The Real Reason Obama Can’t Shake Hands With Chavez
President Obama was photographed smiling and shaking hands with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela at the Summit of the America’s. The incident has drawn criticism for Obama, specifically that his behavior with Chavez endangers America’s prestige. The crux of the critique is that we can’t be seen as soft, while providing Chavez with political leverage back home.
Quite typical of elite propaganda, the issue has been debased into an ideological battle. In one corner, we have the noble, righteous, and benevolent United States. And in the opposing corner, we have the cruel, merciless, totalitarian regime in Venezuela. This is the simplistic foreign policy propaganda the American public is so often forced to digest, and after decades of feeding, we’ve become accustomed to view world matters in terms of good versus evil.
The true reason Obama is drawing criticism from certain elite circles is not because Venezuela is the center of evil in South America. Venezuela poses no military threat to the United States, nor is it a sponsor, much less have any credible affiliation, with terrorism against the United States. Venezuela poses no credible threat to the United States. The idea is so incredibly laughable, it shouldn’t even be necessary to point out.
Short of an actual security threat, Venezuela has been propositioned as an ideological threat to the United States. Portrayed as a violet dictatorship, it’s subsumed with little subtlety that Venezuelan politics are a threat to American democracy. The most often cited evidence for this underlying claim is the Venezuelan governments human rights record and Hugo Chavez’s anti-Americanism.
Venezuela’s human rights record is hardly sterling, but when you consider that the United States human rights record is equally egregious and that American foreign policy towards human rights violations is a roller coaster of hypocrisy, this argument begins to fall flat on it’s face.
The United States human rights record, directly and indirectly, is even more terrible then Venezuela’s. The only difference between us and them is that their human rights violations are domestic, while ours are almost entirely international. The United States involvement in Nicaragua, Kosovo, Panama, El Salvador, Indonesia are only a few examples of American human rights violations committed over the last 25 years(our involvement in the listed conflicts were actually acts of terrorism, a sub sect of human rights abuses), in which ten of thousands died, hundreds of thousands of people turned into refugees, and countries left decimated.
Aside from direct involvement, the United States indirect involvement in human rights abuses. America consistently provides monetary, as well as military exports, to known rights violators with the tacit understanding that such support is intended to further said violations.
Given the United States record of international human rights violations and terrorism, Chavez’s anti-American rhetoric need not even be discussed. His comments, while inflammatory, are not untrue. Some people just don’t like being told their government is bad, most of all the American public. Ironically, we feel we are entitled, being the world’s lone superpower, to be the arbitors of which countries are good and which ones are bad.
Considering the principle of universality does not apply in the propaganda attempts to paint Venezuela as a threat, we need to look elsewhere for an answer. We can find what we are looking for in further expounding upon why the given reasons are not applicable. A cursory look at the United States acceptance or denial towards human rights violations and terrorism holds the key, and it’s the point where the two diverge that is the key point.
The point in which the United States either supports or condemns nations for their actions is simple – access by American private and/or military corporations to a countries resources.
The list of examples are numerous. One such example is Turkey. During the mid-80’s thru the late-90’s, Turkey was the largest recipient of American aid in the world. The aid began and ended synchronously with Turkey’s genocide campaign against it’s native Kurdish population that left tens of thousands dead and many more as refugees. If human rights and terrorism are such a concern to the US elite, how can these two facts be reconciled?
While Turkey murdered and displaced hundred’s of thousands of people in it’s own country, American corporations were given large contracts by the Turkish government for domestic and military projects. The United States was given access to Turkish resources.
Conversely, the United States condemns Venezuela for it’s politics human rights abuses. Abuses which pale in comparison to the Turkish campaign against the Kurds. That is because the US private corporations do not have unfettered access to Venezuelan oil or given in country contracts. The only problem with Venezuela is that they are not US client states, willingly going along with the exploitation of it’s own population for the financial gain of it’s own elite.
Hugo Chavez publicly states as much, and acts accordingly. In 2007, he severed all ties with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, correctly citing that both organizations are, essentially, facilitators for US exploitation of foreign countries. The bulk of contracts secured by US companies in other countries is paid for by loans issued by the IMF and WB in that respective country. This is saddling a country with debt for the sole purpose of benefiting US corporations.
Couple the refusal to participate in economic suicide with Venezuela’s oil production is almost exclusively controlled by the state(profits from Venezuelean oil sales are then invested into the country), and US corporations are almost entirely blocked out from profiting within Venezuela.
This is where the only threat Venezuela poses – to the economic profiteering of United States companies in within it’s borders by exploitation of it’s national resources.
I would encourage the reader to examine three characteristics of other countries. One, it’s base of resources(including natural and international loans). Two, US corporation penetration within foreign countries. And three, US relations with said country.
You will find, quite clearly, that the ratio of resources to US access relates directly to international relations. Those countries who allow access and subsequent exploitation enjoy friendly, often times fiscally supportive, relations with the US. Those that do not are demonized as threats to American security and the democratic way of life.