As Steve Sweeney writes: Washington has come under fire (Ed: largely in the suffering regions’ media) for using the global health emergency to exert pressure on countries, including Venezuela and Iran, where it seeks regime change. Both have been targeted with increased sanctions and threats.
At least 3,003 people have died in the United States from Covid-19 and over 160,698 cases of coronavirus have been detected. CNN reports that hundreds of medical workers across the country have fallen sick and hospitals face dire shortages of protective gear: “We are slowly descending into chaos,” said a trauma physician at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.
As infections and deaths escalate, what preoccupies the American government?
Last week the Trump administration indicted President Maduro as a drug trafficker, offering a $15m reward for his capture, despite the words of Pino Arlacchi, the former Vice Secretary of the United Nations and Former Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. Arlacchi is reported to have said that the world’s main producer and consumer are Colombia and the United States and Venezuela has always been outside these main cocaine trafficking circuits, adding:
“There is no illegal drug trade between Venezuela and the United States, except in the ill fantasy of Trump and his associates. I have been dealing with the issue of drugs for 40 years and I have never encountered Venezuela”.
Yesterday, Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state (above), added further pressure on Venezuela, telling a press briefing in Washington about plans to invite President Nicolás Maduro to cede power to a new transitional government.
Speaking after this news, Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s foreign minister, responded: “Nicolás Maduro was elected in May 2018 for a period of six years. . . he would never betray the trust that the people have put in him twice already.”
Sweeney sees aggressive behaviour towards Venezuela, Cuba, China and Iran as attempts by Donald Trump to ‘cover his inadequacies’ fuelled by fears that Washington is losing its dominant influence on the world stage.
The Financial Times editorial has called for the US and its allies to change course and waive sanctions on Venezuela as US bid for regime change escalates. It argued that the desperate state of Venezuela merits special consideration: the spread of the coronavirus, coinciding with a crash in global oil prices, has deprived Caracas of most of its sole source of legal foreign exchange ending:
“Negotiate a humanitarian programme and focus on health as the coronavirus spreads apace in both countries”.
Venezuela: Murdoch press publishes Pompeo’s Corbyn slur while the FT sheds a positive light on events
As other papers headline the US secretary of state’s strictures on China, Iran and UK, the Times reports a remark made by Mike Pompeo about Jeremy Corbyn’s “disgusting” support for the Maduro regime – his refusal to denounce the president of Venezuela and his praise of the socialist regime’s “effective and serious” efforts to reduce poverty.
Mainstream media rarely refers to the US’ economic warfare, its imposition of sanctions on this oil-rich country, which are leading to food shortages and civil unrest and still less to the damaging IMF austerity regime.
The US and around 50 other countries say Mr Maduro is clinging to power on the basis of bogus elections – despite the reports of international observers – see Media Lens’ evidence. As Ian MacLeod, in Manufacturing Consent in Venezuela: Media Misreporting of a Country, 1998–2014, published in December, finds:
Alan MacLeod, a member of Glasgow University’s respected Media Group, documented the bias throughout the Chavez era in his book, Bad News from Venezuela: Twenty years of fake news and misreporting.
Fair, an American media bias watch group, published a February article by Mark Cook, Venezuela Coverage Takes Us Back to Golden Age of Lying About Latin America. Mark, writing from his home in Caracas, effectively and entertainingly debunks the allegations of shortages of food and painkillers.
As many countries predict the imminent bankruptcy of the regime, the FT – which notes Washington’s ‘relentless social media campaign against the Maduro government’ – alone in mainstream media presents (rather reluctantly) some evidence challenging the totally negative picture presented.
It reports today that some substantial debts are being paid and that the Venezuelan people are tired of the conflict – no longer responding to Mr Guaidó’s calls to demonstrate.
Venezuela is paying debts
- State-owned oil company PDVSA, is paying holders of PDVSA’s bonds, due in 2020, the $71m in interest payments owed from late April.
- In mid-April, Russia’s Finance Minister announced the Maduro government had paid more than $100m to cover an interest payment due in March
- In the first quarter of this year, ConocoPhillips disclosed that it had received $147m from PDVSA as part of a settlement awarded by an ICC tribunal.
Venezuelans are tired of the conflict and no longer responding to Mr Guaidó’s calls to demonstrate
In another FT article, planning a Saturday march to win over the military, Mr Guaidó urged his followers to march to military installations and hand over copies of a letter in which he urged the armed forces to support a “peaceful transition”. But few people heeded the call and even Mr Guaidó, who had been expected to lead one of the marches, did not turn up.
State of play (FT)
Mr Guaidó has acknowledged that he does not yet command enough support within the military to force regime change.
Mr Maduro has accepted that his administration needs to “rectify mistakes”. To that end, he authorised thousands of popular “assemblies” over the weekend to discuss what needs to be changed.