Thursday, August 2, 2012

Venezuela: Victim or Target?

Washington, Bogota, and Caracas agree that the cocaine that used to be exported from Colombia to the U.S. is now being exported from Venezuela to the U.S. A decade of U.S. arms and money has apparently just moved the drug gangs’ headquarters to a neighboring piece of jungle. MSM rhetoric has a profound anti-Venezuelan bias. As Washington appears to be shifting its focus from the Mideast to Latin America, will Venezuela be treated as victim or target?

From the Wall St. Journal, the classic mouthpiece of the U.S. corporate elite, we are informed that Hugo Chavez is funding social programs to provide free housing and food to the poor. The Wall St. Journal does not see fit to point out that things are much better in the U.S., where some ten million of those citizens made newly poor by banker mortgage fraud and Wall St. financial “irresponsibility” (the most delicate and polite word I can think of) have effectively been defined as “superfluous” in a country swept up in the passion of electoral rhetoric about maintaining the position of the nation’s treasured super-rich capitalist class (considered to be 0.1% of the population, perhaps similar in size to the real ruling class of Venezuela in pre-Chavez days). Since the Wall St. Journal of course cannot imagine a leader actually wanting to help the poor escape from a life of poverty to which they have been condemned by virtue of an economic system run by the rich and for the rich, it concludes that the only reason Chavez is helping them is “to shore up support” for his own upcoming election.

No criticism of the Wall St. Journal is intended here. After all, that newspaper is naturally accustomed to operating in the U.S., where politicians shore up support for re-election not by handing out money to the poor but by declaring themselves “pro-business.” For an example of being “pro-business,” one need only think of the new pro-Monsanto president of Paraguay, just installed by a smooth little afternoon impeachment.

The Wall St. Journal soundly rebukes the hapless populist president of Venezuela by quoting a Venezuelan broker…kind of like asking Jamie Dimon for an assessment of the 2010 financial reform legislation. I guess that settles that.

The Wall St. Journal overlooked one point – the growing Latin trade bloc Mercosur just announced that Venezuela has been invited to join. Perhaps there is hope for Venezuela’s economy, burdened by the legacy of impoverishment resulting from the long tradition of rule by the rich and, for whatever complex set of reasons, the failure of Chavez' economic policy completely to overcome that legacy despite the enormous progress he has made (according to the UN):

from 2002 to 2010, poverty was reduced by 20.8 percent, descending from 48.6 percent to 27.8 percent, while extreme poverty went from 22.2 percent to 10.7 percent, which translates to a reduction of 11.5 percent.

The Wall St. Journal also failed to note the impact on Venezuela’s government budget of defending itself against the Colombian cocaine gangs that have flourished during the U.S.-supported civil war against the FARC. Venezuela just arrested a Colombian drug dealer living in Venezuela in a joint U.S.-Colombian-Venezuelan effort. Will Washington now provide Venezuela with economic aid in gratitude? The arrested drug dealer had formerly been a member of the "paramilitaries," according to Fox News—that is, the AUC, the paramilitary organization supporting Bogota in the civil war while Bogota was the recipient of massive amounts of U.S. aid. He was, according to Fox News:

the leader of the "Rastrojos," or Leftovers, a violent offshoot of the Norte del Valle cartel that engages in drug trafficking, extortion and murder as it competes with other criminal bands that grew out of the far-right militias known as paramilitaries.

Fox News did not describe the past relationship between the paramilitaries and the government of Colombia (though it did briefly review that history in a previous article), nor did any of the articles referenced here dwell on the history of U.S. treatment of Chavez.

Washington’s response, instead, may be signaled by a scary piece in the New York Times on July 27 that portrays Venezuela as the source of a (bright red, in the enclosed graphic) flood of cocaine headed for the U.S. So it may be; all sides appear in complete agreement that Colombian drug gangs are solidly entrenched in Venezuela after a decade of U.S. support for Bogota in its civil war against the poor and a decade of U.S. hostility toward the populist regime in Venezuela. The question is:

How is it that all the flood of U.S. money and arms to Bogota in recent years served not to end the flow of cocaine north but simply to divert it from the Colombian jungle next door to the Venezuelan jungle?

No comments: