A supporter of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido (LaPresse)

American Interests in Latin America: a Long History

The United States and its relationship with Latin America is best described as dysfunctional, at best. Imperialistic at worst.

At the onset of the Cold War Harry Truman enacted the Truman Doctrine. Its sole purpose was to combat Russian communist expansion. This was done not through military action but by “allowing Congress to appropriate finances to support the economies and militaries under the threat of communism.”

While the doctrine was first used to combat Russian influence in Greece and Turkey it quickly moved to Latin America. As a result, the US has been involved in regime change in every country in Latin America except Colombia, Paraguay and Venezuela. Until 2002.

That’s when the Bush administration tacitly began calling for regime change in Venezuela. Recently declassified documents revealed that the US had knowledge of a coup attempt against then President Hugo Chavez but decided not to notify him. The coup was successful… for 48 hours. Chavez returned to power by popular support from both the people and the military.

There may have been other reasons, but you can’t help but wonder if this didn’t influence Hugo Chavez decision to refer to George W. Bush as “the devil”. Which is exactly what Chavez did when he called President Bush “el diablo” in a 2006 speech to the United Nations.

Hugo Chavez died in 2013 and succeeded by Nicholas Maduro. While the country enjoyed tremendous economic growth under Chavez, it was beginning to turn as he was dying and then turned even quicker as Maduro took office.

The wave of Chavez’s popularity that Maduro rode in on came crashing down. As the Chavez/Maduro policies caused the Venezuelan economy to collapse, the country saw an uptick in crime, poverty, hunger and inflation. Since then there have been daily protests calling for changes to the system. Protests that have killed and hurt many.

In May of 2018, Nicolas Maduro was elected for a second six-year term as president in what was thought to be a “show election”. Many have refused to recognize the elections legitimacy based on a series of criminal charges and irregularities. Once Maduro was sworn in as president in January of 2019, the Venezuelan National Assembly declared he had no national mandate to govern.

According to the Venezuelan constitution, this threw the country into a presidential crisis and in such circumstances, the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, would be sworn in as President until a new election can be held.

With a limitless distaste for Nicholas Maduro, most of the America’s and Europe recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president while others remain neutral on the matter.

It’s no great shock that Maduro has the support of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Turkey.

Cue the Truman Doctrine.

The modus operandi of the Truman Doctrine is that through financial and military support, the US will train and strategize with the opposition. And whenever possible, the US will apply economic warfare for good measure through sanctions and blockade’s, in order to strangle the population. Done in hopes the citizens will revolt against the current government.

And of course, the US will globally apply its gold standard Public Relations against the offending government.

Now because the Truman Doctrine is anti-communist, there is also free-market element to this playbook as well.

For example, in 1970, Salvador Allende was democratically elected as the President of Chile. Allende immediately nationalized copper mining in Chile. Thereby revoking a convoluted scheme agreed by his predecessor, President Eduardo Frei Montalva, which allowed the US to maintain some control of the lucrative Chilean copper industry.

Salvador Allende and Fidel castro (LaPresse)
Salvador Allende and Fidel castro (LaPresse)

Allende also nationalized the banking and health care industries. He also established free school meals, rent reductions, the construction of a subway system, increased social security payments, expanded a public works program, eliminated taxes on the middle-class, etc. That there is too close to socialism!

Cue the Truman Doctrine.

Just as Allende’s policies were being enacted and Chile was turning around, ominous graffiti began to appear around Santiago, Chile plaintively stating “Jakarta is coming.” This is a nod to the US backed coup of Indonesia that took place in 1965/66 that left up to one million people dead during a coup that left authoritarian President Suharto in charge for 30 years.

Then on September 11, 1973, a coup, backed by the U.S. Government and the CIA, was led by General Augusto Pinochet. The coup led to Allende’s suicide and Pinochet’s rule over Chile for 17 years. During his reign, tens of thousands of Chileans were murdered, tortured, kicked out of the country or just “disappeared” while hundreds of thousands were forced into exile.

Tribute to the victims of the coup d'état in Chile in 1973 (LaPresse)
Tribute to the victims of the coup d’état in Chile in 1973 (LaPresse)

Seems an extreme reaction to something that saw every measurable socio-economic sector in Chile grow positively during Allede’s short time in office.

There is also the case of the 12-year civil war in El Salvador (1979-1992). This had the government of El Salvador fighting against the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a group of agricultural cooperatives and labor leaders who advocated for land reform and better working conditions.

Cue the Truman Doctrine.

By the third year of the conflict, US officers had taken over positions in the top levels of the Salvadoran military and were making critical decisions that would ultimately lead to the death of 75,000 civilians. Seems an extreme reaction to land reform and better working conditions. Which brings us to Venezuela.

It can’t be ignored that Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. Now currently, that oil is nationalized and the driving factor in its economy. And wouldn’t some of the world’s publicly traded oil companies love to get their cloven hoofs on that nationalized oil? And could the US help? With both Chevron and Exxon each having spent upwards of 2.5 million dollars in lobbying to date in 2019, I think the answer would be yes.

Sanctions against Venezuela tepidly began in 2014, but under the more than current corporate friendly Washing D.C. atmosphere, have accelerated under the Trump Administration. Of course, the stated goal of the administration is not to hurt the people of Venezuela. All evidence, and U.S. history in Latin America, tells a different story. It may be true, but as is always the case, an average citizens life is the cost in the ponzi scheme of regime change.

It goes without saying that overthrowing a government is no easy task. Historically, the US protocol has been to act covertly, or at least making the attempt. In Venezuela, either the US is having a very hard time keeping their desire hidden or the Trump administration simply doesn’t understand the definition of “covert”.

This regime change is made more complicated by the fact that, as of now, Maduro appears to have the support of the military. In early May, Juan Guaidó led a failed attempt to turn the military against Maduro. Which may explain why Juan Guaidó has recently begun considering asking the U.S. government to take military action. When it comes to U.S. involvement in overthrowing a government in Latin America, tertiary or full-on, the odds are against Maduro.

However, to date, that’s one thing President Trump has not yet bumbled his way into. It may also explain why Erik Prince, the American military equivalent of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, has been in Washington D.C. trying to gin up the privatization of a Venezuelan coup.

To be honest though, if Erik Prince could find a way to get money out of overthrowing a condominium association, he’d just as readily do that.

Oh, and there’s also 48 billion dollars on the line. The Intercept recently published an article detailing that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) was “quietly circulating an analysis that foresees an up to 48-billion-dollar infusion of capital into the Venezuelan economy should President Nicolas Maduro be removed from office.” The independence of the IDB is questionable, at best, considering that the US has roughly 1/3 of the voting shares.

This analysis and presentation were to be given at the IDB’s annual meeting in March of 2019 in China. The US had invited Guaidó’s economic coordinator, Harvard University economist Ricardo Hausmann. However, the meeting was in China and since they’re a shareholder in the IDB, to the tune of .004% (seriously) and China doesn’t recognize Guaidó, Hausmann was denied a visa.

Remember that gold standard Public Relations machine I mentioned? The NYTimes recently received information that Tareck El Aissami, one of Mr. Maduro’s closest confidants and industry minister, has recently been indicted in the United States on drug trafficking. And if there is one thing the US hates more than communism or socialism, it’s drugs.

The Truman Doctrine playbook remains an active part of American policy in Latin America and now it appears as though the DEA may be able to step in and contribute.

I think it’s safe to presume it’s only a matter of time before the walls come down, in Venezuela. But at what cost? Given how seen this always plays out, it’s not just the billions of dollars, political structure or future of the country at stake. It’s the Venezuelan people. They’ll be the ones who will bear the ultimate burden.

It won’t be the Venezuelan political or military leadership who suffer. It will be the average citizen who suffers now for the change, who will suffer during the change, and as history has shown time after time in Latin America, it’s the ordinary citizen who will suffer after the change.