I have just returned from Venezuela, where, as president of the Workers’ Party and by invitation of the elected government, I attended the inaugural ceremony of President Nicolás Maduro. I was not surprised by the attacks and reactions from those who fail to understand such principles as self-determination and people’s sovereignty, those who do not recognize that political parties and governments from different countries can engage in respectful dialogue.
By Gleisi Hoffmann
For several reasons, Venezuela’s domestic problems –economic, social, political– have triggered undue external pressures that have only aggravated the situation. But Maduro’s inauguration for his second term has unleashed a coordinated interventionist movement against Venezuela, sponsored by the government of the United States and endorsed by right-wing Latin American governments, among which stands out, given its shameful subservience to Donald Trump, that of Jair Bolsonaro.
Whether we like it or not, Maduro was elected with 67% of the votes. Voting in Venezuela is optional. Three opposition candidates ran and the elections took place in accordance with the country’s legal and constitutional frameworks (the 1999 Constitution), as attested to by an independent external commission. One of the members of this commission, former President of Spain José Luiz Zapatero, stated, “I have no doubt that (the Venezuelans) vote freely”. How can other countries claim the right to challenge the vote of the Venezuelan people?
Let us make no mistake: the coordinated action against the government of Venezuela is not even remotely related to a supposed defense of democracy and freedom of the opposition in Venezuela. There is no interest in aiding the Venezuelan people to overcome their real challenges. It is merely a combination of economic and geopolitical interests and opportunistic moves by some governments, as is the case, regrettably, of Brazil.
Venezuela is not just any country. It holds the largest oil reserves on the planet. Since January 1st, 2019 the country has been presiding over the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Since Hugo Chávez’s election in 1998, Venezuela has been challenging the exclusionary economic and political models that were in effect in that country –and in Latin America– and ever more strongly exercising its sovereignty.
The interest of the United States and its allies to subjugate this annoying neighbor and advance over its strategic reserves is widely known. We have seen that before: the American invasion of Iraq, in the name of defending the rights of the people and establishing a democracy, resulted in 250,000 deaths, cities destroyed, appalling poverty, famine, and occupation-related terror. Then, they just left everything behind, leaving a trail of destruction and dismay, though not without making sure that, before they left, their corporations made a lot of money and that Iraq, as a country, adopted a strategic position with regard to access to the Arab countries’ oil. And how is Iraq now? Better or worse off than before? Does it have a democracy? Are its people happier? This doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that the empire conquered what it wanted.
Of grave concern are the moves made by the Trump and Bolsonaro administrations, among others, to destabilize the elected government of Maduro and to support an opposition-led parallel government. They use rhetoric of war long unheard of in our continent. They want to intervene in Venezuela –even militarily– based on a narrative claiming the country is a dictatorship, that human rights are not respected, that there is a humanitarian crisis; intervening is needed to save the people.
Does anyone really believe that the US is concerned with democracy and human rights in Venezuela? Why isn’t the US concerned with the famine in Yemen? Why does it treat migrant people with such hostility? Was it concern over human rights that prompted the Trump administration to put children in cages like animals?
Our Constitution and the Brazilian diplomatic tradition stand up for non-intervention in other countries. We respect nations and self-determination of peoples. We need not to be obsequiously subservient to empires that make use of someone else’s crisis to cover for their own troubles and to take political and economic advantage by waging wars and leading interventions. We have seen this before, and the pain it brings. When former President George W. Bush tried to persuade Brazil to engage in a war against Iraq, former President Lula reacted with assertiveness: “Our war is against hunger”.
The woes afflicting the Venezuelan people have only been worsened by the economic sanctions and blockades imposed by the US and its allies. It is worth recalling that the government of Colombia refused to sell medication to the Venezuelan government. The same has taken place with other products. Venezuela is heavily dependent on imports. As long as the blockades and sanctions remain in place, the people will suffer and migrate, while also imposing suffering on those along its borders.
The solution, a peaceful solution to the Venezuelan crisis, and to its impact on Latin America, is political negotiation, is talking with all sides. A role Brazil should be playing, as it has successfully done before, rather than adding more fuel to the flames.
This week Bolsonaro will meet with President Macri in Argentina. Newspapers report that Venezuela is to be the first issue on the agenda. If they show the least responsibility as regards the peace, order, and good relationship of the countries and peoples of Latin America, they will propose dialogue with Venezuela’s interested parties. Otherwise, we will only escalate the crisis. An intervention in Venezuela will have consequences for all of us.
The Brazilian democrats, who are honestly concerned with the fate of Latin America’s peoples, know that an intervention, of any kind, is not the solution to the crisis in Venezuela. And there is no need to agree with Nicolás Maduro, with his government, or with the Venezuelan institutional processes to understand that, in case of a military intervention, Brazil’s role, unfortunately, will be one of cannon fodder.
Gleisi Hoffmann is a senator (PT-PR) and national president of the Workers’ Party.