Why Are Some Libertarians Defending Maduro and Venezuelan Socialism?
by David Chávez Salazar
I am really worried about the approach taken by some prominent libertarian figures towards the Venezuelan crisis: like Chavistas, they claim that the US is behind the chaos that Venezuela is living in, and that President Donald Trump cannot wait to send a contingent of marines to Caracas. I wonder at what moment these libertarians decided to turn their backs on the Venezuelan people to position themselves, at least in the discursive realm, on the side of its victimizers.
Political Aggressions: Imaginary and Real
Ron Paul, for instance, claims that so far the greatest aggression that the United States has committed against Venezuela occurred on April 11, 2002, when the CIA, in complicity with Venezuelan opposition groups, orchestrated a coup against Hugo Chávez. After the failure of this operation (the deposed president returned to power three days later), Washington has been responsible ever since to manipulate electoral processes in Venezuela and overturn the results when they do not suit their interests.
Paul is, undoubtedly, a brilliant thinker. With this being said, on April 11, 2002, there was no coup in Venezuela. What happened was that Chávez violently suppressed some protests, leaving dozens dead. Faced with this situation, the Military High Command demanded his resignation, which he accepted. Later, in an act of solidarity with his boss, the then-Vice President refused to assume the presidency, which created a power vacuum. In a climate of uncertainty, Pedro Carmona, head of Fedecámaras (the organization that brings together the industrial associations of Venezuela) assumed the presidency and remained in office for only two days – Chávez regretted having resigned and resumed power illegally.
During the last two decades of Chavism, there have been a number of such elections, 21 to be exact, of which only two have been won by the opposition. On the other hand, the White House recognized the results of all the presidential elections that Chávez won (1998, 2000, 2006 and 2012) and the first that Maduro won (2013), despite evident fraud having occurred.
Even more curiously, in 2006, Chávez easily won the elections after eliminating all guarantees to his opponents and seizing the entity that organizes the elections (the National Electoral Council). During his campaign, he insulted and threatened the then U.S. President George W. Bush. Even so, the United States acknowledged Chávez’s victory and promised the beginning of a “positive and constructive relationship with the democratic government of Venezuela.”
According to the Ron Paul Institute, the most recent American interference in Venezuela was the coup d’état against Maduro at the beginning of 2019 and which resulted in the self-proclamation of Juan Guaidó as President of Venezuela. This interpretation is also wrong. There was no coup on that occasion either. In 2018, Maduro overwhelmingly won the presidential elections courtesy of a most brazen electoral fraud – so much so that the results were the first not recognized by the United States. According to the Venezuelan Constitution, since Maduro assumed the presidency without due legitimacy, there was a power vacuum (yes, again) that had to be filled by the head of the legislative power – in this case, Guaidó. Throughout this process, the United States has remained a mere spectator.
Those who live worried about the supposed US aggressions against Venezuela, completely ignore that Venezuela is already an occupied country and that it suffers the constant interference of other governments, such as Cuba, China, Russia, Iran, Syria and, more recently, Turkey. The interference of Cuba is the most notable. Thanks to “cooperation pacts” signed by Chavez and the Castro brothers since 1999, Venezuela gives away thousands of barrels of oil a day to Cuba – it is estimated this will reach 8 billion dollars of oil in total by 2020. In addition, Venezuela also grants onerous loans to the Castro regime, among other concessions. Currently, a quarter of the Cuban economy depends on the “aid” provided by Chavism.
Relations with the Middle East are murkier. In 2014, the Center for a Free Secure Societyrevealed that the Chavist regime had issued at least 173 passports to jihadists seeking to enter North America. While he was president, Chávez signed several agreements with Hezbollah for activities such as money laundering, arms trafficking, and deployment of terrorist cells in Venezuelan territory. Tareck El Aissami, of Syrian Lebanese origin and one of the most powerful men in the regime, has personally issued these passports as well as other diplomatic documents, both to Hezbollah members and Iranian spies. Due to these alliances with global terrorism, Venezuela has become a focus of destabilization for the American continent. A terrorist could well take a plane in Caracas and reach Miami in just three hours.
Economic Aggressions: Oil And Sanctions
Maduro and allies claim the reason why the U.S. wants to destabilize Venezuela is because Chavism has refused to satisfy the interests of American big companies. According to Daniel McAdams, the U.S. does not care about the Venezuelan people, but their oil. Once Chavism is eliminated, transnational companies will be able to enter Venezuela to seize their crude reserves, which are the largest in the world.
It would be particularly surprising then (if that wast true), that Venezuela has granted concessions to large American corporations in oil, gas and mining sectors. The ones that have benefited the most have been Chevron, Repsol, Shell and BP America, with whom the regime has established a relationship of crony capitalism.
The facts speak for themselves. In 2010, Chávez granted a 40-year concession to Chevron to exploit the rich Orinoco Oil Belt and others to exploit important gas fields and to develop fracking projects. In 2016, Maduro issued a decree authorizing American transnationals to exploit deposits of bauxite, coltan, diamonds, gold, iron, copper and other minerals in the Orinoco Mining Arc region.
On the other hand, despite Chavism’s anti-Yankee rhetoric, the United States has been the main destination of Venezuelan oil to date, representing 41% of total oil exports from Venezuela. Likewise, the Venezuelan regime has exerted an important influence on the American oil sector. Citgo Petroleum, a company that is headquartered in Houston and that ships fuel to 29 states, is owned by the Venezuelan government. Until 2019, the U.S. government recognized Maduro’s authority over the company.
As for the economic sanctions that the U.S. government has imposed against Venezuela, Ron Paul argues that if we are really worried about the situation in that country, we must demand the end of those terrible sanctions that have only worsened the situation and instead press for free trade between both countries. Meanwhile, Paul Craig Roberts says Washington has stolen $21 billion from Venezuela by imposing sanctions in an effort to destabilize the country and bring the Maduro government to fall.
When analyzing the matter with a little common sense, we see that the sanctions imposed on Venezuela are of three types: revocation of visas to some regime officers, freezing of their assets in U.S. territory and a ban for American citizens and companies to trade with the sanctioned people – surprisingly, none of these measures have been applied to Maduro. Thus, the “terrible” sanctions have affected only certain regime agents and not the Venezuelan people as a whole.
The sanctions are not those that have made life miserable for Venezuelans, nor any imaginary aggression from the North. That is only in the head of Maduro and those libertarians who have, I hope in good faith, decided to think like him. Only socialism and totalitarianism are responsible for the chaos that Venezuela has had to live through.
David Chávez Salazar is a former intern at the Austrian Economics Center. He holds a B.S. in economics and complementary studies in macroeconometric forecasting and capital markets. He is a columnist in different libertarian media, editor of Notas Libertarias, and founder of the Larry Sechrest Institute.
The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.
The AEC’s fundamental goal is to promote a free, responsible and prosperous society. Through education and improving public understanding of key economic questions, the AEC promotes the idea of a free market economy and the ideal of a free society.