It is common practice among warmongers to scapegoat a single person in order to justify hostility against an entire nation, obscuring complicated political realities and appealing to an ambiguously oppressed and vaguely defined “people” whom it is their duty to save. Trump’s new economic sanctions and his ominous threat of a possible military option against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are no different.
In his official statement, Trump not only condemns the popularly elected Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro as “a bad leader with dreams of becoming dictator,” but also claims to know the desires of the Venezuelan people well enough to speak for them and act on their behalf. Coming from a president who lost the popular vote in his own country by millions, and whose approval rating sits at an embarrassing 37.2 percent it is hard to take his claim seriously.
It does not take much investigation to discover that the people Trump appeals to in Venezuela are of the same type as those he appeals to in the United States: the white, wealthy and elite. Thus, when Trump demands “democracy” for this South American country, the question “democracy for whom?” answers itself.
Western media is saturated with horror stories of the Venezuelan government repressing their opposition, but on the horrific violence committed by this same opposition against the broad masses of the Venezuelan working class they remain curiously silent.
Arguably, democracy is already taking place in Venezuela at a level which far surpasses our own. This is the democracy of the communes, networks of organic collectives whose localized decision making system and grassroots organizational structure laid the foundation of the Bolivarian Revolution and propelled Hugo Chavez into power in 1999.
As with any government in crises, Maduro’s is far from perfect, and the alliance between the state and broad masses of people is a skeptical and tenuous one. However, it is undeniable that policies such as the institutional land reform programs, established first by Chavez in 2005 and broadened under the Maduro government, are of considerable advantage to the traditionally oppressed classes of Venezuela. Ousting Maduro in the interest of the wealthy elite would in no way benefit democracy, but instead strike a possibly fatal blow.
Trump’s threats against Venezuela is merely another development in the United States’ long history of aggression against Latin America. For a nation so rhetorically concerned with the spirit of democracy and the well-being of the people, the United States has never been hesitant to advance the interests of its wealthy elite with no regard to the suffering that has caused most people within its own borders and abroad.
Trump may speak of this violence less subtly than his predecessors. However, the reality of this violence stretches back to Obama, through Bush and back to the genocide initiated by Columbus against the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
This is not to deny the hope, comradery and love embodied by millions of American communities throughout its history, but only to recognize what must no longer go unrecognized— that against these communities exists a parasitic power that would set the world on fire to turn a profit.
Against Trump’s ominous promise to “drain the swamp”, perhaps we should have first asked what lay beneath its murky waters. For better or for worse it is time to turn our noses bravely towards the fetid stench of the corpse ridden swamp-bed. It is time to face the atrocity of U.S. imperialism and stand in unshakable solidarity with the Venezuelan people on the international struggle for justice and peace.
– Brad Waldraff is a philosophy senior