A few weeks back Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro snubbed Chilean President Pinera when he compared the latter with Augusto Jose Ramon Pinochet, the brutal general turned dictator who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990. Pinochet had been brought into power with a US-backed coup d’état that overthrew democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende. Pinochet was a prime example of the US hegemony on South America after the US Monroe Doctrine (1823), which was a statement that from then onwards Europeans will not remain as occupiers in South America as the US was ready to take their place.
The US intervention was only challenged by Hugo Chavez in 1990s when he united several South American states in an effort to oust the US interests from the continent. Since then the US is constantly striving to remove socialist government that sprang to power after the Pink Tide revived the spirit of freedom in the continent. Right after Chavez’s death, the US has increased its efforts manifold to undo the Pink Tide from the continent.
So, when US-backed Juan Guaidó declared he was the acting president of Venezuela in January 2019, that was like completing the circle around Chavez’s successor Maduro. It seemed like Maduro, who had half the charms that Chavez had and was neck-deep in the country’s economic crisis, has thin chances of survival against this blatant intervention of the US and its allies on the democratic setup of Venezuela.
The question is, were Maduro’s socialist policies, which failed when suddenly oil prices dropped in the world market the real unforgivable sin of an authority against its people
But Maduro has survived, rather given quiet a fight-back. So much so, that Pinera puts the blame of the protests in Chile on the Maduro regime, when he said in a speech that ‘we are at war with a powerful enemy that respects nothing.’ And this has not been without precedence, as Pinera has been a staunch critique of Maduro and has, in concert with the US, given full support to Guaido. In February, Pinera joined Guaido in the Colombian side of the Venezuela-Colombo border bridge, where Guaido had arranged for a concert and a ‘controversial delivery of humanitarian aid to Venezuelans.’ Later, on several occasions, Pinera has raised his voice against Maduro – in September, he bluntly said, ‘Maduro is part of the problem and will never be part of the solution. We need to end this regime… the final conclusion must be that we have to do everything possible to ensure that this regime does not continue.’
In October, the Chilean foreign minister said Chile would ‘work with allies to cut off Venezuela’s communications, shut down its air space and implement a naval blockade if Maduro refuses to hold free elections.’
‘Working with Allies’ is a clear indication that all most right-wing regimes in South America stand with the US in not only opposing but in taking all practical measures to oust leftist regime in the continent, forcing the Pink Tide to recede, ending the dream of making South America free of the US hegemonic interventions. And these practical measures need not to be legal or in accordance with international norms, but can be anything from military intervention against a democratically elected system to economic blockade or even trying to control public opinion by the adverse use of social tools.
What we need to fight for should not be our theoretical ideals but the eventual welfare of our people.
Yet, the amazing thing that has happened is that though Maduro has been able to survive all economic lows, coalition of several powerful states of the world, attempted coups, and threat of military intervention from the US – the strong rightist government of Chile seems to be the one in trouble now! In April, Chileans came out in 33 cities across the country, to protest against ‘policies that affect living conditions such as increases in basic services costs, low and unjust salaries, privatised pension system, discrimination of women and minorities, tax injustice, precarious working conditions.’ The protests that were triggered by Pinera’s raising the Metro de Santiago subway’s fare, are actually a revolt against the stark inequality in the Chilean society and the people’s inability of coping with rising prices – issues synonymous to those due to which protests were started against Maduro in 2014, like shortages in supplies and a decreasing living standard of the people.
The question is, were Maduro’s socialist policies, which failed when suddenly oil prices dropped in the world market the real unforgivable sin of an authority against its people – or are Pinera’s neoliberal, capitalist policies, that ease accumulation of wealth and are raising inequalities around the world to be blamed as the real sin against the people. This is an age-long debate that does not end, owing to the fact that both these systems have loop-holes and government have the will and power to moderate both the capitalist or the socialist ideals for the welfare and steady progress of their people, both systems will fail their people somewhere down the line. What we need to fight for should not be our theoretical ideals but the eventual welfare of our people.
Time will be the judge of whether the interests of the people will win over interests of their governments and global superpowers or vice versa!
But sadly, it seems that the US is going to stand by its theoretical ideal, exactly for the reason that it does not want the welfare of South America, but wants to be its imperial master that is able to use its riches for its own high-end living. Perhaps this is the reason, why South America is becoming a chessboard of the contending right and left. In Bolivia, when the leftist Evo Morales, faced violent protests and allegations of fraud after his re-election, Maduro termed these protests as ‘a destabilisation campaign’ and ‘an attempted coup d’etat from external forces that try to deny Bolivian voters, the Bolivian people their democratic rights.’ To the surprise of many, on November 12, Morales was forced to resign and flee to Mexico. Morales said he was forced to leave as a bounty of $50,000 had been put on his head and his people were being ‘harassed, persecuted and threatened,’ and that this was clearly a coup.
As this rift between South American nations in becoming inter-national, it should not be a surprise that actions against each other must have become organisational, with allies of the leftists from around the world coming to their aid against the coalitions of the rightist with the West. With Russia’s experience of intervening in Trump’s elections and being part of so many conflicts around the world, it would only be thinkable that it may be lending its expertise to Venezuela in making things difficult for its opponents.
So, are Pinera’s apprehensions about Maduro true? Does Venezuela have a hand in Chile’s protests? This could be just as true as the possibility of Chile and Colombo’s partaking in the Bolivian protests. Time will be the judge of whether the interests of the people will win over interests of their governments and global superpowers or vice versa!
Aneela Shahzad is a geopolitical analyst who frequently writes for Express Tribune and Daily Pakistan Global. She serves as an editor at Maritime Study Forum.