The Biden Administration: Hardening of US Stance on Venezuela

Joe Biden has been sworn in as the President of USA. For Venezuela, nothing has changed. The same belligerence, the same sanctions, and the same imperialism – the American empire continues to be cruelly hostile to the UN-recognized government of Nicolas Maduro.

Inviting an Anti-Chavista Criminal

Auguries of an ever-intensifying imperialist attack against Venezuela have arrived early. Carlos Vecchio, a former Exxon lawyer who currently serves as an envoy for former National Assembly (AN) deputy Juan Guaidó, was invited to Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. When the Trump regime initiated a coup against Venezuela’s government in January 2019, Vecchio became Guaidó’s ambassador, and has become a prominent person in the US-based exile lobby dedicated to toppling Maduro’s administration.

In 2014, Vecchio was charged with “incitement of violence” charges when he participated in a right-wing demonstration responsible for the death of two people and the burning down of the office of Venezuela’s Public Prosecutor. He fled to the US to escape these charges.

Blinken: A Hardliner on Venezuela

In a sign of future US policy toward Venezuela, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, during his Senate confirmation hearing in Washington, showed support for the decision to recognize  Guaidó – an exceptionally unpopular figure, his only claim to fame being leading a string of coups, and he has failed dismally at that, with his shine even more tarnished by a string of corruption allegations.

Blinken talked about US foreign policy toward Venezuela which, he said, consists in “seeking to increase pressure on the regime led by brutal dictator”. He also expressed frustration that American policy hasn’t succeeded in toppling Maduro: “for all of those efforts which I support, we obviously have not gotten the results that we need…we need to look at how we more effectively target the sanctions that we have. So that regime enablers really feel the pain of those sanctions.” Here we have it – a senior Biden aide talking about increasing the suffering of Venezuelans through murderous sanctions, whose impact is felt by the entire Venezuelan populace.

Blinken was one of the Democrats who supported Trump when he recognized Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela and was the first in the Obama administration to request the release of Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma – both of them subservient agents of the American empire, masquerading as politicians.

Lopez – who descends from one of Venezuela’s wealthiest families – was a key actor in the 2002 failed coup attempt against then President Hugo Chavez and later played a leading role in the 2014 violent street protests which left 43 people dead. He was found guilty of public incitement to violence and association to commit crimes and convicted to a 13 years and nine months prison sentence in 2015, which was commuted to house arrest two years later.

Ledezma was arrested and indicted in 2015 in connection to a thwarted coup plot as well as sponsorship of right-wing terrorism. He was repeatedly named by ultra right-wing student leader Lorent Saleh as the chief ally of violent anti-government militants. Saleh was extradited from Colombia in 2014 after a series of intercepted Skype conversations revealed plans to carry out bombings and assassinate leftist political leaders in the Venezuelan border state of Tachira. Ledezma is also popularly known as “the vampire” for presiding over state repression – including the 1989 Caracazo massacre that saw security forces gun down at least 3000 people amid anti-austerity protests – during his tenure as governor of the Caracas Federal District.

Biden’s Aggressive Attitude  

In case we think that Biden himself has been muted in the public derision of Maduro’s government, it is important to recall his earlier statements regarding Venezuela. In a 2014 interview with El Mercurio of Chile, Biden called the situation in Venezuela “alarming” and said the Caracas government lacked even basic respect for human rights.

Confronting peaceful protesters with force and in some cases armed militias, limiting freedom of the press and assembly…is not in line with the solid standards of democracy that we have in most of our hemisphere. The situation in Venezuela reminds me of past times, when strongmen governed using violence and oppression; human rights, hyperinflation, shortages and extreme poverty ravaged the peoples of the hemisphere.

He also chastised Maduro, saying that he was trying to “distract his people from the most important issues that are in play in Venezuela by inventing totally false and outlandish conspiracies about the United States. Instead of that, he should listen to the Venezuelan people, and to look to the example of those leaders who resisted oppression in the Americas, or risk repeating the injustices they fought against so bravely.”

Firstly, Maduro has not been engaged in the repression of some supposedly “peaceful protestors”. He has been attempting to carefully counter-act the effects of a full-blown internal war. In order to re-dominate the state, the capitalists have ruthlessly unleashed an “economic war”, consisting of induced inflation, orchestrated shortages, a relative decrease of imports with respect to the foreign exchange delivered to the private sector, hoarding by oligopolistic companies that dominate the markets of specific goods and smuggling (mainly to Colombia).

Secondly, Maduro is not creating conspiracy theories. Imperialism is a frightening reality for innumerable Venezuelans. It was this imperialism that resulted in catapulting Hugo Chavez to power and initiating the Bolivarian Revolution. It was a revolution that tore apart Washington’s script, blocked the privatization of the world’s largest oil reserves, regained control of the national economy, reduced poverty, overcame illiteracy, questioned media monopolies, enfranchised women, the indigenous, and the oppresses, got them Cuban doctors to see them for the first time in their lives, and raised their levels of nutrition.

In perhaps one of his most obnoxious statements, Biden called Maduro a “thug” in October 2020. A month earlier, he had tweeted: “As Juan Guaidó speaks about the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Maduro, I reaffirm my commitment to stand with the Venezuelan people.”

Imperialism with Precision

The Biden administration does not represent anything fundamentally new for Venezuelans. Rather, it is the whetting of the imperialist sword – the deployment of more effective, more exact and more painful tactics. Instead of unilateral sanctions, multilateral sanctions will be used; instead of a single, pompous USA acting arbitrarily, a brutal coalition of like-minded countries will be formed to singularly concentrate vast resources for the subversion of Venezuelan sovereignty. Thus, Biden symbolizes the most lethal weapon against Venezuela, namely imperialism with precision.

Yanis Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India. Read other articles by Yanis.