In Venezuela, Washington Returns To Its Imperialist Ways

The United States is meddling in the region again in line with big-money interests and the imperialist tradition set off in the late 19th century.

Protester in Caracas on Jan. 23
Protester in Caracas on Jan. 23
Reinaldo Spitaletta

BOGOTÁ — As the Venezuelan crisis unfolds, one can hear the clash of disagreements. The United States has no business meddling in the affairs of other nations. The enlightened concept of national sovereignty is not yet dead: People must resolve their internal conflicts without foreign interference. Why promote a coup? Does Washington, and especially President Trump's little "gang" (to paraphrase Philip Roth's description of Richard Nixon), even care about seeing a legal or democratic resolution of Venezuela's internal conflict?

There are multiple interests at play here, all to do with natural resources, which the United States has long believed to be its property. This is the stick-wielding country of Manifest Destiny, with its lengthy history of interventions in Latin America. Its first little steps, after helping detach Panama from Colombia, were in Cuba (1906-9), invading the Dominican Republic (1916-24) and in Haiti's military occupation (1915-34) after a presidential assassination.

These followed the interventionist guidelines set by President Theodore Roosevelt in his 1905 Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. If a nation, he stated, could act "with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters' and keep "order and pay its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States." On the back of those words, the United States proceeded to impose its authority southward, from Mexico to Patagonia.

Whenever they wanted, they invaded, or concocted some fight or commotion to suit their needs. They deposed awkward rulers, and paved the way for the arrival of their big corporations. Many of these carved out enclaves for themselves in their effective colonies, like the United Fruit Company in Central America and Colombia. The firm helped orchestrate, with the CIA, the 1954 coup that toppled Guatemala's democratic president, Jacobo Árbenz.

It has again pressed the intervention button in Venezuela.

After World War II, the creation of the U.S. Army School of the Americas was hardly a philanthropic act. It is where they bred their "creole" criminals, like Argentina's Leopoldo Galtieri or Panama's Manuel Noriega. In 1959, the U.S. backed Cuban exiles in a failed bid to invade their communist-ruled island, in one of the many, harsh and anti-democratic interventions that marked the Cold War. The 40-year standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union would turn the continent into a low-intensity battlefield.

Today it has again pressed the intervention button in Venezuela, even as more and more people are demanding a peaceful resolution there, without violation of sovereignty, international law or regional relations. A group of intellectuals and civic leaders including the academic Noam Chomsky, have accused the Trump administration and "allies' — like the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States and Brazil's new, right-wing president — of pushing Venezuela "to the precipice." They have publicly urged them to back dialogue inside Venezuela, instead of fomenting "chaos."

If the Venezuelan situation does not resolve itself by the civilized means of communication (which seems far from likely today), then it can degenerate into a regional fire with unpredictable consequences.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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