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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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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Russia's Wartime Manipulation Of Energy Prices Could Doom Its Economy

A complex compensation mechanism for fuel companies, currency devaluation, increased demand due to the war, logistics disruptions, and stuttering production growth have combined to trigger price rises and deepening shortages in the Russian energy market.

Photograph of Novatek's gravity-based structure platform for production of liquefied natural gas, floating on a body of water.

Russia, Murmansk Region - July 21, 2023: A view of Novatek's gravity-based structure platform for production of liquefied natural gas.

Ekaterina Mereminskaya

In Russia, reports of gasoline and diesel shortages have been making headlines in the country for several months, raising concerns about energy supply. The situation escalated in September when a major diesel shortage hit annexed Crimea. Even before that, farmers in the southern regions of Russia had raised concerns regarding fuel shortages for their combines.

“We’ll have to stop the harvest! It will be a total catastrophe!” agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev had warned at the time. “We should temporarily halt the export of petroleum products now until we have stabilized the situation on the domestic market.”

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As the crisis deepens, experts are highlighting the unintended consequences of government intervention in fuel pricing and distribution.

The Russian government has long sought to control the prices of essential commodities, including gasoline and diesel. These commodities are considered "signalling products", according to Sergei Vakulenko, an oil and gas expert and fellow at the Carnegie Endowment. Entrepreneurs often interpret rising gasoline prices as a signal to adjust their pricing strategies, reasoning that if even gasoline, a staple, is becoming more expensive, they too should raise their prices.

The specter of the 2018 fuel crisis, where gasoline prices in Russia surged at twice the rate of other commodities, haunts the authorities. As a result, they implemented a mechanism to control these prices and ensure a steady supply. Known as the "fuel damper," this mechanism seeks to balance the profitability of selling fuel in both domestic and foreign markets.

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