Theory and Practice of Venezuelan Multilateralism in Times of Pandemic and Threats

Franco Vielma Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. Photo: Archives

By intensifying the siege on Venezuela, the U.S. government began to openly implement a policy of isolation of the oil-producing nation that has evolved into the current sordid political and economic blockade.

They embarked on a roadmap of unilateral coercive measures that have given “legal” form to the political conspiracy that preceded the U.S. siege against Venezuela.

The essential purposes of this were always to degrade Venezuela’s international relations, to undermine it as a factor in the recomposition of the international energy market, to stop its regional influence and to contain the rise of leftist forces in the continent.

The creation of a full-spectrum crisis in the country, through a parallel government, the blockade, the promotion of internal sedition and the encouragement of mercenary warfare, have indeed been factors that have divided politics in the Western Hemisphere in a Manichean way: either you are for or against the Venezuelan government.

The circumstances that turned Venezuela into a critical junction accelerated the destruction of continental institutions.

The worn-out Organization of American States (OAS), the de facto dissolution of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the rise of the “Lima Group” as an institutionally unformulated body, but as a forum to encourage the dismantling of Venezuela, are unequivocal signs of a breakdown in international relations from and beyond Caracas.

Venezuela’s formerly heated relations with the European Union (EU), following the hostilities in the old continent in accordance with Washington’s agenda, have accelerated the breakdown of diplomatic and institutional sobriety.

Therefore, the resulting framework of political relations as we knew them has forced the Caribbean nation to redesign its foreign policy scheme, but on the solid foundations of a very dynamic diplomatic model built during the years of Chavism that preceded the blockade.

The new multilateralism in the face of pandemic, war and blockade

The times when, despite differences with Washington, Venezuela sold oil to the United States, are over. The times when Venezuela had a constructive relationship with the EU are over. The times when, despite political atomization and regional interests, Venezuela maintained relations with certain neighbouring countries are over. It is unspeakable to talk about a perpetual paralysis in these diplomatic synergies, but the momentary picture is this and the political waters do not stop, they continue to flow.

Hence, the Bolivarian nation has had to re-profile its framework of relations by strengthening recent strategic alliances. As we know, Russia, China, Iran and their allies in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA-TCP), especially Cuba and Nicaragua, have been denominators of a new multilateralism.

Today, Venezuela is going through the hardest times in which it has had to implement as never before its new alliances and the multilateralism it has had to build as circumstances require.

In the years in which the US blockade has been most strongly accentuated, precisely this year, 2020, when Washington decided to apply “maximum pressure” to defeat the country before the US presidential elections, the Covid-19 pandemic occurred, leading to a global health crisis, which in Venezuela has had the added ingredient of the sound of the drums of war.

There are some indispensable milestones that must necessarily be mentioned in the context of the Venezuelan situation at the time.

The collaborations of China and Russia with huge medical endowments in breaking the blockade, as well as the support of Cuba, have destroyed the possibilities of an intended and manufactured “humanitarian crisis” in the country.

The arrival of Iranian ships with gasoline and additives for refining in the country, as well as the arrival of technological equipment for Venezuelan refineries, is helping to put an end to an energy crisis and internal chaos tailored to the blockade. Everything is in open defiance and an open disruption of the naval siege and right under the noses of US naval vessels.

The ALBA-TCP convened remotely, with the support of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), to rethink the sub-regional economy in times of pandemic, as no instance of the degraded continental institutionality has done today. The aim is to strengthen cooperation, relaunch social agendas and formulate a space for political, economic and health security.

The threat of unleashing a mercenary war in Venezuela, as occurred with the failed Operation Gideon, has redefined Venezuela’s position as a node in strategic security on this side of the world.

The increasingly real possibilities of a conflict, placed Venezuela once again in the UN Security Council underlining the points of alarm. The role of Russia and other allies in the face of these attempted attacks has been key in formulating the need to break the increasingly fragile “consensus” around the blockade and the construction of a war in Venezuela.

As a result, such adverse times have accelerated Venezuelan relations and the country’s own situation to acquire a new dynamism and deepen ties in ways that were unthinkable more than two decades ago.

Characteristic factors of this moment are pertinence, pragmatism, opportunity, the ordering of priorities and the alignment of approaches. Overcoming the pandemic, settling and breaking the blockade, securing the territory, withstanding the onslaught of political isolation and gauging the changing times in international relations are the components of Venezuelan politics that today are being redesigned for its internal and external fronts.

Venezuela in “The Axis of Evil

When the United States became fully engaged in Venezuela in what they call the “Axis of Evil”, the gravitations for the oil nation changed so drastically that it became the most awkward knot of international politics in the West in recent times.

A nation rich in crude oil, an oil factory historically related to the United States, the epicenter of the clash between the interests of traditional hegemonies versus emerging countries, the vertex of the new regional left, the country with the most dynamic relations with Eurasia and its centers of power, the nation that knew how to build an anti-hegemonic alliance in the American continent, in short, Venezuela is all of these contradictions.

For that reason, the U.S. government has implemented its scheme to dismantle the country with forcefulness. With differences that apply to our case, Venezuela is in political terms a Syria, a Levant, anchored in the West. It is a strategic move, a disputed zone, an inescapable bifurcation.

Much has been said, but reaffirming it does not erode the concept. If Venezuela falls, there will be a substantial loss of balance and the necessary counterweights that the world needs, not only in energy matters, but also in politics. The hecatomb of a convulsed world, with a current health crisis, a great depression in the making and subsequently the great socio-environmental crisis that awaits us, will be upheavals that will demand a recomposition of the world’s power relations and not a regression to the old gravitations that the West imposed in its favour.

Without exaggerating, Latin America needs Venezuela and ALBA-TCP as counter-hegemonic bastions and a viable model of political and economic relations alternative to neoliberalism in the continent. The emerging countries need access to the energy that Venezuela can provide. China and Russia need to continue developing their influence in this hemisphere to facilitate their position as power figures in counterbalance to the US and this applies in the commercial, energy and military spheres.

The world in dispute today is at the crossroads of old asymmetries and the new framework of multi-centered realities. And all these roads, paraphrasing that old phrase, “lead to Venezuela”.