In the name of national socialism, the despot Maduro has impoverished an entire people… with Xi Jinping’s money. It is the “Belt and Road Initiative,” stupid.
The “Venezuela case” is drawing the outlines of a new “cold war,” and once again China is siding with a tyrannical regime that has literally starved its own population.
It all began in 1999, when Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (1954-2013) became president of Venezuela, imposing an authoritarian socialist regime combining Marxism-Leninism, left-wing nationalism and “liberation theology.” Chávez ruled in this way until the day of his death, on March 5, 2013, except for a three-day parenthesis due to a failed coup in 2002. He was succeeded by his designated heir, Nicolás Maduro Moros, born in 1962. Previously Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to January 2013, Maduro became vice president of the Republic from October 2012 to March 5, 2013, then interim president from that date until April 19, and finally full-time president. Under him, Venezuela has moved from the misery in which Chavism had reduced it to the abyss in which it languishes today. Venezuela is, in fact, rich in oil, but currently, it is overwhelmed by an unprecedented economic crisis, engulfed by a frightening inflationary vortex and suffering chronic shortages of basic necessities, including food and medicine. All for the sadistic exercise of power that denies all elementary human rights.
Challenged since his interim presidency period, after the death of Chávez the heir apparent Maduro held special elections on April 14, 2013, to finish Chávez’s six-year term. Chávez was, in fact, elected in 2012 but died only three months into his (fourth) term. Winning those elections, Maduro was officially inaugurated on April 19. Meanwhile, the elections for the renewal of the National Assembly (the parliament) of December 6, 2015, were won by an alliance of the opposition parties for the first time in 16 years. Maduro responded on May 1, 2017, calling for a constituent assembly that would draft a new constitution to replace that of 1999. Then with a presidential decree, he called special elections for the new Constituent National Assembly on July 30, 2017, aiming to overcome the power of the parliament. That body has been reserved only to members loyal to his regime and excluded the opposition. Considered illegitimate, it was not even recognized either by the Venezuelan parliament or by the majority of the world’s countries and international organizations. Backed by this faithful body, Maduro called for new snap elections to be held on May 20, 2018, instead of December, at the original deadline of the presidential term. The despot, of course, was re-elected for a full second six-year term, but in an atmosphere of enormous protest and illegitimacy. In these circumstances of Maduro’s usurpation of power – which in reality is a vacating of power – the Venezuelan Constitution states that the President of the National Assembly temporarily assumes the office of President of the Republic until the reestablishment of democratic normality. And this is what has just been done by the young Juan Guaidó, President of the National Assembly since January 5, 2019, who on January 23 took over the interim presidency following Maduro’s illegitimate inauguration on January 10.
Despite what most media say and repeat, Guaidó has not, therefore, “self-proclaimed” himself president, but he has scrupulously followed the Venezuelan Constitutional law in order to put an end to the abuse and to drive the country to free elections.
The “Belt and Road Initiative” in a still bipolar world
The clash between Maduro and Guaidó has obviously divided the world. More than 50 countries have lined up with Guaidó. These include the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Georgia, Iceland, and Israel. The European Parliament recognized the legitimacy of Guaidó on 31 January. On February 7, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Maduro calling him simply señor and not president. In contrast, Italy held a shameful median position that objectively favors the usurper.
Backing Maduro are Russia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, North Korea, Turkey, Syria, and Iran, plus Hezbollah and Hamas, but the first name on the list of Venezuelan socialism’s allies is China. In fact, without China, the Venezuelan regime would have collapsed a long time ago.
The background of this joint venture between Latin and Asian totalitarianisms is well illustrated by the extensive reports published by the US newspaper The New York Times and by SupChina. The latter is an agency specialized in news on the Asian giant, launched in 2016 by two veteran observers of China, the Sino-American freelance columnist and rock musician Kaiser Kuo (郭怡 廣), whose real name is Guō Yíguǎng, and South African-American blogger Jeremy Goldkorn.
It was Chávez who initiated the alliance. In 2001, Venezuela was, in fact, the first Spanish-speaking country to sign a “strategic development partnership” with Beijing, later transformed into a “comprehensive strategic partnership” in 2014. “Since then,” the Venezuelan political columnist Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez writes in The New York Times, “China has lent to Venezuela some $60 billion” that is “[…] primarily to be repaid in oil.” This diversion of oil to China is alienating the country’s treasure. “In return, Chinese companies have received preferential access to Venezuela’s domestic market, and lucrative infrastructure and factory concessions. The flow of Chinese goods into Venezuela has grown exponentially, to .7 billion in 2014 from less than 0 million in 1999, not counting certain government purchases like satellites and arms shipments.”
Recently, the Italian economic newspaper Italia Oggi observed that both China and Russia ‒ two countries united, if only, by their support of Maduro’s regime and the repression of religious freedom ‒ “[…] in the last 10-15 years have lent more money than everyone else to the Caracas regime, with precise but distinct objectives.” Moscow intends to support the anti-US countries of South America, Beijing wants to involve Venezuela, and its oil, in the “Belt and Road Initiative,” the pharaonic “takeover bid on the world” launched to redesign globalization with “Chinese characteristics.”
With its oil exported almost entirely abroad (China, Russia, and Cuba), in today’s Venezuela ‒ the Italian economic newspaper continues ‒ “inflation, at the level of the Weimar Republic, is around one million percent on an annual basis. The destruction of purchasing power has led to a general impoverishment: the poverty rate now exceeds 90% of the population, child malnutrition is generalized, and crime is very high.” And Moscow “[…] has sent 400 Russian mercenaries of the Wagner contingent to Venezuela, the same unit already employed in Syria and Donbass instead of the military of the Russian army,” Italia Oggi adds.
Beijing, according to the calculations made by Limes, the well-informed Italian journal of geopolitics, “since 2005 […] has provided loans to the Latin American countries of $150 billion.” Almost half of this money went to Venezuela alone (which, among other things, according to the newspaper Affari Italiani,“[…] with 73% of the total is the largest importer of Russian weapons in the whole of South America”). In this way, Limes continues, Beijing “[…] has consolidated political and economic relations also with Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia.” China “[…] has also extended to the subcontinent the infrastructure projects of the new silk roads, a Chinese-led initiative that originally concerned only Eurasia. Uruguay, Panama, Costa Rica, and Trinidad and Tobago have already made agreements with the People’s Republic to become a junction of the sea route, and Venezuela has repeatedly expressed willingness to participate in the initiative,” along with El Salvador, which seems to have Beijing’s eyes on it already.
Social control technologies
In mid-September 2018, Maduro went on an official visit to China. Xi Jinping reiterated his political support, and in return, the Caracas despot gave up more oil. “Among the 28 economic agreements signed by Beijing and Caracas during the summit,” Limes explains, “we highlight the sale to a non-specific Chinese company of 9.9% of the Chinese-Venezuelan oil company Sinovensa, of which the China national petroleum corporation owns already 40%. The People’s Republic will also drill a deposit at Ayacucho in the Orinoco belt (Eastern Venezuela) and will finance the Petrozumano oil joint venture with 184 million dollars.” Meanwhile, the Venezuelan people literally starve because of a Maduro with “Chinese characteristics.”
The tyrants of Beijing and Caracas also share another passion, for the obsessive control of their citizens, stifling their freedom and rights.
An investigative report published by Reuters press agency in November 2018 revealed that ZTE Corporation would be helping the Venezuelan socialist regime to install a sophisticated system of digitized social control. ZTE ‒ formerly Zhongxing Semiconductor Co. Ltd. ‒ is a telecommunications company established in 1985, in Shenzhen, in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. The surveillance system is a re-launch of a project that dates back to April 2008, at the time of Chávez. This should be emphasized. Today, some try to blame all the failures of the Venezuelan regime on Maduro alone, portraying him as a “bad socialist,” in order to exonerate Chávez, who would be the “good socialist.” This approach has been tried with the history of Soviet communism, where Lenin (the pseudonym of Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, 1870-1924) would have been the “good communist” and the “bad communist” would have been Stalin (the pseudonym of Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, 1878-1953). Such arguments seek to gloss over the fact that the nightmare of the Gulag, made famous by Stalin, was invented by Lenin.
The ZTE program in question records the ID information of citizens, storing important data about their political, social and economic behavior, to make all such information available to a regime that equals the Chinese in terms of repression of fundamental freedoms.
To achieve such control of citizens’ information, some ZTE employees will be placed in a special unit of Cantv, the Compañía Anónima Nacional de Telefonos de Venezuela, which is the Venezuelan state provider for telephone and Internet services in charge of managing the database built up with the technology imported from China. It must be noted that ZTE is involved, along with the giant Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd (created in 1987, also in Shenzhen), in the thorny issue of espionage on Chinese citizens. ZTE and Huawei are also engaged in the potential control of the world through the futuristic technology of 5G (i.e., the “5th Generation” Internet), which is causing governments and scholars across the world to raise questions and defenses against these companies.
Very rich neo-communists
China ‒ as mentioned above ‒ is not the only country supporting Maduro’s despotic regime. Turkey, which supports Venezuela for economic and political reasons, has at least had the decency to condemn openly the notorious transformation through education camps in which at least one million Uyghurs are convicted for the crime of being believers and ethnic minorities. Turkey’s condemnation is likely mainly because the Uyghurs are a Turkic population with certain ancestral and cultural ties to the Turks of Asia Minor. But this fact doesn’t delegitimize Turkey’s protests against China’s behavior.
One last aspect unites Chinese and Venezuelan despotisms. Italia Oggi is again the source that reports on a study according to which “[…] in Venezuela, between 1999 and 2011, the share of the economy managed by private individuals rose from 65 to 71%.” This doesn’t mean, however, that the country has turned its back on socialism to throw itself into ‘capitalism’: it means only that Venezuela is populated by “[…] a plethora of ‘socialist profiteers.’” These people have been and are able to re-finance their dying socialism, defeated by history, through the market ‒ managed immorally ‒ without however changing even slightly the one-party structure that impedes political freedom and democracy. This is what, in Bitter Winter, I have already called neo-post-communism. It perfectly describes also the “new rich” regime of China, which offers a classic example of that caricature of economic freedom that is called “crony capitalism.” It is always perfectly compatible with the violation of human rights, indeed it requires such violation. Moreover, the Venezuelan regime is at the center of a criminal system that helps explain the unshakeable loyalty shown to Maduro by the army and large sectors of the political class.
On February 12, The Wall Street Journal announced a resounding “conversion” of China, which, worried about its investments in case of a possible government change in Venezuela, allegedly sought to meet with Guaidò. But it was a fake scoop. The Russian press agency Sputnik, the voice of the Moscow government, was quick to rebut the story the following day. The joint venture to tread on human rights continues.
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Author: Marco Respinti