Venezuela: Washington's doublespeak hides true agenda

Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Juau gives medals to two Venezuelan diplomats expelled by the US.

Washington has simultaneously called for cooperation from Venezuela and worked to undermine the oil-rich nation's interim government.

Shortly after the death of socialist president Hugo Chavez on March 5, the White House issued a statement expressing an “interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government”.

“As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights,” the statement read.

Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers summed up the US view of the government of a country that has worked to unite the region against US domination, describing Chavez as an obstacle to progress and a “destabilising force”.

“I hope his death provides an opportunity for a new chapter in US-Venezuelan relations,” Rogers said.

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However, the Venezuelan government said it is business as usual at the White House.

Since Rogers' comments, Maduro has accused the US of plotting to assassinate right-wing opposition leader Henrique Capriles in order to destabilise the country.

No evidence has been provided to substantiate the accusation, and Washington has denied any involvement.

Whether or not the accusation is true, the relationship between Capriles and US elements is inarguably complex.

Capriles and Washington

Classified documents recently published by WikiLeaks indicate that Capriles may have maintained a close relationship with the US Embassy for much of his political life.

One cable from March 21, 2006 indicates Capriles met with the US ambassador and planned to travel to “New York and Washington to talk to executive and legislative branch officials”.

The cables also indicate the US was concerned about Capriles' alleged involvement in a terrorist attack on the Cuban embassy in 2002.

These cables shed light on possible reasons for Capriles' regular trips to the US, but raise further questions as to just how closely the opposition works with the US.

Since its founding in 2000, Capriles' right-wing party, Primero Justica (Justice First), has been accused of receiving funds and advice from US government funded bodies USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute.

However, since losing to Chavez in the presidential elections last October, Capriles has struggled to maintain unity among the opposition.

In February, Venezuela Analysis reported opposition pundit Rafael Poleo stating that some opposition parties were alienated and insulted during the campaign, while alternative opposition leaders were sidelined.

Poleo said: “He wants to be the king of the mountain, but we aren’t going to get anywhere that way. He is young and inexperienced.”

Capriles is also trailing in the polls, and is unlikely to win the presidential elections in April.

If Capriles is as intimate with the US Embassy as the WikiLeaks cables suggest, perhaps he is past his use-by-date.

But for now he remains the dominant figure of the opposition, and so according to Washington's doublespeak, he remains the US favourite.

As US’s Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said on March 15, “Capriles could be a very good president”.

However, Jacobson also said that “we believe that the Venezuelan people deserve open, fair, and transparent elections in which all can vote with confidence that their decision will be respected”.

“That will be a little difficult,” she conceded.

Indeed, while the US remains so deeply entangled in Venezuelan politics, it will be difficult for voters to be sure that the opposition candidate is not playing a dangerous shadow game with Washington.

In the meantime, the US continues to fight a losing battle to politically isolate Venezuela.

More madness

The US State Department continues to closely monitor Iranian-Venezuelan relations, in keeping with the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act (CIWHA).

Passed last year, the Act aims to curtail cooperation between Iran and Latin America.

The latest episode in Washington’s battle to break the close relationship between Caracas and Tehran took place in February, when new sanctions were imposed on the Venezuelan state arms manufacturer CAVIM for allegedly trading material for use in nuclear weaponry with either Iran, Syria or North Korea.

No evidence of such an exchange has been provided by the US State Department.

More recently, the two nations have expelled each other's diplomats.

Maduro first announced the expulsion of two US diplomatic staff just hours before Chavez's death on March 5, accusing them of contacting military personnel in yet another attempt to ferment a coup.

As Jacobson implied, democracy in Venezuela is indeed under threat though not from the Venezuelan government.

Rather, Washington's doublespeak cynically describes its incessant interference in Venezuelan domestic politics as promoting democracy and “the rule of law”.

However, since sponsoring a violent coup that briefly ousted Chavez in 2002, the US has done the exact opposite, and the people of South America know it.

Contrary to the line from Washington, since Chavez's death, condolences from across the continent and the world have poured in.

In recent weeks, official periods of mourning have been declared from Cuba to Ecuador, Palestine to Western Sahara.

The United Nations General Assembly held a ceremony and a minutes silence on March 13 to commemorate the former president, after dozens of heads of states and high level diplomats attended Chavez's funeral on March 8.

Comparatively, the White House has offered no condolences, just more of the same underhanded attempts to undermine the government, and the Venezuelan people's right to freedom and democracy.

As Maduro said, “we want to say to President Barack Obama, stop this madness”.


[Ryan Mallett-Outtrim is a Green Left Weekly journalist basedin Merida, Venezuela.]