US Government, Corporate Media Join Forces in Neoliberal War Against Venezuela

Graffiti opposing US imperialism in Venezuela. Photo credit: Aljazeera.com

President Donald Trump and the likes of the New York Times might seem like strange bedfellows but they have found common cause in seeking regime change in Venezuela, a country that poses no threat to the United States but sits on the world’s largest proven oil reserves. Trump administration sanctions have already killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans while U.S. media outlets drum up support for a possible military intervention to replace the socialists in Caracas with free market ideologues eager to privatize the oil industry.

On Sunday, the latest round of U.S. economic sanctions took effect that are designed to completely shut down Venezuela’s oil trade, which accounts for more than 95 percent of the country’s export earnings. The roughly $31 billion in annual oil revenue also makes up a significant proportion of Venezuela’s real GDP, which fell almost 18 percent last year from a level of just over $370 billion.

The United States intensified sanctions against Venezuela in late January after U.S.-endorsed opposition leader Juan Guaido illegally attempted to declare himself the interim president while calling on the legitimate democratically-elected leader, President Nicolas Maduro, to step down. Washington immediately seized about $7 billion in Venezuelan oil assets and basically helped Guaido take control of Citgo, the PDVSA’s U.S.-based refining unit.

Maduro, for his part, accused Washington of trying to orchestrate a coup to install Guaido as a puppet and control Venezuela’s oil resources. Based on U.S. statements and actions before and since, the Venezuelan president’s characterization of the situation is 100 percent accurate.

In fact, ever since they began tightening sanctions in August of 2017, Trump administration officials have hardly tried to conceal their objectives – they have publicly stated that the U.S. intends to privatize Venezuela’s oil industry while eradicating the scourge of socialism.

Guaido, predictably, has openly expressed his desire to free up Venezuela’s oil fields for U.S. corporations to feast on after years of nationalization.

Regardless of the motives, U.S. measures have already had devastating consequences. A UN special rapporteur along with several human rights attorneys have said that the U.S. economic sanctions in Venezuela rise to the level of crimes against humanity and violate several international treaties including the Geneva Conventions and Nuremberg Charter.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in a study co-authored by world renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs concluded that U.S. sanctions against Venezuela are responsible for at least 40,000 deaths from 2017-2018.

The sanctions have led to reductions in imports of life-saving goods such as food, medicine, and medical equipment and have exacerbated an ongoing electricity crisis, according to the report released last week. The CEPR economists warned that the newer sanctions unveiled in 2019 – including the ones that took effect on Sunday – will have even more destructive ramifications, which means the death toll will grow significantly.

While the Trump administration has been transparently imperialistic, playing a more insidious role is the New York Times which has collaborated with members of Guaido’s fake government to push false narratives to win public support for overthrowing Maduro.

The New York Times’ campaign to oust Maduro is truly a case study in manufacturing consent. The Times has executed an impressive “communications strategy” from the editorial board right down to reporters in the field to place the blame squarely on Maduro and his socialist policies.

The campaign was launched on January 24 when the New York Times editorial board decided to publicly endorse Guaido as a “fresh young leader” and, in the same article, urged the international community to pressure Maduro into fleeing abroad.

Less than a week later, the Times allowed the pretender to write an op-ed in which he tried to blackmail Venezuela’s military leaders by offering amnesty in exchange for overthrowing Maduro.

Since then, NYT reporters have filed biased reports from the field including one that appeared on March 8 that portrayed Maduro as AWOL while the people of Venezuela suffered through an electricity crisis. However, Mark Weisbrot, who happens to be the other co-author of the CEPR study, exposed the NYT’s duplicity.

“This is amazing: buried deep in this NYT article is a sentence indicating the Trump economic sanctions are a major cause of the deadly blackout in Venezuela, contradicting the rest of the article. No one has noticed; this should have been the main story,” Weisbrot said in a tweet on March 10.

A month later an even more disturbing leg of the propaganda campaign was exposed. The New York Times produced, posted and tweeted a 5-minute anti-Maduro video narrated by contributor Joanna Hausmann. The clip, viewed by nearly 800,000 users, demonizes figures such as Noam Chomsky and Senator Bernie Sanders for daring to oppose military intervention in Venezuela.

Grayzoneproject journalist Anya Parampil uncovered the most galling aspect of the entire episode: The New York Times failed to disclose that Joanna Hausmann’s father, Ricardo Hausmann, is an economic adviser to Guaido and former planning minister who helped run Venezuela’s central bank in the pre-Chavez era.

“NYT fails to disclose that @joannahausmann is the daughter of Guaidó advisor @ricardo_hausmann, who was instrumental in neoliberalizing & destroying VZLA’s economy in the 90s & wants to do it again. Weak journalism!” Parampil tweeted on April 1 with a link to Hausmann’s video clip.

According to research conducted by Parampil, Ricardo Hausmann emerged from the Caracas-based Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA). The group became known as “the IESA Boys,” in reference to “the Chicago Boys” – Milton Friedman’s clique from the University of Chicago who during the 1970s advised Chilean dictator Pinochet to implement neoliberal policies after the CIA helped overthrow Allende’s socialist government.

Moreover, Mr. Hausmann apparently does not believe sanctions will be enough. In a piece for Project Syndicate published last January he even proposed a “D-Day” type strategy for Venezuela.

“A negotiated political transition remains the preferred option, but military intervention by a coalition of regional forces may be the only way to end a man-made famine threatening millions of lives,” Hausmann wrote in an article entitled “D Day Venezuela.”

Guaido, who is also an IESA Boy, wants to usher in the same “shock therapy” policies that ruined Venezuela’s economy, sparked a national revolt and paved the way for the rise of Hugo Chavez in 1998. Chavez, then, implemented “evil” socialistic policies that resulted in lower unemployment, reduction in poverty, eradication of illiteracy, improved housing, and increased accessibility to healthcare. But that is a story for another day.

Michael Hughes is a DC-based journalist and former State Department correspondent whose work can be found in The Huffington Post, CNN.com, Asia Times Online, The Globe Post, Afghan Online Press, and Sputnik/RIA Novosti Newswire Service. Contact: mhughes3500@gmail.com Read other articles by Michael.