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by Radhika Desai, Venezuela Peace Committee, Winnipeg
Alison Bodine, Fire This Time Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, Vancouver
Maria Páez Victor, Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle, Toronto
Alan Freeman, Canadian, Latin American and Caribbean Policy Centre, Winnipeg

9 February 2021

We write in response to the article, ‘Canada and the U.S. must unite to help Latin American refugees’ by four prominent public figures including former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright and former Canadian Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy urging U.S.-Canadian cooperation on important hemispheric issues, particularly the ‘crisis in Venezuela’ and the region’s mounting refugee crisis.

Unfortunately, their proposals only seek to salvage failed and failing policies.  The refugee crisis in the region is caused not by ‘gang warfare and endemic violence’ but the imposition of neoliberal policies through compliant governments and the actual or attempted overthrow of non-compliant ones. Speaking in the name of the refugee women and children, Albright, Axworthy et al propose a resettlement plan that will, no doubt, convert the people displaced by their policies into a labour reserve sited at a comfortable distance from U.S. and Canadian borders and conveniently on tap for their economies. Their ‘major programme of development assistance’ to ‘alleviate poverty and promote human security [and] climate adaptation’ also adds ‘good governance’ to its agenda. It is a code word for the very neoliberal austerity policies that underlie the region’s problems and can only make the already bad situation worse.

The U.S.-Canadian policy on Venezuela  has been pursued through illegal organizations such as the Lima Group, illegal policies such as sanctions not approved by the United Nations, and illegitimate means such as supporting unconstitutional upstarts such as Juan Guaido to undermine Venezuela’s constitutional government.

Despite all the effort put into them, these policies have failed. On the one hand, the successful conclusion of the Venezuelan National Assembly elections has demonstrated the political vitality of the Bolivarian government despite the great pressure it is under. On the other, the failure of the U.S.-Canadian policy is clear in Canada’s failure to secure a seat on the U.N. Security Council, and the European Union’s withdrawal of support from Juan Guaido.

The policies proposed by Alright, Axworthy et al are, like U.S. and Canadian policies of long-standing, based on falsehoods.

The article claims, like U.S. and Canadian official sources and most media, that Venezuela’s National Assembly elections were fraudulent. However, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has pointed to the facts: over 1500 international election observers witnessed and validated the December 6 election, including the Council of Latin American Electoral Experts and several former heads of state including Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain. In all, 107 political parties, of which 98 were opposition parties, and 14,000 candidates contested the election.

Albright, Axworthy et al. blame Venezuela’s migration crisis on the Bolivarian government when it has, in fact, been caused, as Senator Richard Black of Virginia recognises, by illegal U.S. and allied sanctions against Venezuela since 2015 that have made it impossible for Venezuela to maintain its oil production or trade its oil and is the chief cause of Venezuela’s economic crisis. Moreover, thanks to the harsh conditions facing migrants in their new countries, often members of the Lima Group, they have been returning. Working with the U.N., the Maduro government runs a special program to ease their return at no cost, and more than 40,000 Venezuelans have returned.

Venezuela has not only not “failed to provide basic health services,” despite great economic difficulties, the Maduro government has organised a successful effort against Covid 19 with 43 deaths per million (compared to neighbouring Columbia’s 1088 per million or the U.S’s 1405 or Canada’s 551) and have done so despite the U.S. blockade and financial sanctions that hamper the effort, as does the Bank of England’s blocking Venezuelan gold. Indeed, the authors’ reference to ‘blood gold’ misses the mark: not only is Venezuelan gold not mined in a war-torn country (unless the authors wish to concede that the U.S. and Canada have been waging an undeclared and illegal hybrid war in Venezuela), the only the only Venezuelan ‘blood gold’ is that literally stolen by the Bank of England.

The authors not only ignore the real US-Colombia narco-capitalist nexus when they accuse  Venezuela’s “top military leaders”  of narco-trafficking and embezzling public funds, they helping the US, which usually laces its regime change operations with such terms. They also fail to note that it is Canada’s protégé, Juan Guaido, who has links with drug traffickers in Colombia and has been accused of corruption and misappropriation of funds.

Albright and Axworthy propose a “humanitarian response to the Venezuelan crisis, but also the creation of a new multistakeholder regional network” particularly by mobilizing the Organization of American States (OAS) “notwithstanding the fact that Venezuela and its regional allies (Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and a number of small Caribbean states) would frustrate diplomacy”. However, what they deign to call ‘diplomacy’ would in fact be illegal as the OAS charter forbids interference in the affairs of a member state.

We encourage news media, including Globe and Mail, to practice fairness and accuracy in reporting and to publish more responsible opinions from more responsible figures: Madeleine Albright, it should be remembered, kicked off the post-Cold War U.S. unilateral aggression, insisting ‘What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?’ and believed the death of half a million Iraqi children under US sanctions as a price worth paying.

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