“Since 2014,” writes a reporter in the online journal Venezuelanalysis, “Venezuela has been suffering from a deep economic crisis brought about by the drop in global oil prices, a dysfunctional exchange rate system, and a decrease in oil production levels.
“So far the crisis has been characterised by triple digit inflation, and a shortage of hard cash and everyday staples. Nonetheless, the situation has worsened since December 2017.”
The Maduro government is by no means exempt from responsibility for these deteriorating conditions. It has displayed a remarkable ineptness in its failure to overcome the economic crisis by tackling its underlying causes, notwithstanding some innovative maneuvering that has, for now, staved off the offensive by its right-wing political opponents and their foreign supporters.
But the economic damage suffered by the mass of the Venezuelan population is furthered by the sanctions imposed on the country’s government and economy by foreign powers—in the first place, of course, the United States (which also threatens military intervention), but with the active complicity of its faithful partner the Canadian government. The Trudeau government, like the Harper government before it, has played a leading role in fomenting opposition to Venezuela and the progressive international solidarity it has displayed since Hugo Chávez was elected president almost 20 years ago.
Most recently, Ottawa has expelled Venezuela’s ambassador from this country, a step just short of ending diplomatic relations.
Canada’s sanctions (see footnote 1) are designed, in part, to cut off the Venezuelan government’s access to dollars and leave it therefore without the hard currency needed to pay for vital imports of food and medicine. The result, as a report in Foreign Policy notes, “risks turning the country’s current humanitarian crisis into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe.
That’s what began to happen in 2017. Last year, Venezuela’s export revenues rose from $28 to $32 billion, buoyed by the recovery in world oil prices. Under normal conditions, a rise in a country’s exports would leave it with more resources to pay for its imports. But in the Venezuelan case, imports fell by 31 percent during the same year. The reason is that the country lost access to international financial markets. Unable to roll over its debt, it was forced to build up huge external surpluses to continue servicing that debt in a desperate attempt to avoid a default. Meanwhile, creditors threatened to seize the Venezuelan government’s remaining revenue sources if the country defaulted, including refineries located abroad and payments for oil shipments.
The following article by a Venezuelan currently based in Canada reviews the record of Canada’s hostility toward the Bolivarian revolution, and situates it in light of Canada’s history and general role within global imperialism. My thanks to Art Young for translating the article, which was first published on the Venezuelan website aporrea.org on December 8, 2017.
For further reading, see in particular this article by Canadian writer Yves Engler, “Who is in the right in the Canada-Venezuela diplomatic dispute?”
Canada: Intrigue and hostility toward Venezuela
By Mario R. Fernández
In Europe and throughout the American continent, the official media continue to demonize Venezuela. Clearly they represent the economically powerful. Their political allies do the same thing every day, attacking the government of Venezuela and the Venezuelan people who legitimately support it. A marked aggressiveness is emerging. We know what its purpose is. The pressure is increasing, becoming more insistent with every day that passes. It is drawing in a growing number of governments, beyond the habitual attacks by the United States and Spain. After the statements of the European Union justifying their sanctions against Venezuela, certain Latin American governments, not satisfied with the continuous interference of the secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, a true flunky and major conspirator against the Bolivarian country, are also lining up to attack Venezuela. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru have come together under the auspices of the Lima Group, calling on the United Nations to intervene in Venezuela, under the pretext of “dealing with the crisis and the continuous violations of human rights” there. In reality they aim to betray Venezuelan sovereignty and justify foreign intervention. Recently, this dubious Lima Group has acquired a new partner, Canada, which has taken a very active role in this conspiracy against the sovereignty of Venezuela.
The Lima Group brings together a number of countries with governments of questionable origins, for example, the fraudulent government of Michel Temer in Brazil, which arose from the conspiratorial overthrow of the constitutional president Dilma Roussef in August 2016, and the government of Paraguay, heir to the coup d’état against president Fernando Lugo in June 2012. The new Paraguayan government was quickly recognized, including by Canada, which did not question it as anti-democratic. One could speak of the governments of each of the countries that make up the Lima Group as dubious, oppressive and generally traitors to the interests of their people, but this does not seem to worry the Canadian government, embarked as it is with them in the task of punishing Venezuela for maintaining its own independent course.
Moreover, Canada is in no position to act as a judge of Latin American affairs. It has just finished celebrating its 150th anniversary. Its own conduct has hardly been honorable over this time period. Its history as a country is tainted by genocide, oppression and even its present-day racism, both overt and covert, against its aboriginal peoples, against African-American and other immigrants, and a history of exploitation and repression of militant struggles of Canadian workers. In Canada the situation was transformed, although not completely, after the end of the Second World War through the creation of a welfare state. Since the end of that war, and during the cold and hot wars that followed, as Fidel explained, the United States, Western Europe, Australia and Canada, have proclaimed themselves enemies of any government that implements its own national project — as in the case of Venezuela today.
Historically, Canada has not had an independent foreign policy. The country originated in an invasion and colonization by two empires, the French and the British. It was officially established in 1867 through a Confederation in which the British colonies of Canada (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) united with the Dominion of Canada (Quebec and Ontario), with authorization from the British Queen Victoria. The various governments of the confederation soon came to represent the wealthy of the new country, coexisting with British influences on the one hand and American on the other. This division has existed ever since, always limiting Canada’s voice and its political action as an independent country. This has been particularly evident in its foreign policy, both economic and geopolitical.
Canada has consistently opposed liberation movements in the countries of the so-called Third World, supporting right-wing governments and coups d’état, dictatorships and dictators. On occasion and with the passage of time, it has even recognized them, recycling its questionable conduct with a few criticisms. Where force has been used to defend the capitalist system in Latin America, Canada has considered these constitutional ruptures to be legitimate, even when they have brought to power dictatorships or governments that are enemies of their own people, rulers who have crushed processes that favour justice, replacing them with oppression and torture, and murdering their own people.
The government of Pierre Trudeau of the ’70s and early ’80s is seen by some people, both inside and outside Canada, as an exception to this general policy. Pierre Trudeau had a national plan to develop the country’s energy resources, against the wishes of the American multinationals. He maintained relations with Cuba when only Mexico, among the Latin American countries, had the dignity to maintain them and break the isolation of the Cuban revolutionary government. Trudeau was an interesting person but his foreign policy was really more of the same, as shown by his treatment of the Canadian internationalists of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion who fought in Spain in defense of the republic and against fascism. Of the 1,546 members of the brigade, 721 lost their lives in that struggle, the noblest military feat that Canada has ever experienced, but which remains a hidden history in this country. Many years later, when only a few dozen survivors of the brigade remained, they requested official recognition as veterans entitled to membership in the Canadian Legion. But Trudeau’s government refused to recognize them in any way, not wanting to harm its relations with the Franco government in Spain.
The position of the current Canadian government toward Venezuela and the other countries of the ALBA alliance (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, known by its Spanish initials) is hardly surprising in light of the country’s history. In Haiti, Canada was directly involved in fomenting the February 2004 coup that deposed, kidnapped, and forced into exile the country’s constitutional president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Its forces participated in the invasion of Haitian territory, alongside those of France and the United States. In Honduras, Canada openly supported the coup d’état that overthrew the government of Manuel Zelaya in June, 2009. It took part in the destruction of Yugoslavia in 1999 (the country was bombed for 78 days) and of Libya in 2011 (bombed for more than 80 days). Fortunately Canada has not participated in the aggression against Syria, which has not succeeded thanks to the intervention of Russia.
The Canadian government has played an intrusive role in Latin America as a protector of the operations of the mining corporations that operate there. Canadian mining companies account for 75 percent of the world’s mining companies, 1,200 in total. Many of them operate in Latin America, mainly in Mexico and Chile. Their assets across the continent amount to more than 150 billion dollars. Many of these Canadian companies have acted with complete impunity in Latin America, going so far as to use criminal gangs against people protesting the damages caused by their operations. In recent years the Canadian media have published a lot of information about human rights violations and environmental destruction by Canadian mining companies operating in Latin America and the rest of the world.
The morbid hatred of the Bolivarian government that certain sectors of the Venezuelan opposition have been expressing for more than 15 years has now spread to other countries, such as Canada. Notably, on March 5, 2013 when Hugo Chávez, leader of the Venezuelan and continental Bolivarian process died, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper chose not to express his condolences. Instead, he publicly cheered Chavez’s death, saying that it was good news, adding “I hope the people in Venezuela can now build a better future.” These demonstrations of hatred by Canada against Venezuela have become more common since the president of the United States, Barack Obama, signed a decree in March 2015 declaring that Venezuela was a “threat to the national security” of the United States.
Attacks on Venezuela by Canada have become an almost daily occurrence, most of them the work of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. The government decision to impose sanctions on Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro and 18 other Venezuelan officials was supported by the Canadian press. Under the auspices of the OAS, Canada, Argentina and Costa Rica, are looking into how the Venezuelan government could be brought before the International Criminal Court and charged with crimes against humanity. This is simply unbelievable.
The hypocrisy that we are experiencing can only be compared to that of fascist times. Canada ignores the crimes being committed in Mexico where thousands of people are murdered, including dozens of journalists, with total impunity. In Colombia, more than 160 leaders of social movements have been killed in the last two years and there are thousands of political prisoners, but nobody seems to notice. Canada does not seem concerned about the hell of daily life suffered by the poorest people in Brazil, Guatemala or Honduras, or about the repression and assassinations carried out by the security forces against the people of Honduras who are protesting the recent fraudulent presidential elections. Canada has never denounced the violations of human rights and the crimes committed against the Mapuche people in Chile and Argentina.
Going forward, we will certainly see further attacks on Venezuela by the governments of Canada and other countries. These attacks will extend to the countries of the ALBA alliance, such as Nicaragua. The U.S. House of Representatives adopted the “Nica Act” in October and it is now awaiting approval by the Senate. The act is an attempt to isolate Nicaragua economically and in this way to punish the Sandinista government. The country that will play a leading role in the intrigues against Nicaragua will surely be its neighbor Costa Rica, just as Colombia does the dirty work against Venezuela. Bolivia will not be able to avoid the attacks, particularly if Evo Morales is again a candidate for president. The pressure on Bolivia will increase, and imperialism surely counts on Chile to carry out that task. Historically, Chilean governments have always shown disrespect for the Bolivian people, perhaps because of their own complexes and hatred toward an authentic and indigenous nation like Bolivia.
Unfortunately, Canada is playing a significant role in the machination of infamy that has been constructed against a sovereign country like Venezuela, a country that has never attacked anyone, but on the contrary has shown solidarity and generosity in helping other peoples. It has used solidarity as an instrument of international politics. Fortunately, the tactical capacity of imperialism and its agents in the Latin American oligarchies is not infallible, and although it is true that organizations such as CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) have been neutralized, and that state media such as Telesur could be waging a more effective battle of ideas, given that reason is on the side of the Bolivarians, it is the politicized and active grass-roots movements and the national armed forces that support their peoples who are the bastions of the resistance. It is to be hoped that this strength will continue, with reason on its side, and that it will continue defending these Latin American paradigms of social transformation in these transcendental times.
Richard Fidler is a longtime progressive activist.
Mario R. Fernández is a Venezuelan currently based in Canada.
This article originally appeared on Richard Fidler’s blog, Life on the Left.