By Steve Lalla – Jul 19, 2021
In order to defend themselves against the permanent “regime”-change operations in place in the region, leaders of genuine liberation movements in Latin America and the Caribbean must stand their ground, defend their revolutionary achievements, and avoid being lured in by the empty promises of US imperialism and its local allies.
“The other side is not looking to sit down in a room and come up with a power-sharing arrangement. The other side is looking to kill you, massacre you, get as many of you in jail as possible, and impose and destroy everything that you’ve accomplished,” reflected author Justin Podur in a recent interview. “I think that’s the difference between Castro, Chávez, and a lot of the [other] leaders. There are local circumstances as well—and I don’t want to blame anybody for getting overthrown, that’s not what I’m saying here—but I am saying, if you look at what they did right, it has a lot to do with not underestimating the depravity of the opposition.”
The comments were made during a recent panel, “Extraordinary Threat: US Empire, the Media and 20 Years of Coup Attempts in Venezuela,” discussing the recently published book of the same name and featuring co-authors Podur and Joe Emersberger.
When asked about the lessons demonstrated by the Bolivarian Revolution’s resistance throughout the course of six coup attempts since the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998, Podur observed that granting concessions to the opposition, and seeking common ground, may not be the wise tactics they appear to be.
“I think it’s amazing that the more compromising they were, the worse off they seemed to be,” said Podur. “And I don’t want to take anything away from Maduro, Maduro has shown quite a lot of fortitude—Maria [Páez] Victor said this in an interview with me—Maduro has actually faced worse attacks than Chávez did, and he’s still there.”
Podur referred to past experiences in Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti in his assessment, and directed his comments to Perú in particular in the wake of Pedro Castillo’s electoral victory. During his electoral campaign, Pedro Castillo chose to distance himself from Venezuela’s President Maduro, recommending in April 2021—apparently without provocation—that Maduro stick to fixing his own problems.
“You mentioned Castillo today, saying that he distanced himself from Maduro. That’s not a good sign,” said Podur, commenting on this example. “To me, that’s a very bad sign… It’s a bad sign in terms of him taking his first step out the door, towards being overthrown, the minute he did that. Every capitulation that Aristide made in Haiti, every concession that he made, got him that much closer to being overthrown. Chávez and Maduro, they had a lot of respect for the Constitution, and that was the red line for them, and that was it. They fought tooth and nail for the Constitution, and to stay in power, and to enact their program, and that is the lesson.”
The lessons learned from the Bolivarian Revolution recall those of the Cuban Revolution. When Che Guevara spoke to the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in December, 1964, he similarly observed that “it is the very essence of imperialism to turn men into wild, bloodthirsty animals determined to slaughter, kill, murder, and destroy the very last vestige of the image of the revolutionary or the partisan in any regime that they crush under their boots because it fights for freedom. The statue of Lumumba, destroyed today, but rebuilt tomorrow, reminds us of the tragic story of this martyr of the world revolution, and ensures that we will never trust imperialism, in no way at all, not one iota.”
The message of Emersberger and Podur’s book is particularly relevant as we witness the propaganda campaign that now has Cuba in its crosshairs. Fox News, The Guardian, or Amnesty International—all singled out by Emersberger and Podur for their role in attacking the Bolivarian Revolution—have conspired to circulate false news and provocative statements about Cuba over the course of the last week. Unbelievably, many in so-called left or progressive circles continue to take the bait.
“The propaganda by Western media about Venezuela is just so over the top,” said Emersberger, explaining the inspiration behind the book. “You are more likely to find op-eds defending Saudi Arabia than the democratically elected government of Venezuela. It was so ridiculous, and it was such an interesting case study of how they could demonize a country that was a democracy and posed absolutely no threat to anybody. That is where we got the title of the book Extraordinary Threat, because when Obama declared the ‘sanctions’ in 2015, he officially declared Venezuela an extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States, and of course it is the complete opposite: they have been trying to overthrow the Venezuelan government for twenty years now. So it is extremely striking and it seemed like such an important case study in how there’s this whole incredible propaganda apparatus that reinforces these lies.”
The panel was hosted by Orinoco Tribune contributors Saheli Chowdhury, Gabriel Martínez, and Steve Lalla, and Orinoco Tribune Editor Jesús Rodríguez-Espinoza, and aired on June 21. Podur and Emersberger’s book Extraordinary Threat: The US Empire, the Media, and Twenty Years of Coup Attempts in Venezuela was released in June by Monthly Review Press.
Featured image: Collage depicting the cover of Joe Emersberger and Justin Podur’s book Extraordinary Threat: The US Empire, the Media, and Twenty Years of Coup Attempts in Venezuela; Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel shaking hands with Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro; Perú’s President-Elect Pedro Castillo; and Che Guevara at the United Nations podium. Credit: Orinoco Tribune.