The recent diplomatic manoeuvres by the US and Colombian governments against Venezuela have put the region on red alert.
There are a clear warning signs that US imperialism has stepped up its plans to overthrow the revolutionary government of Venezuela through military means, as support for opposition parties drops in the lead up to the September National Assembly elections.
An intense mobilisation within Venezuela and internationally is needed to make it clear that imperialism will pay the highest price possible if it attempts to plunge the region into war.
Allegations that Venezuela was “harbouring terrorists” began on July 15, when the defence minister of outgoing Colombian president Alvaro Uribe claimed — without evidence — that key leaders of two Colombian guerrilla groups had recently met in Venezuelan territory.
Uribe called for an emergency meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS), to deal with these allegations.
US state department spokesperson Phillip Crowley said on July 16 that the “possible” presence of “rebels in Venezuelan territory” had also been worrying his government.
Converting the July 22 OAS meeting into a platform from which to attack Venezuela, Colombian OAS ambassador Luis Hoyos proceeded to use images taken from google maps and photos that could not be verified to smear the Venezuelan government. He called for “international intervention”, setting a 30 day deadline for an international group of observers to be allowed to enter Venezuelan territory and verify Colombia’s claims.
While refusing to confirm or deny that the US government had supplied the “evidence” to Colombia, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela noted that the allegations were “very serious”.
The US government official mouthpiece, Voice of America, published an editorial on July 28 warning that “Colombia has put forward serious charges. They deserve to be investigated … The United States believes it merits further investigation by an international body, and supports Colombia's request that the OAS act, and quickly.”
On July 29, just hours before South American foreign ministers were set to meet in Quito, Ecuador, General Douglas Fraser, head of the US military’s southern command added there was “no reason” to doubt the validity of the evidence, which should be “treated seriously”.
These are not just idle threats. They are backed by the force of seven new military bases in Colombia, two new bases in Panama, bases in Honduras, Aruba and Curaçao, the recent agreement by Costa Rica to allow the deployment of up to 10,000 US troops and 47 warships in its territory, the reactivation of the Fourth Fleet to patrol regional waters and the presence of 10,000 US troops in Haiti.
Together with the attempts by the right-wing Chilean senate to call into question the credibility of the upcoming elections and for international organisations to adopt “a more vigilant attitude” towards Venezuela, this latest campaign is aimed at isolating, encircling and laying the groundwork for a potential military intervention in Venezuela.
The immediate goal of this international campaign is to help reverse the decline in electoral support that the opposition is facing in the lead-up to the National Assembly elections, using low intensity warfare to psychologically wear down the Venezuelan population.
It is also aimed at provoking discontent within the ranks of the Venezuelan armed forces, hoping some soldiers would be more willing to depose an elected president rather than militarily confront the empire.
The recent arrest of CIA-linked terrorist Francisco Chavez Abarca, who admitted he entered the country to carry out sabotage, indicates the possibility that an incident staged on the border could be blamed on “guerrillas” and used as a pretext for an outright confrontation.
The Venezuelan government immediately embarked on a diplomatic offensive to counteract these manoeuvres, after breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia on July 22.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro travelled to various countries to explain his country’s situation and win support for Venezuela’s proposal for peace in Colombia. President Hugo Chavez once again reiterated his call to the Colombian guerrillas to lay down their arms as part of a negotiated peace plan.
“I don't think there are conditions in Colombia that allow [the guerrillas] to take power in the foreseeable future. Instead, they have become the main excuse of the empire to penetrate Colombia deeply and from there attack Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba”, Chavez said on July 24.
He also offered to play whatever role was asked of him in achieving such a plan.
The Chavez government has already played a key role in securing the release of a number of prisoners held by Colombian guerrillas.
For 40 years, Colombia has been plagued by an internal civil war, which has been used as a pretext to justify building seven new US military bases on Colombian soil.
Venezuela’s ambassador to Colombia, Gustavo Marquez said Venezuela would take a proposal for a negotiated solution for peace in Colombia to the July 29 meeting of foreign ministers of the Unions of South American Nations (Unasur) to provide a way out of the diplomatic crisis and convert the region into a “peace zone”.
“I believe that it is pertinent that we do this, because peace in Colombia means peace in Venezuela and the region.”
However, Colombia and other nations blocked consensus on a five-point proposal from Brazil to declare South America a peace zone, resolve differences by peaceful means and cooperate against illegal groups.
Colombian foreign minister Jaime Bermudez restated Colombia’s demand to be allowed to verify the presence or otherwise of guerrilla forces in Venezuelan territory. With no final resolution, the meeting called on the heads of state to convene a meeting to discuss the crisis.
If Unasur is able to come up with a negotiated outcome, this will be a strong blow to the US and the US-dominated OAS.
However, the inability to reach consensus in the last presidential summit — called to discuss the establishment of seven US bases in Colombia — and the failure of Colombia to provide any of the documents it had pledged to release in the name of transparency, are demonstrations of the divided nature of this bloc.
More radical governments such as those of Bolivia and Ecuador have supported Venezuela’s peace proposal, saying that regional peace will only be possible if there is peace in Colombia and denouncing the new US military bases.
More moderate governments are being put to the test as they come under heavy from their domestic right wing opposition. This is particularly true in Brazil.
The right wing have come out strongly in support of Uribe and accused the ex-guerrilla, Dilma Rouseff, now Workers Party (PT) candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, of having links to the FARC.
Meanwhile, a key foreign affairs advisor to Brazilian president Ignacio Lula de Silva has once again raised Brazil’s proposal for a bi-national armed force to patrol the border zone, which would amount to Venezuela renouncing sovereignty over part of its territory.
Within Venezuela, the pro-revolution forces have begun to organise themselves to defend their homeland against any possible threat or attack.
The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has called on all its 7 million members to move into a state of permanent mobilisation, with rallies being called across the country, particularly in the border region.