by Whitney Webb
Mint Press News
Independent media outlets tend to pose alternative viewpoints that conflict with the narratives espoused by mainstream media. But when it comes to Venezuela, whose socialist government is in danger of being overthrown, they are parroting the mainstream line or ignoring the issue altogether.
Even though the independent media community in the West is diverse, there are often some common themes that unite alternative media outlets from different sides of the political spectrum. Common among these unifying forces is a criticism of the U.S. imperial war machine and U.S. efforts – both covert and direct – to subject governments throughout the world to regime change, often for simply conflicting with the U.S.’ “national interest.”
This has held true for independent media coverage of U.S.-led regime change efforts in countries like Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and Syria, where the reporting of most alternative media outlets has brought them into direct conflict with mainstream media, government-approved narratives. However, for several conservative-leaning independent media outlets, there is one glaring exception: Venezuela.
While some more left-leaning independent media sites have acknowledged the U.S.’ role in the destabilization of oil-rich Venezuela and its multi-million dollar funding of the political opposition, some on the more conservative side – such as Zero Hedge, InfoWars and We Are Change – have often ignored this outright or only mentioned it as a mere afterthought.
Instead they have chosen to embrace the mainstream media narrative supportive of U.S.-backed regime change in Venezuela, painting the current government of Venezuela as a dictatorship and the sole party responsible for the country’s current crisis, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
CIA-backed coups and opposition funding
For any student of U.S.-led regime change efforts, Venezuela’s current situation has the hallmarks of previous scenarios: lucrative resources, a history of U.S.-backed coup attempts, U.S.-led economic sabotage and a U.S.-funded political opposition.
Venezuela, which has the largest oil reserves in the world, found itself in the crosshairs of the US corporate empire as soon as its people rejected the U.S.-allied oligarchical government by electing socialist President Hugo Chávez in 1999. Chávez then began implementing policies that put the Venezuelan people ahead of American business interests that sought to exploit the nation’s resources.
Just a few years later, a U.S.-backed coup took place, one that involved many of the same figures who now lead the Venezuelan opposition. Chávez then ejected two major U.S. oil corporations, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, in 2007, further fomenting the ire of the United States government and corporate world. In the years that followed, numerous foiled coup attempts were uncovered in Venezuela and though Chávez resisted them all, he eventually succumbed to a sudden and rapidly advancing strain of cancer, with some going so far as claiming that the cancer was induced by his foreign enemies.
Ever since Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s successor, won a tight election in the aftermath of Chávez’s death, he too has faced major problems. Similar to what transpired in other Latin American countries targeted for regime change, a scarcity of goods, food and medicine emerged in parts of the country. However, much of this was caused by major corporations – whose owners side with the opposition – hoarding those goods and refusing to put them on shelves.
The shortage was compounded by a drop in oil prices, which was brought about through artificial manipulation by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Though the price manipulation had the ultimate aim of hurting Russia, other oil-dependent economies, like Ecuador and Venezuela, have also suffered tremendously as a result.
Yet, the clearest sign of U.S. involvement in seeking regime change in Venezuela comes from its funding of the opposition. The U.S. government gave well over $100 million to the Venezuelan political opposition from 2002 to 2010, with the “progressive” Obama administration alone pledging $20 million to that cause.
The Obama administration also notably slapped Venezuela with sanctions, calling the nation a “threat to national security” despite no evidence being provided to support that claim. In addition, a current Senate bill, if passed, would give $10 million more to opposition parties. Many of the top figures in the Venezuelan opposition, including those lionized by Western media, have direct ties to the U.S. government.
For instance, according to a leaked recording from 2013, opposition leader Maria Corina Machado detailed how Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, the chairman of the opposition umbrella group Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, told the State Department that “the only way to resolve this (salir de esto) is by provoking and accentuating a crisis, a coup or a self-coup. Or a process of tightening the screws and domesticating to generate a system of total social control.”
In addition, recent coup attempts in Venezuela were shown to be linked to the CIA and the DEA. More confirmation of current CIA involvement in Venezuela came earlier this week when the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, stated that the U.S. is working towards a “transition” in Venezuelan governance in coordination with the governments of Colombia and Mexico.
Were Venezuela to be replaced in this account with the name of any other country (save Cuba), it is likely that the very same alternative media sites that refuse to recognize that something is amiss in the mainstream narrative on Venezuela would be up in arms at the U.S.’ meddling in yet another attempt to force a democratically-elected government from power.
Zero Hedge’s flawed coverage of Venezuela
Despite the clear similarities between Venezuela and other victims or would-be victims of U.S. regime change, some alternative media sites refuse to even report on the U.S.’ role in destabilizing Venezuela, instead blaming “socialism” for all of the country’s ills. This, incidentally, is the very same pro-regime change stance taken by U.S. mainstream media and the U.S. government.
One consistent example is Zero Hedge, a respected news aggregation site in alternative media with a focus on finance and libertarian politics. Though Zero Hedge has never hesitated to point out U.S. regime change meddling in countries like Syria, Ukraine, Libya, Honduras and others, it flat out denies the other forces that have clearly had a significant role in shaping Venezuela’s current crisis.
Zero Hedge is often accurate in its analysis of why certain economic crises have begun, yet it claims that the problems of Venezuela’s oil sector are due to “mismanagement, a lack of investment and re-nationalization of foreign oil companies,” without mention of the artificial manipulation of oil prices that Zero Hedge has acknowledged was carried out covertly by the U.S. and the Saudis for geopolitical reasons.
This assessment suggests that Venezuela’s economic problems, with relation to the economy’s main driver (oil), are the sole fault of the Chavista government. While these factors have certainly played a role, the drastic decline in oil prices cannot be ignored in good conscience.
However, Zero Hedge has done just that, blaming all of Venezuela’s problems on its embrace of socialism and ignoring other factors that could debunk the “failed socialist state” narrative. It has even scoffed at the idea that the U.S. would orchestrate a coup against Maduro, despite the fact that the U.S. has targeted the Chavista government in the past, most notably in 2002.
In addition, one of Zero Hedge’s most recent articles on Venezuela began with the following: “Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has made it clear: Nothing short of the invasion threatened by President Donald Trump will stop him from holding a vote on a new constituent assembly that will officially replace the country’s legislature and likely allow the embattled president to rewrite the country’s Constitution, cementing his grip on power.”
This assessment, however, is inaccurate and buys into the depiction of Maduro as a “power hungry” president “cementing his grip on power” at all costs. Maduro is actually authorized by Venezuela’s current constitution to call for a National Constituent Assembly. On the other hand, the assembly would not replace the opposition-controlled legislature, as it is tasked solely with authoring a national constitution. This claim comes exclusively from the Venezuelan opposition, who are so opposed to the Assembly that they refused to participate in it, allowing Western media to suggest that only the ruling Chavista party would “hand-pick” the assembly’s membership.
Alex Jones’ war on socialism
Another well-known conservative-leaning alternative news site is InfoWars, led by the firebrand radio host Alex Jones. While Jones is certainly a polarizing figure, there is no denying his popularity nor his success as a figure in alternative media. Jones often speaks against U.S. regime change efforts, criticizing such attempts by the U.S. “deep state” practically across the board.
However, for InfoWars, Venezuela is different, largely because of the site’s strong dislike for socialism. Indeed, InfoWars has warned its readers that the crisis in Venezuela would also befall the U.S. were Bernie Sanders elected U.S. president, as Venezuela’s crisis is the result of “democratic socialism.” They have also warned that “socialism kills.”
Beyond that, InfoWars has published glowing portrayals of the Venezuelan opposition protesters, often referred to as “anti-socialism” protesters, even though those same protesters are often U.S.-funded and violent. Opposition protesters have burned people alive, threatened business owners who won’t join their cause, and threatened journalists from Venezuela and abroad. Yet, InfoWars has had no problem reporting onthe U.S.-funded and violent armed opposition in Syria, for example.
Interestingly, InfoWars has debunked its own narrative on Venezuela. In 2008, it published a story regarding journalist Eva Golinger’s documentation of U.S. efforts to discredit and destabilize the Chavista government, efforts that InfoWars now seems to support. It has also admitted that the U.S. engineered an economic crisis against another Latin American democratic socialist, Salvador Allende of Chile.
A 2012 article by Kurt Nimmo published on the site correctly states that former President Richard Nixon “had ordered the CIA to ‘make the economy scream’ in Chile to ‘prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him.'” This included manufacturing shortages of goods, food and medicine in supermarkets and other stores, much like what has transpired in Venezuela. Allende was later removed in a violent U.S.-backed coup in 1973.
In addition, We Are Change (WRC), an alternative media organization that made a name for itself confronting face-to-face various politicians and other figures of the U.S. and UK political elite, has also taken an anti-Venezuelan government position in recent years. In a 2016 video titled “You Won’t Believe What We Saw In Socialist Venezuela” and filmed in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, Luke Rudowski of WRC says at several points that he is convinced that the Venezuelan government is criminal and that its problems are just part of the socialist “endgame.”
Watch Luke Rudowski’s video on the crisis in Venezuela:
Rudowski argues that the crime wave in Caracas was “brought on by the government as a way to control the people.” His evidence for this claim, however, is threadbare. Essentially, Rudowski cites the common presence of public signs denoting “gun-free” zones – despite high crime rates – are tantamount to the government actively encouraging violent crime.
In addition, actual footage of crisis in Venezuela is minimal throughout the video and fails to show or support some of the more wild claims it makes. Compare this to recent footage taken by journalist Abby Martin in Caracas in which she interviews a variety of people with different viewpoints, as well as visits various stores and locales throughout the capital city.
Regime change: an affront to national sovereignty
One may think that the apparent about-face of these, and other, alternative media sites could be due to the fact that Venezuela’s government is left-leaning. However, all three mentioned here have had no problem recognizing that the overthrow of the leftist and democratically-elected government of Honduras in 2009 was the work of the United States. So why leave Venezuela out?
It may be related to either the fact that the Honduras coup was backed by the Obama administration, namely Hillary Clinton, or the fact that Honduras’ pre-coup government, led by Manuel Zelaya, was not overtly “socialist.” Either way, does Venezuela’s embrace of socialism for nearly two decades really justify ignoring the U.S. regime change efforts that have long targeted the country?
Here, it seems, some of these alt-media outlets have made a rather interesting choice. Instead of opposing all U.S. regime change efforts, those targeting governments with certain economic systems is just fine, even if that regime was democratically elected by the people of that country. One may not agree with socialism, one may even despise it; however, U.S. regime change against any government is an affront to the very principle of national sovereignty. When it targets a democratically-elected government, it is an affront to the right of people to govern themselves, whether one agrees with their decision or not.