The Monroe Doctrine, U.S. Imperialism and Venezuela
By Cort Greene
"But this man is a terrific danger and the United States, this is our sphere of influence and we can’t let this happen ... We have the Monroe Doctrine. We have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil ... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."
- Pat Robertson’s comments calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
This December marks the anniversaries of two of the most important documents of the United States ruling class’ imperialist policy. These documents epitomize the American imperialists’ paternalistic worldview, which they use to maintain their political and economic interests, and to expropriate the markets, raw materials and labor of the peoples of not only the western hemisphere but of the world.
The Monroe Doctrine of December 2, 1823, and the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine of December 6, 1904, are the bedrocks of expansionism and intervention which has caused so much misery, death and impoverishment for millions across Latin America. The country of Venezuela has played no small part in this history.
In the early decades of the 19th century, the South American Wars of Liberation were raging against Spanish domination in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. One figure who rose to international prominence during these struggles was Simon Bolivar. His vision of freedom from foreign domination, as well as the necessity of economic and social integration of the region has become the inspiration for Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution
But he was not just a man of words. At the Battle of Carabobo on June 24, 1821, his brilliant military maneuvers sealed the fate of the Spanish forces in Venezuela, and shortly thereafter, assured the demise of their empire in the region.
The Monroe Doctrine was created to project the United States’ sphere of influence into the Americas and fill the void left by Spain. It was also due to the upstart nation’s fear of Latin American colonization by other more powerful European imperialists. In short, they saw Latin America as their own "backyard" and field for exploitation. Even before setting out to impose their will on the peoples of Latin America, one of the first applications of the spirit of the doctrine was the "internal imperialism" against the indigenous peoples of North America, oppressing and obliterating entire civilizations in the country’s move westward. Hundreds of thousands of square miles belonging to Mexico were "acquired" as well.
A succession of presidents invoked the Monroe Doctrine in the annexations of Texas, California, Oregon and to fend off European interest in the Yucatan and Mexico, and it was used as the justification for the building a canal in Central America to control shipping and commerce. President Cleveland used it to force a settlement in land dispute between Venezuela and Britain in 1895.
The Roosevelt Corollary
In 1902, Venezuela could no longer placate the demands of European bankers and pay back its debt, so the navies of Great Britain, Italy and Germany blockaded and fired on its coastal fortifications. Theodore Roosevelt became fixated on the prospects of re-colonization of the hemisphere, and in 1903, he matched threat with threat, warning the combatants that Admiral Dewey’s fleet would intervene. The navies withdrew, and negotiations returned to the field of diplomacy.
Roosevelt’s Corollary, in an address to Congress, became an amendment to the Monroe Doctrine which launched the era of the U.S. as an international police force through the use of its infamous "big stick". This opened the bloody history of U.S. involvement on a grand scale, which haunts the peoples of the region and the world to this day.
Though it has gone through many ideological contortions including "dollar diplomacy", the "good neighbor" policy, the "Reagan Doctrine" and most recently, the "Bush Doctrine", the content has remained the same. Some of the mechanisms of control include the School of the Americas, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Defense Board, Plan Colombia, the IMF and World Bank, NAFTA, CAFTA, and now the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. It is clear from the above how the Monroe Doctrine has been used to dominate the cultures, political life, and economics of the Latin America, all the while integrating the labor, natural resources, productive and financial structures into a system of capital accumulation for the benefit of U.S. hegemony.
As Karl Marx explained, "The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked."
The U.S. has long considered Latin America its own backyard and has tried to keep a stranglehold on the region. But through its own policies, a beacon of light has appeared: Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. Hugo Chávez and above all the Venezuelan grass roots movement have shown the masses of Latin America a way out. Revolutionary waves are sweeping the region, and working people are engaged in a war with the exploiters on a mass scale. The masses have shown an unquenchable fighting spirit: there is not one stable pro-U.S. regime from the Rio Grande to Tierra del Fuego, and Washington is terrified of the implications.
From 1798 to 1993, the U.S. used its armed forces to intervene in other countries 234 times. Since then we seen the bombings of Yugoslavia and Sudan, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. intervention in Haiti which was aimed also at Venezuela and Cuba.
In Venezuela the U.S. has been waging a protracted covert struggle, fighting what the U.S. Army manuals call "fourth generational warfare" by using the National Endowment for Democracy, AID, the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity House, some NGOs, corporations and others. Through these and other institutions they have financed a terrorist opposition in order to sabotage and destabilize the economy with lockouts, paramilitary operations and of course, the coup of April 2002.
None of this has succeeded and the revolution has only gotten stronger. Now we discover that there are contingency plans for a direct invasion as outlined in the internal military briefing documents titled "FY08-13 POM", dated October 2005. POM stands for Program Objective Memorandum and these documents are used to analyze missions and resources for war. The threat to Venezuela is real. The only way to defeat the plans of U.S. imperialism is to mobilize the world labor movement, anti-war activists, solidarity campaigns and their allies, and it must be done with a sense of urgency.
That is why the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign is working with the Latin American Solidarity Coalition to get organizations and individuals to take up the call for a series of events around the anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine.
For more details on the email and educational campaigns, for information on events taking place in your area, or to host an event yourself, please visit: http://www.lasolidarity.org http://www.ushov.org http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org
Help promote the HOV Campaign! Print out and distribute our latest flyer: http://www.ushov.org/hov_tri_fold.pdf