Venezuela Coup Attempt Part of US Plan to Remake Latin America

The Wall Street Journal has just published an important, disheartening story, U.S. Push to Oust Venezuela’s Maduro Marks First Shot in Plan to Reshape Latin America. The Trump Administration has apparently decided to embark on a large-scale interventionist campaign to reverse supposed undue influence of Russia, China, and Iran in Latin America. Venezuela and Cuba are the first targets, and Nicaragua is next on the list. John Bolton, in too obvious a nod to Bush’s “axis of evil” has called them the “troika of tyranny”.

One would think the fact that our “remake the world in our image” plans worked out so well in the Middle East might curb US adventurism. And it isn’t just that we made a mess of Iraq, failed to break Iran, and failed to install new regimes in Afghanistan and Syria. The New American Century types are deep in denial that this geopolitical tussle not only cost the US greatly in terms of treasure, but it also wound up considerably enhancing Russia’s standing.

Consider another bad outcome from US war-making in the Middle East: the rise of the radical right in Europe. American nation-breaking had produced a flood of refugees trying to enter Europe. In a misguided show of humanitarianism, European countries welcomed the over one million migrants that arrived in 2015, with the upsurge due mainly to the civil war in Syria. Angela Merkel in particular backed the idea of taking in the refugees, in part because German has a lower-than-replacement birth rate, and Syrian has a high level of public education. However, the EU members had patchy and generally poor programs for helping the migrants assimilate and find jobs. The result was what one hard core left wing political scientist who has spent a considerable amount of time in Germany calls “Merkelization”: a rise of nativist right wing parties like AfD in response to large-scale, poorly-managed migrant inflows.

Consider how this tendency might play into US nation-breaking near our borer. Many readers have pointed out that the “caravans” from Central America are heavily populated with people from countries like Honduras that our tender ministrations have made much worse. My colleague was warning of Merkelization of the US even before the US launched its coup attempt, that it is one thing to have an immigration process that is generous towards asylum-seekers, and quite another to have open borders when political and economic conditions in countries to the South are unlikely to get better.

Bernie Sanders was browbeaten into holding his tongue after pointing out early in his Presidential campaign that “open borders” is a Koch Brothers position, and that the top 10% professional class that has become the base of the Democratic party are now heavy employers of servants, in the form of nannies and yard men. When I was a kid, even the few times we lived in middle/upper middle class suburbs full of senior corporate managers and professionals, no one had servants. Men worked full time and wives did the housework; the most you’d see would be a housekeeper in once a week to give the wife some relief.

As Peter Beinart pointed out in The Atlantic in 2017:

In 2005, a left-leaning blogger wrote, “Illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone.” In 2006, a liberal columnist wrote that “immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants” and that “the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear.” His conclusion: “We’ll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants.” That same year, a Democratic senator wrote, “When I see Mexican flags waved at proimmigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.”

The blogger was Glenn Greenwald. The columnist was Paul Krugman. The senator was Barack Obama.

Prominent liberals didn’t oppose immigration a decade ago. Most acknowledged its benefits to America’s economy and culture. They supported a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Still, they routinely asserted that low-skilled immigrants depressed the wages of low-skilled American workers and strained America’s welfare state. And they were far more likely than liberals today are to acknowledge that, as Krugman put it, “immigration is an intensely painful topic … because it places basic principles in conflict.”…

A larger explanation [for the change] is political. Between 2008 and 2016, Democrats became more and more confident that the country’s growing Latino population gave the party an electoral edge….

Alongside pressure from pro-immigrant activists came pressure from corporate America, especially the Democrat-aligned tech industry, which uses the H-1B visa program to import workers….

According to a comprehensive new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Groups comparable to … immigrants in terms of their skill may experience a wage reduction as a result of immigration-induced increases in labor supply.” But academics sometimes de-emphasize this wage reduction because, like liberal journalists and politicians, they face pressures to support immigration.

Many of the immigration scholars regularly cited in the press have worked for, or received funding from, pro-immigration businesses and associations.

I suggest you read the Beinart piece in full; it makes clear that immigration is a thorny, complex problem, which is not something you’d infer from either party now.

So how does the “Merkelization” concern relate to the US plans to start nation-breaking in Latin America? Republicans may feel they can tolerate the risk of increased levels of refugees seeking to enter the US because it could work out in their favor. Right now. Trump looks screechy to anyone but true believers when he tries to whip up fears about border security. But what happens if the levels of arrivals were to increase three or four fold, as they did from 2014 to 2015 in Europe? You have realistic odds of a backlash with high migration levels overwhelming systems that already were doing only a so-so job of handling them.

Now to the main points of the Journal article. It stresses that Cuba and Venezuela have been aiding each other, with Venezuela donating oil to Cuba and Cuba providing support to Venezuela’s military and security forces.

Interestingly, it isn’t all gung ho for the Trump plans. It points out, for instance, that while the US has some international support for mixing it up in Venezuela, the US won’t find backers for getting aggressive with Cuba. Similarly:

The U.S. strategy carries major risks. If the administration’s support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó in Venezuela fails to unseat Mr. Maduro, or if it fails to weaken ties between Caracas and Havana, the desperate conditions in Venezuela could worsen and tether the U.S. more closely with the crisis. An estimated three million Venezuelans have fled their country.

Failure also would hand both countries a David-and-Goliath diplomatic victory and potentially strengthen the hand of China, Moscow and Iran in the region. The chief reason President Obama pursued an entente with Cuba was his administration’s conclusion that decades of tough measures had failed to topple the Castro regime to make way for a democratic alternative.

The article presents US allegations against a key Maduro official, including ties to Iran:

One of the Trump administration’s first actions after the election was to dust off an unused plan from the Obama administration to sanction Tareck El Aissami, Mr. Maduro’s vice president until last year:

U.S. law-enforcement officials say they have evidence Mr. Maduro directed state resources to create what they allege has become one of the most powerful international narco-trafficking operations in the world, and with links to Hezbollah, the Lebanese group designated by the U.S. as a terror organization.

Part of why U.S. officials express concern about Iran’s influence in the region is that Iran is a major backer of Hezbollah, and its South American operations are a significant source of cash…

Among the first officials to lay out options for the Trump administration was Fernando Cutz, a career USAID foreign-service officer, who had previously worked on the rapprochement with Cuba for the Obama administration…

Mr. Cutz laid out options to escalate pressure on the Maduro regime, including a financial strike at Venezuela’s oil exports. At first, the administration held back, fearing such an action would allow Mr. Maduro to blame the country’s woes on Washington.

Mr. Bolton, named national security adviser last year, has long taken a tough line on Cuba and Venezuela. He was later joined by Mr. Claver-Carone, who took over western hemispheric affairs at the National Security Council and shared Mr. Bolton’s view.

Mr. Claver-Carone, an adviser to the Trump campaign, rose to prominence in foreign-policy circles for running a blog called the Capitol Hill Cubans.

An archived edition of Capitol Hill Cubans described Mr. Claver-Carone as the co-founder and director of U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, a donation vehicle for House and Senate members. It was founded in 2003 “to promote an unconditional transition in Cuba to democracy, the rule of law and the free market.”

The PAC has raised and spent about $4.7 million since its inception. It contributed $20,000 to Mr. Rubio’s Senate campaign since June 2016 and gave Diaz-Balart’s campaign $5,000 in February 2018, records show.

Mr. Claver-Carone also led the nonprofit group Cuba Democracy Advocates from 2004 to 2017. And he ran a small lobbying firm called the Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy Corp for about 10 years, ending in 2016.

True believers in the driver’s seat is not a good sign.

The story describes in detail how the US perceived that, “The decision by two of Venezuela’s major opposition parties and past rivals—First Justice and Popular Will—to join forces a year ago provided for the first time a potential alternative to the Maduro regime.” The US opened up communications with Juan Guaidó. Over the New Year break, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with senior officials in Brazil and Colombia to develop plans. The US decided to leverage street protests at the time of the inauguration for Maduro’s second term, on January 10. Other plans:

The imposition of sanctions on Venezuela’s oil company, PdVSA, announced by the U.S. on Jan. 28, could be worth as much $11 billion in U.S. crude oil sales.

Among the next steps, U.S. officials said, are proposed new measures against Havana, such as restoring Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. That could hit financing and investments from countries outside the U.S. that now do business there, as well as the funds the country gets from international tourists.

Also on the list: new sanctions on Cuban officials and their networks and ending a waiver, known as Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, signed by every U.S. administration since its inception in 1996.

Ending the waiver would allow U.S. citizens to sue individuals and companies in U.S. courts for property seized by the Cuban government. Its impact would likely be to freeze billions of dollars worth of foreign investment in Cuba including hotels, golf courses and other projects.

The Trump administration is expected to announce new measures against Cuba in coming weeks, with the goal of crippling Havana’s ability to bolster the Maduro regime.

I had really hoped that Trump would tire of Bolton’s aggressiveness and need for the limelight, but that clearly isn’t happening fast enough, if at all. In the meantime, kicking small and poor countries who pose no threat is not the behavior of a confident superpower. And grabbing Venezuela’s oil because we can is theft. It’s been depressing to be an American for a very long time, and there’s no prospect for improvement.

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127 comments

  1. Redlife2017

    I’d like to prefrece my comment by saying that I am very angry about this coup and the US messing about in its “back yard”.

    What is one of the most depressing aspects of this saga is that we are literally replaying what we have been doing for the past 20 years. And it’s never worked. Never. We won’t get the oil. People will needlessly die in awful deaths. People will be torn from their home and do desperate things. And we will continue to punish them, hurt them for their attempts to live. Perhaps this is what always happens to US Presidents since Truman – “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” (Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad Gita) And they must transform totally into Death.

    I will end with Dr. Thompson again (in this instance discussing our invasion of Iraq by Dubya)…
    “We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world – bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are whores for power and oil with hate and fear in our hearts.”
    Dr Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century

    Reply
          1. skippy

            I did a comment in the past about the effects of meth issued to troops during the conflict and its latent ramifications e.g. nothing gonzo about it.

            Reply
      1. ChrisFromGeorgia

        I am similarly depressed. I don’t think we’ll see any real improvement in the situation until the last of the neo-cons die off (hopefully slow, painful deaths.)

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          1. pjay

            Thanks for these comments (and thanks Yves for highlighting this latest adventure in imperialism). I’d only add one point. We’ve been doing this for much longer than 20 years, and it predates the existence of the neocons (at least as an official entity). As a long time observer, if there is one tiny positive I take from this, it is that the internet allows critics of the Empire to follow its offenses in nearly real time today. The Mighty Wurlitzer is more powerful than ever, but it no longer takes months, years, or even decades for the truth to trickle out for those who know where to look.

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            1. polecat

              Many Americans have had, and will continue to have, their eyes wide shut, as Ives alluded to in her post … and that includes both the credentialed 10-20%ers (WHERES MY CHEAP FOREIGN INDENTURE !!) and many lowly shlubs as well ( AMERICA – F#UKIN A .. Let’s Kick some Romulan Ass !!!)
              So, the only eventual outcome I see .. is where the Romulans kick ours back, good-n-hard !
              Maybe after such an event, we’ll come to our senses. I believe more likely that that’s when secession, in its various forms, makes a strong appearance.

              Reply
    1. Susan the Other

      This saga has been going on since the end of WW2. For 70 years. In 1948 we were headed for recession and Truman sent us off to fight the Korean War. Before WW2 it was a similar story but less brutal, as I read it. Maybe not. But the last 20 years has been astonishing brutal, I’ll give you that.

      Reply
      1. skippy

        You might want to brush up on MMT and the dynamics of the consequences of hard or sound money from psychological perspective and how it effects the herd …. see wukch above … bootstrapping stuff…. made it all on his own back …

        Reply
  2. Quentin

    And add to the obvious failures (or depending how you look at it, successes) Libya where slaves are today for sale at knockdown prices: the conduit for African migrants to Europe, courtesy of the UK, France and, ‘very discretely’, the USAians Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (Wasn’t that something about ‘leading from behind’?, maybe one of the all-time acmes of doublespeak. I’d nearly forgotten how Obama was such a master at uttering deceptive inanities with a straight face, yet tinged with a shadow of a smile.)

    Reply
    1. sd

      There is an appalling scene in Fahrenheit 119 where Obama rips his mask off to the people of Flint. Far too many of today’s leaders are sociopaths.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Saw that the night before last. Didn’t Moore go on to say that black voter turnout dropped off a cliff in 2016 in numbers that would have made all the difference for Clinton in that State? I saw how he kept his lips closed and the water level stayed the same. Probably even had Vaseline on his lips too for protection. I hope that people will never forget that performance.

        Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Just so you know, reported reserves are not a good metric. Matt Simmons wrote about this a ton when he was alive. OPEC member would regularly increase them by not-credible amounts. Why? OPEC quotas based on a country’s reported oil reserves.

      I don’t doubt that Venezuela has a lot of oil. But consider this view:

      The U.S. holds more oil reserves than anyone else in the world, including Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela.

      That conclusion comes from a new independent estimate from Rystad Energy, a Norwegian consultancy. Rystad estimates that the U.S. holds 264 billion barrels of oil, more than half of which is located in shale. That total exceeds the 256 billion barrels found in Russia, and the 212 billion barrels located in Saudi Arabia.

      The findings are surprising, and go against conventional wisdom that Saudi Arabia and Venezuela hold the world’s largest oil reserves. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, for example, pegs Venezuela’s oil reserves at 298 billion barrels, the largest in the world. Rystad Energy says that these are inflated estimates because much of those reserves are not discovered. Instead, Rystad estimates that Venezuela only has about 95 billion barrels, which includes its estimate for undiscovered oil fields.

      Moreover, Rystad argues that there are not uniform ways of measuring oil reserves from country to country. Some countries report proven reserves, using conservative estimates from existing oil fields. Other countries, like Venezuela, report undiscovered reserves. But Rystad applied similar metrics to all countries in its report to make comparisons easier. “

      https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/US-Has-Worlds-Largest-Oil-Reserves.html

      Reply
      1. Winston Smith

        Completely agree. Canada is a case in point since a large part of those reserves are in tar sands if I am not mistaken. I am not particularly fond of the argument that the US wants Venezuela’s oil but the US oil companies might like the idea of going back in after if the 1976 nationalization policy is canned…a very likely price for US support to oust Maduro

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        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Bolton said so on TV this week. Quite a few tweets with the clip.

          Due to the hour I’m not going to track it down now but hopefully an obliging reader also saw it and won’t find it hard to provide a link. Otherwise I will come back and give the link, but I desperately need to turn in and have non-blog stuff I must attend to when I get up, so it will be a while for me to deliver the evidence.

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          1. Yikes

            Indeed, Venezuela oil is sweet, probably the best quality in OPEC, and better than most USA oil. Many refineries on the Gulf can’t run Sands (or Alaskan) Oil, which is why much is exported to China, who can run Saudi Oil (among the worst quality).

            Reply
            1. Steve

              Venezuela has both “sweet” and “heavy” oil, which the latter is predominately shipped to only a few refineries (many in the US) which are set up for “heavy” oil.

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            1. Philip

              Expanding on my earlier comment, last week I posted a link to John Pilger’s excellent documentary film The War On Democracy – https://vimeo.com/16724719
              While John’s focus in the film is primarily on Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and the Bolivarian / Chaveznista Revolution the film also presents deep background on US interventions in Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, ect.

              Pilger’s style of interview reminds of Det. Columbo. The complete film is worth watching, but if you’re in a hurry / too busy at least watch the interview segment (57:00 > 1:07:00) with
              Duane Clarridge, Head of CIA Latin America Division from 1981 to 1987. Mr. Clarridge puts the UGLY in Ugly American. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duane_Clarridge

              It would not be a stretch to think that Duane Clarridge and Elliot Abrams were close associates back then.

              Reply
      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves.

        My father worked in Riyadh for 21 years, after the RAF, and never believed any of the stats coming out from there. He worked for the ruling family and military and in public health and academia. He often tells the story about the kingdom’s AIDS stats to the WHO. The kingdom denied it had any problem, a problem often incurred by wealthy men visiting “Natashas” in the Gulf playgrounds and Thais on their home ground. There was one hospital ward in Riyadh dedicated to AIDS patients alone. The other stats not kept, or kept under lock and key, were about the tiny Jewish and Christian communities along the Red Sea coast. Dad imagined that the oil stats were similarly mythical.

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        1. Felix_47

          The recent DeGolyer and McNaughton report on Saudi Arabia is probably accurate. There is more oil there than they thought. D and M are not going to sell themselves out, I don’t believe. So that means SA remains the giant we thought it was.

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      3. KPC

        Energy on energy rate of return.
        And then relative to internal consumption.
        Then relative to global consumption.
        Not news.
        Then one cannot print more physical oil via MMT, Quantitative Easing or printing money in any form of token whatsoever.

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  3. Steve H.

    Hmm. Venezuela is one of only 16 countries to recognize Taiwan. Taiwan is about the same distance from mainland China as Cuba is from mainland US. Qiao Liang specifically mentioned Venezuela in ‘One Belt One Road‘: “Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, also announced the settlement of their country’s oil exports would be in euros. Was this not a stab in American backs?”

    Not a prediction, but Venezuela and Cuba look like excellent spots to park wei qui stones. Just sayin’.

    Reply
  4. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves and the above commentators.

    The interventions in favour of the coup by “plucky, little” Belgium, la France perfide and Spain were timely reminders that after Brexit neo con and neo liberal “racaille” remain in the EU27. It’s too convenient to blame the UK for the neo con and neo liberal plague in Europe and imagine that things will be better after Brexit.

    With regard to servants, it’s not just the US. Last year, some figures were published that there are as many people “in service” in the UK as there were in 1860. Another study suggested that there were more people in service than in the UK armed forces.

    With regard to Germany, my employer and some of its clients have recruited some of the refugees. Some of the stories have been published on the intranet. Our team PA mentors one recent recruit, a Syrian of Palestinian origin. It has suited much of the German business elite and its political puppets (CDU, CSU, FDP and, let us never forget, the SPD and Greens) to import workers and keep German workers from getting uppity. The chief economist of the IMF recently commented on how little many Germans earn, how much pay has stagnated this century (“Danke vielmal, Herren Hartz, Schroeder und Eichel!”) and how she was not surprised by the rise of the AfD.

    A couple of days ago, when discussing Brexit with a Frankfurt based colleague, a German, he said that a German exit from the EU was not inconceivable. There’s a lot of discontent and any EU related vote risked being influenced by other matters, just like Brexit. I have heard a lot of this from German banksters, officials and academics in London since last summer. French and Italians, too.

    Reply
    1. Colonel Smithers

      I forgot to mention that one commentator on the BBC said that Hizbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards were in Venezuela, supporting the government crackdown and also in business. It was all part of the UK MSM messaging before a military intervention.

      It’s not just American oligarchs salivating. The Vestey family, “Victorian millionaires, not one of our old families” (Agatha Christie about someone else), are itching to get their own back and more.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Do you think that the Guardian will shortly report that Iraq’s WMD were snuck out of Iraq and hidden in Venezuela all those years ago?

        Reply
        1. silvana bezerra

          Então as ADMs que não existiam no Iraque agora foram transferidas para a Venezuela ? Será ?
          Foi o John “Morsa” Bolton que falou ? E você acredita ?

          Machine translation from Portuguese:

          So the WMDs that did not exist in Iraq have now been transferred to Venezuela? Will be?
          Was it John “Walrus” Bolton who spoke? And you believe?

          Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      According to the rousing song I once sang along to with such shared gusto and near-tears credulity, “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island,” and all that — well, he had the “bicoastal” part right, but as we mopes are maybe starting to recognize, “this land,” that was “settled” by genocide, theft and corruption, does not and never has “belonged to you and me.” You and I are “American” by accident of birth, that’s all. And are just along for the ride, chivvied and herded by the few who actually, “legally,” own it all, and control and mandate all the “policy,” that undefined term that is the reality of “rule of law.”

      Reply
      1. Oh

        Bushie used the term “rule of law” and fooled a lot of people. Most people don’t realize that the more money you have more you can exercise the “rule of law”.

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    2. DAVID SMITH

      Very well researched article by the always insightful Max Blumenthal. The page also publishes polling data showing huge numbers of Venezuelans opposed to military intervention and sanctions, something both sides making their case about what to do in Venezuela routinely ignore.

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    3. integer

      An excellent, if somewhat sickening, long-form article on the lead-up to what we are now witnessing. It seems there is no limit to the lengths the U.S. government will go to in order to destroy any government that refuses to acquiesce to U.S. hegemony and implement a neoliberal economic system. Thanks for the link.

      Reply
    4. JEHR

      Canada has supported Guaido so I sent the grayzone article to the PM and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is very depressing to read about how countries are destabilized by others. If only we respected each other’s aspirations instead of imposing ideology on each other.

      Reply
      1. wilroncanada

        JEHR
        I assume you also mean Canada as being destabilized by the US. they miss Harper, but are so happy that Justin the proud (Canadian) has become Justin the loud in, let’s see, Venezuela, China, Syria, Ukraine; and Justin the disappeared in, say, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, France, elsewhere. Now, who “won” that handshake?

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      2. steelyman

        Watching this in Singapore right now on Youtube. No problem with the video. Google returned it on top of the page and it’s the full one hour plus version.

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    5. Summer

      You have to see:
      The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Chavez – Inside the Coup.

      It’s free on YouTube. From 2002.

      I saw it back in 2002ish when it came out.

      A British (or Aussie?) film crew was covering the election of Chavez.
      Then they ended up being on the ground capturing the coup from the streets to inside the palace.

      Watch as millions of Venezuelans, largely poor, give a lesson in Big D Democracy.
      They hit the streets in such large numbers and the miltary turned on the coup leaders.
      You have to see it.

      And I fear for them. The USA will probably send troops this time.

      They know their constitution.

      Reply
      1. icancho

        Of interest, perhaps: all YouTube versions of that video currently return the message
        “An error occurred. Please try again later.”

        Several other randomly chosen YT videos tried at the same time work fine. Coincidence?

        Reply
      2. TheCatSaid

        Excellent film. Irish film crew happened to be there and ended up documenting all the US-led machinations. It’s disturbing to hear that it’s suddenly disappeared online.

        Seeing that film years ago led to my starting to pay attention to Venezuela and to how it was covered in the US and international press. The extent of misinformation and disinformation was eye-opening, and shocking in how tightly the message was coordinated in US and around the world. I had to be proactive to get information from various sources to piece together a more balanced picture of the diverse forces at play.

        Reply
  5. Darius

    Is it naive to think that Bolton and Pompeo are playing on Trump’s crude insecurities and he is enabling them to act out theirs? That this is a crucial aspect in addition to greed? I always thought that a key motivation for the Iraq war was Cheney playing on Bush’s fragile male ego. I think leadership factors for good or ill are important if not exclusively so.

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    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Darius.

      It’s the same in the industry where many NC commentators and I work. “Bid ’em Bruce” got his name from that ability to play on fragile male egos. Mr Botin at Santander and his adviser Andrea Orcel played the same trick on Fred Goodwin at RBS.

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      1. Yves Smith Post author

        You are getting insider-y even for Americans, or at least non-investment bankers, and even then of a certain age.

        “Bid ’em up Bruce” = Bruce Wasserstein, one of the top M&A bankers of the 1980s (in the 1990s, he was still a big player, but corporate preferences move to greyer technocrats). He was famed for amping up CEOs to keep fighting to win competitive bids for companies with his “Dare to Be Great” speeches.

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        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Yves.

          When are you returning to Blighty, so we can all enjoy a good catch up?

          Thank you for also correcting to bid ’em up.

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  6. bmeisen

    The term “Merkelization” should be used with caution. While an uncontrolled flood of illegal aliens inciting racist rhetoric may indeed be a threat to the USA, also because it has in fact happened over many years, it did not happen in Germany 2015. In 2015 masses of refugees, many of them originally displaced by the catastrophic failure of the American invasion of Iraq, trekked across southeastern Europe seeking safety and opportunity in Western Europe. The vast majority of those who entered Germany entered legally, were identified and registered by German immigration authorities and were given support by German federal and state offices. The vast majority of those who remain in Germany remain legally in Germany. There are surely some unregistered refugees living underground in Germany but the number is effectively zero. The refugees are used by neo-Nazi groupings to win support among the not insignificant racist demographic in Germany, and they are in Germany legally. I understand that relatively few of them have real prospects of remaining permanently in Germany. The majority live tenuous and legal existences in Germany, and accordingly enjoy a degree of security and comfort that was not available to many of them in countries of origin after the cascade of disasters that began with the American invasion of Iraq.

    Often forgotten in American discussions of immigration is that the American way of doing immigration is not the only way of doing immigration. In fact it is deeply flawed. Many leading first-world democracies use citizen registration. Accordingly travellers can enter, in some cases with a visa, and if they want to stay they must register with the local authorities. Access to essential residential services and privileges is dependent on this registration. Every change of address requires a new registration. Accordingly what happens at points of entry is relatively unimportant because local authorities are responsible for who is in fact using services and enjoying privileges.

    This system is in contrast to the American model in which effectively the only control on entry is at legal points of entry. If travellers can avoid the legal points of entry or can enter as tourists then there is effectively no further tracking of their presence.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      With all due respect, you are missing the point my colleague made, who reads the German press daily, spent years studying in Germany, has many professional and personal contacts (including individuals at a high level in government, the party structures and academia), and he also wind up going to Europe for typically 2-3 months a year, a lot of that in Germany. In other words, he’s extremely well plugged for a non-German.

      His point was that Merkel was naive and idealistic about Germany’s ability to integrate so many foreigners, with no language skills. This has nothing to do with legality of the process. It has to do with the capacity of a society to help large numbers of people assimilate (language, culture, work place norms), give them additional training if needed, and help match them with employers.

      Even if a program of this scale were developed and implemented successfully, which it wasn’t, you then run into second order problems: resentment. “Why are we spending so much on foreigners when we have all these domestic needs [list]?”

      Or put it another way: differences of degree become differences of kind. I don’t know where the tipping point is, but there are operational and political issues when annual immigration levels exceed a certain point. Blaming it on neo-Nazis is simplistic. The US had precisely the same issue with the big immigrant wave around the turn of the 20th century and a very contentious political debate. Tell me how that had anything to do with neo-Nazis or fascists.

      Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I didn’t mean to seem harsh, and I may not have given a long form enough explanation of the idea. Merkel was operating from both noble motives as well as pragmatic ones, but badly misjudged what she was taking on, and even if the #s had been more manageable, neglected to address the huge challenge of integration and making sure the refugees wound up getting jobs. It was a deadly mistake for her and the EU.

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          1. bmeisen

            Agree that Merkel’s rationale was complex. Did she make a deadly mistake? Interestingly the UK does not have citizen registration.

            To clarify: under citizen registration regimes, for example in many continental European countries, all residents, non-natives as well as natives, are required to register with the local authorities whenever they change address.

            The UK does not have citizen registration and it experienced, as a result of agreeing to EU treaties that guarantee freedom of movement, a larger influx of foreigners than Germany did in 2015. In other words decades of neoliberal deregulation and the arrival of 3 million EU citizens did enough damage to the living standards of registered voters in the UK to produce a simple majority in favor of Brexit. While the lack of citizen registration in the UK was not the cause of Brexit, this abscence of practical controls may have contributed to the present crisis.

            In contrast Germany did not surrender completely to deregulation of the labor market – though there has been liberalization particularly in unskilled sectors, wages in major industries continue to be governed by collective bargaining agreements that extend across employers. And the influx of foreign labor is tracked and controlled through the citizen registration regime.

            I think that it’s more likely that Blair et al. made a deadly mistake in not establishing greater controls in the wake of both EU as well as native liberalization fantasies. I think Germany and the EU will survive and Merkel, though a lame duck chancellor today, will go down in history as a great European.

            Reply
            1. Rees

              First time poster,

              That all depends on who writes the history books. An honest assessment of Merkel would admit, though, that she was one of the last truly savvy European politicians and demagogues. This a woman, who even in a weakened position, staved off three consecutive coup attempts from the hard-right of her party in as many years, and still managed to get her pick of replacement on the way out of the party leadership. So to characterize her as in anyway naive is to my mind is not really fair. That she misjudged the situation may be closer to the mark. It was definitely the key factor in her downfall. Regardless of her motives or the perceived results of her policy, allowing asylum, even to so many, was absolutely the right thing to do! And one has to remember that when she had taken enough heat from the long racist right of her party she shut that policy down. As someone who stood out in the cold at large pro-refugee rallies here in Munich, I’m loath to believe it was a waste of my time.

              Reply
            2. Schopenhauer

              A remark about Merkels rationale: It was to a great extent a marketing- (or propaganda) driven decision from Merkel and her entourage: After making Greece more or less single-handedly into a debt colony, Merkel was looking for an improvement of her damaged image; a journalist from the german newspaper DIE WELT, Robin Alexander, showed in his book about the migration crisis that all the necessary administrative arrangements were in place to close the german border in September 2015 but home secretary de Maizière was overruled by Merkel and her advisors – they did not want to have ugly pictures because of Merkels still damaged image from the mishandling of Greece.

              Thanks for the insightful article about the US & Latin America and the great discussion!

              Reply
              1. bmeisen

                thanks but bitte – it wasn’t vanity that opened the doors to a million refugees.

                Like Greece, Brexit is a lesson in the incoherencies of the EU. The truly disturbing evidence tends to turn up after the shit has hit the fan. Greece had (still has?) a deeply dysfunctional public purse. They had (still have?) no objective and reliable public record of private property ownership, which for example could serve as the basis for property taxation. They should never have been allowed to enter the monetary union. Similarly England liberalized its labor market and then took little or no action to defend it when the EU expanded to eastern Europe allowing millions of talented and energetic if not highly qualified, low-wage (from the perspective of the British labor market) workers to enter and compete. The Germans were a little better at defending their labor market. The point is that every EU member should have been prepared appropriately for the consequences of EU expansion to the east and the availability of effectively underpriced human resources.

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          2. ChrisPacific

            We have occasional interest pieces in the local media following some refugee immigrants and the paths they have followed since arriving. They are quite eye-opening in terms of describing the challenges involved, which can include cultural dislocation, finding employment and social connections, and trauma and ongoing issues around the situation they were escaping. Kids and teens especially seem to have a hard time, as they have frequently lost siblings or family members or been separated from them, have had traumatic or disturbing experiences that they struggle to process, and find little that’s familiar about their new environment and living situation.

            You also get to see the support structure and community resources at their disposal to help them manage, which can be substantial. New Zealand only takes a relatively small number (1000 or so) of refugees per year and it’s easy to see why.

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      1. Carolinian

        FWIW Moon of Alabama blogger Bernhard, who lives in Germany, has said that Merkel’s policy was at least in part about depressing wages.

        And Dimitri Orlov gives his take on the US coup attempt.

        Here’s the real problem: the fracking bonanza is ending. Most of the sweet spots have already been tapped; newer wells are depleting faster and producing less while costing more; the next waves of fracking, were they to happen, would squander $500 billion, then $1 trillion, then $2 trillion… The drilling rate is already slowing, and started slowing even while oil prices were still high. Meanwhile, peak conventional (non-fracked) oil happened back in 2005-6, only a few countries haven’t peaked yet, Russia has announced that it will start reducing production in just a couple years and Saudi Arabia doesn’t have any spare capacity left.

        A rather large oil shortage is coming, and it will rather specifically affect the US, which burns 20% of the world’s oil (with just 5% of the world’s population). Once fracking crashes, the US will go from having to import 2.5 million barrels per day to importing at least 10—and that oil won’t exist. Previously, the US was able to solve this problem by blowing up countries and stealing their oil: the destruction of Iraq and Libya made American oil companies whole for a while and kept the financial house of cards from collapsing. But the effort to blow up Syria has failed, and the attempt to blow up Venezuela is likely to fail too because, keep in mind, Venezuela has between 7 and 9 million Chavistas imbued with the Bolivarian revolutionary spirit, a large and well-armed military and is generally a very tough neighborhood.

        http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2019/01/why-must-venezuela-be-destroyed.html#more

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        1. Grant

          “FWIW Moon of Alabama blogger Bernhard, who lives in Germany, has said that Merkel’s policy was at least in part about depressing wages. “

          Don’t know tons about Germany’s economy. But I will point out that Costas Lapavitsas, in his book “Profiting Without Producing”, makes the argument that a big factor in Germany realizing such large surpluses relative to other countries in the EU is Germany being able to minimize nominal unit labor costs. According to the data in the book, the nominal unit labor costs have flatlined in Germany, while they increased in a number of peripheral countries. He talked about how German capitalists have been able to also successfully exploit non-unionized labor forces. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was at least one of the motivations.

          But if we were rational (we being the US collectively), if our government weren’t a bi-partisan train wreck, we would be figuring out ways to compensate countries like Venezuela for keeping the oil in the ground. It has a market value, but the environmental damage isn’t obviously included in the market price. If it was, if we could truly price such a thing, I think it would clearly show a net aggregate cost for humanity on the whole. Instead of stealing and consuming Venezuela’s oil, we would be paying them and countries like them to keep it in the ground, and then radically change the structure of the domestic and international economic system to deal with the environmental crisis. I think in some ways that liberals are just as deluded about the changes needed as many on the right. Trump, though, is doing things horribly wrong on every level in Venezuela, and previous presidents were great either. Ecuador at one point asked the world to pay it to leave the oil in the ground. We didn’t, of course. We could pay Brazil to not cut its forests down too, but kind of problematic, given who now runs the country, and I don’t know whether we would devote enough resources to monitor the forests thereafter anyway.

          Reply
          1. hemeantwell

            FWIW Moon of Alabama blogger Bernhard, who lives in Germany, has said that Merkel’s policy was at least in part about depressing wages.

            I believe that this is generally recognized as a deliberate part of an effort to maintain export competitiveness. Iirc they were able to pull the feckless SPD into collaboration after the Soviet bloc collapse led to an influx of labor, some of it quite skilled, that was already lowering wages.

            On another note, we’re talking about an increase an immigration in a way that slides over what a coup would set off. My impression is that Chavista support among working class Venezuelans and both strong and armed. At worst, the army will be divided, though writers like Moon of Alabama think they are pretty much behind Maduro. (It’s not for nothing that the Times ran a piece a couple of days ago playing up divisions in the army.) I don’t think this will be a “put tanks in the streets, kill some demonstrators, send in the death squads to mop up” kind of deal.

            Reply
        2. Synapsid

          Carolinian and everyone,

          I’m no fan of Dimitri Orlov but all the facts in the paragraph beginning “Here’s the real problem” are correct and worth making public.

          Thanks for posting this.

          Reply
      2. Steve H.

        > differences of degree become differences of kind

        uh, the source on that, in a paragraph about nazis, umm…

        “so also has the European boy inherited an aptitude for a certain moral life, which to the Papuan would be impossible.” [“Hereditary Influence, Animal and Human”, 1856]

        Reply
  7. timbers

    Maybe a joint China-Russia deployment of their most advanced first strike missiles stationed in Cuba and aimed directly at America would do the trick of slamming the U.S back to reality. Let America feel what China and Russia feel, when they see the U.S. massing arms along their border.

    Reply
    1. Anon

      A better method of deterrence would be a General Strike by the US population. (Probably too busy to notice what’s goin’ on, though.)

      Reply
      1. polecat

        The plebes aren’t cohesive enough for such an adventure, not yet anyway …
        Not until the collective plebian pain has been dial to 11 !!

        Reply
  8. Jeff

    Well, the US is not alone. The European Parliament, in its plenary session today, voted the recognition of ‘Guido’ as the legitimate president of Venezuela. One reason they invoke is article 233 of the constitution. But that article says that when the presidency is vacant (not true!), the vice-president takes over, not some US-selected dimwit. (the full text as adopted is here).

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      And in other news, Israel is “aligning” with autocratic regimes in Africa and other regions, indicating, as an aside for the mopes, its “distaste” for having to do so “to preserve the nation and its democracy,” and prove that the Likud rule really has yuuuge international support. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-is-welcoming-authoritarians-to-israel-sparking-debate-1.6242028 Another kind of Bernaysian log-rolling, akin to the works of the trio of troubles, Bolton, Pompeo and Abrams, and their adherents.

      “Democracy,” like “war,” has become an undefined, maybe undefinable, shibboleth. What does anything mean, any more? All there appears to be is power and wealth and domination, serving up sacrifices to Moloch to extend and expand the rule of the destroyers… of course the neo-neos would just note that it has always been thus, for humankind, those who eat, and those whose destiny it is to serve, die, and be eaten…

      Reply
    2. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, Jeff.

      Please see my comment above.

      I worked in and with “Brussels” from 2007 – 16 and know how venal many of that lot are.

      From the behaviour that I observed on Thursday evenings in Brussels (as the European Parliament does not sit on Fridays and MEPs are encouraged to visit their constituencies) and their away weeks in Strasbourg, I suspect that spooks are active and keeping an eye out for material to enable “chantage”.

      Reply
  9. rusti

    One would think the fact that our “remake the world in our image” plans worked out so well in the Middle East might curb US adventurism. And it isn’t just that we made a mess of Iraq, failed to break Iran, and failed to install new regimes in Afghanistan and Syria. The New American Century types are deep in denial that this geopolitical tussle not only cost the US greatly in terms of treasure, but it also wound up considerably enhancing Russia’s standing.

    Should any of these things really be perceived as failures for the New American Century types? They’ve been conducting an incredibly successful looting project, as Kelley Vlahos has documented in The American Conservative.

    They may be in denial about the moral virtues of what they do, or any ostensible benefits to regular Americans, but it’s tough to deny the material success that it has brought to war profiteers and their enablers, measured in terms of things like real-estate values in DC suburbs.

    Reply
  10. Wukchumni

    The ‘grow or die’ mantra needs oil to keep on keeping on, and the Venezuela gambit came as news that fracking wasn’t all that was made public. Interesting intersection.

    Reply
  11. Linda Amick

    The only actions a bully responds to is force. Russia and China especially will need to become more aggressive even if that means the end of the human race via nuclear war. The current situation perpetuated by the nihilists that run things is so painful to watch given the loss of life of millions of innocents that ending the whole thing quickly sometimes seems merciful.

    Reply
  12. The Rev Kev

    I think that there are some people in Washington that have really not thought this all the way through. Look, it is one thing to blow up countries like Iraq, Libya and Syria but apart from all the blood and treasure lost, America has two things in its favour shielding it from the worse effects – the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. America has never had to deal with the waves of refugees released that Europe has had to deal with. A side effect of this is the rise of right wing movements in response to tone deaf governments as well as local terrorist attacks.
    But, if America now starts to blow up countries in South America, the effects will not be limited to just those countries alone but will ricochet around the whole continent and up the isthmus. Then you will see not caravans of refugees but human waves. Is this why Trump is so gung-ho on building a wall? To keep all those fleeing refugees out of America to warp the politics there like it has in Europe? Is America ready for a bunch of Vietnams in South America? Look, Vietnam in size is about the same size as California but the Vietnamese were never defeated there. How about something similar throughout a whole continent? Do they really want to find out?

    Reply
    1. Keith Newman

      The U.S. blew up a string of South and Central American countries in the 1960-70s – Brazil, Argentina, Chile and others. Much as I would like to believe there will be negative effects on the U.S. this time around I can’t say I remember hearing of any then. In the 1990-2000s there was a backlash against U.S. control and this is what is being rolled back now.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        Americans have been wreaking Central and South America since William Walker temporarily took over Central America using private American armies in the 1840s. The aim was to establish slave plantations. Southern style Manifest Destiny.

        All of the present day coups and embargoes is normal for the United States even when we didn’t have an army we had the navy, the marine, and banks.

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    2. JTMcPhee

      Vietnam might be a different case. Seems to me there was more of a sense of peoplehood there than in a lot of the central and South American places, with their colonial histories and geographic and demographic divides. Not so sure if there would be resistance to invasion and subversion on the scale of Vietnam’s in a lot of those places, where the “legitimate authorities” are in the bag already, have a long schooling in oppression and looting, and the Empire has done so much groundwork and homework prepping the military and police forces (and various militias and of course the narco sub-governments) to pile on to any popular unrest and solidarity notions. What are the Guatemalan and Venezuelan and Colombian and Brazilian etc. equivalents of the Gilet Jaune? What is the life expectancy of a peasant or labor organizer in a lot of those places, or of a determined investigative reporter?

      And let us remember that the Empire has been kicking a$$ and taking names in “our backyard” since the commercial classes declared (many of them at least) that the Divine Right of the English King, at least, did not float across the Atlantic in their little wooden ships.

      Recall the observations of that old guy, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, regarding the nature of what he reduced to a simplification, “war,” and explained from his long experience as a thug for the Empire that all the stuff the Marines and Navy and the rest were doing through the latter half of the 19th and his part of the 20th Centuries was “nothing but a racket.” (Note that the Marines still nominally “revere” Butler as a successful general officer, the quintessential multiple-Medal-of-Honor-holding Marine, but completely obfuscate his “sedition” in exposing the real nature of all that Valorous Glorious Victorious “carrying of guns to every clime and place…”

      Reply
    3. Skip Intro

      Human waves which will strengthen right-wing politicians and their police state, while depressing wages. I’m sure Trump and the PNAC crowd would never want anything like that. How silly of them.

      Reply
  13. Wukchumni

    An interesting article on the aftermath of oil rich Ecuador adopting the US$ as their currency. It brought stability to a country wracked by hyperinflation, but the knock-on economic effects make for a nasty hangover.

    Every day since 2015, thousands of Ecuadorians have crossed the bridge from Tulcán, Ecuador to the border town of Ipiales, Colombia to go shopping. Goods they purchase in Colombia include food, cars, television, and even bulldogs. On a holiday weekend between May 27 and 29, more than 50,000 Ecuadorians crossed the border to Ipiales. Some shoppers come from as far as Quito, a five-hour drive south of the border. Ecuadorians purchase goods in Colombia en masse due to a simple fact: prices in Colombia have become significantly cheaper. For example, a 50-inch TV costs $1,300 USD in Ecuador, but less than $800 USD in Colombia.[2] The situation has become of such concern to the Ecuadorian government that last year, President Rafael Correa issued a “call of conscience” to Ecuadorians, asking his compatriots to “offer support to the national production” by buying Ecuadorian products.

    In addition to Panama and El Salvador, Ecuador is one of the Latin American countries that uses the U.S. dollar as the only official currency. Ecuador does not print its own bank notes. In recent years, the U.S. dollar has continuously appreciated against other currencies in Latin America, making the price of goods in Ecuador higher than that in neighboring Colombia and Peru. Ecuador abandoned its old currency, the sucre, during a severe economic crisis in 2000 and has been using U.S. dollars ever since. With the appreciation of the U.S. dollar, doubts have emerged regarding the fate of dollarization. A recent Wall Street Journal article stated that Ecuador “has the misfortune to be an oil producer with a ‘dollarized’ economy that uses the U.S. currency as legal tender.”The appreciation of the U.S. dollar against other currencies has decreased the net exports of non-oil commodities from Ecuador, which, coupled with the fall in oil prices, has constrained the country’s potential for economic growth.

    http://www.coha.org/examining-the-effects-of-dollarization-on-ecuador/

    Reply
  14. Ignacio

    I don’t think Guaidó has any plan to sell PDVSA to foreign countries. So far his plans are to replace Chavistas in the company and put his own guys in charge. The same has occured during any government change in Venezuela after oil nationalization. (sorry link in spanish )

    Reply
  15. William Hunter Duncan

    Clearly his core followers do not care what he does, they only care that he is their kind of imperialist (warpig), crass, blustery, loud and arrogant.

    Establishment Democrats and Republicans being mere refined and proper imperialist warpigs.

    So now we have like 3 parties of imperialist warpigs to choose from, depending on your sensibilities?

    Reply
  16. Chris Cosmos

    As Karl Rove famously said “we’re an Empire now….”–I think people continually miss this simple statement of fact. The USA is an Empire and like the period of Augustus still has the old republican institutions including “elections” that we all would have to admit are not particularly democratic. The ideals those of us from the baby-boom generation grew up with were only partially bullshit then and are completely bullshit now. Washington sees its opportunity to open Venezuela up for “bidness” and is taking steps to get rid of a weak President of a democratic country and, by now, we should understand that the official Washington does not like democracy abroad or domestically. Immigration from Venezuela and other countries is always good, as many people above have pointed out, because it depresses wages, eliminates workers ability to bargain with bosses, makes working conditions worse and so on. All good things for the rulers. Just face the fact that we are ruled by oligarchs and we have, really, no say in what they do and haven’t had any say for some decades. They do what they want to do whether we think it is moral or not.

    The people at the top are gangsters–some of them just like hurting people for fun, most just do it for profit which comes in many forms usually outside public scrutiny. Americans have a tendency to hide in illusions–particularly on the left we believe that the System is reformable–it isn’t. As for Europe following along, they are vassal states and, when it’s important, and it’s no skin of their asses they’ll step into line. Though European leadership has some concern for the average citizen (unlike American leadership of both parties) Europeans (ruling elites and citizens) love the comfort and security of the Empire as did people in other great empires of Rome and the Ottomans. At any rate, European firms can descent on Venezuela and loot to their heart’s content when the US takes it.

    On the other hand, if the US fails at taking Venezuela then the Empire is on its way out.

    Reply
  17. TuttiFrutti

    Poverty has a cost. And this cost is always paid by the workers. Massive (and possible artificially organized) immigration is the price rich countries’ workers pay for poverty everywhere else. It seems they are targeting the wrong responsible.

    Reply
  18. Partyless Poster

    What depresses me about all this is the propaganda push isn’t even trying to make sense anymore. We are supposed to believe that they had a invalid election and want genuine democracy but then just pick a guy who never even ran for president and pretend that he’s legit.
    And that we are so concerned for the suffering of its people, but the first thing we do is cut off all their oil money.
    It reminds me of violent cops who continue beating a suspect when he’s down and then wonder why he’s not cooperating.
    Just sick beyond words.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      Some are claiming an invalid election because of the boycott of the last electio. by the opposition; the boycott was at least partly organized by the United States government, which boycott is not mentioned in the MSM. Interesting that.

      It like when the United States sent in some mercenaries into the country of Haiti to kidnap the Haitian President and sending him out of the country. I was told second hand that the local New York Times reporter filed an accurate account, but his editor removed the bit about the American paid mercenaries, thus giving the impression that it was the Haitians themselves who rose up and exiled the mean, no good, very bad dictator. The fact that he was the elected president of a country and was more concerned about being the Haitian’s President instead of being the American government’s bagman was also ignored.

      Reply
  19. Wellstone's Ghost

    I see the US move against Venezuela as having a domestic political agenda as well.
    Look at how democratic socialism is being demonized by the MSM and leaders of both parties.
    How long before AOC and Bernie are labeled as Bolivarian sympathizers?

    Reply
    1. hamstak

      I agree. How soon until we see adjacent images of AOC and Maduro in some media context or other? Odds are you can already find this somewhere on ZeroHedge, perhaps sourced from The Mises Institute.

      Reply
      1. dbk

        It’s already happening. A writer for the conservative Lake County Journal yesterday referred to Illinois as “the Venezuela of the Midwest,” apparently referring to the new governor and his (fairly) progressive agenda.

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  20. Summer

    I want to give this title again – free doc on YouTube.

    The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Chavez Inside the Coup.

    From 2002…shows the first coup attempt against Hugo Chavez. How it failed. You don’t see any “authoritarianism”…but you will get a big dose of Democracy in action as the storm the streets and get their President back.

    Again, you must see it. I will beg.

    Reply
    1. Anon

      Okay, I took a look. Massive street demonstrations effectively turned the tide. No doubt.

      Now imagine that happening in the US. Oh, wait. It did happen. In the Sixty’s and then again in 2000’s, in an attempt to stop the genocide in Vietnam and more recently the Operation Iraqi Freedom.

      To No Avail.

      Reply
  21. Cal2

    Thank you Yves for the Peter Beinart quote.

    Livable wages for the American Working Class and open borders are incompatible.

    What would be less expensive and quicker to implement? Building the wall?, or making
    E-Verify mandatory if a business wants to write off an employee’s wages against income?

    If the government can administer Medicare and Social Security, they can make E-Verfiy work.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      Of course Medicare fraud of all descriptions is a constant challenge to “government administration.” We got a new FL senator who managed to walk away “Scott-free” after presiding over the looting of Medicare and MEdicaid of some what, $4 or was it $5 billion? https://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2010/11/rick-scott-alex-sink-florida/

      Social Security might be a better exemplar, though a lot of people are harmed by the way benefits are ruled on by the administrative processes and institutionalized tight-fistedness there. https://thinkprogress.org/paul-ryan-legacy-toward-the-poor/ “We could do better.” Will the Empire ever “do better,” at anything other than chaos and exploitation and corruption of the sort that lets the California ag cartel keep on using virtual slave labor from south of the border? And the 10% having their house slaves and yard workers?

      Reply
    2. Joe Well

      Even without e-verify, just rigorously enforce labor laws especially with regards to overtime and actually paying over the table.

      Reply
  22. Ignacio

    If there is such a plan to remake america (I doubt it) it is clear that Venezuela was the weakest piece in the move. The least we can say about Maduro is that he has grossly mismanaged the best resource of the country and nobody outside Venezuela likes him.

    It is not Maduro’s fault that the oil price stumbled between 2014-2015, and it is not his fault that more than 80% of Venezuelan exports are Oil and oil-derived products. It is not probably Maduro’s fault that 2,5 million venezuelans migrated after the fall in oil prices. Nevertheless, they blame Maduro. But it is Maduro’s fault that oil production in Venezuela has been reduced making a big problem bigger (and now US sanctions make it even worse). But this is not all.

    Most Venezuelan oil exports go to China to repay the enormous debt that Venezuela accumulated (I believe during Chaves tenure mostly) So, the real income that Venzuela obtains from oil has decreased dramatically due to 1) oil price crash 2) repay chinese debt with oil and 3) lower pproduction, and now we add 4) US sanctions. Maduro was already in a very weak position before the sanctions. Anyway I wonder if Guaidó can do anything except pray for oil price rise.

    Venezuela exports to China account to about 5% of China Oil imports and I was thinking if Trumps move was just an indirect move to put China in jeopardy, and by the way, get rid of a leftist government that doesn’t get along with the US. The fact is that China has motives to be angry with Maduro but migth take bigger losses with Guaidó. Anyway 5% is not a big share of imports.

    Reply
    1. Joe Well

      Thank you, Ignacio.

      I’m hesitant to comment on this with any criticism of Maduro or challenging the narrative that he is a 21st century Allende for fear of being called the Blob (as commenters have been doing), but it is undeniable that Maduro has far less support than Chavez did, and I would add that there are real doubts as to the legitimacy of the 2018 constitutional convention elections. Of course, Guaidó has even less legitimacy and popular support.

      Here is an interview (in English!) with a chavista development expert I actually got to meet in person years ago whose opinions I still trust. His take: the Venezuelan right wing+US-led international neoimperialist forces are a big part of the crisis. However, the biggest issue is the collapse in the price of oil and Venezuela’s dependence on oil (partly the fault of chavismo) and official corruption. In the face of this, Maduro cracked down on dissent both legally and illegally, buying temporary power at the cost of sacrificing support.

      With the ebbing of progressive forces of the region, we see the right staging violent protests in 2014 and 2017, rejecting election results in 2013, and sabotaging the economy. Then comes a covert blockade and then later an open one together with interference by the United States and other right-wing governments. All this has made [Maduro’s] government very weak since its coming into being in 2013. The government manages to stay in power, but it fails to overcome the crisis, to say nothing about maintaining the program of a democratic transition to socialism.

      A part of the Chavez leadership took control of the state apparatus and the PSUV [Maduro’s party]. It closed ranks and carried out purges, opting for a strategy that implies the progressive elimination of democratic spaces. That group legitimizes its actions by pointing to the economic war and the conspiracy of the right – which are very real – and then its proceeds to limit various forms of expression of the popular will.

      This takes place in relation to questions of state. Examples include cancelling the recall referendum promoted by the opposition, delaying by one-year the elections for governors, deciding not to do a popular referendum to convene the constituent assembly. But it also takes place in popular organizational spaces. In 2016, they suspended the elections of the Communal Councils throughout the country, and, in 2017, the new line was that only PSUV members could head up these institutions.

      Reply
  23. YankeeFrank

    In one way there is, if not a silver lining, at least something new in this current bout of dollar diplomacy in Venezuela: Trump and Bolton getting on the TV in all their piggish and crass glory showing the nation exactly what drives US foreign policy. Perhaps it will be an education for some of our less informed citizens helping to recast previous gory interventions “for democracy” in their proper light. Truthfully its not like the US government is doing anything different than any other state does: wielding the violent, brutal power it has on behalf of its ruling class. Perhaps now we can do away with the pretense of spreading freedom and democracy once and for all. The incessant duplicity and false righteousness is almost as sickening as the death dealing. At least from afar.

    Reply
  24. Grant

    1. We should be also talking about how we do support in the region. Say Venezuela’s neighbor, Colombia. Deadliest place in the world for union organizers, among the deadliest places for journalists and human rights workers. Thousands of politicians and activists on the left have been killed in recent decades, over 80 priests killed since the 1980’s. The US government event admits that violent death squads (which the CIA helped to create and which are responsible for most of the human rights abuses in the country) have been eliminating dozens of indigenous groups through violent land grabs. The country has among the largest number of internally displaced people in the world, and many politicians in the government have strong ties to death squads and cartels. As of a few years ago, millions of Colombians were living in Venezuela, and the CIA data on net migration flows shows massive amounts of people fleeing Colombia. Does the media talk about this? Have we attacked the country like we have Venezuela? No, Colombia has gotten more US aid than any country in the world, not named Egypt and Israel. And Colombia is helping to overthrow the government in Venezuela right now, the media just calls the country an “ally” of ours. Bush gave Uribe, the former right wing president, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Uribe was identified in the early 1990’s by the DEA as being among the worst offenders in Colombia’s government regarding connections to cartels, there is evidence that hits were planned on his ranch with death squads, his family has ties to these groups too. Obama, as many know, also signed a “free trade” deal with the country. So, take that activists in the US trying to organize unions and places like car factories in the South.

    2. Chomsky and Herman had two books on the political economy of human rights, and they showed the strong correlation between US financial and military support, and human rights abuses. We support the overwhelming majority of the world’s dictatorships right now, and William Blum has a great book (Killing Hope) showing the CIA’s role in supporting coups, dictatorships and destabilization in the last half of the 20th century. The NED and USAID are right there too, as are private organizations like the Atlas Network (which gets money from the NED), the AFL-CIO and the International Republican Institute. This is to say nothing of our murderous wars, going back decades. We are in no position to lecture anyone on democracy and human rights, and it is absurd to accept those things as the reasons we are doing this to Venezuela.

    3. Venezuela’s economic situation is complex. Maduro is corrupt, the Venezuelan government has failed to diversify the economy, and there has been mismanagement. However, the economy shrank by 26% in the decades leading into Chavez taking over, a majority of the country was in extreme poverty as of the mid-1990’s, and as the country became increasingly under the control of the IMF, riots and coups ensued. Inflation was high under Chavez, but it was much higher in the years before he took over than it was most of his time in office, and the hyperinflation started years after he died, when the economic war intensified. Venezuela also suffers from many problems other major oil producers struggle with and other developing countries struggle with.

    4. The economic war has been devastating, and is in violation to international law, domestic law and the OAS charter. Cut off needed exports, cut off access to foreign capital, barred it from re-negotiating its debt with creditors, stolen gold, among other things. The opposition controls key markets and produces many of the basic products working people depend on, and they have intentionally cut back production to cause harm, which has also contributed to the hyperinflation. The opposition has set up many companies that steal state subsidized goods and sell them at a mark-up in places like Colombia.

    5. The US developed behind what was among the largest industrial tariffs among what are now OECD countries in the 19th and early 20th century. We were highly protectionist thereafter, and still have a highly protectionist agricultural system. Ha Joon Chang has written a lot about how countries like the US rose up with certain policies, like that, but when they got to the top, they kicked away the ladder, so other countries couldn’t implement those very policies. China has also developed by radically violating the types of policies that the WTO and the IMF force on countries, it is responsible for the overwhelming majority of the decline in worldwide poverty in recent decades (directly and indirectly), but it is an exception, not the rule, on policy. Raul Prebisch wrote about infant industry protection in places like Venezuela, and he talked a lot about the overdependence of developing and underdeveloped countries on raw material exports, which generally have poor terms of trade. The IMF has said that about two thirds of developing countries rely on a small handful of raw material exports for at least 60% of their export revenue, and other developing countries with comparable oil reserves (like Saudi Arabia and Iran) also heavily rely on oil export revenue. So, to the extent that Venezuela hasn’t diversified, all previous governments failed to do this, and it is hard for countries like Venezuela to actually diversify their economies, especially in the modern economy with the way it has been set up.

    6. The former UN rapporteur recently visited Venezuela, and he said that the sanctions against the country amount to crimes against humanity. What relatively weak and defenseless country would not be collapsing economically because of what we are doing to Venezuela?: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/venezuela-us-sanctions-united-nations-oil-pdvsa-a8748201.html

    7. If I were to go on TV and threaten John Bolton, I could get thrown in jail. He, on the other hand, can threaten entire countries, and pushed for a war in Iraq that has killed millions, and destabilized an entire region. Over 80% oppose the US militarily intervening, and over 80% oppose the sanctions. However, in 2004, polling Iraq showed that a similar number of people there opposed the privatization of the country’s oil, and our leaders and fascists like Bolton didn’t care. Both Kerry and Bush at the time essentially supported the privatization, and so did horrible people like Abrams and Bolton. There really is no justice in the world if immoral people like him and Abrams can not only remain free, but continue to be re-hired by this government of ours. Bolton is even given space by our media to call for violence against countries like Iran that pose no threat to us.

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  25. Chauncey Gardiner

    Wow… Great article about a complex subject with long term historical roots and more recent causes that have been only superficially plumbed. Wouldn’t know how to even begin a conversation about this emotionally laden and complicated topic. Thank you.

    Perceptive take on the neocons’ current view of the involvement of other foreign nations in the region and Venezuela’s oil. Have had questions about the extent to which US engagement in the MENA presented China et al with a strategic opportunity given a perceived US policy focus vacuum in Latin America (other than looting by the usual suspects); as well as the historical and current involvement and roles of US military and contractor elements and training in various countries; that of transnational banks and corporations (palm oil and other agricultural products, money laundering) that may have indirectly contributed to the emigration issues; as well as the rise of criminal cartels and gangs and the emergence of near narco-states against a backdrop of the Whys of U.S. demand. How is the imposition of sanctions against Venezuela a constructive policy measure? Setting aside the damaging effects on the nations’ people and other considerations, It has not been notably successful as a tool to impose regime change.

    Hard not to agree with the concluding paragraph of this post and many of the comments.

    Reply
  26. hemeantwell

    FWIW Moon of Alabama blogger Bernhard, who lives in Germany, has said that Merkel’s policy was at least in part about depressing wages.

    I believe that this is generally recognized as a deliberate part of an effort to maintain export competitiveness. Iirc they were able to pull the feckless SPD into collaboration after the Soviet bloc collapse led to an influx of labor, some of it quite skilled, that was already lowering wages.

    On another note, we’re talking about an increase an immigration in a way that slides over what a coup would set off. My impression is that Chavista support among working class Venezuelans and both strong and armed. At worst, the army will be divided, though writers like Moon of Alabama think they are pretty much behind Maduro. (It’s not for nothing that the Times ran a piece a couple of days ago playing up divisions in the army.) I don’t think this will be a “put tanks in the streets, kill some demonstrators, send in the death squads to mop up” kind of deal.

    Reply
  27. Temporarily Sane

    The fact that the entire establishment is behind this coup is not altogether surprising but the level of hypocrisy on display is absolutely family bloggin insane.

    The Russiagaters and their media partners, who have been screaming for the last two years about the Russkies “meddling” in our election and Trump “colluding” with Putin, do not even blink as they brazenly advocate the overthrow of a sovereign government and the destabilization of a country (a move that could well lead to civil war).

    The blatant doubles-standard at play here and the public’s wholesale acceptance of it is just one more sign that as a society we are moving away from “reality based” thinking and letting emotions and tribal affiliation (which are,of course, manipulated by TPTB) guide our actions and reactions.

    At some point people will have to learn how to think critically again and how to socialize and communicate without an intermediary layer of tech, and the people who control it, observing their every thought, word and action and using this god’s eye view to run psyops on them.

    And we will all have to make the shift from compulsivey consuming information, and hoping that we can elect our way to a more just and sane society, to taking decisive action in the real world. If/when a revolution happens or we reach a critical mass of discontented and angry citizens desiring real change we will realize just how deeply the establishment has hooked into our brains and our lives via the tools and toys they so generously provide us with.

    When the family blog hits the fan, the sinister, and totalitarian, nature of the Facebook, Amazon, Palintir etc. partnership with the CIA/NSA and state and local LEAs will suddenly be very real indeed. Here’s hoping that day comes soon so we can start working on the next level.

    Reply
  28. Temporarily Sane

    Re. Immigration

    Do the people who advocate for open borders and unlimited immigration ever stop and think about how many people actually want to leave their homes, friends and families behind and risk their lives and well-being escaping to the United States or Europe to work thankless low-paying Jobs in societies that are doing away with upward social mobility?

    How many Syrians, Afghans, Guatemalans, Malians, Mexicans would rather be able to make a respectable living in their home countries? With the IMF/World Bank/gobalized capitalism, NATO, a belligerent dying empire and a few of its shame inhibited lackeys, rigging their nations economies to make corrupt leaders and western businesspeople rich and richer (while consigning their governments to never ending debt peonage) or raining bombs and shells on their heads and/or fomenting social chaos and civil war it is no wonder many thousands of people are heading north to try their luck in the lands of freedom, liberty and “Enlightenment values.” But these are desperate people fleeing death, chaos and grinding poverty not “emigrants” from stable societies deciding to live somewhere else for a while.

    Many western leftists have a wholly warped and unrealistic view of crisis immigration. They don’t ask the most obvious questions…such as why are so many people fleeing their home countries? and who benefits from that situation? And many are so afraid of being labeled racist (a fate worse than death) they don’t dare move past the virtue signaling stage.

    Ideally the internationalist left would be forging partnerships with parties and organizations in the global south to build a bulwark against western imperialism – both economic and military – and putting pressure on their own governments to stop these practices. But that requires more than slinging around self-righteous rhetoric and would involve actual work and stuff. So…

    Likewise, the demagoguery from the anti-immigrant right is willfully disingenuous in that the root causes of mass migration are ignored and the most desperate and powerless people are scapegoated and made into lightning rods for all the bigotry and projected existential angst of people living in failing societies of their own.

    Meanwhile those responsible for the current upheaval – i.e. the captains of industry, “wealth creators”, generals, heads of state who champion overt and covert imperialism – are left largely unscathed.

    The amount of BS, “fake news” and wildly contradictory and irrational nonsense that gets pumped out by TPTB and the media with nary an incredulous peep from the weary or braindead citizenry indicates that there will likely have to be some sort of crisis before more people begin to take notice of their surroundings and let the scales fall from their eyes.

    I think preventing the current order from dragging us into a dark abyss will be an incredibly difficult slog. But so was every fight against unjust power in the history of the world. Now all we have to do is organize as a group/class/whatever and come up with a battle plan to put into action when the crisis hits ;-)

    Reply
  29. drumlin woodchuckles

    Just a day or so ago Colonel Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis has said this about invading Venezyuela . . .

    “2. The minor gods of the Neocon faith are now seething with desire over the prospect of intervention in Venezuela. All, I can say is DON’T DO IT!! I paraphrase someone who commented on SST saying that this would be “a jungle war against a leader figure viewed by some locally as legitimate who is supported by Russia and China.” Does this sound familiar? And, don’t kid yourself, there would be plenty of Venezuelans who would fight us, plenty. pl “

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  30. Govt Sachs

    Propaganda in the US is so effective, most would be shocked to learn that Venezuela isn’t even a socialist country:

    “To get a broader understanding of what’s going on with the coup in Venezuela, George Galloway and Adam Garrie discuss the historical background to the country and its Bolivarian Revolution.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r05IcTGYL_I

    Reply

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