US hands off Venezuela! US hands off of Cuba!

By Seth Galinsky
June 10, 2019

Washington and the U.S.-backed opposition in Venezuela continue to press their campaign to oust the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, despite the failure of their April 30 coup attempt. Washington is stepping up its economic war on Venezuela — and against Cuba, who it charges keeps Maduro in power — and keeps making threats of possible military intervention.

According to Reuters, State Department officials called Swiss- and British-based jet fuel suppliers in May to pressure them to cut off sales to Venezuela. This comes on top of U.S. sanctions aimed at preventing Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA from exporting any crude oil, the country’s key export.

After freezing the assets of two maritime companies that ship Venezuelan oil to Cuba, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared, “The U.S. will take further action if Cuba continues to receive Venezuelan oil in exchange for military support,” repeating U.S. slanders that the Venezuelan military is run by Cuba.

Washington seeks to justify its violation of Venezuelan sovereignty by the lie that the 22,000 Cuban internationalist volunteers there are mainly soldiers.

“These are lies,” Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Philadelphia, said May 25. “The overwhelming majority of Cubans in Venezuela are doctors and other medical personnel, as well as teachers, sports trainers and others who volunteer in small rural villages and working-class city barrios. Venezuela offers Cuba oil at reduced rates.

“We oppose U.S. imperialism’s violation of Venezuelan sovereignty and its decadeslong economic war against the Cuban Revolution,” Hart said. “We demand Washington end the sanctions now! U.S. hands off Venezuela! U.S. hands off Cuba!”

U.S. sanctions aimed at working people

The Wall Street Journal  reported May 21 that Washington is preparing moves aimed at crippling the Venezuelan government’s CLAP program. CLAP provides subsidized food to millions of working people.

It’s working people who are paying the price for the imperialist squeeze, which comes on top of the serious economic and social crisis they face in Venezuela. Medical supplies and gasoline are scarce, in a country with the world’s largest oil reserves. Inflation rates are astronomical, expected to hit more than 1 million percent this year. Millions of people have fled the country. In many parts of the country there are frequent electrical blackouts that last almost all day.

While the Maduro government has arrested some opposition leaders for their role in the failed coup attempt, they haven’t gone after U.S.-backed self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó, who calls for Washington to invade.

Guaidó spoke with drivers in long lines waiting for gasoline in Lara in northwestern Venezuela May 24 and 25. He also boarded buses crammed with passengers, giving short speeches. He claimed the gas shortage would end if he takes power.

In January the Trump administration handed over to Guaidó PDVSA-owned Citgo gasoline company and its bank accounts in the U.S. The ad-hoc board appointed by Guaidó to manage Citgo made a $71 million interest payment on its debt in May, hoping to keep the company from going into default.

Workers and peasants in Venezuela are looking for ways to defend their own interests in the face of the U.S. sanctions and threats of military intervention, as well as the effects of the policies and corruption of the Maduro government, which have undermined the unity and fighting capacity of working people.

Hundreds of peasants, small farmers and cooperative members marched in the town of Libertador in the western state of Táchira May 14, vowing to fight any U.S. military intervention. At the same time they demanded land for landless peasants and government aid, including financing, seed, fertilizers, and the use of tractors and machinery, as well as an end to attacks by the capitalist landowners’ thugs.

Cubans answer Washington’s slanders

The Cuban press, printed on less pages because of the U.S. rulers’ economic war, has been running letters, interviews and facts about Cuba’s internationalist missions to answer Washington’s slanders and lies.

Granma  reported May 23 that in the capital of Caracas alone, Cuban doctors have carried out more than 12 million medical exams and tests since the Barrio Adentro program began in 2003.

“We are in our combat trench to offer free medical assistance to the Venezuelan people and to work massively. That is our stance of loyalty to the principles of solidarity, internationalism and revolutionary values,” Mailén Elena Rodríguez, 27, one of the health care workers, told Juventud Rebelde.

Marisnely Echemendía Concepción, a Cuban doctor in Venezuela, wrote a letter to CubaDebate saying, “We are only interested in improving the health of the population, regardless of their political affiliation, race or religious beliefs.” She added, “We will continue carrying out our duty wherever it is needed, because a doctor is a slave only to their humanist vocation.”