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Embarrassing Defeat for the US in Its Efforts to Expel Venezuela from the OAS


At the OAS, 19 member states voted in favor, 4 against, and 11 abstained when the U.S. tried to have Venezuela sanctioned. The U.S. will not hesitate to bear tremendous pressure on member countries to get its way in Latin America. We speak to CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot about the vote and how it came about

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SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

The Organization of American States, the OAS, voted in favor of a resolution condemning Venezuela. The resolution passed with 19 member countries voting in favor, 4 against, and 11 abstaining. It decided that the May 20 presidential elections in Venezuela could be deemed illegitimate and calls on Venezuela to accept humanitarian aid. Also, it calls on member states to take unspecified political, economic, and financial measures to assist in the restoration of democratic order in Venezuela. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued in favor of the resolution. Let’s listen.

MIKE POMPEO: In addition to suspension, I call on fellow member states to apply additional pressure on the Maduro regime, including sanctions and further diplomatic isolation, until such time as it undertakes the actions necessary to return genuine democracy, and provide people desperately-needed access to international humanitarian aid. We call on all OAS nations to do this today regarding Venezuela, and in the future wherever necessary, for good of the region and the world.

SHARMINI PERIES: Venezuela’s foreign minister Jorge Arreaza responded as follows.

JORGE ARREAZA: The aggression against Venezuela is brutal. It’s economic, it’s financial, it’s commercial, it’s political, it’s in the media. And we’re going to keep moving forward. It is up to our people to elect their president, not other governments, not the United States, not any international institution that elects the president of Venezuela. The president of Venezuela is called Nicolas Maduro Moros, and he was elected with 68 percent of popular support in the elections on May 20. And we demand recognition only from our own people. It doesn’t matter to us if the United States or any other nation here recognizes us or doesn’t. We are an independent nation, a free, sovereign nation, and empire will step foot in Venezuelan territory and impede the Venezuelan people from fulfilling their will, their democracy, and fulfilling the destiny of freedom. Thank you very much.

SHARMINI PERIES: Joining me now to discuss the OAS resolution on Venezuela and the process by which it passed is Mark Weisbrot. Mark Is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and is the author of the book “Failed: What Experts Got Wrong About the Global Economy.” Thanks for joining us, Mark.

MARK WEISBROT: Thanks for having me, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right. Now, originally the U.S. wanted to suspend Venezuela from the OAS, but to do so it needed 24 votes, which it did not have. So instead, the OAS passed this resolution with 19 votes. How serious is the resolution, and what are its implications?

MARK WEISBROT: Yes. Well, I mean, from the U.S. point of view it did fail, because they don’t have the 24 votes that they need to actually suspend Venezuela. And so they were putting a lot of pressure on those countries that abstained. And they decided to abstain rather than vote against, because there was such enormous pressure. You had open statements from Pence, from the ambassador, or U.S. ambassador to the OAS, Trujillo, and from Marco Rubio, all threatening countries with various things, consequences, if they didn’t line up with the U.S. on this vote.

And it was quite striking. I mean, I heard all kinds of stories from diplomats there, but these guys confirmed it all in public, how they threatened people in countries. And Haiti was a good example. They still abstained, even though Rubio singled them out, and has done that for a while. And threatening, you could imagine they will pay a price for that, for abstaining on this vote. It was the abstentions that mattered. The vote itself, again, they needed the 24 votes to show that they could actually go on to suspend.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Mark. You know, in Latin America, the OAS is often known as the Ministry of Colonies, in a dig at how the U.S. uses and flexes its muscles at the OAS to push its own agenda in Latin America. How is the U.S. using OAS in this case for its agenda? Give us some examples of how the U.S. flexes its muscles.

MARK WEISBROT: Yeah, this is really an extreme example, though there have been many in the past. And it really shows-. I mean, the, you know, it really is a colonial organization. I mean, so’s the IMF and the World Bank. But this one is so blatant, where the U.S. ambassador there just spends two hours on the floor going around telling people, you know, we’re going, we’re watching your vote. And they have all kinds of threats they can use. You know, people have families. The ambassadors who need visas, and they go out of the country, they might not be able to come back. All kinds of- they want jobs here. They want residency. Threats and bribes, and they can do all these things and threaten the governments, of course, with withdrawal of aid, is more serious.

But they do all of these things. And it really, you know, it appears to be a multilateral organization with them, when you see what it’s done in cases like this. And they’ve done this many times before. So for example, in Haiti in 2000, Haiti had an election, and the OAS initially, released its initial report, and they said it was a great success for the Haitian population. That’s an actual quote. And then the U.S. intervened and they changed their report. And then they participated in this four-year effort to overthrow the Haitian government, which was, you know, by delegitimizing it. The OAS was used to do that. And then by pretending the election wasn’t fair. And then they overthrew the government in broad daylight in 2004, as you remember. And then they, you know, they did another thing in, like this in 2011, where they actually did something that no electoral observer mission has ever done. They reversed the results of the election, and then the Obama administration actually threatened Haiti with the cutoff of aid, desperately needed aid, right after the earthquake if they didn’t accept the OAS’s election results. And that was without a recount, or a statistical analysis, or anything. They just decided who the winner of the first round of the presidential election should be.

And they got away with that with Haiti more easily because, you know, Haiti is mostly black and poor, and they can get away with it. But you can see Haiti is still, you know, the Caribbean states are the most militant in opposing this kind of abuse and manipulation of the OAS because of their history of slavery. So they still have a lot of things they can’t win. But they make it so obvious that this really isn’t about democracy or human rights in Venezuela. I mean, you just had an election in November where, in Honduras, which we’ve talked about here, where the election was stolen. And the secretary general the OAS, Almagro, who’s the leader of this effort, he actually said it, that you have to have a new election, and that this wasn’t believable at all. And then, of course, he backed off when the U.S. government and the Trump administration made up their mind. And there’s so many examples of this. And obviously it really doesn’t have anything to do with what goes on in Venezuela. What it has to do with is that the United States is openly trying to topple the Venezuelan government, and it’s using the OAS as his instrument.

And they may even use this vote to, as an excuse or pretext for their most loyal allies, the right-wing governments of Chile and Argentina, to break diplomatic relations with Venezuela. I think that was one of the purposes of this vote. And of course, the attempt to suspend Venezuela from the OAS, because they’re leaving anyway, so what’s the rush.

SHARMINI PERIES: Finally, Mark, the same day as the OAS resolution on Venezuela was passed, Foreign Policy magazine ran an article openly calling for a coup in Venezuela with the title “It’s Time for a Coup in Venezuela.” Exactly that. Now, I understand that that, you know, we are in a very difficult time in Venezuela, but calling for a coup is a little exaggerated, maybe. I don’t know if that’s the right word. But what do you make of the suggestion?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, the author is an extremist, I think. But it’s, but it’s not- it is pretty much the official policy of the Trump administration. There has been statements from other officials saying that the military should intervene. Rubio has said something like that. And he’s, as I said, he’s pretty much in charge of U.S. policy in Latin America for the Trump administration.

So it is, it is a really unusual thing. I mean, you can to go back to the coup in Chile in 1973, even, and they didn’t say it in advance. They supported the coup after it happened. They usually do these things quietly and behind the scenes, and they don’t, you know, openly call for it. Although Republicans did support the coup in Honduras, but again, they didn’t call it a coup. And they, and of course Hillary, worked to establish and consolidate the coup government when she was secretary of state in 2009. But again, they would never call for the overthrow by the military of an elected government like this. And that’s, you know, the masks are off. They’re just saying whatever they want.

I think they will pay a price for it up the road, and especially this manipulation of the OAS. I mean, the creation of CELAC in 2010 was a response to U.S. manipulation of the OAS, too, after the coup in Honduras to prevent the OAS from taking stronger measures to restore the democratically elected president. And I think you will see a response up the road. They are not going to control the politics of Latin America, or have all these right-wing allies indefinitely. In fact, they may lose one in just a few weeks in Mexico.

SHARMINI PERIES: Mark, the resolution itself called on member states to take very unspecified political actions, and economic actions, and financial measures. Sounds like code for something. What is your interpretation?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, they want, they want cooperation in the financial embargo, which is the Trump administration’s now main strategy for toppling the government of Venezuela because, I mean, of course they didn’t create the mess there. But if Venezuela were to try and get out of it, it makes it extremely difficult, because they can’t borrow. And in fact, they are depriving- and people have written about this. I mean, they are depriving the country of medicines by cutting off credit in the way that they’re doing. They’re not specifically targeting those loans, but a lot of financial institutions tend to err on the side of conservatism when there is a financial embargo that’s being enforced by the United States and there are serious punishments. They won’t loan money for all kinds of things. So they are really doing everything to topple the government through worsening the economic situation, which is already terrible. And they want more Latin American countries to join in that, and try to legitimate that.

SHARMINI PERIES: Mark, Venezuela is already under very dire circumstances as a result of the sanctions that are already in place. Now, this action can hamper the situation even more. Tell us about the sanctions and the impact that this resolution is going to have on the economy of Venezuela.

MARK WEISBROT: Yes. Well, the economy was already in a very bad state. And with the financial embargo, you know, they have a terrible depression and hyperinflation. But what the financial embargo does, it makes all that worse, because, the Trump financial embargo, because it makes it impossible for them to borrow on most international financial markets. And also to restructure their debt, which would be another part of the recovery.

And it’s important, you know, and I think this is one of the ironies of them using, or trying to use the Organization of American States to expand this financial embargo, because the embargo itself is a violation of the OAS charter, and it’s a violation of other international conventions and treaties that the U.S. is a signatory to.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Mark, so much more to discuss, including the situation of the inflation and the economic crises that Venezuela is undergoing at the moment. We’ll pick that up next. Thanks for joining us, Mark.

MARK WEISBROT: Thank you, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.