflexive student preoccupation to give it the old ‘it’s all the west’s fault’ treatment.

      1. f_lawless

        also you can’t judge the socialist policies of the Venezuelan govt. since 2002 without appreciating the fact that the US, together with right-wing Venezuelan oligarchs (who control a lot of food production) have been waging an economic war on Venezuela by trying to destroy the economy.

        I notice that too that the Bank of England has effectively stolen 1.2 billions worth of Venezuela’s gold by refusing the government access to it. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot in terms reputational damage

        1. spudnick

          Come on, not to the point of the country not being able to feed itself. There are hungry people pouring into Colombia and Brazil. A month’s salary for six eggs. Russia’s been under Western sanctions for years but they’re not eating grass. Just because Maduro and his mates make the right noises doesn’t make them any better.

        2. Nigel

          This is true. Any assessment of Venezuala that doesn’t take into account the long history of the US continuously interfering with any South American regime that had or has even vaguely leftish social and economic policies is taking the piss.

          1. f_lawless

            Boliva hasnt been in the US crosshairs in the same way as Venezuela has. Bolivia has one of the smallest oil reserves in the world. The US has in recent times been pouring tens of millions into opposition groups in Venezuela with the intention of creating unrest. Bolivia has much stronger food sovereignty laws to protect citizens from corporate exploitation. The food (and product) shortages in Venezuela are a largely manufactured crisis by a small group of Venezuelan oligarchs, working in tandem with the US, who control corporate production of various basic food items – also Venezuela is dependent on high rates of food imports controlled by a few powerful companies

          2. EoinC

            There have been unfair sanctions against Iran for decades, and their economy was also affected by lower oil prices. But somehow the Iran doesn’t have million-percent inflation rates, universal poverty, and an exodus of millions of refugees.

            While I don’t know enough about Guaido to have an opinion, he’s at least nominally socialist.

          3. f_lawless

            Have the Iranian oligarchy based in Iran been working with the US to tank the economy and overthrow the regime? No
            Venezuelan oligarchs and big businessmen have a large control over things like imports and exports, medicines and foods.
            Has Maduro’s government made mistakes? For sure
            But going back to my original point, its impossible to objectively judge how well they’ve managed their economy in the midst of an economic war being waged on them.
            Unless that’s the modern standard of how we judge the validity of a country’s economic policies – how well they can stand up to western imperialist attacks?

            “Guaido is..nominally socialist”? That’s so far out of the ball park

      2. Captainpants

        Yes, I think thats what did it for me as well. I would have still been running on the fumes of my Chomsky/Zinn phhase back in those days – and I cringe now to look back at me lecturing some of my Ven. students about socialism. My pat assumption was that they were all bejewelled oligarchs pissed off that the commies were going to take away their swimming pools.

        Once I got to know them as friends and heard their stories – NGO workers having their charities shut down by force cause the leaders weren’t cronies of Chavez, people coming into their little shop they’d built up with their lifetime savings only to find it ‘appropriated’, I realised I was a collosal twat.

        I’d imagine the way they feel about it is similar to how we felt back in the day when some Irish Americans expressed their support for our ‘struggle’ against the British and our brave heroes in the IRA. Its never pretty to see your own country’s politics romanticised from afar.

        1. f_lawless

          Befre settling on your viewpoint, don’t you think you should have spoken to or sought out the views of some of the majority of Venezuelan citizens who supported Chavez right through his term, to find out why they did so before forming your opinion on just the meeting of a few middle class students? Millions lifted out of abject poverty. Over two million subsidised homes built, etc? They might have very different anecdotes?

          On a side note, paranoia about NGOs is an unfortunate consequence of the US’ continued ploy of funding NGOs which have co-opted cliques at the top (eg USAID), who then funnel the funds to opposition groups. Similar to what the UK have been doing in Syria by setting up the White Helmets as a ‘humanitarian’ front to funnel money to militant opposition groups there.

    2. f_lawless

      I’ve lived in Latin America a number of years. My experience was that with the majority of middle classes/upper middle classes (the kind that are able to travel abroad) their empathy often doesn’t extend beyond their own families/immediate circle. There’s a lack of civic unity- probably down to the influence of colonialism. You could say Ireland suffers from a similar problem.
      When people like Guaidó say they want Maduro out, really what they are saying is that they want to silence a whole section of Venezuelan society (which is in the majority) from having a political voice – to go back to the way as before the Bolivarian revolution happened

      1. :-Joe

        +100% Valid and a very important point…

        You are one of the tiny minority of people on this thread talking sense… Amongst a lot of ignorant blow-hard’s and narcissistic opportunists spouting nonsense as usual.

        The ‘murican elite foreign policy sanctions on Venezua are preventing it’s economy being able to borrow and manage their own debts and together with the ‘murican sanctions on food imports are both causing most of the problems leading to the civil unrest.

        The Venzuelan public majority are not happy with the government but they don’t want ‘murican neo-liberal economics and an IMF-style economic assasination through another disaster capitalist coup d’etat.


        1. spudnick

          Ha, the irony, from the king of tedious purple guff.
          It really is brilliant that you lads know better than the average Venezuelan. We’re lucky to have you around to pull back the curtain. I also love the assumption that criticism of the Bolivarian revolution implies the US* is whiter than white in all of this.

          * sorry ‘:-J’, “‘murica” – amirite??

          1. f_lawless

            what are you basing your definition of ‘average Venezuelan’ on? One’s you’ve met over in Dublin? Recent polls conducted in Venezuela from both pro-government and opposition groups point to the same conclusion: that about 30% of the Venezuelan population (6 million people) are hardcore government supporters, despite the crisis.
            “Anti-Maduro Poll Shows a Coup in Venezuela Would Require a Horrific Death Toll”

          2. :-Joe

            “The west’s fault”… – Silly argument, it’s specifically ‘murican interventionism since the 1920’s.

            “Russia’s been under Western sanctions for years…” – Culturally and politically, it’s highly likely that you actually consider both these countries as one and the same…

            “..criticism of the Bolivian…” No idea what you’re mubling on about here…

            “you lads know better than the average Venezuelan” – For a start, I wasn’t speaking for @f_lawless..

            Secondly, do you mean the average Venezuelan in your office, brought to tears after seeing your dress sense?..

            One individual and personal experience of an incident with your silly shirt in an office does not hold up as any kind of reasonable argument, especially not against the glaringly obvious historical facts of almost 100 years of illegal interventionism and abuse of human rights by THE UNITED STATES OF ‘murica… against Venezuela alone. Oil etc.

            It’s an obvious coup by ‘murica in progress and the country will be a lot worse off if it happens…

            How do we know this?.. It’s happened numerous times before….

            Eat my ability to discern facts from historical and current reality from information (or tedious purple guff as you like to call it)…

            ….help yourself to seconds… good lad.


          3. spudnick

            Eat your… what?

            Can you not get it through your crack-addled skull that it is possible that two things may be true at the same time – that the US has indeed meddled repeatedly in the politics of Latin American, and that Chavez’s corrupt experiment has been a disaster for his country?

            PORQUE NO LOS DOS, :-J?

          4. :-Joe

            Me estas cotorreando, verdad?…

            You seem to be arguing with someone else or about something else… or maybe both are true at the same time?…

            Many truths exist at the same time but so what.. . At what point did I say Chavez or Maduro were perfect examples of virtue or squeeky clean political leaders or argued and denied they were not flawed or in any way responsible for mistakes and their part in the problems of Venezuela?…

            – I’ll give you a clue… Nowhere!…

            I don’t think anyone sensible was saying that either but Chavez and Maduro have had the same major problem and it’s ‘murican foreign policy..

            If you remove that major factor from the equation of the last 100 years in Venezuela’s history you have a very different situation whatever it may have become without the interference.

            As for “crack-addled” blah de blah… You’d be better off if.. you check yo-self before ya wreck yo-self….

            !No te enojes!.. Hasta luego… bebe…


  5. Eoin

    Taking over Smurfit Kappa (ha-hah Dr!) in Venezuela accusing them of price speculation, smuggling and refusing to sell to local businesses, accusations denied by SK – bad, very bad.

    Sanctioning world’s #2 aluminum refiner and threatening anyone who trades with #2 with additional sanctions leading to 50% collapse in share price, insisting on US directors being installed in the company, ensuring “independent” US persons control a significant bloc in the company and imposing extensive, ongoing auditing, certification, and reporting requirements on Russian company – good, very good, the American way.

    1. :-Joe

      +100% The usual racketeering, extortion and expoitation scenario… and every scumbag operator wants in on the action…


  6. f_lawless

    I’d recommend this informative discussion posted last night with two US journalists who actually went to Venezuela to see for themselves. No surprise the truth of what’s going on is very different from the narrative projected in corporate media. One of them makes a good point that, only behind North Korea, Venezuela is the country where you can literally make anything up about it, and people will accept it at face value

    1. Rep

      According to wiki, the female journalist there is :

      “Abigail Suzanne Martin is an American citizen journalist and presenter, who most recently hosted the series The Empire Files with the funding of the Venezuelan government. She was formerly the host of Breaking the Set on the network RT America, working from the Washington, D.C. bureau”

      Some serious no biased journalism there.

      1. f_lawless

        that’s a depressing comment. Rather than listen to what she has to say, and use your own critical judgement, you’ve instead gone to wikipedia to do your thinking for you.
        The Empire Files, is hosted by Telesur. Sure it was founded by Chavez – to redress the imbalance that right-wing corporate control had over latin american media – but it has the support of various Latin American countries. There’s many esteemed leftwing journalists who, not given any airtime by corporate media, have no problem appearing on Telesur or RT where they’re allowed present their views openly

    1. f_lawless

      the list of people who haven’t been smeared with ‘conspiracy theorist” is getting really short these days. In the near future, everyone will be deemed a conspiracy theorist for at least 15 minutes

  7. f_lawless

    It’s sad the people commenting on here who give the impression that, because Venezuela is in crisis, the activities of the US are seemingly justified. It’s as if they’re unaware they’ve been propagandised by western corporate media narratives into adopting an imperialist mindset .
    Venezuela’s future should be for Venezuelan’s to decide without any external meddling. The Bolivarian socialist movement is still the most popular political movement in Venezuela – its government still has majority support of the people (the ones you don’t hear from either on tv or in person abroad) and came to power democratically in elections witnessed by 100s of independent international observers despite what the western global corporatists would like you to believe.

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