The Oil Rush: Venezuela vs. Saudi Arabia

In today’s corporate-focused world, black is the new yellow, oil is the new gold. To have this asset can prove to be either a gift or a curse for oil-rich countries. For example, Saudi Arabia has turned great profits while countries like Iraq paid the heavy price of a US invasion and damaging aftermath. While oil is typically thought to be abundant in countries like Saudi Arabia, there is a country closer to the United States which wears the golden crown in the oil industry but is unwilling to share its jewels with the US. In 2013, the EIA reported that Venezuela has 297.6 billion barrels of oil with Saudi Arabia closely behind with 267.91 billion barrels. 

What is the difference between Venezuela and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? One country enjoys a cosy relationship with the United States while the other refuses to bow to US interests. Before Hugo Chávez won the 1998 Venezuelan election, Venezuela was an example of a prosperous country (under capitalist standards). While Venezuela was portrayed as a booming country, the reality was that it was a tale of two cities; mass inequality existed between the upper and working classes. It was not until Chávez took leadership that inequality decreased dramatically and many industries (including the Venezuelan oil industry) was nationalised. This, of course, struck a chord with the US who had interests in the country which were being threatened by the radical move. Because of this anti-imperialist jab, the US thought they’d hit back with a huge blow to Chávez; they used the oldest trick in the corporatist book and that was to stage a coup and prop up a pro-US leader. In 2002 the middle classes took to the streets of Venezuela and forced Chávez to stand down which of course he did- only to return to power two days later. The Bush administration denied being involved in the coup which of course is very true because corporate America is very honest and transparent when it comes to these matters. 

When Hugo Chávez lost the battle to cancer in 2013, the responsibility of leading the South American nation was put on his close associate, Nicolás Maduro (who is often revered as the second death of Hugo Chavez due to the fact that the crisis which began at the end of Chávez’s administration became worse under his watch). Under Maduro’s leadership, food and medicine shortages worsened as did starvation hence the exodus of Venezuelans from the country. However, one cannot put the entire blame on Maduro and Chavez for the crisis; sanctions imposed by the USA have also played a huge part in the crisis. In the hopes of getting out the country out of the swamp, Nicolás Maduro tried to use one of the easiest tricks in the book and that was printing money which only backfired.  And this is where Juan Guaidó comes in to save the day, or so the US and their allies want you to think.

Juan Guaidó, the leader of the “Voluntad Popular” party (“Popular Will” in English), declares himself interim president of Venezuela which received mixed reactions from all parts of the world. The United States, Colombia and Brazil unsurprisingly recognise Guaido as the president without hesitation while Russia, Cuba and Turkey show support for Maduro. Uruguay has decided to stay neutral and called for negotiations and new elections. 

While this may seem like a revolution which will lead to freedom and democracy for the Venezuelan people, those who have lived long enough or have read the history of US interventions in Latin and South America would know all too well that US interventions prove to be disastrous for the working people and only beneficial to the corporatist businessmen. If you want to see truly how disastrous US intervention has been just look at Chile 1973 when the democratically elected Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup and replaced with the fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, all due to the fact that Allende nationalised the copper industry (which was big business for the USA in Chile at the time). The US preaches of bringing democracy and human rights to the countries they interfere in whether it be through a coup or actual military action however Pinochet was notorious for his human rights abuses. This is the leader who used rape as a torture method for women. So if the US has propped up despicable dictators in the past, how is Venezuela any different? How is Juan Guaidó going to be good for the working classes of Venezuela? The answer is, he is not. He is not being put in power to serve the Venezuelan people, he is being put into power to serve the line of oil companies wanting access to the country’s oil.

The 2002 coup against Chávez is not the only piece of hard evidence to suggest that the US has been itching to interfere in the South American nation, John Bolton expressed that a regime change would be “a major step forward”. Nikki Haley (the former US ambassador to the UN) congratulated the election victory of Jair Bolsonaro and expressed how Brazil would be useful in “the fight against dictatorships in Venezuela and Cuba” as well as against “China’s expanding influence in the region”.

Due to sour relations with the United States during the Chávez era, Venezuela has aligned itself with the United States’ biggest enemies, Russia and China (after all the enemy of your enemy is your friend). Russia and Venezuela have a good relationship especially when it comes to the military and weapons. Hugo Chávez signed a $2.9bn arms deal in exchange for Russian fighter aircraft which allowed the Kremlin to buy Venezuelan oil assets at a cheaper price. China gave $70bn to Venezuela for development projects which Maduro still owes $13bn of. In exchange for this, China has imported crude oil from Venezuela. Meanwhile, the US has been shut out of Venezuela’s oil business after the country stopped accepting US dollars as payment, in response to US sanctions. Given that Brazil and Colombia have shown opposition to the Maduro regime and do share borders with Venezuela, it is no surprise that they would play some part in US intervention (after all Colombia was accused of being behind the drone attack which was thought to be an attempt on Maduro’s life). So it seems as if the US has backed Venezuela into a corner hence making it easier to interfere. If the regime survives a coup, it is possible that the next step the USA would take is a military intervention which will be calamitous.

Nicolás Maduro is not exactly an angel, he has shown no regard for human rights and his election victory in 2018 was shut down by many due to rigging. However Juan Guaidó is not a saviour or a messiah for the Venezuelan people either, he has not been elected by the Venezuelan people and was relatively unknown until he became the leader of the opposition party just over a month ago. The basis of Guaidó using an illegitimate election to declare himself president is actually unconstitutional as Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution does not include fraudulent or illegitimate elections as a basis in which a person can declare themselves as president. To further support this, the UN independent expert who is responsible for promoting democratic and inequitable international order, (Alfred de Zayas) tweeted that Article 233 cannot be manipulated to justify Guaidó’s self-declaration and that ” a coup is a coup”. It is also important to take into account that a majority of the opposition parties in Venezuela disagree with Juan Guaidó self swearing. 

So Venezuela is stuck in between a rock and a hard place. How can the country come to a resolution? Well, the most sensible thing is there to be negotiations between Maduro and the opposition parties in order to reach a solution. New elections must be called, this time free and fair so the Venezuelan people can truly decide their own destiny instead of a handful of oil corporatists. A US-backed coup will be catastrophic for Venezuela regardless of whether it succeeds or fails. A failed coup attempt may embolden Maduro to become more dictatorial in order to keep his position or worst of all it could lead to a civil war. A successful coup attempt may cause pro-Maduro rebels to rebel which may escalate to a civil war. It is possible that Juan Guaidó may become dictatorial and will be worse for the Venezuelan people than Maduro (as seen in the past with US-backed leaders). We, the world cannot witness another catastrophic coup or civil war. We cannot allow Venezuela to become the Syria or the Libya of South America and we cannot allow US imperialism to win. To support a regime change is to support corporatism. To support a corporatist democracy goes against everything that constitutes a Democrat. The world must stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people.

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Faheem Ashraf

Hi, my name is Faheem Ashraf, I am a 17 year old from London and am a socialist. I run a blog on wordpress called "The Lefty Snowflake". Check me out on Instagram too @theleftysnowflake.

Faheem Ashraf has 5 posts and counting. See all posts by Faheem Ashraf

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