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Quite a few scholars whose work I admire, and with whom I interact, have signed this letter on #Venezuela. It's not my intention to go after anyone personally. But this letter is highly problematic. Here's why... (thread)…
The short version: Rejection of US intervention and abhorrence of Trump should not lead us to overlook the overwhelming role of Maduro's government in provoking and continuing this crisis. Nor to distort the fact or disqualify opposition to Maduro.
I would also oppose US military intervention or coup-mongering. I don't doubt the good intentions of most of my academic colleagues who have signed it. But this letter is not the way to do it.
So, what's wrong with the letter? It gives Maduro a near-total pass on polarization, elections, economic crisis, and violence. Instead, it blames the US and the opposition for these (often unduly) while saying almost nothing about the Venezuelan government's role. Each in turn...
Polarization is blamed on US support for opposition efforts at violence removal of Maduro. This overstates the US role and understates opposition autonomy. It says *nothing* about the government's role and repression over nearly two decades, but especially in the last years.
The opposition is blamed for seeking "other avenues that sidestep the ballot box." But the letter says *nothing* about repression of opposition candidates, rigging of institutions, electoral fraud, jailing of opponents, tilting of the playing field, etc., by the government.
US sanctions are blamed for Venezuela's economic crisis, out of all proportion (and chronologically incorrectly) with their possible effects, saying "These sanctions have cut off the means by which the Venezuelan government could escape from its economic recession."
As close as the letter gets to acknowledging this is the first half of: "Problems resulting from Venezuelan government policy have been worsened by US economic sanctions". But it then goes on about sanctions with demonstrably incorrect claims.
This massively distorts the timeline and rationale for the Venezuelan economic crisis, which was overwhelmingly caused by state policies and was well under way before sanctions (esp broader sanctions) started.
The Venezuelan decline started in 2014 before US sanctions (March 2015). Initially, US sanctions targeted a handful of people--hardly recession inducing. These have only been broadened much more recently. The supposed effect precedes the cause.
The letter says sanctions caused "a dramatic falloff in oil production." That's flat-out wrong. PDVSA production started falling WAY earlier. It's discussed in @jcorrales2011's 2013 book! Causes? Mismanagement, underinvestment. NOT sanctions that were years in the future.
Despite the decline in barrels of oil produced, the Venezuelan economy and exports became increasingly concentrated on oil across almost the entire chavista period. That obviously made it very vulnerable to oil declines.
Production was not only falling, but in a total tailspin years ahead of the sanctions. Years before Maduro! So, that claim is flat-out wrong.…
The letter blames US sanctions for "causing many people to die because they can’t get access to life-saving medicines." This is a horrific distortion. Beyond blaming sanctions beyond all credibility, it gives a pass to Maduro for rejecting humanitarian assistance.
The letter says, "Now the US and its allies...have pushed Venezuela to the precipice." Really? I think we've been at the precipice for a while. And again, there's no mention of Maduro or the government, who are treated as innocent victims here, pushed along to disaster.
The letter calls recognition of Gauidó "illegal under the OAS Charter." A discussion can be had on the OAS charter...but that discussion should also include Maduro and the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
The letter then calls for negotiations and mediation. Some sort of negotiations will have to be a part of any solution, but again the lack of context on Maduro's approach to earlier negotiations is sorely missed.
I totally understand the desire to oppose a rash US military intervention that would indeed probably have many horrendous consequences. And there are good reasons to question the push for recognition based on the possible consequences.
But rejecting US intervention should not mean silencing the role that Maduro and this government have played, or their willingness to watch their country unravel as they cling to power.
Rejecting US intervention should not mean treating domestic and regional opponents of the regime as puppets of a US conspiracy, as if they don't have their own very real interests for which they would seek int'l support.
Rejecting US intervention should not mean distorting the facts or attributing an unrealistic omnipotence to US policy. None of that brings us closer to understanding what's going on, nor closer to a solution.
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