Letters & Opinion

Venezuela: The Next Grenada?

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Chronicles of a Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

FORTY years after the March 13, 1979 Grenada Revolution and 35 years after the October 25, 1983 US-led invasion of the 133-square-mile Caribbean island, nearby Venezuela is at a veritable crossroad — and so is the entire Caribbean.

After the 7,000 US troops and their Caribbean allies buried the Revolution’s corpse on the island of 95,000 people in 1983, Venezuela three-and-a-half decades later today provides a new canvas on which to link the dots in the commonalities in US approaches to destabilization, displacement and replacement of governments not considered friendly.

US military intervention was never off the table in Grenada from 1979 and President Trump has always insisted he is keeping it on the table for Venezuela.

Back in 1983, the largely oversized US military intervention was largely welcomed as a ‘Rescue Mission’ by a largely traumatized section of the population.

But Venezuela today has a strong and well-armed army that has become the acknowledged balance of force in the circumstances.

Besides, while Latin American states opposed to Maduro are willing to dance to Washington’s tune, few – if any – are willing to facilitate US military intervention from their shores or across their borders, including neighbouring Colombia and Brazil.

The only CARICOM country with a land border with Venezuela is Guyana, which also has its own century-old territorial dispute with Caracas, now exacerbated by Exxon Mobil’s control of Guyana’s emerging oil wealth.

US National Secretary Adviser John Bolton, a war hawk of long standing, has made it clear that Washington’s ultimate aim is to gain access to Venezuela’s oil, since, as is well known, Venezuela has the world’s highest level of certified oil reserves – more than Saudi Arabia.

One of the US’ excuses for invading Grenada was to secure the safety of American medical students attending a private offshore university on the island.

Given Exxon Mobil lucrative new finds in Guyana’s waters, the subterranean linkage possibilities and the deep American resolve to continue to control the world’s oil market, the question is being increasingly asked: Could a Gulf of Tonkin-type incident happen in disputed Guyana-Venezuela waters to present a justification of US military intervention in the name of protecting American lives and economic interests?

The question is not unfair, as there have already been related small naval clashes that features Venezuela being accused of being the aggressor, until it proved otherwise by releasing the related marine coordinates.

President Trump has turned US politics on its head, ignoring State Department and Pentagon advice (as in North Korea and Syria) and instead acting on The Art of The Deal.

But no deal is on the table for Venezuela.

From the day Hugo Chavez won a democratic election in 1998 – US Presidents, from Bush and Obama to Trump – have maintained the pressure on Venezuela, the US actually openly supporting a failed coup attempt and later organized opposition attempt at undemocratic regime change.

Chavez’s Socialist Unity Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has won 22 of the 24 internationally-monitored national elections held since 1998 and with the chances of moving him by the ballot so slim, President Trump has chosen to throw support behind a self-declared Interim President.

Efforts continue to stoke confrontation between the two sides in Venezuela, which can result in civil war and worsen the deadly situation already created by US sanctions, especially following the recent failed effort to use food aid as a political weapon in the current all-out effort to encourage those opposed to Maduro to rise against him, with promised support from outside.

Strategies and tactics may have changed, but whether in Grenada or Venezuela, there will always be those war hawks in the service of the US military industrial complex ready to use every opening in Washington to promote wars and military intervention, to the advantage of the producers and suppliers of arms.

Just like Grenada in 1979 and 1983 came out of nowhere, so it is now: At any time — just-like-that – the news can break that some type of military action against Venezuela has been ordered by the US Commander-in-Chief.

Like in Grenada, the US is also pursuing a ‘burn out’ policy of creating and supporting actions that will keep Maduro busy and worried on many fronts, while ‘keeping the military option on the table’.

But with the present occupant of the White House in several battles for survival less than two years away from the 2020 presidential election, his closest aides abandoning ship one-by-one and various arms of the US Congress now investigating everything he’s kept secret in his first two years in office, President Trump is badly in need of a hefty politically-profitable diversionary dividend.

Will the predictably unpredictable Commander-in-Chief bet and bank on direct intervention in Venezuela as the key card to re-energizing his popularity and electoral stock for 2020?

These are perilous times for Venezuela and neither the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), nor the United Nations (UN), seem able to influence events in the direction of dialogue.

Both (CARICOM and the UN) have firmly resolved that the solution to the exploding national imbroglio should be left to the Venezuelan people to resolve.

But that cannot be helped by any Caribbean state making political demands that bear all the hallmarks of external interference and echo those of a party to the dispute that’s already trumpeting ‘The Last Post’ for Maduro.

No one wants to see Venezuela become the next Grenada, as that will be too big a bloody mess for the region, given the stakes at hand and the possibilities of fatal miscalculations during the continuously accelerated muscle-flexing by all sides.

But Washington reminds everyone, every day, that no one can take that dangerous possibility off the table.

Meanwhile, power is being slowly restored in Venezuela after last weekend’s nationwide blackout and the army has been praised by Maduro for having prevented “another coup”.

But the two sides continue to clash in Caracas.

Evidently, Venezuela will need more than prayers in the days ahead.

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