Mark Weisbrot

The Donald Trump administration announced new, unprecedented sanctions against Venezuela on August 25 that are designed to cut off financing to Venezuela. The Trump team pretends that the sanctions are only directed at the government. But as any economist knows, this is clearly false.

By starving the economy of foreign exchange, this action will harm the private sector, most Venezuelans, the poor and the vulnerable.

National sovereignty is an undervalued asset in today’s world, especially in the international media, where the views of Washington and its allies largely prevail. This is true with regard to economic as well as political issues, and its consequences can be quite heavy in a region like Latin America, long regarded by US officials as their “back yard.”

The election in Ecuador is being watched as well as contested by forces that have opposing views on this question. 

There is a tense stand-off right now between Greece's government and the so-called troika — the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). ECB President Mario Draghi recently went so far as to deny that his institution was trying to blackmail Greece's left-wing anti-austerity government.

But blackmail is actually an understatement. It has become increasingly clear that the troika is trying to harm the Greek economy in order to raise pressure on the new Greek government to agree to its demands.

Since US President Barack Obama's administration decided to impose new sanctions on Venezuela on March 9, many people, including journalists, have asked what motivated them to do this.

Some are curious over the apparent inconsistency between this move and the White House decision in December to begin normalising relations with Cuba. Others are wondering why the Obama administration would do something that so obviously hurts the United States-backed opposition in Venezuela, at least in the short run.

Images forge reality, granting a power to television and video and even still photographs that can burrow deep into people’s consciousness without them even knowing it.

I thought that I, too, was immune to the repetitious portrayals of Venezuela as a failed state in the throes of a popular rebellion. But I wasn’t prepared for what I saw in Caracas this month: how little of daily life appeared to be affected by the right-wing protests, the normality that prevailed in the vast majority of the city.

I, too, had been taken in by media imagery.

When is it considered legitimate to try to overthrow a democratically-elected government? In Washington, the answer has always been simple: when the US government says it is.

Not surprisingly, that is not the way Latin American governments generally see it.

Election results are often contested, which is one reason why governments sometimes invite official observer missions from inter-governmental bodies such as the Organization of American States (OAS) or European Union (EU).

But there are times and places when these outside groups do not provide much independent observation.

On November 24, Hondurans went to the polls to choose a new president, congress, and mayors. There were a lot of concerns about whether a free and fair election was possible in the climate of intimidation and violence that prevailed in the country.

For more than a decade, people opposed to Venezuela's left-wing government have argued that its economy would implode. Like communists in the 1930s rooting for the final crisis of capitalism, they saw economic collapse just around the corner.

How frustrating it has been for them to witness only two recessions: one directly caused by the opposition's oil strike (December 2002-May 2003) and one brought on by the world recession (2009 and the first half of 2010).

Most of the news on Venezuela in the week since the April 14 presidential election focused on the efforts of losing candidate Henrique Capriles to challenge the results. But another campaign, based in Washington, was quite revealing ― and the two were most definitely related.

Without Washington's strong support ― the first time it had refused to recognise a Venezuelan election result ― it is unlikely that Capriles would have joined the hardcore elements of his camp in pretending the election was stolen.

Environmentalists seem to realise that they have some stake in a fight such as the Ecuador-Chevron lawsuit.

That case, which Chevron has recently moved to an international arbitration panel to try to avoid a multibillion-dollar penalty handed down by Ecuadorian courts, is about whether a multinational oil corporation will have to pay damages for pollution, for which it is responsible. Most environmentalists figure that would be a good thing.

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