You can be forgiven if, in the crush of bad news, you’ve chosen to skip over the reporting on Venezuela. Or, if you’ve bothered to skim or to read the various pieces from most media, you’ve likely accepted the dominant narrative. That narrative, unlike the narrative for say, climate change, gender issues, or health care, is pretty consistent across the political spectrum, from The New York Times, MSNBC and CNN to Fox News.
The narrative goes something like this: Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, is a tyrant who has squandered Venezuela's resources and is starving his people; Maduro and his government are corrupt and are only able to persist because of the support of the military; Maduro is widely unpopular and should just step down and allow someone named Juan Guaido to assume the presidency. I could go on, but you get the idea.
For those of us who have followed U.S. foreign policy for many years, the pattern of events and of reporting around Venezuela follows a pattern that is easily recognizable and consistent over many decades. In the broadest context, the United States has, since the 1950s, waged war, both covert and overt, upon numerous governments in the developing world that have had the tendency to drift toward policies that prioritize the well-being of their own people over the needs of capitalism, or “U.S. interests.” That was the case in Iran and in Guatemala in 1954, in Chile in 1973, and in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980’s. That is precisely what happened in Honduras in 2009 with a coup that was supported by the United States and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And these various programs of destabilizing or overthrowing governments have been largely cheered on by a docile corporate media; think “the domino theory” in Vietnam, or weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The inconvenient facts concerning Venezuela include: Maduro won 67% of the vote in the May 2018 election with 46% of registered voters casting ballots. That election was deemed fair and transparent by 150-plus international observers. It is true that the country has faced dire economic circumstances, some self-inflicted, but much of the blame can be attributed to U.S. sanctions, initially invoked during the Obama administration, and now intensified under the likes of Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Elliott Abrams and John Bolton.
In spite of sanctions, Venezuela’s poorest have seen marked improvements in their well-being under first Hugo Chavez, and now under Maduro. The UN’s Economic and Social Council in a 2018 report put Venezuela in the category of countries that have “High Human Development.” Venezuela, in the ranking of countries in this report, scored higher than the majority of countries in Latin America, who, at the behest of the United States, have supported the overthrow of the Maduro government. These countries include Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras, to name several.
If you would like to consider more accurate assessments of conditions in Venezuela, I would suggest several; FAIR-Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting and the Independent (particularly a Jan. 26 piece by the UN rapporteur and former secretary of the UN Human Rights Council, Alfred de Zayas. In this article, he describes U.S. sanctions against Venezuela as illegal and argues they could amount to “crimes against humanity.” Other sources include "Democracy Now" and editorial pieces by the respected journalist Allan Nairn.