Crisis in Venezuela: How did it happen?



Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. Not to speak of minerals like gold, iron and diamonds. Why is it suffering today from an economic and humanitarian crisis? Actually, the crisis was created by our own U.S. government and its Latin American policies.

Hugo Chavez was Venezuela’s president from 1998 to 2012. He was re-elected several times by large majorities. Because he proclaimed himself a socialist, the CIA began trying to bring him down almost from the moment he took office, the most notable event being a failed coup attempt in 2002 when George W. Bush was in the White House.

What were the most terrible things Chavez did? First, he nationalized the country’s oil industry; second, he attempted to use other international currencies, like the Chinese Yuan, as reference currencies for selling Venezuelan oil, rather than the U.S. dollar. These are truly unforgivable sins in the U.S. petrodollar book.

If you find this hard to believe, look at the history of Iran. English and American oil companies controlled Iran’s oil production until 1951, when the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq nationalized the oil industry. Two years later, in 1953, a coup organized by the CIA and the British Secret Service overthrew Mossadeq and installed the Shah (a king!), who gave back the oil fields and ruled the country with an iron hand until 1979. This is only one example of how oil prevailed over democracy. There have been other countries in which similar things happened, but it would take too long to list them.

Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro used their oil revenues for social programs like expanding health care, education and housing, and the country briefly had one of the highest standards of living in South America. Venezuela’s music education program for poor children received international recognition. But this kind of “socialism,” financed by oil revenues U.S. companies thought should be coming to them, was unacceptable–especially since other Latin American countries were watching and beginning to envy Venezuela.

Over the last five years the U.S. has imposed economic sanctions aimed at crippling Venezuela’s economy. Venezuela has been frozen out of the international oil market and the international banking system. Per capita income has decreased by 40 percent. This is worse than the depth of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, when the decline in income in the U.S. was only about 30 percent. Maduro does not have Chavez’ charisma, and our policy makers hope he will be an easy target for a U.S. backed coup d’tat.

How generous is it of us to offer “humanitarian” aid to Venezuela, when that country’s humanitarian and economic crisis is of our own making? All the U.S. would have to do is lift the sanctions, and the Venezuelan economy could return to normal.

Elliott Abrams was a key player in the Iran-Contra Scandal (and was convicted for it, but was pardoned by George H.W. Bush) and helped to back dictators in Guatemala and El Salvador. He is now our special envoy for Venezuela. To quote his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “We want to restore democracy to Venezuela.” Such words trip easily off his tongue, but his task is really to promote a power grab by people who will restore more Venezuelan profits to U.S. oil companies.

There would be no crisis in Venezuela were it not for U.S.-imposed sanctions. We say we are trying to “save” them. The only ones they really need saving from is us.