‘We are like a bomb’: food riots show Venezuela crisis has gone beyond politics

Three years of shortages have left Venezuelans desperate and angry for change, posing the most serious threat yet to President Nicolás Maduro.

The Guardian, By Sibylla Brodzinsky, May 20

Guarenas, Venezuela – The rumour was there would be chicken.

Word had spread that a delivery of poultry meat was due at the Central Madeirense supermarket, and long before dawn a queue of shoppers was snaking around the block.

Kattya Alonzo was one of them. The 48-year-old mother of three was already planning to make the traditional chicken and rice dish arroz con pollo – if she could also find some rice.

“I haven’t been able to buy chicken in more than a month, so I was there early at about 4am,” she said.

At about 6.30, two trucks finally drew up outside the store, but before the drivers could start to unload, national guardsmen told them to drive on.

[…]

“We don’t care who’s in Miraflores,” said Marlene Pineda who runs a newsstand in Caracas, referring to the presidential palace. “What we want is food,” she says reflecting the sentiment of many Venezuelans far removed from politics who are struggling to get by day to day.


Venezuela – A Last Warning

Venezuela Analysis (In Defense of Marxism), By Jorge Martin, May 20

The assault against the Bolivarian revolution has intensified in the recent days and weeks. Editorials and front pages in US and Spanish newspapers are screaming about hunger in Venezuela and demanding the removal of the “dictatorial regime”. Ongoing scarcity problems have led to instances of looting. The right-wing opposition is attempting to trigger a presidential recall referendum, but is also threatening violent action and appealing to foreign powers, including in some case for military intervention. What is really happening in Venezuela and how can these threats be faced?

On Friday May 13th, Venezuelan president Maduro extended the “Economic Emergency Decree” which had given him special powers in January, and further decreed a 60-day State of Emergency which includes sweeping powers to deal with foreign military threats and to deal with problems of food production and distribution.

As was to be expected, the world’s capitalist media joined in a chorus of denunciation, screaming about a “dictatorship”, while one of the main right-wing opposition leaders, Capriles Radonski made a public appeal to disobey the decree. The threats, however, are very real. It is worth giving a few examples. A month ago,an editorial in the Washington Post openly called for “political intervention” by Venezuela’s neighbours. At the weekend, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, at a “Concordia Summit” in Miami, made an open call for the Venezuelan Armed Forces to carry out a coup or, failing that, for foreign military intervention against “the tyranny”.

The Venezuelan right-wing opposition has made repeated appeals for the Organisation of American States to use its “Democratic Charter” to intervene against president Maduro. They feel emboldened by the successful removal of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and want to go down the same road as soon as possible, by any means necessary, legal or illegal. Influential Venezuelan right-wing journalist and blogger Francisco Toro (editor of the Caracas Chronicles) has just written an article openly discussing the pros and cons of a coup, which he says would be within the constitution and “The Opposite of a Crime”.

Today, the Venezuelan government reported violation of the country’s airspace by US military aircraft.

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  • Still Selling Neoliberal Unicorns: The US Applauds the Coup in Brazil, Calls It Democracy

    Washington now has compliant compradores in power in Argentina and Brazil—and perhaps soon in Venezuela.

    The Nation, By Greg Grandin, May 27

    Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s recently deposed president, calls it a coup. Many, perhaps most, of the countries in the Organization of American States call it is a coup. Even the men who helped carry out the coup admit, in a secretly recorded conversation, that what they were doing was effectively a coup, staged to provide them immunity from a corruption investigation.

    But the United States doesn’t think that the blatantly naked power grab that just took place in Brazil—which ended the Workers’ Party’s 13-year control of the presidency, installed an all-white, all-male cabinet, diluted the definition of slavery, lest it tarnish the image of Brazil’s plantation sector (which relies on coerced, unfree labor), and began a draconian austerity program—is a coup.

    It’s democracy at work, according to various Obama officials.

    Last week, Washington’s ambassador to the OAS, Michael Fitzpatrick, rejected accusations that the Obama administration held Venezuela, whose government has long been at odds with the United States, to a different standard than it does the newly installed Brazilian regime, which is fast putting into place economic policies favored by Washington and Wall Street. In Brazil, Fitzpatrick said, “there is a clear respect for democratic institutions and a clear separation of powers. In Brazil it is clearly the law that prevails, coming up with peaceable solution to disputes. There is nothing comparable between Brazil and Venezuela. It is in the latter where democracy is threatened…. We don’t believe that this is an example of a ‘soft coup’ or, for that matter, a coup of any sort. What happened in Brazil complied perfectly with legal constitutional procedure and totally respected democratic norms.”

    […]

    Brazil’s is the third Latin American coup on Obama’s watch. All three were “constitutional coups,” using the fig leaf of legality to oust presidents who ran policies slightly ajar to the interests of local and international elites. Honduras in 2009 and Paraguay in 2012 were low-hanging fruit, small countries with outsized oligarchies, where mild reformers were easily dispatched. But Washington’s reaction to those two coups set the pattern for its response now to Brazil: Watch, wait, and quietly encourage the coup plotters, giving them time to consolidate a new order until recognition seems a reasonable course. In Honduras, in particular, Hillary Clinton as Obama’s secretary of state was instrumental in legitimizing the coup’s subsequent death-squad regime.

    Brazil is the prize: Latin America’s largest, most diverse economy, which, for last 13 or so years under Workers’ Party (PT, in Portuguese) leadership had served as a counterweight to US hegemony. During the high-water mark of the Latin American left’s influence, in the last years of the Bush administration and the early moments of Obama’s, it seemed that Latin America might be the place where the radical Enlightenment would make its stand against the forces of militarism and neoliberalism. Brazil, working together with Argentina and Venezuela and allied with other, smaller nations, scored some remarkable victories: They derailed the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which was meant to be the capstone of the so-called “Washington Consensus” ; they dissented from Washington’s wars in the Middle East and the larger “War on Terror” ; they refused to participate in the Bush administration’s global rendition program; and they pushed back on surveillance. Without US input, the countries of South America joined forces in 2008 to shut down a coup attempt in Bolivia and prevented a war between Ecuador and Colombia.

    Millions upon millions were lifted out of poverty and brought into the political process. Now, with remarkable swiftness, it all seems to be falling apart. Gains that were thought to have been consolidated have vanished in the blink of an eye. In Brazil, the coup government is promising to cut the Workers’ Party’s signature Bolsa Família, a cash-transfer program that has lifted millions out of destitution, along with other social welfare programs. Argentina’s new right-wing president, Mauricio Macri, has issued a number of “emergency decrees” (which, unlike Venezuela, prompted no outrage from the State Department or the editorial pages of The New York Times or The Washington Post) to impose neoliberal shock therapy. Macri has once again subordinated the economy to bond traders and vulture funders and, reportedly, given the United States permission to establish a military base in southern Argentina, which, if it goes through, would give the Pentagon a much-desired and long-denied toehold in the Southern Cone. What’s left of the left are a collection of smaller national projects—in Uruguay, Bolivia, and Ecuador—that will become increasingly jeopardized as the right consolidates in Brazil and Argentina.

    […]

    If you want a more realistic view of what Washington might accomplish now that the “left” is “on the run” in Latin America, look beyond the Times opinion pages to its reporting, where just yesterday it was revealed that US military aid had turned the Mexican army into the most unaccountable killing machine operating in the Western Hemisphere. Look to Argentina in 2001–02, where strict adherence to the Washington Consensus led to one of the worst economic crises in recorded history. Look to El Salvador today, where the Obama administration is using the terms of a free-trade agreement to force the government to shut down a local seed-distribution project, since it violates corporate interests. Look to Ecuador, where Chevron has turned a good stretch of the Amazon into a toxic tar pit. Or Paraguay, which after its 2012 coup was taken over by an agro-gangster government.

    Or look to the US-Mexican border, where refugees from US “security partnership” risk death in the desert for the privilege of living their lives in the shadows.

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