enezuela today is in the grip of a political, economic and humanitarian crisis. The ‘Guardian’ reports that as many as three million of its people, a 10th of the population have fled the country. Its economy is shrinking fast and the IMF has predicted that hyperinflation could hit 10,000,000% this year. With food and medicine shortages widespread, there has been a surge in levels of malnutrition and the re-emergence of diseases such as malaria and diphtheria.
The US’s call for regime change in Venezuela is only the latest example of its long-term manipulations in Latin America. Economic sanctions and blockades, conducted by the US which has helped worsen Venezuela’s crisis. The US has already imposed sanctions on the country and has frozen $7 billion of its assets “on behalf of Venezuelan people.” It has called on Venezuela’s military to overthrow the regime of President Maduro and install as president, Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan the leader of the Opposition. Today, the US is once again attempting to formulate a coup in Venezuela. The actions of US president Trump saying he has not ruled out further US intervention further reinforces the argument. US involvement in regime change in Latin America is not new.
In Argentina, for example, the US endorsed the right-wing coup which overthrew the democratically elected President Isabel Perón in 1976 and brought General Jorge Rafael Videla to power. The new regime was enthusiastically welcomed by the US. US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, paid several official visits to Argentina during the dictatorship.
In the aftermath of the coup, around 30,000 Argentinians went missing. Among the many human rights violations committed during the period were extrajudicial arrests, mass executions, torture, rape, disappearances of political prisoners and dissenters, and illegal relocations of children born from pregnant women (both pregnant before their imprisonment or made pregnant by continual rape). According to Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzón, Kissinger was a witness to these crimes.
In Brazil, the US in 1964, backed the coup against centre-left social democrat João Goulart, according to then President Kennedy, it was to ‘prevent Brazil becoming another Cuba’! In Chile, after the democratic election of the left-leaning President Salvador Allende in 1970, then US President Nixon ordered an economic war among other things against the Chilean regime and instigated a military coup in 1973. What followed was the over decade-long, US-backed military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet which continued until March 1990.
After the fall of Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1993, the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation, and the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture set up to inquire into human rights violations reported, that the number of direct victims of human rights violations in Chile accounted to around 30,000 people: 27,255 tortured and 2,279 executed. Additionally, around 200,000 people suffered exile and an unknown number went through clandestine centres of illegal detention.
Among other Latin American countries subject to US regime change during the 20th century were: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Honduras and Uruguay. According to John Coatsworth writing in ‘ReVista’ Harvard Review of Latin America:
“...In both the United States and Latin America, economic interests are often seen as the underlying cause of U.S. interventions. This hypothesis has two variants. One cites corruption and the other blames capitalism. The corruption hypothesis contends that U.S. officials order interventions to protect US corporations. The best evidence for this version comes from the decision to depose the elected government of Guatemala in 1954. Except for President Dwight Eisenhower, every significant decision maker in this case had a family, business or professional tie to the United Fruit Company, whose interests were adversely affected by agrarian reform and other policies of the incumbent government. Nonetheless, in this as in every other case involving U.S. corporate interests, the U.S. government would probably not have resorted to intervention in the absence of other concerns...”
In the case of Venezuela, the story is different. The country sits atop one of the largest deposits of oil. Russia and China have invested heavily in that country. Russia sent two bombers to Venezuela last month in a show of support for Maduro, and warned US actions could have “catastrophic consequences”. China, Turkey and Mexico are standing by Maduro. The question is what comes next. The prospect of Russia, China and the US being drawn into a military confrontation in Venezuela is very real. What is needed is a negotiated settlement. The alternative is too fearful to contemplate.