Looked at from the partisan viewpoint of previous articles, which took basic presuppositions for granted, the fourth and latest report from Luis Almagro, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General offers little that is new.
But what is really important can be read between the lines.
An introduction looking inside and out
As regards its length, depth and its use of biased “sources”, the Almagro Report meets various criteria typical of a propaganda exercise. It seeks to alter the views of international players and multilateral organizations where Venezuela enjoys important influence, intimidate Venezuela’s foreign policy spokespersons and change the position of Caribbean countries that have proved to be stalwart supporters of the Venezuelan government’s dialog initiatives.
As regards its general political and symbolic drift, Almagro’s report tries, once again, to place Venezuela outside international law, the reason and basis for which Venezuela deserves, by Luis Almagro’s logic, the extremely serious sanctions applied by the Trump administration on the pretext of a lack of “democracy, human rights and Rule of Law”. The Holy Trinity of Western values made universal via bombardment.
Realpolitik – the Almagro report’s objectives
In relation strictly to the diplomatic offensive against Venezuela, Luis Almagro’s reports have made no difference, neither through 2016 nor through 2017. However, the focus of his actions lies beyond what may or may not result in a successful resolution in the OAS, because they go beyond the OAS ambit. By means of his reports, the current OAS Secretary General, a U.S. enforcer for the hemisphere, drives the aggressive sanctions which Venezuela is now suffering.
While it is true his reports were indeed used to call various extraordinary meetings of the OAS Permanent Council, their role as a channel for narratives and inputs feeding into formal resolutions aimed at creating a broad consensus against Venezuela, in terms of coercive regional diplomatic and financial measures, failed to get the desired results. The OAS did not turn out to serve as a platform for an international measure in sympathy with the United States’ aggression. That failure lead to the formation of the Lima Group of countries as a parallel framework, outside the traditional regional bodies where Venezuela has significant influence.
The date of the latest report’s publication is last September 25th, coinciding with the date agreed, under the auspices of the UN Secretary general Antonio Gutierres and the Dominican Republic’s government, by the Venezuelan government and opposition for a second round of talks in the Dominican Republic.
On a personal level, just as important as the political level, Luis Almagro still resents the political defeats he suffered in the form of the government and opposition talks held at the end of 2016 and the installation of the National Constituent Assembly last August. These two events showed up Almagro’s weakness not only as a U.S. enforcer unable to impose interventionist measures in the face of Venezuelan diplomacy, but also his minimal authority to affect Venezuela’s internal politics.
With the phrase “No negotiating peace, democracy and freedom”, Luis Almagro closes his report in an effort to recover his position as the international spokesperson for Venezuela’s extremist opposition.
Biased sources, omissions and the paradoxical negation of democracy
Using sources like Venezuela’s El Cooperante, CNN, Reuters and Miami’s El Nuevo Herald all part of the network of information media opposed to the Venezuelan government, Luis Almagro tries to build a narrative arguing the breakdown of the Rule of Law in Venezuela by manipulating the data of fatalities caused by opposition violence between April and July and the July 30th elections for the National Constituent Assembly.
By denying the destruction affecting whole towns by opposition armed gangs, the hate crimes and selective murders, the use of snipers and the blockade of vital highways so as to prevent the distribution of food and medicines, Almagro tries to switch responsibility for the people murdered and wounded onto the Venezuelan government.
An investigation by the Communications and Information Ministry (MINCI) revealed that 77 out of the total of 112 victims were not taking part in the demonstrations. The cause of these deaths has nothing to do with the public order forces but to various other factors all associated with the violent anti-Chavista groups, the barricades, thuggery, homemade weapons fired by demonstrators, looting and lynching.
Luis Almagro also attacks the National Constituent Election process under false premises and with false data. His central argument depends on insisting that the July 30th elections had no democratic guarantees, since the opposition refused to participate either with candidates or in the constitution of the voting stations. He omits that the opposition chose not to participate in the elections to the National Constituent Assembly since they thought the government would fall by means of paramilitary action and they would take power without the need for elections. A total of over eight million votes, representing more than 40% of those eligible to vote nationally, proved those forecasts and threats about the election wrong.
So far there have been no challenges from the opposition parties and organizations to the National Electoral Council that might back up the accusations and give some credibility to Almagro’s argument that the election was “vitiated”. Despite this, the OAS Secretary General uses this “accusation” to argue that “the international community should continue applying progressively harder sanctions against the regime and the regime’s authorities”, referring to the continual aggression against Venezuela by the Trump administration.
Central symbolic and rhetorical points: the danger always lies between the lines
Throughout the report’s 49 pages, the Venezuelan question is made to carry an anti-political, exceptional sense of emergency in line with the conceptual framework the U.S. needs to install, first in the information media and, then, in multilateral bodies like the UN so as to be able to escalate their intervention agenda.
From the U.S. point of view, since Almagro is simply their puppet, the reference to “two million displaced”, ignoring the fundamentally middle class profile of the Venezuelan diaspora, and the comparison between the 2014 elections in Iraq and the recent National Constituent Assembly election as regards the violence, ratify that Venezuela has definitively entered an anomalous, unstable situation “representing a risk to the hemisphere’s peace and security” as Almagro’s report states.
These ranging shots aim too at the elections and the electoral body, the National Electoral Council. The report compares Venezuela’s electoral climate to Togo, Kenya and Zimbabwe, definitively setting the scene to delegitimize the forthcoming regional elections on October 15th.
It is precisely by means of this false assimilation of Venezuela to irregular conflicts in Africa and the Middle East that the Almagro Report could unfold into something more than a propaganda exercise to announce and legitimize beforehand a new set of warlike actions on the ground, combined with U.S. “diplomacy”.
In Colombia, for example, “refugee camps” are being prepared for Venezuelan migrants (hence the report’s mention of “displaced people”). This represents something dangerously similar to the logistical corridors via which Turkey supplied arms, protection and funding to the terrorist organizations acting on Syrian territory under the same false benevolent pretext.
No other country but Colombia has been so historically made ready by the United States to take on this role of drip-fed paramilitary intervention against Venezuela, via the arms and drugs trade, which now take place with seven U.S. military bases serving as cover for those activities and their subordination to the U.S. geopolitical war in the Latin America.
According to Juan Carlos Restrepo, national security adviser to Colombia’s President Santos they are already getting advice from the Turkish embassy to carry out this plan.
Special attention should also be paid to Almagro’s effort to compare future elections in Venezuela to those in Iraq or Togo, both countries afflicted by the instability left over from many years of irregular war over their natural resources.
Knowing beforehand, from the declarations of President Trump and his cabinet, that the electoral path is not the solution to Venezuela’s problems, themselves made worse by the Trump administration’s sanctions, it makes sense to deliberately project possible violence in the upcoming regional elections as only to be expected. This suggests that well trained and prepared violence will occur, as has already been seen in practice during the elections to the National Constituent Assembly, during which paramilitary groups threatened people in Venezuela’s Andean states.
Immediately, it does seem that the U.S. plan for Venezuela does include destabilizing and delegitimizing the regional elections as an objective in the current situation.
The U.S. - playing as if on its own
With even half-way political thinking wiped out in the U.S. State Department, U.S. foreign policy towards Venezuela has been completely militarized and unified. The latest sanctions follow, precisely, a warlike logic, the financial and economic destruction of an adversary, discarding completely any internal or external political option outside a warlike framework defined by the political and economic destruction at all costs of the Venezuelan State (regardless of the elections and the moderate political opposition), of the nation’s very culture and of Chavismo as a political, historic force. Those are the U.S. war aims.
In that regard, Almagro’s report should not be read as his own creation but rather as a navigational chart providing a focus for the next round of international maneuvers.
It remains true that the report itself changes little or nothing, as did Almagro’s previous efforts. Those did their job of serving as the basis for Trump’s sanctions.
The U.S. knows the OAS is a dud cartridge for its immediate plans, That is why it created the Lima Group so as to have at hand a block of countries to accompany its agenda of surrounding and suffocating Venezuela. That suggestion was taken over wholesale from the International Crisis Group think tank, a political front made up as an NGO, funded by George Soros and the big U.S. multinational corporations.
Almagro’s report ends with a set of “demands” that lay out the navegational chart mentioned above. Not only does it eliminate any possibility of dialog, it also serves to justify the political sequestration of Venezuela the U.S. is trying to bring about. The false choice on offer is either to accept the Supreme Court Judges illegally elected by Venezuela’s opposition controlled National Assembly in July, or else face ever more severe sanctions. Another false option is to allow the Lima Group to govern Venezuela, like what is happening in Guatemala now, via international monitoring and tutelage.
In parallel, the de facto U.S. Secretary of State, Nikki Haley, has quickly moved a couple of her best pawns, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al Hussein, and Luis Almagro, both to set up a case indicting President Nicolas Maduro in the International Criminal Court and to activate the Palermo Convention, classing the Venezuelan government as an international criminal organization. For now, neither of those options are likely to go much beyond headlines and spokespersons, but that does no imply they will not keep trying.
There was no shortage of NGOs funded by the U.S. State Department to parade as witnesses on the “crimes against humanity” supposedly committed by the Venezuelan government, serving to support Luis Almagro’s efforts to set up Venezuela as a false positive in the OAS.
In any case, using this narrative and the diplomatic assets accompanying it, the U.S. intends to ratchet up financial sanctions closer and closer to an outright oil embargo and a more extensive international trade boycott. Its logic is that Venezuela is not a country, but a crime cartel.
In that context and with the political timing of the Almagro Report, Nikki Haley hopes to use the thick country file the U.S. has spent years building up against Venezuela to take the issue up to the level of the UN Security Council. The fact that this may not be as simple as she hopes makes little difference to the political and financial intimidation the U.S. will continue to apply while it systematically exhausts all diplomatic channels as it has done in other contexts. In fact, the obstacles Haley may face will do little more than accelerate unilateral U.S. action.
That is why the Almagro Report is important as a maneuver to help organize all the pieces on the board and unify the command and control of actions at an international level against Venezuela in this new stage of the conflict, an international geopolitical stage, while, at an internal political level, Venezuela has been stabilized by the National Constituent Assembly.
Beyond what the new report by Almagro argues, reality speaks for itself. The U.S. refuses to accept a political outcome distinct from its scheme of confrontation, either via negotiations or elections. The escalating financial sanctions are the clearest proof of that reality. The Venezuelan government’s refusal to be intimidated and the decision to strengthen its financial, commercial and energy alliances with the emerging bloc of Russia, China and Iran, show that the game has more than one player.
Nor is the U.S. in the best geopolitical position to go all or nothing given how sensitive Venezuela is as part of overall global political rivalry and given the ability of Chavismo inside Venezuela to overcome efforts to provoke chaos. Globally, the balance of power is tilting away from Washington.
The cards are dealt and Venezuela is playing the hand it has.
Note: This article was originally written in Spanish by William Serafino of Mision Verdad and translated to English by Tortilla con Sal.