The hindu editorial 9

It allows him to present himself as the last bulwark against a return to American corporate domination.

On February 18, U.S. President Donald Trump amped up yet again the pressure on Venezuela’s recalcitrant military. If they do not defect to Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s head of the national legislature who proclaimed himself the constitutional president in late January, Mr. Trump declares they will not benefit from amnesty. It is widely believed that many in the military fear sanctions for corruption, illicit narcotics trafficking and human rights abuses. Thus far, though, the U.S. has failed to recruit their Venezuelan equivalent of Chile’s Pinochet, the leader of the 1973 coup against the elected socialist, Salvador Allende. Nor has Mr. Guaidó succeeded as Nicaragua’s Violeta Chamorro did in 1990, to leverage devastating economic sanctions to win over large swaths of the population once sympathetic to Nicaragua’s Sandinista-led revolution against a U.S.-backed dictator.

Venezuelans’ dilemma

Why wouldn’t Venezuelans flock to Mr. Guaidó? Why would anyone support Mr. Nicolás Maduro? After all, his claim to the presidency is based on elections last year widely deemed fraudulent with the lowest turnout in Venezuela’s long democratic history. His regime has clamped down on freedom of the press, jailed dissenters and stands accused of numerous human rights violations. His military is blocking humanitarian aid.

Ironically, the answer points back to the U.S. I don’t mean that the U.S. and its oil companies support Mr. Maduro. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although, of course, we should not forget that the U.S. oil industry has remained one of Venezuela’s biggest clients since 1998 when Hugo Chávez won in a landslide. I mean we cannot understand the contours of politics today without an appreciation for how U.S. oil companies “developed” Venezuela.

Venezuela is not just any oil-producing society. It is the U.S.’s oil society. It was the cash cow for the largest of Rockefeller’s duelling sister companies after the company’s court mandated break-up in 1911: Standard Oil of New Jersey. We know this company today as ExxonMobil. Jersey took a significant interest in Venezuela in 1928, shortly after the first major gusher in 1922. It quickly towered over Venezuela’s oil industry. By 1941, it controlled 65% of its reserves. By 1945, it produced more oil than all other oil companies in Venezuela. Venezuela made Jersey rich. By the mid-1940s, it generated more than half of Jersey’s total revenue. Venezuela’s oil, indeed, facilitated the U.S.’s rise to world hegemony, an ascent rooted in shifting the world to rely on the primary energy source it controlled: oil.

Moreover, as historian Miguel Tinker Salas reveals, Jersey did more than just suck oil out of the ground. It sought to re-make Venezuelan social and political life in its own image. It proclaimed that what was best for the oil companies was best for Venezuela. It did so, even as it crushed employee dissidents and effectively turned labour unions into company spies. This was oil’s “enduring legacy,” a lore which Chávez burst. Even after they nationalised oil in 1976, the industry remained in the hands of professionals seasoned by the company’s long-standing commitment to maximise profit. Venezuela’s establishment parties struggled to deliver credibly on the promise to “sow the oil”: to use the oil revenue to grow Venezuela’s domestic industry.

The U.S. companies, in fact, sowed a very different kind of seed: a deep distrust of U.S. oil companies and Venezuela’s political establishment which collaborated with them for decades. This is the distrust which anchored support for Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution for a 21st century socialism; a distrust only intensified by their 1990 efforts to re-privatise elements of the oil industry. Seen from this vantage point, even Mr. Maduro’s blatant vote-for-food campaigning may appear as a means of delivering, literally, Venezuela’s oil-based revenue to the people. This history also likely complicates Mr. Guaidó’s prospects of unifying Venezuelans against Mr. Maduro. Plenty of Chavistas oppose Mr. Maduro’s corruption and repressive turn, even as they still believe in Chávez’s initial goals to take back national control over oil. Mr. Guaidó is a hard sell for this loyal opposition among Chavistas. His unwillingness to denounce the U.S.’s thinly veiled attempt to force regime change likely deepens such misgivings.

The U.S.’s current hard-driving strategy may actually backfire. It validates Mr. Maduro’s appeal to stick with him as the last bulwark against a return to U.S. corporate, not to mention military, domination. The appointment of Elliott Abrams, as Special Representative for Venezuela, plays right into such an appeal. After all, he notoriously defended El Salvador’s brutal military offensive against that country’s national liberation movement, denying its role in one of that country’s bloodiest massacres. He was deeply implicated in the U.S.’s covert efforts to fund the Contras against Nicaragua’s democratically elected socialist government. In naming Abrams, Mr. Trump signalled that the U.S. believes that Venezuela could go the way of Nicaragua in 1990: erode sympathy for the regime by combining crippling economic sanctions with the threat, if not the actual use, of lethal force.

The EU initiative

Not surprisingly, the best chance for a peaceful transition comes not from the U.S. The European Union announced the formation of an “international contact group” in January 2019 to address the Venezuelan crisis. The group includes nations that have already recognised Mr. Guaidó (France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, The Netherlands, the U.K. and Costa Rica) as well as those with more ambiguous positions (Italy, Ecuador, Uruguay and Bolivia). When the group met for the first time early in February, they committed themselves to establish the “necessary guarantees for a credible electoral process” and to “enable… delivery of assistance.” Cornered, Mr. Maduro and Mr. Guaidó have yet to agree to talk. Meanwhile, millions of Venezuelans starve and flee.

Courtesy: The Hindu (International)

  1. Recalcitrant (adj): Unwilling to obey orders or to do what should be done. (आज्ञा न माननेवाला)

Synonyms: Intractable, Contumacious Recusant, Unruly

Antonyms: Amenable, Compliant, Conformable, Docile

Example: The recalcitrant teenager gets into trouble every day.

  1. Amnesty (noun): An official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offences.

Synonyms: Pardon, Reprieve Absolution, Forgiveness

Antonyms: Penalty, Punishment, Conviction, Retribution

Example: Most political prisoners were freed under the terms of the amnesty.

  1. Hegemony (noun): The predominant influence of one group over another. (प्राधान्य)

Synonyms: Leadership, Dominance Supremacy, Ascendancy, Mastery

Antonyms: Helplessness, Weakness, Powerlessness, Impotence,

Example: The president of the company has hegemony over his employees.

  1. Collaborate (verb): Work jointly on an activity or project. (सहयोग, ममलकर काम करना)

Synonyms: Affiliate, Associate, Combine, Confederate

Antonyms: Divide, Separate, Divorce

Example: He collaborated with him on numerous hotel projects.

Related: Collaborated, Collaborated

  1. Blatant (Noun): (Of Bad Behaviour) Done Openly And Unashamedly. (खुल्लम-खुल्ला, स्पष्ट)

Synonyms: Flagrant, Conspicuous, Shameless, Brazen

Antonyms: Concealed, Hidden, Inconspicuous, Unnoticeable

Example: When the judge heard the defendant’s blatant lie, he became very angry.

  1. Denounce (verb): Publicly declare to be wrong or evil. (मनिंदा करना, आरोप लगा देना)

Synonyms: Condemn, Criticize Castigate, Vilify

Antonyms: Eulogize, Exalt, Extol, Consecrate

Example: The film was denounced for the way it portrayed its female characters.

Related: Denounced , Denounced

  1. Bulwark (noun): Something that protects you from dangerous or unpleasant situations or a defensive wall. (रक्षण-साधन )

Synonyms: Rampart, Bastion, Fortification Shield, Defence

Antonyms: Assail, Assault, Attack,

Example: Vaccines act as a bulwark against many childhood diseases.

  1. Notoriously (adverb): In a way that is famous for something bad: ( कुख्यात रूप से)

Synonyms: Ignominious, Infamous, Prominent, Renowned

Antonyms: Anonymous, Nameless, Obscure

Example: He was involved in crime – most notoriously, a series of armed robberies.

  1. Credibly (adverb): In a believable and convincing way. (मवश्वासपूववक)

Synonyms: Believably, Plausibly, Realistically, Feasibly

Antonyms: Incredibly, Unbelievably, Implausibly

Example: He was the only figure who could credibly run the country.

  1. Vantage point (noun): A place or position affording a good view of something. (नज़ररया)

Synonyms: Viewpoint, Standpoint, Outlook, Perspective, Angle

Example: From my vantage point I could see into the front garden.

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