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Dear Editor: More analysis needed on US/Russia war-games in neighbouring Venezuela

As curious as I am about what’s happening in Venezuela, I’m even more curious about how said developments are analysed by my local media so as to raise the public’s level of awareness about this country’s position in global affairs.

Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro never really impressed me, he’s no Hugo Chavez—and even Hugo has some things to answer for regarding his leadership.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (second from left) and Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro (right) dance to calypso after a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on 5 December 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Federico Parra)

But coming back to the local media—and educational institutions—I’m wondering at what point are we going to observe what’s happening in Venezuela and decide that we need different perspectives and narratives?

At what point is it going to dawn on us that we may be yet again a pawn in the big game between Washington and the Kremlin?

I say ‘again’ because apart from being a target by the Germans in WWII, that missile tracking station in Macqueripe meant that we were a target by the Russians if the Cold War became ‘hot’ in this region. For that matter Guyana may very well be in a similar position.

Presently, media reports encourage me to see Venezuela as the aggressor in this region. I’m constantly guided to see the Maduro regime as corrupt, dictatorial and oppressive towards its own people and aggressive and expansionist towards Guyana, a fellow CARICOM member. CARICOM’s response thus far reinforces that view of Venezuela.

Yet I have major doubts.

Do I have a chip on my shoulder? Maybe I’m reading too much into this. But absent from much of what little discussions there have been is the long, well-documented history of US aggression and manipulation in the region.

Photo: Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro (left) and Russia president Vladimir Putin.
(Copyright Sputnik News)

Practically everything that has been taking place in Venezuela—as well as certain other Central and South American countries—reads like the CIA playbook for regime change since the removal of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Cheddi Jagan in Guyana, Salvador Allende in Chile and so on. Before the coup that saw Allende’s overthrow on 11 September 1973, US president Richard Nixon gave instructions to ‘make the economy scream’ and thus began an economic war that devastated Chile.

The US has made no secret in recent times its intention to control the oil and mineral deposits in Central and South America—something to consider regarding the closure of our oil refinery—while at the same time turning the region into subservient market states for its products. Neither was it any secret that the CIA has been involved with members of the Venezuelan opposition.

Further, the United States has a long history of provoking confrontations that are then used as pretexts for military responses. The infamous Gulf of Tonkin incident that initiated the Vietnam War immediately comes to mind; and any country that could dream up Operation Northwoods—the plan to stage attacks on US assets appearing to come from Cuba and thus prompting an invasion—is capable of anything.

That the ship confronted by the Venezuelan navy was owned by Exxon sent up all sorts of red flags for me. Setting aside its abysmal environmental record, Exxon is known to have extremely close ties to Koch Industries.

The Koch brothers—Charles in particular—spearhead a very small but extremely wealthy, deeply conservative, neoliberal group of billionaires who are pro-energy, stoutly opposed to government regulations, labour unions, public health, schooling and social programs and environmental laws.

Photo: Former US president Richard Nixon.

Paradoxically, David Koch is on record as saying that global warming is a positive thing since the increased land mass caused by melting snow will mean more food can be grown and thus offset the trauma from increased migration on the coastlines.

Most importantly, these billionaires are known to fund ultra-Right white nationalist groups including neo-Nazi groups. The Koch’s family actually have ties with Nazis going back to when their father helped build a refinery for Adolf Hitler. Even their nanny was a Nazi according to researcher Jane Mayer, author of “Dark Money”.

Another closely connected entity are the Mercers. The Mercer family heads the corporation that invested in the data mining company, Cambridge Analytica, which was very active here in Trinbago.

It’s easy to dismiss this as yet another wild conspiracy theory. Unfortunately much of what I’ve written is not a theory.

The United States has a long history of doing things like this and it has been documented by many of its own scholars. From the manipulative opinions and ‘fake news’ published by William Randolph Hearst that led to the Spanish-American War to today, people in Wall Street have been influencing those in Washington to respond to situations they themselves have created. Why the fuss over the Russians sending military assets to this region as if it’s the first time; and as if the US hasn’t been positioning military bases to encircle Russia since the 1950s?

All I am asking is that let’s observe the unfolding situation a lot closer and to be a lot more critical with the narratives we are being encouraged to accept.

Photo: (From left to right) Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro, Russia president Vladimir Putin and US president Donald Trump.

About Corey Gilkes

Corey Gilkes is a self-taught history reader whose big mouth forever gets his little tail in trouble. He lives in La Romaine and is working on four book projects. He has a blog on https://coreygilkes.wordpress.com/blog/ and http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/. Vitriol can be emailed to him at coreygks@gmail.com.

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47 comments

  1. Thus, using Venezuela’s vast oil wealth, Chavez began an unprecedented experiment in solidarity and capital seeding, the PetroCaribe Alliance, which was launched in 2005 and eventually spread to 17 nations around the Caribbean and Central America. It provided cheap petroleum products and fabulous credit terms to member nations, throwing them an economic life-line when oil was selling for $100 per barrel.

    By 2006, Washington had punished the Haitian people for twice electing Aristide (1990, 2000) with two coups d’état (1991, 2004) and two foreign military occupations, handled by the United Nations. The Haitian people had managed to win a sort of stalemate, by electing René Préval (an early Aristide ally) as president.

    On the day of his May 14, 2006 inauguration, Préval signed up for the PetroCaribe deal, greatly vexing Washington, as outlined by Haïti Liberté in its 2011 reporting using WikiLeaks-obtained U.S. secret diplomatic cables. After two years of struggle, Préval eventually got Venezuelan oil and credit, but Washington made sure to punish him too.

    Following the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, the Pentagon, State Department, and then-head of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission Bill Clinton, with some flunkies from the Haitian elite, virtually took over the Haitian government, and in a November 2010 to March 2011 election process, they pushed out Préval’s presidential candidate, Jude Célestin, and put in their own, Michel Martelly.

    From 2011 to 2016, the Martelly group went on to embezzle, misspend, and misplace the lion’s share of the capital account known as the PetroCaribe Fund, which had basically kept Haiti afloat since its creation in 2008.

    Martelly also used the money to help his protégé, Jovenel Moïse, come to power on Feb. 7, 2017. Unfortunately for Moïse (having come to power just as Donald Trump did), he was about to become collateral damage in Washington’s escalating war against Venezuela.

    Surrounded by a gaggle of anti-communist neo-cons, Trump immediately stepped up hostility against the Bolivarian Republic, slapping far-ranging economic sanctions on Nicolas Maduro’s government. Haiti was already in arrears in its payments to Venezuela, but the U.S. sanctions now made it impossible to pay their PetroCaribe oil bill (or gave them a golden excuse), and the Haiti PetroCaribe deal effectively ended in October 2017.

    Life in Haiti, which was already extremely difficult, now became untenable. With the Venezuelan crude spigot now closed, Washington’s enforcer, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), told Jovenel he had to raise gas prices, which he tried to do on Jul. 6, 2018. The result was a three-day popular explosion which was the precursor to today’s revolt.

    At about the same time, a mass movement began asking what had happened to the $4.3 billion in Venezuelan oil revenues which Haiti had received over the previous decade. “Kot kòb PetroCaribe a?” – “Where’s the PetroCaribe money?” – growing thousands of demonstrators asked. The PetroCaribe Fund was supposed to pay for hospitals, schools, roads, and other social projects, but the people saw virtually nothing accomplished. Two 2017 Senate investigations confirmed that the money (the second report said $1.7 billion) had been mostly diverted into other pockets.

    So, what was the straw that broke the camel’s back? It was the treachery of Jovenel Moïse against the Venezuelans after their exemplary solidarity. On Jan. 10, 2019, in a vote at the Organization of American States (OAS), Haiti voted in favor of a Washington-sponsored motion to say that Nicolas Maduro was “illegitimate,” after he won over two-thirds of the vote in a May 2018 election.

    Already, Haitians were angry about the unbridled corruption, hungry from skyrocketing inflation and unemployment, and frustrated from years of false promises and foreign military humiliation and violence. But this spectacularly cynical betrayal by Jovenel and his cronies, in an attempt to win Washington’s help to rescue them from the growing fires beneath them, was the last straw.

    Surprised and paralyzed by its lack of options (and its own internal squabbles), Washington is now watching with horror the not-so-sudden collapse of the rotten political and economic edifice it has built in Haiti over the past 28 years since its first coup d’état against Aristide in 1991 until its latest “electoral coup d’état” which brought Jovenel to power in 2017.

  2. Hi Dawn, You will need to invite Gillian to join the group or she will not be able to view the article linked here. 🙂

  3. This is a Venezuela/Russian/Chinese/Iranian alliance vs the US. Again I repeat “there will be no war”. There biggest and best ally the US has in these parts is Brazil who incidentally is part of BRIC so you can see the conflict

  4. There will be no war! Just join military exercises and political posturing

  5. No need for a military base in T&T they have already announced one to be built in Brazil near the Venez border

  6. military assets touring the world and visiting other countries is nothing new

    then again Trinidadians dont like to read

    hence panic over russian planes and iranian ships in venezuela without seeing american ships near china and american troops on russian borders

  7. The author demonstrated a knowledge of history of the US, Venezuela and US involvement in the region, but seems to be unaware or ignores basic TnT history regarding international affairs. A basic understanding of TnT’s history would render moot all I’ll conceived concerns about TnT being a ‘pawn’ in a Washington/Moscow power play.
    TnT’s foreign policy – mainly driven by the PNM being the longest serving party- has ALWAYS maintained autonomy in international affairs. TnT did not join OPEC, we stood alone. We did not choose sides in the Cold War, we maintained a relationship with Cuba, in spite of US aggression to Castro. We did not join the other Caribbean countries who ‘invited’ the US to intervene in Grenada, our position, along with Guyana, was that was an internal matter to be resolved by Grenadians. TnT also uses its autonomy to stand with the rest of the world against the US in condemning acts of aggression by Isreal. Where do these concerns about TnT being caught in the middle originate? I have no idea especially when our history says otherwise.
    The Venezuelan matter is not complex; Venezuela has a constitutionally elected government. People may not agree or like Maduro, but he the legitimate President. Venezuela remains our closest neighbours and it’s important for the people of Trinidad and Tobago that we utilise the strategic energy and economic opportunities that come from that location. All non PNM administrations have done this; the Panday Administration had a relationship with Chavez and the Kamla Administration maintained a relationship with Maduro.
    So I don’t know where these concerns have originated. What evidence is there in recent or past history that gives people concern about TnT’s positions in international affairs? Whatever happens in Venezuela is going to happen ( I say nothing is going to happen militarily, but that’s another discussion). Are their concerns related to geography? Sure, just as they were with the Grenada unrest, hence the travel embargo. Those things resolve themselves.
    Maybe the author shouldn’t be looking to the media to help with analysis, he/she should do their own research.

    • i have asked what has Maduro done wrong to deserve aggression

      cant get a clear answer

    • Kyon Esdelle of course you can’t get one. Little do people know Maduro is going up against the SAME 1% that everyone else in the world, including TnT seems to hate.

    • richard trinis only oppose 1% in TT

      they love the 1% and white supremacists opinions in other countries

    • Richard Zen O’Brien, good points. I think, though, I’m old enough, and have something of an insider’s knowledge, to remember some of what you’re speaking about.

      First off, Trinidad, like the rest of the Caribbean *was* treated like a pawn during the Cold War. The only question is whether you choose to see it as that or not. But given the mindset of the Monroe Doctrine and the hubris encoded within US foreign policy discourses, they saw here as their backyard. Further, since WWII, Trinidad was the southernmost part of the chain of defenses that they constructed starting from the Panama Canal. And like I said, that ballistic missile tracking station plus the other bases positioned on this island placed this country as a target in a “hot” war. I’m unclear if we had a say in that 😉

      I am told that this country *did* try to get into OPEC but lost out by one key vote. While it did stand against the US in the invasion of Grenada (I was in form 3 at the time), there was always an ambivalence towards the US, partly because of Willias’ own issues (he was a colonial in thinking but was also considered a communist by the US) and partly because of the middle-class romanticism towards the US.

      You said that we were neutral and did not choose sides, that may be how *you* see it. But for the elements in Washington, starting with John Foster Dulles and those who followed his school of thought (he died in 1959), non-alignment was actually just as bad and subversive as being openly communist. We can’t leave out the Calvinist Christian influence in their policy making and John F Dulles was heavily influenced by that worldview. When George W Bush infamously said in 2001 following the Sept 11 events (I don’t ever call it an “attack” as that word connotes unprovoked aggression) “you’re either with us or with the terrorists,” he was following in that worldview.

      By the way, we took one stance against the US in Grenada and did a complete about turn when Aristide was removed from Haiti even going against the protests and refusal by Dr Ralph Gonsalves to recognise the pretensions of legitimacy, you *do* remember that I trust?

      But I’m in basic agreement with you and for the record, I’m not at all in the Washington camp (I didn’t think I had to explain this still) and neither am I under any illusion that the media here is to be relied upon to highlight the things I’ve been communicating here; I’m just saying that they SHOULD, not that I expect that they WOULD.

    • A Corey Gilkes it think it’s important that you know that we’re pretty similar in age- I was in secondary school during the Grenada unrest- so my knowledge and memory may be very similar to yours. 😎😎.

      Just a couple points: just like you I lived in TnT during the Cold War so I would really like to know what you have to show that TnT was ‘a pawn’ during that period. I’m not talking about WWII, I’m talking about Cold War. Also, Eric Williams’ refusal to be an American puppet is actually got us into problems with the US. However, it was difficult to make us ‘pay’ for that because of the oil. (Always remember that. )
      I don’t know what insider knowledge about TnT and OPEC, but I can assure you it is inaccurate. It is widely known that Trinidad and Tobago CHOSE not to be a part of OPEC. That was PNM policy. Have your ‘insider’ show you otherwise.
      I don’t see the contradiction between Grenada and Haiti. TnT did not support or endorse US actions in Haiti, similar with Grenada. They also engaged with the interim gov’t’s of BOTH countries. Again, what’s the contradiction?
      And it’s not whether or not I saw it as TnT being neutral and not taking sides, that was FACT. Where/when did we choose a ‘side’? That has always been our position which we were always able to maintain because we did not depend on tourism, like the other islands, we had oil.

    • Richard Zen O’Brien I’m beginning to wonder if you’re choosing to not pay attention to what I said. I said that Trinidad’s non-aligned stance — I never said that we did take sides — WAS tantamount to being *opposed* to the US. Go look through Dulles’ writings and then compare them to those of Kissinger.

      And perhaps I missed out when Manning openly condemned the removal of Aristide by the US; I only remember when he told Gonsalves to quit being vocal about it and move on. Perhaps you can point me to a news report or something indicating otherwise.

    • A Corey Gilkes sooooooo, if you’re ‘non-aligned’ how could they have been ‘pawns’? (Remember that’s the original point.)
      I would have liked to believe from your insertion of your age, that you would appreciate the nuances involved in foreign policy and how it’s a ‘delicate dance’. (I am disappointed I have to explain this to someone ‘my age’.) TnT’s public position on Grenada related to the efforts of Eugenia Charles, Tom Adams and others to ‘request’ the US to ‘help’ in Grenada. After the invasion occurred, TnT did not hold ANY hostile positions with the US. We did not end diplomatic relations, call for sanctions or anything of that sort. We maintained our position on Grenada’s sovereignty and even assisted in their transition to elections. Haiti was no different, the situation happened (I’m calling is a ‘situation’ in appreciation of the complex way that scenario played out) but at no time was there any position from the Manning Adninistration supporting the ‘situation’. Manning was right to basically advise Gonzales to keep quiet and move on because, like Grenada, it was a done deal and there was nothing Caricom could do about it; the focus had to be on providing support for Haiti where they could. Are you saying ‘consistency’ would have been joining Gonzales on an anti- US crusade? You can’t be serious.

  8. The most natural progression as ive said for a while is the bringing back of a US military base in TT

  9. Did he say media? In Trinidad?

  10. it had to be said. A Corey Gilkes . thanks.

  11. Very interesting geo-political outlook. Although we are little more than a cockroach in a fowl fight here.
    Forewarned is hopefully forearmed, though.

  12. To me the biggest concern is if Iran (or Iraq-can’t remember which) sends one of its new warships to Venezuela just to stir up the Americans. I could see the yanks wanting to send ships here to “protect” us. Then the next step would be a US monitoring station in T&T – a nice target for anti American terrorists!!