Fake Humanitarianism Fails its Big Test in Venezuela

There it is: Saturday, February 23, 2019, has now come and gone—and it’s not to say that “nothing has changed”. In fact, some important changes did occur, none of which were the ones hoped for by either the self-declared “president” of Venezuela, Juán Guaidó, nor the ones commanded by the President of the US, Donald “Can I have my Nobel Peace Prize now?!” Trump. US options have thus narrowed, as we enter a protracted and potentially more dangerous phase where possible US military intervention draws closer. So let’s quickly review some of the changes introduced by yesterday’s events.

First, the unelected, self-declared “president” of Venezuela is no longer even in Venezuela. He used the opportunity of the US AID stunt to spirit himself across the border to Colombia, with the apparent well-wishes of ushers in the Venezuelan military (he should have been suspicious, unless he really intended to flee), and Guaidó now finds himself as a tourist in Colombia. Second, the military which Guaidó presumed to order, completely ignored him and remained loyal to the established government, the only legal and legitimate one. Indeed, the third point is that in failing the credibility test, Guaidó also failed the legitimacy test: how can he be viewed as a legitimate leader, without anything to lead, and with none of the state machinery following him? That is not a leader; at best, Guaidó can be defined an aspirant to power. He is a legitimate aspirant. Some in the opposition are already speaking of an alternative deal with the Maduro government. Having failed the credibility and legitimacy tests, a frustrated Guaidó had no option other than to invite foreign military intervention—if his own military won’t listen to him, surely other nations’ militaries will? And what about Richard Branson’s much vaunted aid concert? That takes us to the fourth point: that concert was drowned out, not just by a competing concert on the Venezuelan side of the border, and not just because it failed to draw any major international acts (perhaps thanks to Roger Waters), but the events of the day itself meant that not even a word was mentioned about the concert. It was like it had never happened. The fifth development is probably the most significant: US AID via Colombia, and similar “aid” intrusions from Brazil and Puerto Rico, were a resounding failure. The frustration that had been building up for days about the lack of a viable plan, was well warranted, as was Maduro’s optimism. Not well warranted were the raised expectations.

(Note, while the headline in the The New York Times claims that aid came in via Brazil, its source on the ground instead said, “The whole thing has failed” and the trucks “remained stranded on the border”. The story is misleadingly playing on a technicality: the aid left the Brazilian side of the border, but did not pass the Venezuelan checkpoint.)

What’s Next?

This takes us back to the central question of the previous article: what is the US’ next move? Simply insulting the Venezuelan armed forces, in what some called an “irresponsible speech,” by suggesting they are guilty of dereliction of duty, then insulting them further by saying Cuba directly controls the Venezuelan military, and then insulting them yet again by assuming that they should instead take their orders directly from Washington—will not work, and that much has been proven. Threats to the safety of Venezuelan soldiers only augments the offense. The US, speaking the language of “democracy promotion,” has been openly hoping for a palace coup—no such movement is in evidence however. All we know is that Vice President Mike Pence (who is likely leading the Venezuela intervention to shield Trump from any illegalities likely to be committed) will be meeting with aspirant Guaidó at his new lodgings in Colombia. That, and more sanctions, as if Venezuela’s government expected anything else.

Clearly the obese billionaire in the Oval Office relished the prospect of one day (soon) boasting that he had toppled a “regime” by just throwing some scraps of dog food at the feet of “desperate and starving” Venezuelans. (They just have to be desperate and starving, because their place in the natural order of things is that they are citizens of a “shit hole country”.) It would have pleased him immensely, he would have smiled slyly, to know that a well fed American can dangle a MRE pack in front of “hungry” eyes, and then sit back and listen to them scamper and scuffle. Such images enforce the evolutionist paradigm of progress, development, and global dictatorship. Trump would have told his friends: “You should have seen what happened, I just sent in crap like TV dinners to that shit hole country, and those pathetic losers fell all over themselves to get it, and the regime collapsed. Poof! Beautiful. Then I took their oil”. (The last point is important, because Trump has the ethics of a looter, and his foreign policy is a projection of his business practice: theft, scams, and all sorts of other wrongdoing enough to warrant hiding many years of tax returns behind some old yarn about an audit that is apparently eternal.)

Particularly important about the day’s events was the fact that two partners in an intended coup each failed their respective tests. The US and its regional allies showed that they could not even spirit in some boxes of junk “aid” and that they held no sway over the Venezuelan military. Guaidó failed to show that he commanded any support that mattered. He didn’t even have a few miserable boxes of US aid to selectively hand out to build up a patron-client network. Having auditioned for the role of CIA tool, he only demonstrated he was not worthy of the investment. He then fled. Then the government shut down his rumoured base of operations in Caracas: the Colombian embassy. The US could not have achieved less had it picked up any random person off the streets of Caracas.

Regime Survival Got a Boost

The unintended by-product of the US’ inability to command change, is a recipe for regime survival: everything that Venezuelans suffer from now on can be appropriately and rightly blamed on US intervention; opponents of President Nicolás Maduro can be labelled traitors, CIA proxies, and puppets of Washington, with considerable justification—thanks to US intervention; Venezuela will adapt and survive US sanctions like multiple other states have done; US oil refineries, shipping companies, insurance firms and banks—the other side of Venezuelan exports of oil to the US—will now suffer irreversible loss, and the US thus also loses its chokehold on Venezuela. Rather than American hegemony, it’s multipolarity that is advancing, with Venezuela moving closer into the orbits of Russia, China, and India. (India itself is completely unafraid of US sanctions, according to Indian analysts.) The US, especially under Trump, has responded to almost everything and everyone with either sanctions or their twin, tariffs, to the extent that there is virtually not a nation left on earth that is not subject to some sort of tariff or sanction from the US. The US is sanctioning itself into irrelevance, as the rest of the world devises ways of learning to live without it.

What Did We Not See?

Supposedly starving supporters of Juán Guaidó on Feb. 23, 2019

What was strangely absent from the day, in all the live television footage and numerous photographs of the events, were at least two things: one was that however many showed up to back Guaidó, it certainly was not the 700,000 to a million people he had promised. The other was the bizarre absence of any Venezuelan soldiers from virtually all of the photographs and live television coverage. How they could maintain a forceful presence, yet remain invisible to the media, is quite an achievement—one that denies the media any coup-worthy moments of manufactured, orchestrated outrage. Of course what was also absent—and we knew this would be—was any evidence of these supposedly starving Venezuelans. Having grown up in a society saturated with media images of the now classic “starving Ethiopian,” emaciated bodies with distended bellies, it’s noteworthy that the coup media cannot pull off such a display with Venezuela—that would be the same Venezuela with the supermarkets stuffed with goods.

Beware of Alternative “Fake News”

These postscripts are intended as memoranda to RT, CNN, and others: please check your sources for the claim that former US Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams was involved in actually smuggling in weapons in the guise of humanitarian aid. However appealing that image may be, it is a dorky and corny tale that arouses suspicion. It generally does not pass the smell test—check the last two links for further insight, and also see the Wikipedia page. Abrams was, after all, a State Department official, and not a field operative. In addition, he is being blamed for the operations that were conducted by Lt. Col. Oliver North and the CIA. The “humanitarian aid” disguise was aimed at the US Congress: Congress appropriated funds for humanitarian aid, and some of the funds were misused to arm the Contras illegally. It was no secret that the US was arming the Contras either—they were backed by the US, and they were armed. Most of that aid went to US bases in El Salvador and Honduras (US allies), where there was no need to “disguise” the aid, and it went to the Contras, a military force—again no need to disguise the aid. It’s not like Abrams called Contra leaders and surprised them: “We’re sending you some bags of rice. Or are we? Wink, wink”. They certainly were not fooling Nicaragua’s government, nor did Nicaragua allow in any such “aid” only to somehow find out it was not real humanitarian aid at all—that never happened. Nicaraguan authorities did capture a US pilot, after an illegal flight resulted in a crash inside Nicaragua, revealing the contents of what the US was sending the Contras: weapons, when Congress had banned military aid to the Contras. Abrams was just one figure among many in the story, and not the most directly involved.

The “Trojan Horse” charge is thus being misinterpreted and turned into something laughable. No serious person thinks the US was trying to smuggle in weapons in US AID boxes, in front of thousands of cameras in the plain light of day. That’s why not-so-secret flights exist instead. The “Trojan Horse” idea instead seems to be a little too complicated for the media which prefers a cartoonish rendition. The serious argument is that the aid was intended to shore up Guaidó’s power, since the aid was going directly to the opposition; and, the aid expressly bypassed the legal and legitimate government authorities of Venezuela, and was thus meant to undermine their authority. Furthermore, Guaidó spoke of the “aid” effort as being one that would create a “humanitarian corridor”—echoing terminology used by the US in Syria—and which would have meant wresting territory from the hands of the Venezuelan state, thus allowing the US free passage in and out at will. In addition, the hoped-for clash (which did not materialize to the extent that was feared) could have served as a pretext for warming up international opinion in favour of a US military “rescue”. That’s the extent of the Trojan Horse in this case—it’s not about grenades inside bags of rice. Otherwise President Nicolás Maduro did not “reject” any so-called “aid” from the US, because none had been given to him. The only thing the Venezuelan government did was to block its borders from being used for illegal purposes by foreign powers—its sovereign right. It did so, and it won.

Also tenuous is the story, repeated on RT several times now, that seems to take great joy in upbraiding rivals like CNN for reporting that Venezuelan authorities had “closed” the Tienditas bridge, built in 2016 and supposedly never opened (a bridge to nowhere?). Venezuelan authorities did in fact move containers to block that bridge, and were recorded doing so by Colombian authorities on February 5, of this year. Moreover, and this is the more important point: Maduro repeatedly said any attempt to move the aid into Venezuela would be blocked. There was never even the slightest hint that Maduro would just stand aside and let it pass. It seems that some foreign journalists are divided by their partisan loyalties and create the appearance of wanting to have their cake and eat it too: the humanitarian aid is not for humanitarian purposes, and has been denounced by several of the leading international humanitarian aid agencies, but it’s not like Venezuela shut down a bridge to prevent aid from reaching suffering masses—this seems to be their odd narrative, designed to satisfy multiple competing constituencies. The events of February 23 will hopefully clarify any lingering misinterpretations, on any side.

*****

This article was translated into Italian and published on Saker Italia: la prospettiva del Falco sul mondo di oggi as, “Il falso umanitarismo fallisce il suo grande test in Venezuela”.

*****

5 thoughts on “Fake Humanitarianism Fails its Big Test in Venezuela

  1. Greg Connolly

    Fascinating history, thanks. A very long time ago with North et.al. And many don’t recall or know the machinations of the Congress itself.
    Very important in understanding the real USA.

    1. Maximilian C. Forte

      Thank you Greg. You’re right, and what came to be known as the “Iran Contra affair” was particularly drawn out and detailed, so unless one followed it at the time it becomes much harder to do something like a crash course in the present. Fortunately, while I cannot remember what I did this morning, I do remember events from 30 years ago more clearly. I once also had an entire library devoted to the history of Nicaragua, its revolution, and US intervention–and had to give it all up when I couldn’t afford to pay to ship the books. Otherwise I would have had more information at my finger tips (maybe it’s best that I didn’t). Thanks again.

  2. Karl Kolchak

    Anyone else find it laughable that Puerto Rico is sending “aid” to Venezuela when it still desperately needs aid itself? maybe Trump will show up at the border and shoot a few baskets with some rolls of paper towels originally earmarked for San Juan.

  3. Pingback: Regime Change Reality Checks: Lessons from Hanoi, Caracas, and Beyond – ZERO ANTHROPOLOGY

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.