Where Did Our Backyard Go?
Venezuelans awoke on the Monday after reelecting their president in a landslide with two big messes to sweep up. One was the debris from the joyous street demonstrations the night before and the other was the now useless pile of lies that had been told about their country and its politics.
Our media generally ignore Venezuela and the other progressive countries of Latin America, especially if the news is good. Only bad news and fake news get the headlines. In the run-up to the election, the bad news was that President Hugo Chavez had cancer. The fake news was that the “dictator” was at death’s door, that the country was in a parlous state, that the election was fixed and phony--but nevertheless that a fresh-faced “moderate” opponent stood a good chance of winning by rallying disaffected voters to his pro-business and pro-Washington banner.
The only reasons anyone would favor Chavez, the media claimed, were greed and fear. They said that Chavez was bribing the poor to vote for him with jobs, education, health care and housing. (You can be sure nothing like that could happen here.) The NY Times agent in Caracas went on to suggest that government threats to take these things away from opposition supporters was another reason people would hold their noses and turn out for Chavez. No evidence was given. Nor was there ever much hint in media coverage that Chavez might, in fact, be a legitimately popular leader.
By global standards, Venezuela is a notably peaceful and friendly country. It has never attacked another nation and keeps excellent relations with its neighbors. It’s a reliable supplier of oil to the U.S and a solid market for American goods. Over the last decade, its government has cut poverty in half, provided universal health care, and launched a vast program to bring the nation up to first world status. At the moment, it’s in the midst of an extraordinary and innovative effort to remake itself as a socialist democracy somewhat to the left of Sweden. What’s more, it’s a lead nation in the effort to integrate the economies of Latin America and build a prosperous and peaceful future for the continent.
These initiatives have prompted the managers of the American empire, who regard Latin America as their “backyard” (i.e., something they own), to try to get rid of Hugo Chavez and his reformist government and restore things back to the time when Exxon ruled and the poor knew their place.
There's nothing new here. Murderous repression of popular movements and the overthrow of disobedient governments has been Washington policy ever since Simon Bolivar rued two centuries ago that Latin America was destined to be plagued by the U.S. with misery in the name of liberty.
After initially promising a new and softer approach, Obama has been even more aggressive than Bush in inflicting “death squad” democracy on the region to reduce the local population of leftists, with Hugo Chavez at the top of the list. Over the last four years, the Dem administration has sponsored successful coups overthrowing the democratic governments of Honduras and Paraguay. It arranged to bar the most popular political movement in Haiti from taking part in elections, while reconstituting the bloodthirsty Ton Ton Macoutes. It was not so lucky in Ecuador where the 2010 police-led coup it orchestrated was put down by loyal troops. And, of course, its efforts to topple the Venezuelan government have gone nowhere. Another loser has been Obama’s efforts to persuade regional giant Brazil to go along with his schemes to isolate and weaken Venezuela. Instead, Brazil has proclaimed solidarity with Venezuela.
No doubt, these nasties will continue. Washington may even manage to pick off another small nation or two. But nothing can hold back the continent's tidal wave of redemption. The left governments of Latin America have been reducing poverty, increasing democracy, and asserting their independence. That has made them popular and durable. They are not about to give up their determination to live freely in their own lands rather than in the fat gringo's backyard.