A potential war over oil

A potential war over oil

By Carlton Joseph

To the surprise of the United States, Canada and several  former colonial powers, Venezuelan -elected President  Nicolas  Maduro is still in power, six weeks after they decided to support  opposition  leader Juan Guido as President of Venezuela.   Hopefully, this power play by the US, to illegitimately remove Maduro, meets the same fate as when they tried to remove President Hugo Chavez from power.

In a recent interview with Reuters, Carlos Vecchio, Guido’s representative in Washington, predicted that the Venezuelan military would eventually turn against Maduro. When asked about the perception that the US- backed campaign to remove Maduro had stalled, he pushed back, stating: “When will it happen? I don’t know. No one has a crystal ball; we are in an irreversible process of change. Time is not on Maduro’s side.”

When asked about a back-up plan, if their efforts failed, Vecchio responded:  “There’s never a Plan B. There’s only a Plan A … to get rid of the dictatorship and to keep fighting until it’s gone.”  I hope Maduro recognizes that this is treason and deals with it appropriately.

Interestingly, while criticizing Trump’s confrontational stance toward his government, Maduro said that he holds out hope of meeting the US president soon to resolve the crisis.    He said that during two meetings in New York, his foreign minister invited the Washington-based special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, to visit privately, publicly or secretly.

I suspect that this is a diplomatic move to demonstrate that he is willing to talk with anyone concerning Venezuela, even when they are belligerent to his government.  I believe that he made this move because he has the backing of Cuba, Russia and China and controls Venezuelan state institutions, including the security forces.

Clearly, the US administration totally underestimated the complexity of the situation.  This is not resource-poor Nicaragua, El Salvador or Honduras.  This is Venezuela, with proven oil reserves that are recognized as the largest in the world, totaling 297 billion barrels.  Cuba, China and Russia are not going to allow the United States to just move in and control this valuable resource.  In addition, Venezuela has gas, gold, silver, bauxite, iron and water.

Recently, Maduro closed the border with Brazil, and says he will also close the border with Colombia, ahead of the Venezuelan opposition’s plans to bring in humanitarian aid, despite his objection.  If the US really wants to deliver humanitarian aid all they have to do is lift the economic sanctions that have exacerbated the crisis.

In fact, the Red Cross and the United Nations warned the US not to send aid to Venezuela without the approval of the sitting president, saying that: “Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives.”  As a result, they, and all the other legitimate humanitarian relief organizations have refused to work with the United States on delivering this “so called” aid.

This is not humanitarian aid but humanitarian intervention with the goal of regime change.  History teaches us crucial lessons and when we look at past U.S. interventions, it shows us that conflicts impose huge costs on economies, including massive destruction of infrastructure and housing, disruption of trade, transport and production, the loss of lives and widespread human suffering.

In 2017, the World Bank report estimated that Syria’s war has damaged or destroyed about one third of the housing stock and about half of medical and education facilities, and led to significant economic losses.  In addition, there have been more than 400,000 estimated deaths and over half the population were driven from their homes in what is the largest refugee crisis since World War II.  Is this what you want for Venezuela?  It could happen to any Caribbean country, especially oil resource countries like Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.

On Democracy Now, a US-based radio program, Edgardo Lander, a Venezuelan sociologist, who’s part of the Citizen’s Platform in Defense of the Constitution (CPDC), said: “If the United States were really interested in democracy, the first thing they will have to do is stop the blockade that’s impacting the Venezuelan people enormously, as the Venezuelan government has extreme difficulties in gaining access to foreign markets. Its trade is made extremely difficult because the whole financial system is, in one way or another, controlled by the United States. And this blockade limits the possibilities of access to trade partners.”

“On the other hand, enormous amounts of money, billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, have been taken over by the United States government. And it’s absolutely cynical that the United States is claiming to be worried about the humanitarian situation of Venezuelans, offering a few million dollars, when billions of dollars are being kept away from the Venezuelan government’s capacity to respond to the deep crisis that the Venezuelans are facing.”

The majority of Venezuelans and Caribbean peoples reject US intervention.  In Trinidad, a number of groups including Movement for Social Justice and the Emancipation Support Committee have demonstrated at the Venezuelan Embassy in Trinidad chanting:  “Hands off Venezuela!” and called for the US and other nations to stay out of that country’s business.

Lander of CPDC, believes that what is needed is a referendum in which the Venezuelan people can actually give their own opinion, and decide whether they want to keep the present authorities or if they want to completely renew the political system.  However, the United States,bent on regime change, is pressing ahead.  Trump called for regime change in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua on Monday, in a speech urging the Venezuelan military to abandon its support for Maduro and to support self-proclaimed Venezuelan president Juan Guaidó.

Meanwhile, puppet Guaidó said he is in the process of restoring ties with Israel and suggested he was considering opening the new Venezuelan Embassy in Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of the U.S.   Remember, Venezuela severed its relationship with Israel a decade ago under the leadership of Hugo Chávez, who instead developed links with Palestinians.  Is it possible that his next move will be to turn over Venezuela’s oil and gas resource to U.S. multinational oil companies?

Before becoming national-security adviser, John Bolton declared, “We once had a capacity for clandestine efforts to overthrow governments. I wish we could get those back.”  He now runs foreign policy and has his opportunity to openly fulfill his desire when he said, “it will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”  He confirms that this is a potential war over oil.

I am somewhat surprised that 53 countries have agreed to abandon democratic principles and recognize Guaidó as the President of Venezuela.  But money and power is a lethal combination.   And when you have both, like Trump, regardless of how incompetent, narcissistic, childish or other adjectives global leaders use to describe him, they will grovel and genuflect and accede to his wishes no matter how unintelligent, or ridiculous they might be.

(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)