With the spread of protests in Venezuela, the Speaker of Parliament proclaimed himself as the substitute for incumbent president Nicolas Maduro, and immediately afterwards the West and, at the top of them, the United States, recognized the Juan Guaido government and called for a United Nations Security Council meeting to exert more pressure on the elected government and eliminate it from Venezuela’s political scene.
To shed more light on the developments in Venezuela, we interviewed Abdolhamid Shahrabi, a senior expert on Latin American affairs.
What follows is the full text of the interview.
Q: What are the US reasons and plans for supporting the protests and riots in Venezuela?
Since the victory of the Bolivarian revolution in 1998, the United States has been seeking to defeat this revolution and turn back this historic transformation in the Latin American region. To achieve this, Washington has used whatever means it has in possession. Full support for the counterrevolutionary opposition group, plotting coup attempts, supporting the turmoil and provoking street riots, economic war and imposing pressure on the people as a result of that, all have taken place in line with the US government’s policy of creating instability, dissatisfaction among the people, sowing discord between the nation and the government, and finally overthrowing the Venezuelan revolutionary government.
Q: Why the US is attempting to create chaos and actually change the political structure in Venezuela?
The main reason is that the United States as the superior power would not tolerate defiance by the system of government in Venezuela.
With the victory of the Bolivarian Revolution Venezuela came out of the yoke of the Imperialist system and, instead of obeying North America, promoted unity among the Latin American countries against Washington’s hegemony. Caracas, in order to realize the liberating ideas of Simon Bolivar, founded such regional alliances as ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). At domestic level too, the Bolivarian government, both under Chávez and Maduro, adopted a policy of supporting the socially disadvantaged classes but the two approaches were in full contradiction with the interests of the one per cent US administration. That is why the United States is determined to prevent Venezuela from becoming a model and repetition of its experience in the Latin American region. The plans and recent actions to overthrow Nicolas Maduro’s government are in this direction.
Q: What scenarios Washington has for the Latin American region?
The US scenario is to stabilize its weakened domination in the region, and in the implementation of this scenario, it should regain the bases it had at its disposal and gradually lost after the victory of the revolution in Venezuela. The so-called Honduras parliamentary coup in 2009, Paraguay in 2012 and Brazil in 2016, were waged for this purpose. Also, intervention in 2015 elections in Argentina and the coming to power of a right wing president close to the United States is another example.
Here, the main target is Venezuela because it is from this front the US government feels the biggest threat.
Q: What was the message of the recent meeting of the UN Security Council and how is it possible to isolate the West’s outlook?
The request to convene a Security Council meeting in order to recognize Guaido’s presidency as the representative of the opposition was made by the US administration, but even agreement to hold the meeting was reached with fragile vote of the current UNSC members, that is, of the 15 members of the Council except for the US and its European allies plus Kuwait, Peru, Poland and the Dominican Republic, delegates from Russia, China, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea opposed the idea of holding the meeting. Indonesia and the Ivory Coast did not participate in the voting. In the debates of the UNSC meeting, the Russian delegate voiced strong opposition to this interventionist action of the United States, and given the veto power of China and Russia, no voting took place for the American proposal.
However, the lineup of pro and con members in the Security Council reflects the wider array of forces around the world on Venezuelan developments. The United States is at daggers drawn, Europe sets deadline for Venezuela’s legitimate government which once again exposed its hypocritical stance and showed it was a US satellite. Dependent countries like Kuwait and Poland too have no independent resolve and take stances upon the orders of their master. But on the other hand, independent countries, including powerful China and Russia, stand beside Venezuela. The same lineup applies at a wider level among other countries of the world.
Concerning the isolation of the Western outlook, two strategies should be applied at the same time. One is resistance and steadfastness against domination and defense of national sovereignty, such as the resistance of the Iranian nation, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Cuba, and Venezuela which practically isolates the domination seeking West; the other strategy is active diplomacy an example of which was applied by Russia in the case of Venezuela.
Q: Why China and Russia support Maduro’s government against the West’s attacks and pressures?
Russia and China are now the main economic partners of Venezuela, and boosting their status has been done at the cost of weakening the influence of the United States. In the 10 years ending up to 2016, China has lent 62 billion dollars to Venezuela, with a large part of the loan to be returned through oil money. Russia also has lent 17 billion dollars to Venezuela over the last several years. In addition, Russia tends to expand its strategic partnership with Venezuela, including in the military sphere.
On the other hand, despite exports of 41 percent of Venezuelan oil to the United States at present, the US wants to control huge oil and gas resources in Venezuela to reduce its dependence on OPEC oil and becomes an oil supply pole so that it could gain more power to challenge Russia. Of course, naturally, Russia and China are not unaware of this American motive. In this framework the support of Russia and China for Maduro’s government and, in particular, Russia’s strong position on this issue are understandable.
Q: What scenarios await the future of Venezuela?
Evidence suggests that America after repeated defeats in overthrowing the Bolivarian government and its consequent frustration, this time is trying its utmost efforts to bring a puppet government to power in Caracas. Here, as Americans say “all the options are on the table”.
On the other hand, support for the anti-revolutionary opposition group will be extended more clearly and vigorously, thereby chaos and street violence is extended. Also, support for a parallel government will take place as planned in Libya and Syria as a platform for military intervention.
Economic pressures are America’s most important tool to force the Maduro government to retreat. A government which has already lost 23 billion dollars due to economic sanctions will face further pressures. Confiscation of 7 billion dollars of the Venezuelan Oil Company and losing 11 billion dollars in revenue over the next year due to oil sanctions are done in this connection.
This is under conditions that Venezuela is currently exporting only one third of its output, namely three and a half million barrels of oil annually, while oil refining capacity has fallen sharply. Venezuela’s strong reliance on the oil based economy has made the economy more vulnerable, and at the time of economic war, the vulnerability is exacerbated. On the other hand, the destructive intervention of Venezuela’s powerful and influential oligarchy to create instability escalates the country’s economic weakness.
Meantime, diplomatic pressure of the United States and its allies on Venezuela will also increase. An example is the recent European warning to the Bolivarian government to hold elections within six days after it receives the ultimatum!
Given the military’s support for the incumbent government which weakens the prospect of a successful coup or foreign military intervention, one of the main goals of the US pressure is to cause a rift between the government and the military and attracting military commanders’ support.
On the other hand, Maduro’s hands are not tied in dealing with this massive and multilateral invasion. He has both the military support and the support of millions of oppressed members of the Venezuelan community. In fact, the mobilization and preservation of this enormous force in the scene, coupled with active and revolutionary diplomacy in the international arena, and the expansion of cooperation with powerful allies such as Russia, China, South Africa and Iran, will allow effective confrontation with the invasion of the domination system against the Bolivarian revolution.