By Sean Orr
On August 6, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton attended a gathering of representatives from the right-wing governments of Latin America. There, he announced the next stage in the U.S. campaign to defeat the Bolivarian Revolution: A total blockade of Venezuela. All U.S. citizens are banned from doing business with “the Maduro regime,” and any company – U.S. or international – that does business with the Venezuelan government will be subject to fines, asset seizures and sanctions. While the announcement did not include the immediate deployment of the U.S. Navy to enforce the blockade, Bolton hinted that the option remained on the table if foreign companies and governments did not comply.
A blockade is war by another name; it is a modern-day siege with the singular goal of starving a nation into submission. The U.S. government uses its hegemony to threaten any business or government that does business with the targeted nation, to risk its isolation in a global economy run on U.S. terms. If you run an agribusiness willing to sell food for the Venezuelan food subsidy program – you will be sanctioned. If you run a shipping company willing to transport Venezuelan oil to be traded around the world – you will be sanctioned. If you are a government that receives Venezuelan oil in exchange for social services – you will be sanctioned. In one fell swoop, the United States has committed itself to preventing any Venezuelan exports from leaving its shores, and from it receiving imported goods from anywhere around of the globe. Already, the U.S. military has prevented a ship carrying thousands of tons of soy products from reaching Venezuela.
The decision is a historic one. It ends all economic relations between the United States and Venezuela. Up until a few years ago, the U.S. was Venezuela’s main trading partner. For decades, the Venezuelan government had sold heavy crude to ExxonMobil and other U.S. firms, and with the U.S. dollars it received from these sales it bought U.S. agricultural and consumer goods to meet domestic demand. Ending this dependency was a key goal of Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian movement when they came to power in 1999, and the process of building economic sovereignty has been underway since then.
For 20 years, the U.S. has resisted this struggle for national independence. It backed a coup d’état in 2002 to try to install a pro-U.S. dictatorship, and firmly supported a bourgeois opposition that worked tirelessly to take back power and return Venezuela to the imperialist fold. After Chávez’s death and Nicolás Maduro was elected president, the U.S. and its bourgeois lackeys began an economic war to try to break the masses from their revolutionary movement. But the coup failed, the opposition proved incompetent at winning elections, and the masses have endured the economic war without wavering in their revolutionary commitment. By declaring a blockade, the Trump administration is admitting that all their efforts to defeat the Bolivarian Revolution have failed. Nothing done so far has worked – so now starvation will be tried.
While the blockade directly targets Venezuela, it also sends a signal to other nations that refuse to fall in line behind the United States: namely, China and Russia. Both nations stepped in to fill the void left by the United States as the imperialist power gradually withdrew its historic relations with Venezuela. After the U.S. ended all military support for Venezuela during Hugo Chávez’s administration, the Russian government stepped in. And as the U.S. began to withdraw its economic ties with Venezuela – a process begun in 2015 with a series of sanctions put in place by Obama – the Chinese government filled the void. Today, China is Venezuela’s largest creditor and is providing crucial support for the nation’s productive development. There should be no doubt that both nations will continue their support for the Venezuelan people – a sign of U.S. imperialism in decline, and of the determination of the world’s peoples to defend their sovereignty.
This weekend, hundreds of thousands marched through the streets of Caracas in defiance of the imperialist blockade. The Venezuelan masses stand organized and mobilized, ready to defend the sovereignty they have won through hard struggle. “U.S. imperialism and its allies have tried to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution for 20 years, and again and again they have crashed against the granite wall of our unity and our conscience as a people fighting for freedom,” said Eduardo Piñate, the executive secretary of the United Socialist Party (PSUV), in an essay about the blockade. “Despite the damage they have caused us with the economic war, the blockade and all other forms of war done against us, we resist and advance because we are stronger than them.”