Watch: From Colombia and Brazil, Kei Pritsker on the decades of US meddling in South America that preceded the ongoing coup in Venezuela.
(Transcript) —This video was produced as part of a MintPress News and Grayzone collaboration — World domination: it’s a funny concept. We can imagine old dudes with messy hair and thick glasses taking over the world or the caricature of a humanoid villain that wears a skull and crossbones, but what about applying it to the real world? Who’s closest to taking over the world we live in? Do I even need to say it?
When it comes to Iran, North Korea or, as of late, Venezuela, it’s impossible to FULLY understand the goals behind a U.S. regime-change operation if we don’t understand the U.S.’ regional aims, and by extension, global aims. We have to understand the United States for the totality of its existence. With dozens if not hundreds of military bases on every continent, the United States is the only empire in the world right now; its goals and ambitions can’t be anything but global. We can’t remove America’s behavior from this context.
So how does Venezuela fit into this larger context?
Let’s start by recognizing that controlling countries like Venezuela isn’t the end in and of itself but the means to a larger goal, a U.S.-dominated South America.
The political character of Venezuela is obviously antithetical to the political character of the United States in many ways. The United States government is run by the rich and for the rich. It answers to private interests like banks, the military industrial complex, or the gun industry.
The current Venezuelan government acts in the interest of the poor and working class. It has nationalized private industries and factories that exploited Venezuela, an initiative that angered Venezuela’s rich as well as American businessmen seeking to make profits in Venezuela. Venezuela, unlike the U.S., does not have massive industries that make profits solely by manufacturing weapons or issuing predatory loans to poor people who want houses to live in.
This is why U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton called the socialist governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba a “troika of tyranny.” Their governments are obstacles to U.S.-backed neoliberal hegemony in the region. Venezuela inspires progressive movements in other countries to combat the neoliberal vision as well, threatening to reverse the spread of neoliberalism.
So what timeless military maneuver do you turn to take out a cornered enemy? A pincer move, of course.
The U.S. plays South American “Go”
Venezuela sits north of Brazil and east of Colombia, two regional powers being fully backed up by the United States. It’s physically cut off from more friendly South American countries. Both Colombia and Brazil have denounced President Nicolás Maduro as illegitimate and are trying to ram “aid” through the Venezuelan border. Both countries have a U.S. military presence.
Colombia receives the most U.S. aid in the Western Hemisphere, which is why Hugo Chavez once called Colombia the Israel of Latin America. Colombia acts as a launching pad for the U.S. to carry out its foreign policy goals in South America, very similar to the role Israel serves for the U.S. empire in the Middle East. There are several U.S. military bases in Colombia and Colombia recently became NATO’s first “global partner” in Latin America.
Since the 1960’s, the U.S. has openly funded the Colombian government and military to suppress left-wing movements, more recently under the guise of preventing drug trafficking. President Bill Clinton famously initiated Plan Colombia in 2000, a policy intended to stop drug-trafficking and left-wing insurgency in Colombia. The plan was widely understood to be a failure since drug profits soared during this period. The Colombian War on Drugs caused a civil conflict that displaced 3 million Colombians.
But remember, a spokesman of the Reagan administration admitted that Colombian cocaine trafficking helped fund the U.S.-backed anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua. It was the CIA that sold crack cocaine in South Central LA to poison poor, black communities.
The War on Drugs wasn’t actually about ending drug trafficking; it was just a convenient alibi to justify decades of massive U.S. support for right-wing rule in Colombia to suppress left-wing movements — a process that persists to the present day. They’re still trying to accuse Maduro of being connected to Colombian drug traffickers! How convenient!
The fruit company, Chiquita, pleaded guilty to paying right-wing paramilitary groups to protect Chiquita’s banana interests in the country, resulting in the murder of thousands of Colombians, so this was about that banana money as well. But I get it, America — I don’t want to imagine a world where the bananas fall into the hands of communist terrorists either.
Brazil, on the other hand, recently reclaimed its place as a junior partner in the U.S. empire. While the U.S., in Operation Condor, assassinated scores of opposition figures in the 1970s to protect Brazil’s neoliberal military dictatorship, through decades of battle, progressive forces managed to organize under the banner of the Workers Party and democratic elections were established.
The Workers Party won the 2003 presidential elections and Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva began implementing progressive reforms, redistributive laws, quotas for oppressed groups, and the bolstering of workers’ rights. Lula was the most popular Brazilian president of all time.
Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, continued Lula’s progressive policies, which began to threaten the rich in Brazil. Leaked audio tapes revealed that Dilma refused to back away from sending white-collar criminals to jail, a prospect that scared the rich into impeaching Rousseff under trumped-up corruption charges.
The movement to oust Dilma was lead by openly libertarian groups like the Free Brazil Movement and Students for Liberty. These groups demanded free markets, deregulation and privatization of the Brazilian economy. The leaders of these seemingly grassroots organizations were funded and trained by the Atlas Network.
Among others, Atlas Network takes money from the Koch brothers — which is just like … well if you’re going to covertly undermine a sovereign government and give the appearance of not having U.S. involvement, … pick anyone else.
Dilma and her cabinet were replaced by an all-white, all-male cabinet, the first woman-less cabinet in Brazilian history. They immediately began rolling back protections for workers and regulations on the wealthy. The Obama administration hailed this blatant coup as a democratic process.
Dominoes in reverse
U.S. President Donald Trump is reading directly out of Obama’s Brazil playbook in asserting that Juan Guaidó is the democratically elected president of Venezuela. Trump also hailed the election of Brazil’s fascist president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has said he is open to having a U.S. military base in Brazil and is actively calling for regime change in Venezuela, just as the U.S. wants.
In the future, we may see attacks against the progressive president of Bolivia, Evo Morales. The mainstream media has been discreetly priming us for another “war for democracy” in Bolivia, one of Venezuela’s only progressive allies in South America.
So if anyone tries to tell you that the U.S. coup in Venezuela isn’t about imperialism and U.S. hegemony, remind them that Venezuela isn’t some special, isolated case of U.S. intervention in Latin America. Far from it. The U.S. has been doing exactly what it’s trying to do to Venezuela to Colombia and Brazil — and the majority of Latin American countries, for that matter — for decades. It’s using its puppet regimes in these countries, not even discreetly, to wage a two-front war on Venezuela. It’s like the domino theory but backwards!
If the U.S. weren’t trying to turn Venezuela into a playground for the rich, a bastion of capitalism, if it were actually trying to assert human rights in Venezuela, it would be an exception to a very consistent pattern.
Top photo | A supporter of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro holds a sign of U.S. President Barack Obama that reads in Spanish “Fascist, assassin and imperialist” during a pro-government rally outside Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, March 15, 2015. Fernando Llano | AP
Kei Pritsker is a journalist and activist located in Washington DC. Kei focuses on international politics and economics. He previously worked as a producer at RT America.