Above Photo: Dr. Francisco Domínguez. Kawsachun News.
On Latin America Review, Kawsachun News spoke to Francisco Dominguez, a researcher at the Middlesex University and the secretary of the Venezuelan Solidarity Campaign, who has long been a pillar of the movements in solidarity of Latin America, in the UK. Francisco, who is Chilean, spoke to Ollie about how Venezuela has managed to survive through the last period of intense attacks and regime sanctions and grades Chilean president Gabriel Boric. Below is a transcript of Francisco’s analysis. The interview can be watched on YouTube.
Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba stave off attacks
Well, first of all, thanks very much for inviting me. It’s an honor and a pleasure. I think the key to understand this, is this: The United States was able to actually overthrow, oust and defeat electorally, as a result of this pressure, several countries in the region, several left-wing governments, starting from the one in Honduras in 2009, then Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2012. Tried, nearly successfully, a coup d’etat in Ecuador in 2010 and then everybody knows who was behind the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and obviously was training, Sergio Moro, the judge that managed to imprison Lula and even was involved in many ways in the 2019 coup d’etat against Evo Morales in Bolivia.
So by 2019-2020, it looked like the United States had recovered the region. The only problem was that Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were still standing. So in that context of favorable relation of forces for the United States, they launched a massive wave of aggression, particularly against Venezuela, but also against Cuba. And these countries confronted this in the context of the pandemic.
Imagine your economy is totally blockaded and then the pandemic hits you extremely badly. The United States does everything in their power to prevent you from getting medical supplies, food and everything else, and certainly income. Nevertheless, the United States was not able to succeed with these three countries. I think the key reason is this: The United States, when it makes political success, when it scores some political victory, as they did in what I described, it is unable to offer anything to the people. It offers pillage, austerity, neoliberalism, inequities, repression, and certainly military bases. They are not very attractive.
And as a consequence, the governments that it is able to install in these places by force of a coup, or by any means, are not stable and they are not able to consolidate the political gains. So therefore, the masses that have been inspired by the previous period, the golden decade of the pink time came back and were able to defeat, very rapidly, this government.
The comparison I want to make is this. In the case of Chile, when Pinochet waged the coup in 11th of September 1973, it was a massive, historic defeat. We’re still fighting to recover our democracy in Chile, and we haven’t been able to get back to the agenda sort of framework, whereas the other countries went by very quickly, in the case of Brazil to Lula, in the case of Bolivia, to Luis Arce which is the MAS, and so forth.
And because of that inability, the United States was not able to defeat, crush, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. I think particularly in this case, must be highlighted the case of Venezuela, that suffered hugely as a consequence of 927 horrible, nasty, cruel sanctions.
“These people committed crimes. They are not political prisoners.”
Francisco Dominguez, head of the Research Group on Latin America at Middlesex University, on Nicaragua’s 🇳🇮 recent release of 222 convicted criminals: https://t.co/Ci5HY2S5G4 pic.twitter.com/XxV7Wx6Cw3
— Kawsachun News (@KawsachunNews) February 20, 2023
Is this a more favorable context for Latin America’s Revolutions?
There is still the possibility for the United States to come back with something very nasty, but I think his ability to intervene is significantly limited, not completely because is still powerful. Let me give you an example of the contradictions the United States faces, which give us space.
The United States pretty much controls Honduras, almost totally you know, it’s got 14 military bases in that country. It commands the people who run the narco trafficking. It runs and has enormous influence over the military forces, the police forces and the elite there. So the United States had every possibility to actually stop Xiomara Castro from winning the election. The reason why the United States didn’t do it was because it was divided internally.
Had the right wing won then you woul had right away a caravan, you know, with thousands and thousands of Honduras and others making it the United States., hitting Biden in the face, exploding as an issue in his face, and then giving chances to Trump. And remember, these elections took place before the midterm election in November 2022.
That’s one important thing. Secondly, in the case of Brazil, the United States did not intervene on the side of Bolsonaro. And the key reason was Bolsonaro is a strong ally of former President Trump. And the last thing somebody like Biden would like is a President Bolsonaro in a very powerful, influential country such as Brazil.
So they didn’t do anything, that we know of, in order to stop. Normally, they do. Normally, the ambassador says something, normally the State Department makes some statements and so on, and they couldn’t.
But I think in the case of in the case of Colombia, I think they didn’t know how to stop it. They wanted to stop it, they wanted to have Duque and to have Uribismo to continue in that country because they wanted to continue with the maximum pressure on Venezuela. But the mass movement and the ability of Gustavo Petro to put together a very broad front, electorally at least, allowed them to defeat the extreme forces in Colombia.
And the first thing Petro did is to start collaborating, liaising, normalizing relations, economic, political and diplomatic relations with Venezuela, which helped enormously not only the peace process, but also the relationship between the two countries.
When it comes to the question of Venezuela, it seems to me that in Venezuela, what you have is a specifically different state. In Brazil in 2016, all the way to 2020, the United States and the right wing were able to actually get rid of the Workers’ Party government because the Workers’ Party government was so successful that it stopped mobilizing the masses.
I mean, this is a quite a compact idea but they stopped mobilizing the masses. They concentrated much more on parliamentary maneuvers by demobilizing the masses. When it came to the question of them being hit, by a counteroffensive, they couldn’t defend themselves. Whereas in Venezuela, the opposite was the case and the opposite is the case.
What you have is thousands and thousands of grassroots committees organized at every level. You know, the mobilization, the president and mobilization of them is always there. You have the militia, you have the armed forces, which is quite important in the civil-military alliance with the government, which has limited the possibility of the United States. I think that’s why [the U.S.] was defeated.
And the situation is very favorable in the following sense. Number one, in 2021, Venezuela grew by 17.7%, nearly 18%, and in 2022 inches full, as the economy grew by 15 -16%. Obviously, they started from a very low base, but now the situation is much, much better.
There is even a situation where Biden is being compelled to send a delegation hat in hand to talk to President Maduro, a government that is supposedly not recognized, to explore possibilities for Venezuela to begin to sell oil to the world market. The basic reason for this is that the United States needs desperately for there to be more oil supply in the world, the continent, because of the consequences of the Ukraine war, so that the price of oil declines. And so therefore, in that sense is very positive.
But more importantly, is the CELAC which met for its seventh summit recently. Their commitment to regional integration is very strong. Already, Lula has talked to Alberto Fernandez, president of Argentina to set up a single currency.
Lula, during the electoral campaign, said he made the mistake by not taking Hugo Chavez’s proposal to create a single currency and a Bank of the South, seriously. And the consequence was the dollarization of the world market limits our possibilities of recovery. So now that Brazil has joined the equation of the left wing governments of different shades, of course, this commitment is very serious.
This single currency is very good. And finally, the regional integration is very strong, but also the maneuver that the United States organized recently to send various delegates and even mobilized Scholz, the German chancellor, to try to persuade the Latin American countries to get rid of some of the oil equipment to be donated to Ukraine so that they could replace that equipment with United States military equipment, which was completely rejected.
So the conditions now exist, which are very, very positive for Latin America to retake what I would call a second Pink Tide. Not identical, but very similar to the one that took place between 1998 to 2014-16. And we have two advantages: Number one, the United States is weaker and we are wiser because we know what not to do and what mistakes not to make. So I think the position is very good.
Biden is not quite lifting the sanctions, but he’s allowed Chevron to continue to operate in Venezuela, even when there was no extraction of an oil. They allowed Chevron and gave several special licenses to extract Venezuelan oil, which obviously they had to pay Venezuela, to supply particularly the European market.
And this was a license given by Biden for six months. And the conversations have been taking place, God knows exactly what is being discussed. But I think that it is a [protest] of one incident that took place. The United States kidnapped Venezuelan special envoy Alex Saab, who is imprisoned now in Florida. He was arrested illegally in Cape Verde. He was extradited to Florida without Cape Verde having an extradition treaty with the United States. And he’s been charged with money laundering in the United States when this guy was being was arrested in Cape Verde. So as soon as that happened, Maduro said that he was not prepared to continue with the dialog with the opposition, particularly the Guaido opposition, which is the one [the U.S.] recognizes. And you know, that stopped completely.
Maduro has made the point recently, he said we’re ready to normalize relations with the United States completely, provided that this is based and mutual respect. And every time the United States tries to pull a fast one on Venezuela, Venezuela resists and objects and denounces the United States.
The diplomatic activity of Venezuela within the United Nations, these enormous is huge, particularly denouncing the sanctions system and the sanctions regime of the United States against 39 countries. The number of initiatives through the Non-Aligned Movement to the G77, but China, through various other bodies of the United Nations is gigantic, is enormous, and it’s very influential. Unfortunately, we here in the West don’t hear about this.
So Venezuela is making no concessions whatsoever. But its prepared to be pragmatic. It the United States, wants oil, no problem. And I think this applies also to Cuba. Cuba just reestablished ambassadors between the United States and Cuba. Cuba is suffering much more, not only because of the sanctions regime, but because the tourism industry collapsed by 96% as a consequence of the pandemic. But now the situation is recovering. So I don’t think we need to worry about that. Venezuela has been recovering economically and the Maduro’s government is completely in charge.
Nicaragua sends 222 mercenaries back to the U.S.
Let me clear one thing up first. These people who are being, as the media calls it, deported from Nicaragua. These people committed crimes. They are not political prisoners. They are they are politicians who happen to be in prison because they commit crimes. Some of the crimes were very serious.
If you look at the legislation in the United States and the U.K., which I’ve done, in order to make a comparison. If you were to be receiving money from a foreign country and organize a violent attempt to overthrow the existing government, you will be charged with sedition. And in the United States, this carries the death penalty or anything between that and five years in prison. In the case of the of the United Kingdom it’s very similar. You can get, you know, minimum five years and anything up to 30 or even more years.
So these people actually committed crimes. And as a consequence of these, they work in prison for convicted of 20 years, 30 years, 25 years and so on.
The government of Daniel Ortega, which is a national reconciliation government, wants peace in country. So a very good measure, it is to actually ensure that these people actually are not in prison. They are free, but somewhere else and he made the clear point.
He said we propose to the United States through our chancellor, through our foreign minister and it was a purely – he called it more or less bureaucratic operation. There was no political discussion.
He said, are you willing to take them, we’ll send them to you. And the United States was prepared to take all of them except two. And the total was 222. So all of these stories in the media and so on, are complete nonsense, it’s just spin, by the media, by the right wing media.
“Boric is a very peculiar character.”
— Kawsachun News (@KawsachunNews) February 21, 2023
Chile and Boric
Now Boric is a very peculiar character and is peculiar because my sense is that he wants to project an image of himself as somebody who is above the normal left-right division that exists in Latin America. And he has this particular mantra, which is, ‘I’m quite prepared to condemn human rights abuses in left wing governments, as well as human rights abuses in right wing countries and right wing governments.’
He hasn’t said too much about repression in right wing governments (laughs). He did support in initially the overthrow of Pedro Castillo. He thought it was constitutional to have you know, to have him ousted. Later on he changed his tune a little bit. This is my sense, I think he was elected president by default, the candidate should have been Daniel Jadue. That because of the way they organized the primaries. He became president up to the point when then the Constitutional convention was organizing the preparing the text. The constitutional text was put to the referendum, before the population last year and up to that point, they must have had a political leadership, which was the Constitutional Convention. Everything actually went into that.
All the demands, all the aspirations, all of the discussions, everything went there. And they took all sort of proposals from, social organizations, social bodies, associations of every imaginable kind. So provide that a de facto political leadership of the rebellion that begun the year the year before. But when that ended and the document was presented to the population, the thing that was providing they had the leadership, the constitutional convention dispersed and these people did not create anything alternative such as the Partido Libre organization in Honduras or some a broad front of any kind. So between the moment when the text was actually out and the dispersal took place and the actual referendum, Boric didn’t do anything in the form of campaigning.
He did not campaign. The left did not campaign, the right wing media and the right wing which orchestrated these went on the rampage, creating a situation of chaos that if these things was to be voted on, then the country would go into total chaos. There would be terrible situation. We’ll go back to the crisis before Allende and so on and so forth.
People believe this. They told all types of lies and there was no counter attack. And in that period, there were two things that happened, which I think are symptomatic of Boric.
Number one, in the middle of this campaign that the right wing was waging, Boric actually had a one on one meeting with Zelensky. Whatever you may think about Zelensky, whatever anybody may think about the Ukraine and Chile, why on earth bring Zelensky and the Ukraine war in the middle of the referendum, which is about Chilean matters, indigenous matters, you know, working class wages, private stuff and so on.
That’s number one. And number two, in that period, Antonia Urrejola, the foreign minister, went to Spain for no reason whatsoever, apparently, and then met with the foreign minister of Spain. They made a joint statement demanding, anticipating the presidential elections in Venezuela. I’m thinking, what on earth is he trying to do? Boric won with 4.6 million votes when he won the election as president, one of the largest votes ever for any president in the history of Chile.
But when he came to the question of the constitutional text that was defeated, the Constitution actually got 4.8 million votes. So we didn’t lose any votes in that sense. The problem was that the election of Boric took place and the context that the the law which made the vote voluntary, and there is about 30% of the electorate that hasn’t voted historically in Chile ever since then made the world voluntary.
And when it came to the question of the the referendum, then they changed the law and they made the vote compulsory and that 30% voted them because we didn’t fight; the left did not fight, they didn’t campaign, promote texts or do anything. The campaign was extremely weak. The consequence of that was the right wing was able to actually capitalize and capture that depolitisized section of society that was subjected to these massive campaign. In other words, this failure of leadership is our Achilles heel in Chile, which we haven’t got the leadership.
My sense is that at the end of the day, Boric is not very progressive, and equivocates every time he can.
On the other hand, I notice that Presidents Lopez Obrador, Luis Arce and a few others, including Gustavo Petro, have started courting him to ensure that they move him in the right direction. So I’m hoping that with this new wave of regional integration, where they’re going to be together, that it will be possible to influence him in the right direction because his problem is this if he doesn’t deliver what the masses wanted, he’s not going to be reelected. And as a consequence of that, the right wing is going to be elected. I’m sure that he doesn’t want that, so he would like to be reelected. So unless he does the right thing, including, you know, identifying himself with the progressive forces and the progressive processes in the rest of the continent, when there is no reason not to, he’s going to suffer the consequences.
He is already been getting a bit discredited. I’m myself pretty disappointed