South Africa has strengthened its political and economic ties with the United States (US)’s nemesis in Latin America, Venezuela, by signing bilateral trade and oil exploration agreements. The policy maintained by South Africa has always been that your enemies are not necessarily my enemies.
Former President Nelson Mandela made it unequivocally clear that South Africa’s foreign policy would not be dictated from Washington when he defended its relations with Libya, when visiting the Arab state in 1997, “Those who object to my visiting Libya have no morals and I will not join them because I have morals; Gaddafi is my friend. He helped us at a time when we were alone. And the ones who are stopping us from coming here were helping our enemies at that time.” At the time there was growing criticism of his visit from the Clinton administration.
When former President Clinton was on a state visit to South Africa in 1998, former President Nelson Mandela reminded his critics that, “… our moral authority dictates that we should not abandon those who help us in the darkest hour in the history of this continent. Not only did they support us in rhetoric; they gave us the resources for us to conduct the struggle and to win. And those South Africans who have berated me for being loyal to our friends, literally, they can go and throw themselves into a pool.” This time, he was not only defending South Africa’s historic relations with Libya, but with also with Cuba.
The US has perfected the art of deceit and peddling lies to UN Security Council about leaders who appear to defy and undermine its authority. Venezuela has been one of those countries. It is not surprising that there has been a relentless campaign against Hugo Chávez since his ascendancy to power, to characterise him as a ruthless dictator and a ruffian. The US undermines and wants to cripple the democratically elected government of Latin America’s leading oil power. “In Venezuela, a demagogue awash in oil money is undermining democracy and seeking to destabilise the region,” a statement released by the US said.
The book by Eva Golinger, Bush versus Chávez – Washington’s war on Venzuela, provides details of how the US has been funding certain groups with the express purpose to support counter-revolutionary groups in Venezuela. Washington has attempted to impose endless sanctions, justified by fabricated evidence, in order to cause economic distress to Venezuela and subvert its social revolution – the Bolivarian Revolution. This is the mass social movement modelled on the ideals of Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), an early 19th century Venezuelan and Latin American revolutionary leader, prominent in the South American Wars of Independence.
In 2002, the US supported a coup against the Chávez administration with the hope that a stooge in the name of Pedro Carmona would be installed as President. George W Bush and his cronies pleaded ignorance although the coup plotters, including Carmona himself, were received at the White House months before the April 2002 coup by Bush’s key policy-maker for Latin America, Otto Reich.
The farcical coup was dramatically reversed within 48 hours. A series of pro-Chávez uprisings across Caracas lead to Venezuelan soldiers loyal to Chávez to call for massive popular support for a counter-coup that reinstalled Chávez as president. The US had greatly undermined the popularity of Chávez among his people. Chávez continuously made allegations that the US wanted to assassinate him; allegations which Washington obviously refuted, but one Reverend Pat Robertson, a Bush ally, told his faithful that, “if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war … and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”
Hugo Chávez had previously offered the US cheaper-oil, but Bush told Chávez to take his cheaper oil and stick it up his pipeline in spite of the US Department of Energy confirming that Venezuela has more oil than the US’ preferred oil partner, Saudi Arabia.
Venezuela poses an economic threat to the US. This may sound preposterous but there is some truth to it. Washington needs the Saudi’s petro-dollars, which would dry up should Venezuela replace the gulf state as the preferred oil partner. The Saudis have been merrily recycling funds they sucked from the wallets of Americans by buying US Treasury bills and other US assets. Chávez would choose to keep the petro-dollars in Latin America, where Venezuela is gradually expanding its sphere of influence and dominance. Much of Latin America is rallying around Chávez and becoming increasingly discontented with Washington’s undiplomatic policies toward the region.
Washington’s open contempt for Chávez and its underhanded attempts to cut down the democratically-elected leader contradict the ideals of democracy that the US claims to protect and promote throughout the world. It is a demonstration of hypocrisy of the highest degree.
Hugo Chávez may be vilified by the imperial power but the developing economies recognised the need for closer cooperation and support in order to alleviate the scourge of poverty that threatens their stability. The US foreign policy is driven by self-interest and the aim to expand its imperialistic dominion over foreign nations. The developing world can only extricate themselves from economic captivity and subjugation necessitated by the US through Bretton Wood institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, when they assert and chart their own political and economic destiny.
It is imperative that the developing economies begin to sharply challenge the economic and governing systems that have ill-served them for decades and resulted in devastating economic results, and to utilise their own resources to deliver basic social necessities to the poor masses.
Africa faces the greatest challenge of addressing issues of peace, security and stability, which are conspicuously lacking across large parts of the continent and contribute to deep levels of poverty and underdevelopment. There has been a move towards regional integration in Africa in order to foster closer cooperation among fragmented economies. SADC has recently pronounced itself as a Free Trade Area. The challenge facing these developing countries is the improvement of their respective macroeconomic frameworks for development and deeper regional integration.
It is vital for Africa to recognise that successful nations are built on the foundation of common purpose. Let us hold true the Latin saying, “Ex Africa semper aliquid novi!” (Something new always comes out of Africa). In order to achieve, Africa must succeed rebuilding and reconstructing her economies, achieve sustained rates of growth, reduce unemployment and poverty, and enhance the process of governance. The dawning of the season of hope is held hostage by ourselves and further restrained by the imperial powers.