While Senator Sanders seems to support a supposedly “democratic” kind of regime change in Venezuela, journalist Ben Norton, who has spent the past two weeks in Venezuela amid the flailing coup attempt, says it is the opposition that is un-democratic. On Twitter, Norton accused the Venezuelan opposition of dropping “all pretense of wanting democracy and demand[ing] a coup and war.”
As socialists rally in the United States over their country’s backing of a right wing coup in Venezuela, the supposedly socialist members of Congress–Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)–are hitting talking points that worry critics like Roger Waters and activists in the streets alike.
The Pink Floyd bassist and composer took billionaire Sir Richard Branson to task last week as he organized a benefit concert for the Venezuelan opposition in neighboring Colombia, MintPress News reported. Now, Waters, who says that “socialism is a good thing” and in 2015 backed Sanders, is wondering if he’s “f-ing kidding” us. Sanders announced his candidacy for 2020 last week.
Waters’ expression of shock was made in reply to the Senator’s tweet on Saturday, which demanded that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro “allow humanitarian aid into the country.” Waters pulled no punches, questioning whether Sanders is really “the perfect stooge for the one percent.”
The Venezuelan government has rejected U.S. aid as a pretext for further intervention and an affront to their border sovereignty. Elliott Abrams, who was recently named United States Special Representative for Venezuela, was previously involved in a plot to send $27 million in weapons disguised as humanitarian aid to right wing contras. Meanwhile, an airliner with links to the CIA has flown weapons into the country and the agency responsible for delivering it, USAID, has a history of torturing leftists in South America.
Poignantly, Waters warned Sanders not to “collude” with the architects of the U.S.’s coup policies: neoconservative warmongers Elliott Abrams and John Bolton, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a champion of the wealthy right wing pink wave emigre scene in Miami.
Bernie, are you f-ing kidding me! if you buy the Trump, Bolton, Abrams, Rubio line, “humanitarian intervention” and collude in the destruction of Venezuela, you cannot be credible candidate for President of the USA. Or, maybe you can, maybe you’re the perfect stooge for the 1 %.
— Roger Waters (@rogerwaters) February 23, 2019
Ben Becker an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, was protesting in New York City on Saturday against the coup as Sanders called on Maduro to comply with Washington’s demands. He told MintPress:
There were actions in hundreds of cities worldwide this past weekend, endorsed by a large spectrum of progressive and anti-war organizations. I attended a protest of many hundreds at the Trump building on Wall Street, which an important target given the role of U.S. corporations and banks in strangling Venezuela’s economy. They are salivating about the oil profits in particular they would gain from regime change, a goal that the Trump administration speaks openly about.
Sanders’ Foreign Policy Advisor Matt Duss took the attacks on the Maduro government further, tweeting a headline from the pages of the Daily Beast verbatim:
Socialists Should Take a Stand on Venezuela: No Trump, No Maduro, No War.
you know better than to endorse a stunt led by war criminals who have snuck weapons in aid shipments in the past. This stance will not make democrats like you more and will only lose you support from socialists
— Abby Martin (@AbbyMartin) February 23, 2019
The article, written by journalist and notorious troller of Syria anti-interventionists Charlie Davis, distanced itself from the Trump-style regime change wherein Elliott Abrams, who is associated with “death squads,” is leading the charge.
But while Davis portrays Abrams as the “bad cop,” leftwing thought leaders like himself serve as the “good cops” of empire. Yes, Trump does not “give a half a goddam about democracy,” but he is also “not necessarily wrong,” Davis argues before rambling in denunciation of Maduro’s supposed authoritarianism.
I really want to see Davis come tell guerrilla veterans in the FMLN that – because their party is coerced into cooperation memorandums with the empire to protect their people being deported by the US – that they have lost their left credentials in his Yankee estimation.
— #HandsOffVenezuela (@OLAASM) August 5, 2018
Davis also painted Ecuador’s rightward drifting government, which has placed Julian Assange in de-facto solitary confinement and issued an arrest warrant against its socialist ex-president Rafael Correa, as a “social democracy.”
Despite all this, Duss promoted the shoutout Davis gave his boss, tweeted the passage:
In the U.S., this position has been echoed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who issued a statement stressing opposition to any foreign-imposed regime change in Venezuela—while noting Venezuelans should be provided the opportunity to change their regime on their own, if they so choose.
While Senator Sanders seems to support a supposedly “democratic” kind of regime change in Venezuela, journalist Ben Norton, who has spent the past two weeks in Venezuela amid the flailing coup attempt, says it is the opposition that is un-democratic. On Twitter, Norton accused the Venezuelan opposition of dropping “all pretense of wanting democracy and demand[ing] a coup and war.” He told MintPress:
The corporate media and the U.S. government it so obediently echoes frequently claims that Venezuela is a “dictatorship,” but my past few weeks here in Caracas have shown precisely the opposite: Venezuela remains an impressively democratic country—despite non-stop foreign intervention, internal sabotage and violence from the opposition, and threats of war from the U.S. and right-wing U.S.-allied governments in Latin America.
Becker argued a similar position, telling MintPress:
The opposition has an unelected ‘president’ who proclaimed himself such at a protest, and has now exiled himself to Colombia to beg foreign governments to invade. They pressued all opposition candidates to not run in the last elections and demanded international observers to not come and observe them. Meanwhile, the Chavista government has conducted 24 elections in the last 20 years.
Becker further laid into what he characterized as a cynical stunt to provoke regime change:
As both the UN and Red Cross affirmed, ‘humanitarian aid’ by definition has to be apolitical, neutral and requested by the receiving country. This wasn’t humanitarian aid—it was a stunt designed to provide the imagery for intervention. Venezuela accepted just this week ten times more actual aid from Russia, Cuba, China and the Pan American Health Organization. The Maduro government’s stance on this is completely logical: it won’t accept phony “aid” from the countries that are simultaneously stealing the government’s assets, sanctioning their industries and seizing their bank accounts—all of which makes it harder to import food and medicine.
He added that Sanders had received backlash from fellow Democrats merely for refusing to recognize Juan Guaido as President of Venezuela.
Sanders’ tactic for years has been to run to the right on foreign policy issues so as to protect his New Deal-style domestic program. He’s always distanced himself from actual socialist projects that have been targeted and demonized by the U.S. Empire to assure the corporate-owned media that his vision is closer to Denmark or Sweden. Now that Sanders is a main target of Trump’s anti-socialist rhetoric and that he’s a potential front-runner for the nomination, I expect we’ll see more of that from him.
The Anti-Maduro Millennial
During an Instagram Live, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacked the Maduro government. “What people don’t understand is that this is really kind of an issue of authoritarianism versus democracy in many different ways,” she said. “This is really an issue of a failure of democracy.”
Because Instagram Live videos are automatically deleted after 24 hours, the clip in which Cortez spoke on Venezuela was brought to light by a right wing account which attacked her for live streaming herself cooking while giving “cooking lessons, dating tips and even interior design advice.”
Cortez said she wanted to “empower and center the people of Venezuela and the will of the public.”
“What I believe in above all else is a true democracy; is democracy as a form of government; democracy in the workplace; democracy in our economy,” Cortez said. But Norton has seen just that as he has “traveled through barrios interviewing average working-class Venezuelans.” He says he has been “blown away by the democratic and revolutionary spirit that still pervades the community, despite the economic difficulties that do indeed exist—in no small part because of years of crippling U.S. sanctions, economic warfare, and a de facto embargo, along with well-documented speculation and hoarding by capitalists inside the country.”
“The Chavista movement has encouraged democracy at many levels, from thriving communes and local councils to feminist organizations and the community-organized CLAP [Local Food Production and Provision Committees] food program,” Norton added.
Far-right billionaire-in-chief Trump and neocon war hawks John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Elliott Abrams, and Marco Rubio have spent all their energy trying to overthrow Venezuela's elected government, but "socialist" @AOC instead blames Venezuela, while it is under brutal attack.
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) February 25, 2019
“Instead of accepting all the propaganda against Venezuela,” Becker argues, “people who consider themselves democratic socialists should really study it for themselves.” He continued:
Venezuela’s socialists have held and won many elections and used the electoral process to carry out major wealth redistributions in favor of the poor and working class, with missions for housing, health care and education. But it provoked a massive backlash of course from the oligarchy, and the world’s major financial and corporate powers. The ‘billionaire class’ doesn’t just give up their power without a fight and has a lot of tools at their disposal—that’s true in Venezuela and the United States.
The initial tweets from her colleague Ilhan Omar were far clearer, based in a principled anti-war position and even provided context about the roots of Venezuela’s economic crisis. By contrast, Ocasio-Cortes is following the same strategy as Sen. Sanders, which falsely believes you can advance a progressive agenda (and your own career) at home by saying as little as possible about foreign policy and conceding to the rhetoric of anti-communism.
There are certain things that the U.S. ruling class can tolerate debate over in terms of domestic policy, but on the bottom line issue of the U.S. Empire, they all unite when it’s time to attack. The corporate-owned media makes sure no one gets out of line and you are cast out as a pariah.
Importantly, Cortez also slammed Elliott Abrams from the left, saying that he “pled guilty to crimes” in relation to the Iran-Contra scandal. She added that Abrams is a “legit criminal. Plead guilty.”
While the is no question that Abrams the other gangsters running U.S. regime change projects throughout the Cold War to today are not innocent, Cortez repeated a tired trope of criminal justice hawks: that people are “legit criminals” so long as they “plead guilty.” Studies show that 97 percent of federal defendants resolve their cases through plea bargaining.
“If anything, reporting here at the grassroots in Venezuela has further clarified to me how authoritarian my own country is: The United States, the world’s biggest incarceration nation, could stand to learn a lesson about democracy from Venezuelans,” Norton told MintPress News.