Sunday's (May 29, 2011) rally was enormous. People represented their role in the revolution by their clothes or signs: there were countless PDVSA oil workers with hardhats and overalls; middle-aged women wearing t-shirts of their neighborhood-run, state-funded food cooperatives; students proudly waving signs about their state-funded school; mothers with children carried signs about their local health-care clinic -- all born from the revolution.
All of these groups understand clearly the connection between PDVSA and their social programs: the oil money generated by PDVSA funds nearly all of these social programs; it is literally the life-blood of the revolution. Venezuela's oil minister, Rafael Ramirez, gave a thundering speech against the sanctions, at one point saying, "PDVSA is universal health care, PDVSA is free education, PDVSA is food cooperatives."
Ramirez also pointed out one of the motives against U.S. aggression against Venezuela: "The United States government will not stop until it has all the oil in the world." There is a lot of truth in this statement. As Ramirez also noted, it is not by accident that Libya is the only Arab country in Africa the U.S. has sent troops into -- it is the biggest oil producer in Africa. This same motive can be equally applied to Iran: oil plays a much larger role in the U.S.-Iran dispute than any Iranian nuclear energy program. And no one doubts that the motive behind the invasion of Iraq was oil.
Yet another motive behind the sanctions is the 2012 elections in Venezuela, the campaigning for which has already begun. Obama likely believed that the U.S. sanctions would discredit Chavez, yet Obama is the one who -- like Bush before him -- has been discredited. In 2004 Bush Jr. also tried sanctions against Venezuela that blew up in his face. The average Venezuelan is extremely knowledgeable about the purpose and methods of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, which transcends the skin color of U.S. Presidents.
Bush Jr. attempted a military coup in Venezuela in 2002. When brute force failed, Bush conspired with local upper-class Venezuelans to sabotage the economy by shutting down businesses and shutting off Venezuela's oil. When this failed Bush tried his sanctions in 2004 combined with a longer term approach: sending tens of millions of dollars to fund anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela, who were able to flood the media and election campaigns about Chavez demonized as a "dictator."
U.S. intervention in Venezuela takes several forms, from campaign funding, to sanctions, to military coups. The threat of military invasion looms in the background too, since in 2008 the U.S. military began using several Colombian military bases on the Venezuela-Colombia border. Ultimately, the corporations that dominate the U.S. government will never accept a Latin America independent of U.S. corporate interests. Many of the economic and social programs begun in Venezuela directly contradict U.S. corporate ideology, since they focus on empowering working people to take economic and political control over their communities, cooperating with other communities across the country for the betterment of all working people.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org) He can be reached at Email address removed