Sean’s Empire Report: Venezuela

A monthly column discussing American empire and foreign conflict, the policies we don’t vote on, and the officials we don’t elect. 

For this Column Editor Sean Edwards has partnered with artist Søren Wilde to create unique images. Søren interprets the writing into images that counter the sensationalization of foreign conflict in mainstream media and serve to highlight relationships otherwise obscured. Søren’s work can be found in galleries and on instagram @pyrex_systems. 

A note from Søren regarding this months topic received via email from Nova Scotia:


after reading your writing i was left thinking about opposites/ binaries overlapping and clawing over each other for space. writing right over each other. That and the feedback loop that is US Cold War foreign policy. every attempt to fix someone else’s problem creates a problem and the only way to get out of the loop is to unplug the system.
thinking about all that I just made a simple but confusing drawing and scanned it then scanned the scan, scanned that scan, scanned that scan.. etc. making a feedback loop which ended up erasing the drawing and creating something new which doesn’t resemble the original drawing at all.
attached are 4 different stages in that feedback loop which can be used as you see fit. each is as much a part of the loop as the next.




Binary Feedback Final Compromise

I’ve never been to Venezuela, but rarely does a day go by without it permeating my consciousness. But not by choice, I’m no expert on Latin American politics. Venezuela is on my mind daily because of other people who know even less than me. Brought up time and time again by conservative half-wits, their brains poisoned by Barstool Sports and PragerU

I can’t shut my mouth in public. A brutal combination of binge drinking and general lack of self control gets me into many conversations about politics with people who are on the ‘other side’ so to speak. I think of these people as closeted fascists as they think me a flaming communist, we disagree, but usually find common ground in a communal distrust for ‘liberals’. At one point or another an age old question comes from my counterpart on the right, “What about Venezuela?” 

Binary Loop Stage 1

“What about Venezuela?” The ‘gotcha’ question that’s supposed to cripple any leftist. It’s a simple question that requires a complex answer, but it’s far from the smoking gun people think it is. First off, whoever asked you this is trying to make you argue yourself. That’s not a real point. If you’re going to engage with this person, and why wouldn’t you, make them explain themselves. “Well what about it?” Usually it’s to the tune of, “They’re socialists, and their country sucks, they eat rats. Do you want that for America?” The answer is of course not, but gently remind them there are 60,000 people living on the streets of Los Angeles. Parts of Flint, Michigan still don’t have clean water. 28 people were shot in 21 hours on August 30 in Chicago. Is Capitalism to blame for these societal ills? Yes Venezuela is suffering a brutal food shortage and civil unrest, but there’s an incredibly complex history of foreign intervention and colonialism that must be understood in order to contextualize the situation, to distill it down to an economic system is a severely deficient argument. 

“What about Venezuela?”

Venezuela was colonized by Spaniards. They brutalized the native populations. They suffered, genocide, slavery, brutal repression and immeasurable pain. They achieved independence 300 years later into over 100 years of a military dictatorship. In 1958 the country popularly elected a leftist in an effort to narrow the massive gap between an impoverished working class and elites. This government begins the massive undertaking of structural change in the height of the cold-war and Truman Doctrine foreign policy. One by one their neighbors suffered U.S. backed coups, ousting their popularly elected leftist governments in favor of right-wing nationalist minority parties. These coups came with the wholesale slaughter of men, women, and children carried out by paramilitary death squads. These war-crimes were then covered up and funded by every president and differing State Department since the end of World War 2. 

Binary Loop Stage 2

It’s safe to say that the socialism carried out by Venezuela since 1958 hasn’t exactly existed in the most friendly conditions. It’s almost like regional stability has more to do with the success or failures of a nation than just its economic system. It’s safe to say there is more at play here than just socialism versus capitalism. And who could blame Venezuela for being resistant to transitioning toward free market capitalism even if socialism alone was causing their societal ills? In South America capitalism means environmental destruction, unmitigated violence and ruthless resource extraction at the hands of foreign powers, the U.S. chief among them. With socialism they could, at the very least, sink their own damn ship. 

At this point, whatever dullard asked you “What about Venezuela?” has probably scooted away and back towards his boys (assuming this person is male, which in my case they usually are, but foolishness knows no gender) for shots or something, leaving you alone to fester. If they’ve stuck around they’re also a crank and any further conversation is impossible to predict.

Binary Loop Stage 3

But for the festerers among us it doesn’t stop. The U.S. now has Venezuela in the crosshairs. In the face of economic catastrophe three different leaders are vying for power. Nicolas Maduro was elected after the death of Hugo Chavez and has held power since 2013. Corruption and an economic crisis left him facing popular protest and unrest. After winning a dubious re-election in 2018 right wing opposition claimed Maduro was illegitimate and Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president. The U.S. moved to recognize him as the legitimate president despite his lack of control on the ground. There will be a new vote in December of this year whose outcome will be closely watched if not influenced by the United States foreign policy machine. If Maduro wins in December with European election officials looking over their shoulders, it would not be shocking to see a coup and all the things that come with coups. 

The United States does seem poised for a coup. Heavy handed sanctions are being leveraged against them and the rhetoric around the issue is becoming more and more ‘pragmatic’ or ‘realistic ie. journalists and thinkers giving tacit approval of murder and mayham in so many words. In addition to the more subtle markers there is a man named Elliot Abrams. 

With socialism they could, at the very least, sink their own damn ship. 

Binary Feedback Final Compromise

Abrams is an especially disgusting and abhorrent man, a reflection of the most evil and vile actions of the U.S. government. He participated in the cover up and openly advocated for some of the most brutal coups and egregious human rights violations in the last 50 years. Abrams had an active hand in coups in Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador and Guatemala actively supporting and defending right-wing warlords responsible for the murders of hundreds of thousands of people. To quote Jon Schwarz, a brilliant journalist, in his Intercept article on Abrams,

 “First, he was assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs (in 1981); then the State Department “human rights” position mentioned above [assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs](1981-85); assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs (1985-89); senior director for democracy, human rights, and international operations for the National Security Council (2001-05); and finally, Bush’s deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy (2005-09).”

The job titles layed bare accompanied by their years paints a chilling picture. With this terrifying track record he was appointed Special Representative for Venezuela in January of 2019. A U.S. envoy to understand the advise officials on the region. Given Abrams’ long history in Central and South America it’s pretty clear that the U.S. government isn’t planning on leaving Venezuela alone. To be clear, leaving Venezuela alone is exactly what should be done. U.S. Involvement has brought nothing but suffering, devastation and instability to the region, it should not interfere anymore. To quote Schwarz again,

“The bottom line is this, if anyone actually, truly cares about Venezuelans… there’s only one thing you should be doing which is trying to stop the United States from being involved in any way… We need to take our hands off Venezuela if you want any kind of better future for the people there.” 

If you enjoyed this article check out last month’s Empire Report on Syria.