21st Century Wire
Much has been made of Russia’s faltering economy in the wake of the oil plunge, but if you look south you’ll see another story unfolding. Ever since US Secretary of State John Kerry went to Saudi Arabia last year – and the price of oil mysteriously plummeted – the Venezuelan economy has been decimated. Although it had its problems before this, it is curious that all of the reports on the country’s woes in the mainstream press seem to overlook this particular factor.
The Latin American country, which has immense oil reserves, had been using the revenues it had earned from selling oil to finance a number of key infrastructure and social programmes. These helped to improve the lot of the country’s large underclass, including hundreds of thousands of children and its most vulnerable citizens; feeding them, educating them and helping them receive medical care. Since the fall in the price of oil, Venezuela has been forced to cut the level of investment in its social programmes by more than half, including some programmes trimmed with a devastating 97% cut.
Currency Wars, Media Wars
Not surprisingly, the country’s currency, the Venezuelan bolivar, is now in free-fall. The government has stepped in with something called the Sistema Marginal de Divisas (SIMAD), allowing it to sell dollars in a free manner to its citizens. In effect, they are devaluing the bolivar – by about a third – and breaking with the so-called “blue dollar”; just like Argentina had to do a year ago. The official inflation rate depends on which index you’re looking at. Some official sources quote Venezuela’s inflation rate hit 20% in 2014. (The Madrid newspaper El Pais, quotes a figure of 68.5%). Currently, the actual rate of exchange in the country is 180 bolivars to the dollar, whereas the official exchange rate stands at just 8.30 bolivars. In an attempt to combat profiteering amongst some retailers, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government has vowed to keep the official exchange rate for staples and essential items, such as food and medicines.
There is no journalistic cliché in Spanish for “economic basket-case”, but that just about sums up the unanimous chorus of the mainstream Spanish language press when it comes to the plight of Venezuela, with El Pais taking the lead vocals. The Maduro government is consistently caricatured as economically inept, with a good dash of corruption thrown in to spice up the kind of pro-US faux reportage which is fashionable across corporate media. Unfortunately, Maduro (who is not as light on his political feet as his predecessor Hugo Chavez) has given them a golden opportunity to label him an oppressive and dogmatic neo-Marxist because of his tendency to imprison certain of his opponents during the state of emergency. Invariably, every report published on Venezuela is from the perspective of the “opposition”, whether they be students, certain members of the private sector, Eurocrats or “opposition exiles” in Spain. Hence, no one is really putting the government’s point of view, regardless of the merits, or otherwise, of its case.
The reporting of the current food and medicine shortages in Venezuela is a case in point. The Spanish edition of the Wall Street Journal apparently went to great lengths to obtain interviews with managers from the Caracas supermarket chain ‘Dia Dia’, who said they had been harassed and intimidated by thuggish government officials sent in to inspect their inventories and manage the distribution of food. Strangely enough, it did not go to the same lengths to interview any of the government officials involved. Neither did it bother to mention that the government was introducing a Ley de Precios Justos (Law of Fair Prices) in another move to stamp-out rogue profiteering amongst certain retailers who were seeking to capitalise on the currency fall; a piece of information that is surely relevant to the story.
The Foiled Coup in Caracas
Student opposition to the Maduro government also receives ample coverage in the press. The FCU-ULA – a federation of student opposition groups, said to be opposed to the “repression” of the Venezuelan government, organised a “Great March of Youth” on 12th February. The date marks the anniversary of the death of the Venezuelan student Robert Redman, who was the first of a number of people killed at subsequent demonstrations over the last year. The responsibility for these deaths is invariably attributed in the press to the Venezuelan authorities. However, some of the victims’ families say that other, unknown killers, were the culprits – a modus operandi reminiscent of what has happened in Ukraine’s Maidan Square in February 2014.
SEE ALSO: REVEALED: Britain and Canada Were Involved in Foiled Venezuelan Coup
“It is the government of the United States that is behind the plans of destabilization and coups against Venezuela. I have come here to denounce it. … We have dismantled a coup attempt against democracy, against the stability of our homeland,” Maduro said in a televised address Thursday. “It was an attempt to use a group of officials from the air force to provoke a violent act, an attack,” announce Maduro.
Not surprisingly, the US has denied any involvement and went so far as to call Maduro’s claims “ludicrous”.
On the evening of 12th February, President Maduro made a surprise announcement on Venezuelan television, informing the nation that his government and loyal forces had foiled a military coup that had been planned to take place on that very day – the day of the “Great March of Youth.” He was very specific about the nature of the military coup. It would have started by killing demonstrators during the students’ opposition march. Then, in an eerie echo of another coup d’etat in South America – in Chile on September 11th 1973 – the foiled Caracas coup would have included an attack by rebel air force jets on Maduro’s Presidential Palace, as well as on other key government buildings. He then accused the leader of the opposition, Julio Borges Copp, of helping to plan the coup, by selecting its targets.
Kissinger and the CIA bombed the Presidential Palace in Santiago in 1973, killing the democratically elected President Salvador Allende (Image Source: SBS)
The similarities between the CIA’s Chilean coup in ’73 and this foiled coup in 2015 would certainly raise speculation as to whether or not the US was involved again. Indeed, Maduro’s main accusations, were leveled at the United States, which he indicted of systematically trying to destabilise the country on a number of fronts. They follow hot on the heels of his arraignment of US Vice-President Joe Biden for interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs. There has hardly been any mention of the failed coup in the mainstream press, if at all. If it is reported, one might suspect it will be couched in terms of Maduro as a “paranoid despot”, who is “clinging on to power” by pointing the finger at a powerful external enemy. It’s a well-established western narrative, and this is exactly the narrative that the mainstream press and its corporate overlords would want the US and international audiences to believe. On the other hand, whatever you may think of Maduro’s politics, might his version of events be nearer the truth? Certainly, this would transform the entire conversation, sending shock waves through the diplomatic community.
As far as we know, thankfully, there were no killings at the student demonstration on February 12th. This would support Maudro’s contention that agents provocateurs were set to assassinate demonstrators in order to initiate the coup. According the government officials, the coup was foiled, and hence there were no killings.
Moreover, there is a curious air of familiarity about many of the recent events in Venezuela – the collapsed economy and currency, the apparently spontaneous emergence of opposition groups and the persistent and unanimous press vilification. These all suggest a well-known methodology at work. A methodology that we’ve seen used before, in part or whole, in Ukraine, in Syria and in Libya to name but a few of the most recent examples.
Oil price has certainly played a pivotal role in these recent developments by bringing the economy to a boiling point. Add to this, the possibility that clandestine western intelligence agencies are, once again, working to undermine political foundations in South America and we can see a possible return to the 20th century geopolitical chaos which had previously plagued the region for decades.
Dave Truman is a writer, researcher and traveller, who divides his time between South America and England. He has travelled extensively in South America, which has given him an in-depth understanding of the past and present of the sub-continent. Dave has also written articles for End the Lie and for Cort Lindahl’s True History Journal on South American geomancy, has appeared as a guest on Sweden’s Red Ice Radio. Over the last four years, he has been doing research for his forthcoming book, to which he has given the title, Lost Science in the Andes: understanding the minds that shaped the great civilisation of the Ice Age.
READ MORE VENEZUELA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Venezuela Files