We have been attacking Venezuela for decades now. We supported coups, the oil industry lockout, economic sabotage. The CIA, the NED, USAID, the International Republican Institute, and a slew of private organizations have flooded the country with money, giving it to right wing and reactionary groups in the country. You can find many of these leaked documents online, Eva Golinger has published them, put them in her book The Chavez Code. A good portion of that support has gone to outright fascist groups. Since 2013, when Chavez died, the economic war has intensified. We have frozen assets, stopped needed imports from getting into the country, we have barred creditors from re-negotiating Venezuela’s debt. The economy has massively suffered. A good portion of its economy is owned by large capitalists that control important markets, and they have outwardly announced that they cut back the supplies of basic items in working class areas as a means of causing economic harm and to further destabilize the country. The media is very right wing, and when the coup happened, the coup plotters went on national TV to thank the media for its help in fomenting the coup. Our ally, Venezuela’s neighbor, Colombia is a death squad state. Can you imagine what its economy would be like if we did to it what we have done to Venezuela? We know from the Panama Papers that the opposition has set up a multitude of companies that essentially steal state subsidized food, and they sell it in neighboring countries. We have used Colombian paramilitaries to destabilize the country further.
Let’s not forget too that when the opposition did a coup in 2002, against what was then the most popular government in the Western hemisphere, we and Canada were quick to recognize that government. The NY times cheered it on, and called for everyone to do so as well. They all wound up looking horrible. But times were better then, and things were at least improving.
The fact is that we have actively made the country worse, and it had massive problems before 1998, which the right wing in the US has no knowledge of what so ever. For the US government to argue that it cares about democracy is absurd. It has done nothing but undermine the democracy in Venezuela and in many countries around the world for decades. And this all isn’t to say that the Venezuelan government hasn’t made some mistakes, it has. It is also struggling with corruption, across the ideological spectrum. But to think that the right wing has any plans beyond massive repression and looting is absurd. Pre-Chavez Venezuela was a bad situation. From 1980 to 1998 the country’s economy shrank by 26%. The country was increasingly under the control of the IMF, and by the late 1980’s, it was home to the first IMF riots in the region. It had multiple coups in the early 1990’s, one of which Chavez took part in, and those coups had broad popular support. Inflation has been high in Venezuela obviously in recent years, but it was actually higher in the pre-Chavez years than it was in the 1998-2013 period, and the economy struggled from a lack of diversification for decades. The collapse price of oil has caused multiple economic crises going back decades. And even Chavez admitted, later in his life, that the country was in no way socialist. There were some elements of socialism, but the traditional private economy grew at a much quicker rate than the public sector during his time, and a number of developed countries have a larger public sector than Venezuela does. Countries like Norway have nationalized the oil industry, and the nationalized industries are often run well. So, to argue that this all is the fault of “socialism”, given all of this, is absurd. To think that we could isolate particular problems back socialism with any clarity is a bit absurd.
The left in the US and other developed countries, however, has simply done nothing at all to push back on what the government has been doing to Venezuela for decades now. So, we are partially responsible for it getting to this point. It might not be a huge part of the responsibility, but we share at least a small part of the blame.