By Enda Fanning.
US President Donald Trump wants to supply humanitarian aid to Venezuela “to help the millions and millions in need”. While trucks are gathered on the Colombian side of the border with Venezuela, both the Red Cross and the United Nations (UN) have slammed the proposed “politicised” aid.
The head of the Colombian Red Cross stated that “we will not be participating in what is, for us, not humanitarian aid”. A UN spokesperson told reporters that “humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives” – while at the same time the UN has also increased its budgets of current aid programs being carried out alongside the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
So what is going on? Why are so few aware of such comments from organisations like the Red Cross and the UN and why does the US think it is immune from international law and attempts to repeatedly interfere in the internal affairs of other states?
Of course, we have been here before in Venezuela (and indeed in so many other countries). If you have not seen the documentary Hugo Chavez – The Revolution will Not be Televised by Irish filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha Ó Brain you should do so. It depicts the failed CIA-inspired 2002 coup against President Chavez and gives the background to what is now little more than a second coup attempt.
In the light of the 2002 coup attempt, Trump’s interest in Venezuela for “humanitarian reasons” and claims the US wants to support “a move to democracy” ring very hollow indeed. If it was true – why Venezuela? Why not, for example, Saudi Arabia, where a totalitarian dictatorship exists and where no political parties or national elections are permitted? I think we know the answer to that.
It is noteworthy that in all the references to the humanitarian situation in Venezuela, little reference is made to the sanctions which have contributed to Venezuelans enduring their current economic hardship. And, let’s face it, Trump has merely followed in Obama’s footsteps when it comes to sanctions against Venezuela. After all it was Obama who signed off on the sanctions which have contributed to the current situation. And yet the US will repeatedly state that the sanctions have had no effect on the people because they are targeted at the government and individuals.
Let us be clear here: the US has most definitely contributed to the current situation in Venezuela and deliberately so. It is part and parcel of a project aimed at ensuring that the recently appointed ‘interim president’, Juan Guaidó, takes power. Guaidó, a man who did not stand in the Presidential Elections, has been anointed by the US and other countries, as their President-in-waiting.
The US has been supported in all of this by its usual allies. Shamefully the Irish government has stepped in, with Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, announcing that he joined with other EU Member States “in acknowledging and supporting, Juan Guaidó, president of the democratically elected National Assembly, as President ad interim of Venezuela”.
Once again Ireland, just as it does in permitting US military aircraft to land at Shannon Airport, has ignored its own neutrality to appease the US. But, as a recent protest at the US embassy in Dublin (pictured above) showed, many disagree with the Irish government’s decision, made without any political discussion here. Sadly it has now become the norm for Irish governments to prioritise following US or EU diktats on foreign policy rather than taking a strong independent stance as a neutral state.
Largest oil reserves in the world
Why has a country like Venezuela, with a population of about 32 million, attracted so much interest from the US? Let’s cut to the chase here – Venezuela’s proven oil reserves are recognised as the largest in the world at over 300 million barrels. Venezuela nationalised its oil industry in 1976, creating a state-run company. After Hugo Chavez won the presidential election for the first time in 1998, he immediately increased state control of the oil industry – needless to say, a move not too popular in the US. Consequently it wasn’t long before the CIA-inspired attempted coup took place in 2002.
The ongoing US interference in Venezuela, disguised as humanitarian in nature, is for one reason only – to grab access to the largest proven oil reserves in the world. This US project is backed by many other states, as well as being cheered on by the main news outlets throughout the world.
Whether knowingly or through laziness and ignorance, most of the mainstream media has shamefully repeated the US narrative concerning Venezuela. Crowd scenes tend to only depict supporters of Guaidó, while little or no coverage of Maduro’s supporters is shown. Likewise, commentary, with a few notable exceptions, has simply echoed the U.S. narrative. As ever it takes a trawl through social media to see and hear the real story as it happens on the ground in Venezuela.
On Saturday February 23, ‘Hands off Venezuela’ protests took place across the globe. The message to the US was quite clear – stay out of Venezuela, do not interfere. As the US’s proxy president Juan Guaidó increases his calls for foreign intervention, it would appear that the early momentum behind this US-inspired coup might be waning for the time being.
However we know from previous military interventions that the US needs little more than a manufactured excuse to invade a country. This is a dangerous time for Venezuela. It is important that citizens across the globe continue to protest in their own countries and continue to contact their own governments to highlight their objections to any intervention by the US.
While many ordinary citizens will indeed protest, it is a disgrace that a neutral country like Ireland refuses to stand up on Venezuela’s behalf. It would appear that the American dollar and the Euro are now the deciding factors when it comes to Ireland’s foreign policy.
Meanwhile American “humanitarian” vehicles continue to gather on the Colombian side of the border with Venezuela…
Enda Fanning is a Dublin Sinn Féin EU political advisor and a member of the Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle. Follow him on Twitter @EFFanning.