The Cubanization of United States policy toward Venezuela has begun
in earnest. Yesterday, President George W. Bush released his findings
on drug war “certification” – the highly politicized list
the White House has produced since the mid-1980s of which countries are doing
their part in “international” drug control efforts, and which have
Only two countries did not make the cut this year. The first was perennially-decertified
Myanmar (Burma). The second was, as the
State Department threatened last month, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela…
Pursuant to section 706(2)(A) of the FRAA, I hereby designate Burma and
Venezuela as countries that have failed demonstrably during the previous 12
months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements
and take the measures set forth in section 489(a)(1) of the FAA. Attached to
this report (Tab A) are justifications for the determinations on Burma and Venezuela,
as required by section 706(2)(B).
I have also determined, in accordance with provisions of section 706(3)(A)
of the FRAA, that support for programs to aid Venezuela's democratic institutions,
establish selected community development projects, and strengthen Venezuela's
political party system is vital to the national interests of the United States.
(The “justifications” mentioned are not attached to the online
version and, as far as I can tell, are not available anywhere online.)
In the last two months, the State Department has mentioned a few areas of “concern”
at its daily press
briefings: Venezuela’s slowness on passing an organized crime bill
that the U.S. supports, and its unwillingness to sign on to an international
agreement on monitoring aircraft. Pretty minor stuff compared to Venezuela’s
neighbor, staunch U.S. ally Colombia, where sections of the Army are major players
in the cocaine and heroin trade and impunity, despite a few high-level arrests
now and then, essentially rules.
A key point to note in the presidential determination is the waiver that allows
support for Venezuela’s “democratic institutions” to continue.
This is important because a drug war decertification generally implies blocking
a country from international aid and loans. So, while aid to Venezuelan “democracy”
(code for funding
the opposition to President Chávez, most recently seen in the
National Endowment for Democracy’s $107,000 grant to Súmate this
week) will be allowed to continue, Venezuela will most likely be cut off
from other forms of aid and loans from institutions like the World Bank.
It would seem, then, that the White House and State Department are using the
drug war pretext to begin what could evolve into a Cuba-style economic blockade
of Venezuela. At the very least, they are employing a tool that in the past
has been quite effective for the political isolation of other countries, and,
in the case of Panama in 1989, was part of the run-up to U.S. military invasion.