Wednesday, March 11, 2015

TRNN interviews Miguel Tinker Salas on US government’s actions toward Venezuela

Here’s an interview on the Real News Network with Venezuela scholar Miguel Tinker Salas. (You can watch it there or read the transcript, or watch it on YouTube here. Embedding isn’t allowed, which is annoying.)

What I like about this interview in particular is that it focuses on the US government’s actions and relations with Latin America. Too many interviews, and I think it’s out of fear of appearing uncritical, devote too much time to discussing Venezuela’s domestic economic problems and the internal difficulties of the Maduro government. I have a problem with this tendency for several reasons. First, it can contribute to the arrogant, imperialistic sense that we have in the US (and the global North generally) that it’s our right and responsibility to provide criticism and recommendations to other countries, with the expectation that they’ll listen.

Second, emphasizing these problems in the context of opposition coup-plotting can implicitly normalize the idea that the illegal removal of a democratically elected government, the destruction of democracy, and the sweeping aside of the popular will is potentially justifiable. If things are really that bad or protesters that angry, people could easily start to think, maybe something drastic like regime change might be necessary. This is an idea that would never be accepted by the vast majority of people in North America or Europe with regard to their own or other Northern countries’ governments, but we often have a tendency to see poor countries’ democratic institutions as less sacrosanct and to be less absolute in their defense.

Third, the focus on Venezuela’s current woes removes them from any historical, comparative, or global context, which tends at once to magnify them and to make them appear more potentially tractable for the Venezuelan government. The economic, political, and social problems Venezuela is facing are shared by many other countries, including in the same region, often in far more extreme forms. Further, to dwell on current corruption and shortages and so forth distracts attention from the terrible situation before Chávez was elected, which would certainly recur were Maduro to be criminally ousted. This narrow focus also leads away from an analysis that recognizes both the general difficulties involved with building strong welfare programs and policies of local political involvement in a global capitalist order and the specific effects of the covert campaign of destabilization and economic warfare continuously waged by the rightwing opposition in league with the US. (And it should go without saying that economic improvement wouldn’t deter the Venezuelan Right or the US government in their destabilization efforts at all - these have been a constant since 1999.)

Finally, it distracts from what should be our primary focus, which is to challenge media misrepresentations in our own countries and stop our own governments from persisting in antidemocratic and imperialistic intervention. We should be focused on joining with the people of the region to demand that the US government especially respect the democratic process in Latin American and Caribbean nations and engage with their elected governments in good faith. They aren’t going to do it without sustained pressure from within as well as without.