By Yanis Iqbal
Recently, Iran sent five super-tankers carrying oil and gasoline to Venezuela. The products being carried by these Iranian tankers are estimated to be worth $45.5 million and in exchange the Venezuelan government is expected to provide nine tons of gold to Tehran.
Venezuela is itself an important oil producer, but due to US sanctions its oil industry has been totally crippled and from 2.4 million barrels per day in 2015, its production has decreased to just under a million in 2020. This trade between Iran and Venezuela is in direct opposition to USA’s aggressive sanctions on the oil sectors of both these countries and Washington has already stationed its warships in the Caribbean Sea.
The unabashed hostility being showed by USA towards the oil shipment to Venezuela is a part and parcel of Washington’s imperialist initiatives against the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro, the Chavista president of Venezuela. It is important that we contextualize US’s current antipathy to Venezuela by tracing the provenance and development of the bellicose American project aimed at dismantling the socialist structure of Venezuela and expropriating the vast oil reserves.
USA’s animosity for Maduro’s Venezuela originated in 2014, during Barack Obama’s presidency. In December 2014, the US congress passed the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014 which imposed sanctions against individuals whom the president identified as guilty of committing human rights abuses. This act gave full leeway to the president to arbitrarily block the assets of those individual whom he considered as unfit for America-approved democratic accolades. On 8 March 2015, Barack Obama gave another body blow to Venezuela through the Executive Order 13692 which presented Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to national security”.
The presentation of Venezuela as a national security threat was grotesquely false because the ulterior motive was to access the large oil reserves of Venezuela and the US state wanted to achieve this through its callous embargoes and destructive sanctions. Along with the American economic war, Venezuela also had to withstand the deliberate depression in oil prices caused by USA’s ally, Saudi Arabia.
In 2014, Saudi Arabia injected into the global oil market 12 million oil barrels everyday which translated into a 25% increase. This infusion of massive amounts of oil initiated an oil price war in which Venezuela incurred the maximum amount of loss. Due to combined effects of Obama’s whimsical sanctions against individuals and Saudi Arabia’s carefully calibrated decrease in oil prices, Venezuela faced enormous difficulties in participating in global credit transactions and in exporting its oil which accounted for 96% of total exports and 40% of government revenues.
With the election of Donald Trump in USA, Venezuela experienced intensified economic aggressiveness in the form of more sanctions. These new financial sanctions caused an unprecedented decrease of 700, 000 barrels of oil per day and amounted to a humongous loss of more than $6 billion. All these losses further discouraged companies from investing in Venezuela and prompted many banks and corporations to unjustly deny Venezuela its dues and use discriminatory practices against it.
For example, the American Citibank did not accept Venezuela’s money for the purchase of 300,000 doses of insulin. The BSN medical firm refused to send the malaria medicine called Primaquina to Venezuela even though Venezuela had already paid for it. Euroclear, a Belgian financial company, has currently blocked Venezuela’s $450 million which was to be used for the importation of food and drugs. The Bank of England too has participated in the sabotage of Venezuela’s economy by taking Venezuela’s gold deposits worth $1.2 billion and illegally trying to give it to Joan Guaido, the self-proclaimed and US-backed president of Venezuela who is not known to 80% of Venezuelans.
Donald Trump has also tried unsuccessfully to orchestrate a coup against Nicolas Maduro by supporting Juan Guaido who belongs to the right-wing party named Voluntad Popular or Popular Will. The most recent instance of US interference in Venezuela is provided by the failed military incursion of May 3. This military incursion called “operation Gideon” involved a $220 million contract which was signed between Juan Guaido and a Florida-based company named SilverCorp. One of the participants of the attempted coup was the founder of SilverCorp named Jordan G. Gourdeau and according to his website SilverCorp arranges the security for President Trump and the secretary of defense. With this piece of information, it is not hard to establish a concrete link between Trump and the attempted coup despite the fact that Trump has denied it. Apart from this very recent attempt, Trump also financially supported Guaido by seizing $7 billion in Venezuelan assets located in US on 29 January 2019, 6 days after Guaido announced himself as interim president. Out of this $7 billion seized by USA, 5$ billion was set to be utilized for the purchase of medicines and the raw materials necessary for the production of medicine by Venezuela. USA has also confiscated Venezuela’s American subsidiary petroleum corporation CITGO, worth $8 billion and has frozen $5.5 billion of Venezuelan funds in 50 financial institutions and banks.
Due to USA’s attempts at regime change through sanctions and economically backed neoliberal political leaders, Venezuela is witnessing an unimaginable level of suffering. By systematically dismantling PDVSA or Petroleum of Venezuela, USA was able to stall the socialist progress of this country. This led to the emergence of hyper-inflation, food scarcity, malnutrition and lack of medicinal supplies. Due to deteriorating existential conditions in their homeland, 4 million Venezuelans, representing 13% of the population, have emigrated till date. At a time when Venezuela is trying to get oil supplies from Iran to meet the crucial needs of its population during the Covid-19 pandemic, USA is likely to counter this with imperialist aggressions and economic threats. In critical times like these, the international community needs to be vigilant and it needs to condemn the US sanctions on Venezuela which are starving its citizens to submission.