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IN NEITHER the barrios of Latin America nor the corridors of the Pentagon have the present day parallels of Venezuela with Chile been overlooked.
In the 1970s the Chilean propertied classes colluded with the US to destabilise the emancipatory government of Salvador Allende.
Allende’s Popular Unity government gave free milk for children, nationalised the copper and coalmining industries, reformed health and education and sparked a huge renewal of popular culture.
The strategy of the US imperial state to this challenge included sanctions, a financial blockade and the systematic subversion of Chile’s military and security organs.
Richard Nixon, the US president, instructed his Central Intelligence Agency to “make the economy scream.”
His deputy director of planning at the CIA detailed, in a secret memo, that: “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup … It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG [the US government] and American hand be well hidden.”
When the country’s armed forces betrayed their oath of allegiance to the constitutionally elected president of the republic a bloodbath carried away 3,000 dead or missing, tens of thousands tortured and 200,000 Chileans driven into exile.
Allende’s popular policies were reversed and an austerity regime inspired by Margaret Thatcher’s monetarist idols took over the economy.
We are in a different world today. After decades of dictatorship and poverty progressive governments were elected in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.
North American big business was profoundly shocked by new Latin American leaders who challenged the Monroe Doctrine. The US has worked tirelessly to reverse the tide. The resurgence of right-wing regimes in Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador show that it is succeeding.
Thus Donald Trump’s actions today are of a piece with long standing US policy in the region. In case anyone possesses illusions about US intentions we can refer to the US government website which informs us that “…the doctrine warns European nations that the United States would not tolerate further colonisation or puppet monarchs.”
The doctrine was conceived to meet major concerns of the moment, but it soon became a watchword of US policy in the western hemisphere.
In a sign of just how subordinate Britain is to even this most disreputable of US presidents, Jeremy Hunt was among the first to back Trump’s bizarre bid to impose his puppet.
In the same way that disruption by the private owners of Chile’s logistics and food supply system led to shortages and black market speculation the owners of Venezuela’s monopolised food, agribusiness and supermarket have engineered much of the present crisis.
The US is so open about its policy that just last January it boasted: “The pressure campaign is working. The financial sanctions we have placed on the Venezuelan government have forced it to begin becoming in default, both on sovereign and PDVSA, its oil company’s, debt.”
Despite the successes of its anti-poverty and public housing projects and a massive expansion of popular participation Venezuela is not a socialist state.
A mass movement of people’s “collectives” and the loyalty of the security forces was able to defeat attempts to overthrow the government in 2014 and 2017 but Venezuela’s economy is riddled with big business interests and its state-owned oil company — which has over 300 million barrels of oil in its reserves — is both deeply embedded in the US domestic fuel market and still permeated with hangovers from the days when it feather bedded a parasitic upper class.
This is class struggle with the gloves off. Our task is to break the British government’s supine support for this coup attempt.
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