Over the years, it has become common for USAID to infiltrate and interfere in the internal affairs of other countries in the name of “humanitarian aid” (Photo: Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA) Samantha Power. Biden’s head of USAID, was instigator of the US war on Libya.
On September 15, Marcela Escobari, current assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), offered a testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate, in which she evaluated Washington’s policy towards Venezuela, more specifically, that of that agency.
As we know, USAID, through financial support and training programs, is part of the US interventionist apparatus and has been influencing the internal affairs of Venezuela for several years, with less and less discretion.
The most relevant point in Escobari’s testimony is the one that shows the actions that the agency will take from now on, in view of the failure of the Guaidó operation, on the one hand, and the steps that the Venezuelan government has taken to restore political order and get relief in the economic sector, even in the midst of unilateral coercive measures.
Before that, Escobari makes a presentation of the reasons why, according to USAID, the US government should continue financing “humanitarian” interference actions in Venezuela. Of course, the data is either arbitrary (using its own source system) or taken out of context, but knowing the most important ones will give us a better view of the elements that will continue to be exploited as a narrative against the country.
CAMPAIGNS OF LIES TO JUSTIFY THE NEXT STEP
The first of them deals with the current economic situation. USAID tries to undermine the progress made by the Venezuelan State on this issue, which has been reflected in a partial stability of the exchange rate, in the recovery of commercial activity and in the eradication of hyperinflation.
According to the IMF, Venezuela’s economy shrank from $352.2 billion in 2012 to $46.5 billion in 2021, a decline of 86.8%. Even if the economy were to grow by the regime’s estimate of 10% in 2022 – and that is unlikely – the decline would still be 85.5%.
The part that we quoted above uses data from the IMF (an organization that refused to give Venezuela $5 billion in special drawing rights that were going to be used in dealing with the pandemic and that has legitimized, from the beginning, the rate of the dollar against the bolívar in the illegal parallel market) to underscore the idea that Venezuela is not undergoing any economic recovery and that “intervention” is necessary.
An affirmation that is easy to dismantle, since there is enough data from independent organizations that support the thesis that the so-called “sanctions” issued by the United States, and also by the European Union, have undermined the Venezuelan economy and affected the humanitarian situation, especially regarding food and health. The report of the UN special rapporteur, Alena Douhan, is one of them. The conclusions on the situation in Venezuela were presented after meeting with institutional actors and various political sectors.
The Venezuelan economy has been the target of 502 unilateral coercive measures (Photo: EFE)
Another issue that USAID’s evaluation touches on is migration. It exposes disproportionate figures on Venezuelan migration (and does not mention anything about the ever-increasing influx of Venezuelans returning to the country) and, taking advantage of the context of the war in Ukraine, makes a comparison that manipulates both cases of migration and puts as more Venezuelan urgently. Something similar has been done by anti-Chavismo with Syria. David Smolansky, leader of the Voluntad Popular party, always makes comparisons that seek to exaggerate the migratory situation in Venezuela.
Let’s remember who the Biden administration put in charge of USAID. Samantha Power, the first promoter of the military intervention in Libya and of the most violent interpretation of the R2P (responsibility to protect) doctrine, has added new ingredients to the narrative of the Venezuelan diaspora, which include the media exploitation of the passage of migrants through the Selva de Darién, between Colombia and Panama, and Río Bravo, between Mexico and the United States, to keep that story alive. Therefore, it is not surprising that one of the topics in Escobari’s evaluation of Venezuela focuses on the alleged migration crisis.
Lastly, a paragraph is dedicated to the habitual delegitimization of Venezuelan institutions, accusing the Maduro government of “corruption, censorship and coercion.” The emphasis is placed on the alleged persecution and political arrests, and is supported by the questionable reports of the OAS and the “Independent” Mission to Determine the Facts in Venezuela of the UN, as well as self-appointed human rights defenders who often receive funding from USAID itself.
The Venezuelan government has provided all the tools so that the International Criminal Court (ICC) can determine the human rights situation in Venezuela, and has even managed to get the institution to open an office in Caracas to deepen the link.
Likewise, since 2019 it has implemented cooperation and technical assistance mechanisms with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and has allowed it to carry out its work with complete freedom.
The reports that have resulted from both articulations contrast with the campaign of lies that seek to criminalize Venezuela and with the reports published by the former UN High Commissioner, Michel Bachelet, before working in coordination with the Venezuelan government.
THE ROADMAP AND SOME SCENARIOS
The last part of the document is the most valuable (“support for the democratic transition”), as we said at the beginning, since it exposes the main characteristics of the USAID plan in Venezuela. It refers to “three areas to promote the unity of the opposition and press to improve electoral conditions.” There she says that she will continue to support the “interim government”, but that she will also support the initiative of electoral primaries for subsequent participation in the presidential elections.
USAID is openly admitting that it will support the formation of an anti-Chavismo candidate to run in elections that it has called “unfree elections” from the beginning. At this point in the political game, we know that when she says “support” she means adjusting one that follows the requirements of the White House.
In this sense, the agency expresses its intention to finance the media and NGOs that want to serve as a platform to give greater substance to the issue of the “migratory crisis” and the “violation of human rights.”
This is not something USAID hasn’t tried before. For two decades, each electoral campaign in Venezuela has been accompanied by millions of dollars, provided by the US agency to the media and NGOs, to strengthen anti-Chavismo candidates or feed the story of “electoral fraud”, as the case requires. In 2021, for example, a new resource for foreign interference (Monitor Venezuela) was created with the Andrés Bello Catholic University (UCAB), the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) and the Súmate Civil Association, whose purpose was to conspire and misinformation about the regional and municipal elections.
Another precedent that should be noted: in the context of the 2002 coup, USAID began financing a project to support opposition groups in Venezuela under the pretext of promoting democracy. The agency did not even try to hide that it was a regime change program, it was dubbed the “Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI)”. Guaidó also operated with the help of that office.
The US government is readjusting its strategy in the face of the new Venezuelan scenario. The USAID document is a sign, as is the participation of some presidents of the Latin American region during the debates of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Influenced by their relationship with the United States, Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil) and Gabriel Boric (Chile) exploited the issue of Venezuelan migration, while Mario Abdo Benítez (Paraguay) spoke of leading an investigation into the alleged violation of human rights in Venezuela.
The president of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, used his right to speak at the United Nations General Assembly to announce an investigation against Venezuela on human rights (Photo: UN)
Reinforcing the perceptive manipulation against the country, via Venezuelan migration and human rights, could also serve as an excuse for the US government to sabotage the political dialogue, which would postpone the dialogue sessions between the government and the opposition in Mexico. This would be useful to continue hitting the Venezuelan economy, which is barely showing any early signs of recovery. In this way, there would be a more favorable environment to produce a new consensus and perception on the Venezuela file.
There are many possible scenarios in this reissue of the pressure agenda against Venezuela, and the urgency and desperation is greater, given that the country, against all odds, has managed to respond and come out of the unconventional war against it.