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Fears of US interference mount amid ‘pink tide’ resurgence

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A member of the leftist FMLN political party in San Salvador shouts slogans in support of the Republic of Venezuela following the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. During the mid-20th century, left-wing movements and populist parties garnered substantial support and, in many instances, assumed governmental authority, which did not sit well with the US. Regarding this as a threat to the ‘global balance of power’ it has consistently made interventions, including inducing uprisings, attempting assassinations, and facilitating coups, the writer says. – Picture: Marvin Recinos / AFP

By Reneva Fourie

With Venezuela’s presidential election only a few weeks away, the US is working hard to influence its outcomes.

Paradoxically, the US’s 2022 National Security Strategy seeks to, among others, ensure the autonomy of nations in making their own decisions. However, its execution falls significantly short of this goal.

The same strategy argues for the need to counter influence from China, Russia, and Iran, reminiscent of the Cold War era, despite their developmental approaches having changed. This, in effect, leads to the US justifying its encroachment on the sovereignty of its allies and adversaries and aggressively creating tensions between them.

Although the Cold War officially ended in the early 1990s, its legacy continues to shape our world. Tension persists between countries advocating for a socialist or communist developmental path, mainly embodied by the former USSR, and those favouring capitalism, primarily represented by the US. This persistence of historical tensions underscores the enduring impact of imperialism on global affairs.

The relationship between imperialism and nation-states remains vital despite the globalised interconnectedness of countries through trade, information, and technology. Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, depends on nation-states for survival. The aims of the imperialists, which include a struggle for markets and raw materials, remain unchanged, hence the continuous battle for control at global, regional and country levels.

Latin America has not been immune to the US’s extra-hemispheric imposition. During the mid-20th century, social movements in Latin America emerged to address the deep-rooted class disparities inherited from the colonial era. Left-wing movements and populist parties garnered substantial support and, in many instances, assumed governmental authority.

In the context of the Cold War, the US regarded these developments as a potential threat to the global balance of power. In response, it employed a variety of interventions, including inducing uprisings, attempting assassinations, and facilitating coups.

Interference by the US in Venezuela’s internal affairs is not new nor unique. Initially, the primary aim of US policy and actions towards Venezuela was to exploit its abundant petroleum resources. Accordingly, it supported Juan Vicente Gómez in the 1908 coup and subsequent presidents, including Marcos Pérez Jiménez (1948-1958).

The US’s involvement in Venezuela became less overt until the democratic election of President Hugo Chávez in 1998 and the subsequent implementation of the Bolivarian Revolution. After that, the US’s intervention in Venezuela’s affairs escalated to unprecedented levels.

During his tenure until his death in 2013, Chavez implemented significant structural changes to the economy, state, and society, notably benefiting underprivileged communities and workers. His administration oversaw the nationalisation of crucial industries, substantial public investments in infrastructure, the expansion of free education and healthcare, and the enhancement of social welfare programmes.

In 2002, the US tacitly supported a coup d’état aimed at toppling Chávez. Although he was removed from power, his reinstatement in less than 48 hours was facilitated by significant public support and the allegiance of military loyalists. Subsequently, beginning in 2005, the US implemented targeted sanctions against Venezuelan individuals and entities.

During his tenure, President Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded Chavez, encountered heightened interference due to the Obama Administration’s implementation of expanded US sanctions in 2013. These measures included financial and sectoral sanctions, as well as sanctions explicitly targeting the Venezuelan government.

The US persuaded the EU to join them in imposing their illegal sanctions. These sanctions, combined with the freezing of Venezuelan foreign assets and the decline in oil prices, plunged Venezuela into an economic crisis characterised by severe shortages of medicine and food.

Consequently, many Venezuelans abstained from voting in the 2015 National Assembly elections, resulting in a victory for the Western-backed opposition. This loss of parliamentary control did not lead to the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) including the opposition in its government.

Consequently, the opposition failed to win the subsequent Constituent Assembly and regional elections. Maduro won the 2018 presidential election, and the PSUV’s victory in the 2020 parliamentary elections compelled the West to withdraw their elevation of Juan Guaido to the position of president of Venezuela.

Tension is rising as the July 28 election draws closer. The resurgence of the “pink tide”, or a political wave largely favouring left-wing governments in countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Peru, Honduras, Chile, Colombia, and Brazil, is heightening the US’s determination to steer the global balance of forces in its favour.

Hence, Bolivia had a coup in 2019, which former President Juan Evo Morales alleged was executed with the backing of the US and the Organisation of American States (OAS), and witnessed another failed coup on June 26.

The US’s integrated country strategy for Venezuela (2024) emphasises restoring democracy as its top priority. This stance is taken despite former president, Jimmy Carter, praising Venezuela’s election process as “the best in the world”.

The US is openly expressing its support for the collaborative efforts of the democratic opposition through the 2015 National Assembly and Unitary Platform. As part of this commitment, the US is determined to employ its sanctions policy and other financial pressures to advance this cause.

In April, the Biden administration announced additional sanctions on Venezuela. Expressly, General Licence 44, which had permitted US companies to invest in and export Venezuelan oil for six months, was revoked.

The reinstatement of these sanctions is anticipated to reduce the government’s income by as much as $10 billion, equivalent to a tenth of its GDP. The deepening of an economic crisis in Venezuela is tantamount to foreign interference in its electoral process.

The PSUV and the ANC share numerous similarities. Both are dedicated to inclusive development, labour rights, and promoting a more peaceful and just world. Likewise, despite the former South African administration having enjoyed cordial relations with the US, as with Venezuela, the US aligns more closely with the opposition, extending it its full backing.

Accordingly, the ANC stands to gain insights from the PSUV. Despite losing control of the National Assembly in 2015, the PSUV adhered to its principles. Rather than incorporating the opposition into the government, it refocused efforts on grassroots initiatives, improved governance, and regained public confidence and electoral dominance.

The PSUV is mindful of the US’s determination to undermine Venezuela’s sovereignty and is adept at navigating these complexities with prudence. This is a skill that the ANC would do well to acquire.

* Reneva Fourie is a policy analyst specialising in governance, development and security and currently lives in Damascus, Syria.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The African.