Venezuela today: consolidating people power to face U.S. threats

The following excerpted talk was given at a March 21 Workers World Party meeting in New York.

The U.S. war machine is always scheming and planning. Every country in the world is in its crosshairs. Every gain in sovereignty is a threat to corporate global domination.

Venezuela has accomplished so much to alleviate poverty, advance education and build health care for millions who were ignored by previous U.S.-friendly regimes. These accomplishments make Venezuela a threat and an arch enemy to finance capital.

Venezuela is also the country with the largest oil and gold reserves in world, along with natural gas, diamonds and iron ore.

It was an incredible honor to participate in the delegation to Venezuela organized by the U.S. Peace Council [March 9-18]. I’ve been in other countries in the midst of the terror created by U.S. imperialist bombs and seen the impact of strangulating sanctions, a form of war that creates deadly artificial shortages of the most essential supplies.

In Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza, Syria and Yugoslavia — in each place I have seen organized human resistance.

Venezuela seems to be finding some of the most radical solutions to the problems that U.S. imperialism piles on when it is determined to bring a country down. Venezuela is studying past U.S. war scripts and learning and applying tactics that helped other countries that were able to resist.

I returned from this delegation deeply optimistic about Venezuela’s future. Resistance in Venezuela means continually seeking collective solutions.

Mobilized people power is a material force

People power, mobilized, has the ability to push back the aggressive hand of U.S. imperialism that is determined to drag the people of the world into another war for oil — a criminal war that will ignite war throughout Latin America.

In Venezuela there are huge demonstrations, all the time. This is first and foremost a political struggle, a class struggle. This has been true for years. Now, every Saturday since the coup attempt on Jan. 23 there have been demonstrations.

There is an ongoing, friendly peoples’ occupation in front of the Presidential Palace, which shows determined resistance after the coup attempt. Unions take different days, as do collectivos, the community-based organizations.

The day we joined, the oil workers union was mobilized. The president of the union said, “We are armed, and we will defend what is ours.”

An almost two-hour meeting with [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro was a highlight of the trip. Maduro discussed the attack on the electrical grid, the impact of sanctions and the forms of popular resistance.

One especially forceful point Maduro made was that “the struggle in Latin America has always been between [James] Monroe and [Simón] Bolivar. For 200 years, between U.S. domination and national sovereignty. Now, as even [U.S. President Donald] Trump defines it, it is a global struggle between capitalism and socialism.”

Even as we were meeting with him, his phone was receiving threatening and insulting tweets form [U.S. Sen. Marco] Rubio and [U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott] Abrams. This crude level of petty schoolyard bullying insults is intended as psychological warfare.

Electrical grid attack

Our arrival in Venezuela was delayed because of the U.S.-orchestrated destruction of the electrical grid for the whole country. This made landing the plane hazardous, so the crew waited until daylight. On our arrival Caracas was dark, without traffic lights.

American Airlines, a major carrier out of Caracas, had shut down its flights, so all of them were packed. Some in the delegation arrived late. Other delegations were canceled and postponed. We returned to the U.S. days late.

An attack on the electrical grid means all pumps stop working, so there is no water for drinking, cooking, flushing toilets. It means no elevators, mass transit, gas pumps or credit card transactions. Communications were down in the entire country.

Imperialist forces all but took credit for this war crime against the entire population. Former CIA director and now Secretary of State [Michael] Pompeo tweeted, “No Food, No Medicine, Now No Power, Next No Maduro.”

But the total darkness of the power grid did NOT lead to mass rebellions or widespread looting or a breakdown in social cohesion, as expected.

If the lights are out in the U.S., in New York City or Los Angeles, tens of thousands of youth who understand deeply that their lives and futures are stolen by this system will seize the opportunity to take a fraction of what is taken from them.

In Venezuela it was overwhelmingly orderly during the five to seven days, as power winked on and off. There were lines for water and emergency supplies. Schools and workplaces were closed because the metro and buses couldn’t run.

It was a total failure of the U.S. effort to galvanize public unrest, just as the phony “humanitarian delivery” of food and supplies on Feb. 23 utterly failed to split the Venezuelan military or break open Venezuelan borders to U.S. intervention.

There were huge rallies at every border crossing in the country. The people rallied and mobilized.

The Venezuelan military is backed up by a people’s militia of over 2 million organized into 50,000 units. These local defense committees, officially called “Committees for Security and Integral Defense,” are based in the Community Councils. They connect the armed forces to the desires and needs of the most politically active sector of the population.

As President Maduro explained, U.S. imperialism is to blame for cyber attacks from Houston against the main center [of the electrical grid], as well as explosions at substations and high-tech attacks using electromagnetic waves. The U.S. is to blame in other ways. For years they have intentionally denied equipment and parts needed to upgrade systems.

Even Forbes magazine published a report on March 9 that detailed exactly how the U.S. could carry out such an attack. The author discusses the concept of a “cyber first strike,” in which “governments would increasingly turn to cyberwarfare either on its own or as part of hybrid warfare to weaken an adversary prior to conventional invasion or to forcibly and deniably effect a transition in a foreign government.

“In the case of Venezuela,” the article continues, “the idea of a government like the United States remotely interfering with its power grid is actually quite realistic. … It is likely that the U.S. already maintains a deep presence within the country’s national infrastructure grid, making it relatively straightforward to interfere with grid operations. … Widespread power and connectivity outages like the one Venezuela experienced last week are also straight from the modern cyber playbook.”

Sanctions, coups and covert actions

The Bolivarian Revolution is finding creative solutions to how to survive U.S. sanctions that have strangled every part of the economy, led to 3,000 percent hyperinflation, and created financial chaos and shortages of essential goods. It has done so while contending with assassinations, provocations and then an outright coup attempt.

The outrageous declaration by an insignificant, low-level, extremely rightwing politician Juan Guaidó that he was president of Venezuela would be laughable, except that the U.S., all of its imperialist allies in NATO and then dependent countries, totaling 53 of the 193 countries in the U.N., immediately recognized this unknown, unelected politician. There was no election, no law! Just U.S. imperial arrogance.

The U.S. has handed $11 billion worth of the assets of Venezuela’s national state-owned oil company and the country’s biggest foreign asset, CITGO, directly to Guaidó.

CITGO owns 40 petroleum terminals, three oil refineries and 5,000 gas stations in the U.S.

U.S. declared sanctions on Venezuela include:

  • All of Venezuela’s oil
  • Blocking of its banking services and all credit cards
  • U.S. edicts that prevent the government from even using its gold reserves
  • Confiscation of billions of dollars Venezuela held abroad
  • Confiscation of CITGO
  • Cutoff of all food supplies, seed, pesticides, fertilizers, spare parts, equipment and essential medicines.

All of these criminal acts restrict the ability of the Venezuelan government to satisfy even the most basic needs [of the population]. This is why the opposition and the U.S. media predicted shortages, hunger and riots.

The most sinister forms of covert war are in the planning stages, with Secretary of State Pompeo’s announcement of the appointment of Elliott Abrams as Special Envoy for Venezuela.

Abrams organized bloody rightwing coups, death squads and mercenaries in Central America in the 1980s for the [Ronald] Reagan administration and was a key architect of the Iraq War.

Abrams, Pompeo, Rubio and of course Trump openly threaten mass destruction.

Next: Urban agriculture, community councils and housing.

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