The head of the U.S. Southern Command, Gen. John Kelly, who oversees U.S. forces in Latin America, is afraid that Nicolás Maduro will become the new Venezuelan president and that the Bolivarian Revolution will continue. That didn’t stop him from engaging in a little wishful thinking — or from slandering and implicitly threatening the Venezuelan and Cuban revolutions.
Venezuela will be hard-pressed to keep providing cheap oil and loans to Cuba and other allies given the“faltering” state of its economy, Kelly said on March 20 to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. The general admitted that Maduro, the current acting president of Venezuela, has a lot of public support: “Expectations are that the vice president [Maduro] will win the election of April 14 and things will be business as usual, at least for the time being. Who knows within five years.” (DPA, German Press Agency, March 20)
The general’s comments received prominent and favorable coverage in a conservative Caracas newspaper, El Universal, which has opposed the Bolivarian Revolution led by the late Hugo Chávez. For example, in April 2002, when the U.S.-backed coup against Chávez appeared to be successful, El Universal carried the headline “Un Paso Adelante!” or “One Step Forward!” (Luis Duno-Gottberg, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, 2004)
What is important about “predictions” of the sort made by Gen. Kelly is not their accuracy. Rather, those who support and defend the Bolivarian and Cuban revolutions should examine who made the statements, to whom they were made and in what context.
Neither an economist nor a social scientist, Gen. Kelly is a Marine commander. He was in charge of U.S. troops in Iraq from 2008 to 2009. In addition to being the chief of the Southern Command, Kelly is the senior military assistant to the Secretary of Defense and personally greeted Secretary Leon Panetta at the entrance to the Pentagon on July 1, 2011, Panetta’s first day as secretary.
The Southern Command was created in 1903 in order to control the Panama Canal zone, which had just been illegally seized by U.S. imperialism. Over the years its scope has expanded to include all of Central and South America and the South Atlantic Ocean. It is an “interagency” task force, meaning it is composed of virtually all branches of the U.S. military as well as several other federal departments.
Kelly made his statements to the House Armed Services Committee immediately following Chávez’s death. Given the extreme hostility of the U.S. toward both Cuba and Venezuela, it is not difficult to assess their meaning or intent.
Millions spent to destabilize Cuba
The U.S. has a long history of trying to destabilize and defeat revolutions and progressive movements in Latin America. These efforts continue today.
Between 1996 and 2011, the U.S. government earmarked over $205 million to try to bring down the Cuban government. Programs were carried out by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State over the last eight years — from former President George W. Bush’s second term to President Barack Obama’s first term — according to a statement released by the Cuban Foreign ministry. (Xinhua, March 15)
This figure does not include an additional $30 million spent on illegal propaganda broadcasts and intelligence operations in support of anti-Cuban activists. According to the Cuban foreign ministry, this money would “be better used in building a respectful relationship between the two countries.”
Poor people in the U.S. might add that the money has been stolen from vital social services and that the economic and social problems which Gen. Kelly attributes to Venezuela are present within every major U.S. city. The difference is that governments within the U.S., instead of trying to help the poor as the Venezuelan government does, squeeze the poor even more on behalf of big business.
During the Obama administration, Washington’s illegal embargo against Cuba has become even more severe.
These facts clarify the statements by the Southern Command. U.S. imperialism aims to break the solidarity among Cuba, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries, the better to defeat them all. Washington’s efforts to strangle socialist Cuba, particularly with an oil boycott, were made much more difficult by the development of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. Progressives around the world must be vigilant and see to it that Washington’s threats and machinations fail.