[News] US Media Ignore – and Applaud – Economic War on Venezuela

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Feb 19 12:26:16 EST 2019


  US Media Ignore – and Applaud – Economic War on Venezuela

By Gregory Shupak - February 19, 2019

The US media chorus supporting a US overthrow of the Venezuelan 
government has for years pointed to the country’s economic crisis as a 
justification for regime change, while whitewashing the ways in which 
the US has strangled the Venezuelan economy  (*FAIR.org*, 3/22/18 

/A UN rapporteur declares that “sanctions kill” (*Independent*, 1/26/19 
few in Western media are listening to his message./

Sister Eugenia Russian, president of Fundalatin 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/11424>, a Venezuelan human rights 
NGO that was established in 1978 and has special consultative status at 
the UN, told the *Independent* (1/26/19 

    In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the
    fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the
    effect [of] the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in
    the economy, especially by the government of the United States.

While internal errors also contributed to the nation’s problems, Russian 
said it’s likely that few countries in the world have ever suffered an 
“economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under.

While the *New York Times* and the *Washington Post* have lately 
professed profound (and definitely 100 percent sincere) concern for the 
welfare of Venezuelans, neither publication has ever referred to Fundalatin.

Alfred de Zayas, the first UN special rapporteur to visit Venezuela in 
21 years, told the *Independent*(1/26/19 
that US, Canadian and European Union “economic warfare” has killed 
Venezuelans, noting that the sanctions fall most heavily on the poorest 
people and demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, 
lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic 
change in a “sister democracy.”

De Zayas’ UN report 
<https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G18/239/31/pdf/G1823931.pdf?OpenElement> noted 
that sanctions “hind[er] the imports necessary to produce generic 
medicines and seeds to increase agricultural production.” De Zayas also 
cited Venezuelan economist Pasqualina Curcio, who reports that “the most 
effective strategy to disrupt the Venezuelan economy” has been the 
manipulation of the exchange rate. The rapporteur went on to suggest 
that the International Criminal Court investigate economic sanctions 
against Venezuela as possible crimes against humanity.

Given that de Zayas is the first UN special rapporteur to report on 
Venezuela in more than two decades, one might expect the media to regard 
his findings as an important part of the Venezuela narrative, but his 
name does not appear in a single article ever published in the *Post; 
*the *Times* has mentioned him once, but not in relation to Venezuela.

/Economist Francisco Rodríguez (WOLA, 9/20/18 
points out that oil production in both Venezuela and Colombia dropped 
when oil prices fell in 2016–but Venezuelan production plummeted when 
the US imposed financial sanctions in 2017./

The economist Francisco Rodríguez points out 
<https://venezuelablog.org/crude-realities-understanding-venezuelas-economic-collapse/> that 
the sanctions the Trump administration issued in August 2017 prohibited 
US banks from providing new financing to the Venezuelan government, a 
key part of the “toxification” of financial dealings with Venezuela. 
Rodríguez notes that, in August 2017, the US Financial Crimes 
Enforcement Network warned financial institutions that “all Venezuelan 
government agencies and bodies…appear vulnerable to public corruption 
and money laundering,” and recommended that some transactions 
originating from Venezuela be flagged as potentially criminal. Many 
financial institutions then closed Venezuelan accounts, concerned about 
the risk of being accused of participating in money laundering.

Rodríguez says that this handcuffed Venezuela’s oil industry, the sector 
most crucial to its economy, with lost access to credit preventing the 
country from obtaining financial resources that could have been devoted 
to investment or maintenance. And whereas previously the Venezuelan 
government would raise production by signing joint venture agreements 
with foreign partners who would finance investment, Trump’s sanctions 
“effectively put an end to these loans.”

/Mark Weisbrot (*The Nation*, 9/7/17 
“The Trump administration has made an open and firm commitment to regime 
change through the destruction of an already debilitated Venezuelan 

Mark Weisbrot (*The Nation*, 9/7/17 
, also an economist, raised a related issue:

    If we step back and look at Venezuela from a bird’s-eye view, how
    does a country with 500 billion barrels of oil and hundreds of
    billions of dollars’ worth of minerals in the ground go broke? The
    only way that can happen is if the country is cut off from the
    international financial system. Otherwise, Venezuela could sell or
    even collateralize some of its resources in order to get the
    necessary dollars. The $7.7 billion in gold
    <https://www.bloombergquint.com/markets/2017/04/18/venezuela-lawmakers-ask-wall-street-to-stop-aiding-maduro> held
    in Central Bank reserves could be quickly collateralized for a loan;
    in past years, the US Treasury department used its clout to make
    sure that banks who wanted to finance a swap, such as JPMorgan Chase
    and Bank of America, did not do so.

Sanctions have kept the Venezuelan government from accessing financing 
and dealing with its debt while hamstringing its most important 
industry. Given that US media are writing for a principally US audience, 
the damage done by Washington and its partners’ sanctions should be 
front and center in their coverage. Exactly the opposite is the case.

Virginia Lopez-Glass of the *New York* *Times* (1/25/19 
uses 920 words to describe the challenges facing Venezuelans, but 
“sanctions” isn’t one of them, even as she writes about matters to 
which, as I’ve shown above, sanctions are directly relevant: “Food and 
medicine shortages are widespread. Hundreds have died from malnutrition 
and illnesses that are easily curable with the appropriate treatment.”

Weaponizing hunger in Venezuela in this manner is dishonest and 
misleading. Christina M. Schiavoni, a doctoral researcher at the 
International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, and Ana Felicien 
and Liccia Romero, both of whom are Venezuelan scholars, wrote in 
*Monthly Review*(6/1/18 
on “overt US aggression toward Venezuela” in the form of

    the intensifying economic sanctions imposed by the Obama and Trump
    administrations, as well as an all-out economic blockade that has
    made it extremely difficult for the government to make payments on
    food imports and manage its debt.

/Torture advocate 
<https://fair.org/home/three-reasons-bret-stephens-should-not-be-a-nyt-columnist-and-the-real-reason-he-is-one/> Bret 
Stephens (*New York Times*, 1/25/19 
mocks the idea that sanctions, and not “socialism,” are responsible for 
Venezuela’s economic crisis./

Bret Stephens’ column in the *Times* (1/28/19 
only mentions the word “sanctions” to complain that the media supposedly 
isn’t blaming “socialism” for the crisis in Venezuela, alleging that

    what you’re likelier to read is that the crisis is the product of
    corruption, cronyism, populism, authoritarianism,
    resource-dependency, US sanctions and trickery, even the residues of
    capitalism itself.

After dismissing the idea that the sanctions are a key part of the 
problems in Venezuela, Stephens went on to advocate using them to bring 
about regime change in the country, writing that the Trump administration

    should enhance [Guaidó]’s political standing by providing access to
    funds that can help him establish an alternative government and
    entice wavering figures in the Maduro camp to switch sides. It can
    put Venezuela on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

These “funds” presumably refer the money that the US has seized from 
Venezuela, and adding the country to list of “state sponsors of 
terrorism” automatically entails hitting it with further sanctions.

The editorial board of the *Washington* *Post* (1/24/19 
alleged that Venezuela’s government has “subject[ed] the country’s 32 
million people to a humanitarian catastrophe,” without referring to what 
scholars whose research and writing focuses on Latin America—such as 
Laura Carlsen, Sujatha Fernandes, Greg Grandin, Francisco Dominguez, 
Noam Chomsky, Aviva Chomsky, Gabriel Hetland and Venezuelan-born 
historian Miguel Tinker Salas—describe (*Common Dreams*, 1/24/19 
as sanctions

    cut[ting] off the means by which the Venezuelan government could
    escape from its economic recession, while causing a dramatic falloff
    in oil production and worsening the economic crisis, and causing
    many people to die because they can’t get access to life-saving

Later, the editorial said that “a US boycott of Venezuelan oil could 
endanger ordinary Venezuelans already coping with critical shortages of 
food, power and medicine,” an absurd remark given that the sanctions 
they are occluding have had precisely these effects.

/A *Washington Post* op-ed (1/24/19 
urges Trump to “ratchet up pressure” on Venezuela, while insisting that 
the country “has been driven into the ground by the repressive socialist 
policies pursued by Nicolás Maduro.”/

Henry Olsen in the *Post* (1/24/19 
wrote as if sanctions are a benign tool that can be used to usher in a 
brighter future for Venezuelans, rather than a key reason that so many 
of them find themselves in such a grim condition:

    Trump has many levers to pull short of military intervention to
    topple Maduro. He could use US pressure on the global financial
    system to cut off regime access to international banks, freezing
    access to any secret accounts that the regime — and, probably, its
    highest-ranking leaders — established offshore. He can, as Sen.
    Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has suggested, work with American oil companies
    that purchase Venezuelan oil to provide the profits from those
    purchases to accounts controlled by Guaidó’s National Assembly. He
    can also pressure China, which has a far more valuable relationship
    with the United States than it does with Venezuela, to withdraw its
    support. Any or all of these measures would ratchet up pressure
    directly on the regime, decreasing its ability to finance itself and
    buy support from security and military figures….

    Odds are that increasing financial pressure on the regime will
    finally bring about its collapse.

Even if one momentarily sets aside that the sanctions are illegal under 
international law <http://www.un-documents.net/a25r2625.htm> and violate 
charter of the Organization of American States, and that the US has no 
right whatsoever to decide who governs Venezuela, these measures don’t 
just “ratchet up pressure” on “the regime 
they also kill and immiserate ordinary Venezuelans.A

The *Post*’s Charles Lane (1/28/19 

    Apologists for the regime blame US sanctions and destabilization for
    Venezuela’s problems. The truth is that, with the exception of the
    George W. Bush administration’s brief, halfhearted support for a
    coup attempt
    <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/apr/21/usa.venezuela> in
    2002, Washington—learning the lessons of ill-fated Cold War
    interventions—has shown restraint in dealing with the Caracas regime.

He went on to write that, until the Trump administration announced 
limitations on imports of Venezuelan oil that day, “the United States 
had traded with Venezuela and focused economic pressure on regime 
leaders and key institutions,” which suggests that the sanctions 
exclusively harm the “regime”—again, even if that were true, it would 
still be illegal—and amounts to a lie, given the evidence that the 
sanctions are crushing the Venezuelan masses.

Unlike Lane and the rest of the media’s regime change choir, the US 
government has acknowledged what it’s doing to Venezuela. Schiavoni, 
Felicien and Romero point to a telling remark 
<https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/01/277739.htm> that a senior 
State Department official made last year:

    The financial sanctions we have placed on the Venezuelan Government
    has forced it to begin becoming in default, both on sovereign and
    PDVSA, its oil company’s debt. And what we are seeing because of the
    bad choices of the Maduro regime is a total economic collapse in
    Venezuela. So our policy is working, our strategy is working and
    we’re going to keep it on the Venezuelans.

Thus, the US government acknowledges that it is knowingly, consciously 
driving the Venezuelan economy into the ground, but US media make no 
such acknowledgment, which sends the message that the problems in 
Venezuela are entirely the fault of the government, and that the US is a 
neutral arbiter that wants to help Venezuelans.

Call this elision what it is: war propaganda.

/The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not 
necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff./

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