The semantics of intervention: dismantling the Almagro report – a special analysis
- 27 Mar 2017
A document plagued by inconsistencies, manipulated data, half-truths and silence concerning the main actors in the war against Venezuela.
The 75-page report presented on 14 March by Luis Almagro, OAS Secretary-General, sets out the most complete rational and semantic approach of an inquiry into the need for a foreign intervention in Venezuela.
The report tries to present it as a ‘failed state’, so that the Venezuelan question could be treated outside the national and political limits that require, if it is to be resolved, extra-political and exceptional measures such as diplomatic, political and financial force and blockade. The turmoil created by the need to find a way out of the present Venezuelan situation is clearer than ever, it argues, and there is no other choice but to break with the rules of the political game by ignoring the Constitution and the rule of law.
In fact, what the recent tragic wars in the Middle East (Syria and Libya) have highlighted is that all kinds of intervention (direct or indirect, diplomatic and financial at first, then military) require semantics and a detailed narrative framework that justifies it, as a way of criminalizing the victim countries under siege.
The report of Luis Almagro, apart from the very fact of its presentation, does not automatically entail the unconditional support of the OAS against Venezuela in these terms. It is the highpoint of what Venezuela has been denouncing for years (and which has been ridiculed by anti-Chavez elements): that the country is the victim of a foreign plan that is trying to promote a political transition outside the Constitution, in favour of the local allies of the corporate powers that govern the United States.
The report as a diplomatic tactic is not the main objective of this analysis. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that the threat of intervention is such that the powers carrying out this international agenda will use it to the limit in their preparatory discourse, using all mechanisms and triggers to set off this international political conspiracy. As it is developing in the international field now, it should be taken into account as a central element, this forcible point of no return and the declaration of the real interests that are against Venezuela.
There are meanings and expressions that constitute the main part of the document and which, because they repeat what is said in the media and contain statistical inconsistencies, make it lose credibility. For its direct attack against the collective memory and its efforts to build a false frontier between the present and the past, Almagro’s report proposes to ‘restore’ representative democracy in Venezuela.
From a marketing and publicity viewpoint, the document is a selling pitch for this future built on the disasters of the past.
Dismantling the main inconsistencies and half-truths of the report
Some of the inconsistencies and falsehoods in the document stand out more than others, not so much for their exaggerations but for the effort that went into making them appear veracious. Let us look at some of them.
“The government sabotaged the Month for Dialogue set up in Venezuela.”
Luis Almagro was the most aggressive international agent against Venezuela for the whole of 2016. He adopted positions that were completely disconnected from reality even before the Month for Dialogue took place between the government and the MUD (Mesa de la Unidad, the opposition coalition) which, as it recognized the leading analysts of anti-chavismo, had the support of the international community. Although he was constrained by circumstances to take up a more or less neutral stance, he never hid his disapproval of the Month for Dialogue and disapproved of the fact that anti-chavistas were participating in it.
In his report he does not mention, for example, that the withdrawal of MUD from the Dialogue was an exercise in damage control to contain the accelerating collapse of its political base. This was because of the flood of criticisms that it engendered as it was incapable of carrying out its promises: the recall referendum, general elections, the political indictment of Maduro. Almagro’s attack on the Dialogue in the report was an excuse to deny its potential and replace it by a scenario of prolonged conflict, without a political and constitutional solution.
List of countries and international organisations that have supported dialogue in Venezuela (source: Misión Verdad)
“The government sabotaged and terminated the recall referendum.”
Here Almagro echoed the view of MUD concerning the recall referendum to demand ‘immediate general elections’, an electoral method that does not exist in Venezuelan legislation. The MUD had committed illicit electoral practices which were amply demonstrated to the whole country when, as part of the first requisites for soliciting the recall referendum against President Maduro, it presented a host of irregular signatures in the initial collection of 1% of the electorate signatures to start the recall process against Maduro.
The opposition coalition presented 1,957,779 signatures of which 605,727 (30.9%) contained irregularities, including 10,000 of deceased citizens, 9,333 of non-existent identity card numbers, over 3,000 identity cards of minors and 1,335 prisoners. Of these invalid signatures, 307,747 did not meet one or more criteria and 97,158 electoral rolls contained only data in one field, 86,337 only had the number and the name of the voter, 80,105 only their fingerprints, 18,338 citizenships revoked, 7,823 only their positions, 1,805 only their signatures and 396 only the identity card numbers of the voters. This is the real reason why these stages in the process were suspended by the Venezuelan authorities.
— Tania Valentina Díaz (@taniapsuv) 2 de agosto de 2016
Tweet from PSUV legislator Tania Díaz: “(opposition leader) Capriles do not come asking for such a giant electoral fraud to go unpunished. Legality should be imposed. Support (CNE President) Tibisay Lucena
“Current poverty levels are higher than at the end of the 1990s.”
As in the previous report, this fallacy is based on the Inquiry into Living Conditions in 2016 carried out by the Andrés Bello Catholic University, the Central University of Venezuela and the Simon Bolivar University, which states that there is now a poverty level of 81 per cent, much greater than the 58 per cent recorded during the neoliberal era of Caracazo. The report does not clarify anywhere what its definition of ‘poverty’ is, leaving the term to be subjectively interpreted. Its statistical estimates concerning the real economic situation of Venezuela are vague.
Luis Almagro cites these figures without any reference to international criteria. And he also overlooks the effect of Venezuela’s private sector on the current economic situation. It controls more than half of the country’s food supply and it uses this, as in the case of the Empresas Polar, as an economic weapon according to the political situation at the time.
However, other data (omitted by Almagro) show how, in spite of these undeniable difficulties, the Venezuelan government has succeeded in containing the effects of this economic warfare. In 2016, FAO recognized the Venezuelan state “for creating the best food distribution”, managing to lower the levels of food insecurity among the population. Only five days ago polling company Hinterlaces published the results of their survey, according to which 53 per cent of Venezuelans have benefited from the Local Supply and Distribution Committees (CLAP), the food policy for distributing staple food items directly to the population.
Polar’s production as a special weapon (translated version of Misión Verdad’s graphic)
“Maduro restricts freedom of speech and attacks independent media.”
As for the so-called violations of the freedom of speech on the part of the Venezuelan government, Almagro cites some recent examples that have little to do with freedom of speech and much to do with war propaganda. He treats the sanctions of the Spanish language CNN as an attack on the freedom of expression, the case that figures most prominently in this part of the report.
But Almagro does not mention, for example, that the ‘reporting’ on the sale of Venezuelan passports in Lebanon has been used to imply that Hezbollah and Venezuela were planning a terrorist attack in the United States. With Marco Rubio as protagonist, it shows the political interest of the media aggression. Almagro also renders invisible Misael López, the former diplomat who was used for the reportage on CNN. A report on Telesur notes that “Misael López has a personal relationship with Ana Argotti, who is the current lawyer of Lilian Tintori” which infers his relationship with the Voluntad Popular party. This former diplomat was dismissed in 2015 and the evidence from the Venezuelan foreign office shows that he had forged his passport. These irregularities and the serious accusations made by López facilitated the sanctions against CNN by the Venezuelan state.
Misael López’s forged passport (translated version of Misión Verdad’s graphic)
“The humanitarian crisis”
Luis Almagro states in this section that Venezuela was experiencing a ‘humanitarian crisis’ because of the high costs of essential goods and the selective scarcity of some items in the basic family shopping basket, omitting to mention the effects from the use of the parallel dollar as an economic weapon and the fraud of private companies in their import activities. This has been fully recorded by Misión Verdad. Thus Almagro tries to create pressure for the opening of a humanitarian channel which would be mainly run by the OAS. The concept of ‘humanitarian crisis’ is wrongly used in the report as it is only applicable, according to the UN, to natural disasters and armed conflict of medium and high intensity that leave the population vulnerable and at risk of their lives.
The opposition expert on the subject, Susana Raffalli, who was interviewed recently by Prodavinci, comments that the resolution of the economic crisis through ‘humanitarian assistance’ is a myth, as Venezuela, with its undeniable difficulties, is nowhere near the real humanitarian crises in other regions of the world. According to her, this situation only occurs when the population is extremely far away from the centres that are dispensing food, produced by wars or natural disasters. If this is not the case there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and therefore any rescue operation is just an excuse for a gradual intervention.
Conindustria started the economic war in 2012 (translated version of Misión Verdad’s graphic)
“The servicing of the debt seems to be unsustainable.”
Using data issued by the Center for International Development at Harvard University, run by that financial hitman Ricardo Hausmann, the World Bank and the Economic Forum of Davos, Luis Almagro states that Pdvsa (the state oil company, the main national industry) cannot sustain the costs of its debt. The intention is of course to create a negative image of the Venezuelan economy and to attack the credibility of the national financial system. He forgets to mention that Pdvsa and the country have honoured all their international debt commitments. Up until January 2016 the country had paid 27 billion dollars (the debt of 2014 and early 2015), altogether totalling 40 billion dollars up until the end of last year. By the beginning of 2017 all the debt commitments had been fulfilled.
However Luis Almagro is silent on much more dangerous matters, such as how Citibank, J.P.Morgan and the credit rating agencies, Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s, sabotaged the operations for the debt payment of Pdvsa and its plan to exchange bonds, raising alarms about default, closing the accounts of the subsidiaries of the state oil company, changing the level of risk and increasing its negative ratings. This was an operation orchestrated to block Venezuela’s payments and to affect its financial system seriously. Financial hitman Ricardo Hausmann was a primary source of this operation and one of the organizers of the financial blockade against Venezuela.
Manipulated risk (translated version of Misión Verdad’s graphic)
“The freezing of assets prevented the Vice President from having access to a fortune estimated at 3 billion dollars.”
This point is perhaps the one in which Luis Almagro loses whatever credibility was left from last year. Using the sanctions of the Treasury against the Vice President of Venezuela, Tareck El Aissami, the OAS Secretary General stated that the Venezuelan civil servant could not access a fortune of 3 billion dollars.
Luis Almagro does not include in the report the declarations of Tareck El Aissami in which he states that he has no property or financial assets in the United States, which could have helped to constitute an image of pluralism and neutrality. But no. He quotes as a fact what is an estimate of the Bloomberg agency and of the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control), which was taken up in the Miami Herald (quoted as the original source) without emphasizing that no such evidence existed and they were just speculation to legitimize sanctions. Even OFAC, who has been saying since 2015 that it was carrying out sanctions against Venezuelan civil servants, has never stated that it was investigating this supposed fortune.
Means and methods of war propaganda used in the report
As the researcher Greg Simons wrote in a text on the information war against Syria, such means as presenting a false dilemma and brilliant generalizations (among others) have been used to legitimize the mercenaries and terrorists supported by the United States and NATO. Apart from the obvious differences between the two conflicts, the report of Luis Almagro can also be analyzed in light of these two resorts to war propaganda, which are ingested by academia in the form of publicity and political communication.
In this sense both of these means are used to create a combination of generalizations (the brilliant ones that Simons mentions) to confuse and force the public to accept fallacious arguments that are vague and manipulative, such as the ones Almagro uses in his report.
He uses the propaganda resource of the false dilemma, appearing to choose between two options. In actual fact he is proposing only one, extreme option: that of supporting a non-constitutional solution to the Venezuelan situation. Any other solution will then be interpreted as support for the Venezuelan ‘dictatorship’.
Forcing a coup, stimulating the narrative of the para-state
In the last part of the report, as also throughout the text, there are ‘recommendations’ with an emphasis on carrying out general elections as soon as possible, opening a humanitarian channel and renewing all public powers – apart from repeated requirements like getting rid of the disobedience of the National Assembly and the liberation of political prisoners for criminal activities of various kinds. All these requirements contradict the laws of Venezuela and promote the conditions for a coup d’etat.
While the report describes a scenario for intervention through the OAS into all the Venezuelan institutions, there is also a narrative for supplanting the Venezuelan state.
This process places, according to the report, a unique link between the management (financial, humanitarian and political) of the OAS and ‘Venezuelan sovereignty’ at the National Assembly, creating a para-state which would displace the legitimate authorities of the country, in clear violation of international law and the UN principle of people’s self-determination. This is the climax for institutional clash and the continued coup (economic and institutional) that anti-chavismo has been pushing since the beginning of 2016, which is when the search began in the international sphere for one sole valid interlocutor to take up the Venezuelan question.
The same formula was applied against Syria and Libya, when global multilateral institutions of these regions recognized the mercenaries and terrorists financed by the United States as the only political representation that was valid for these populations and, therefore, the only link with the international community. There would be only one channel of communication with the world for trade and finance, the most sensitive fields that constitute a modern state in the concert of nations. The report has a narrative in which one can recognize the benefits for the local managers of the intervention.
Examples and tragedies abound in recent history of reports presented by operators of the United States against sovereign countries. We feel that the application of these mechanisms and means should be understood in advance so that they can be dismantled in time.
Translated from Spanish by Victoria Bawtree.
Source: Misión Verdad
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