The New York Times and RT (as well as many other sources) have pieces about the latest announcement by President Maduro to restrict US operations in Venezuela.
In December the US government “imposed sanctions on Venezuelan human rights violators,” effectively denying visas for certain government officials. These were not economic sanctions. They were meant to send a message to Maduro’s government about holding political prisoners and other human rights violations.
So Maduro is now basically saying, “Hey, you sanction us for Human Rights violations, I’ll do the same to you. You make all our citizens get visas to travel to your country, I’ll do the same to you. We have 17 officials working in the US, you can no longer have 100 officials working at your embassy here.” I agree that US politicians are deeply responsible for human rights violations. After all, my 8th graders have never lived a moment during which the US has not been at war; of course they have violated human rights. Both countries have. There’s no sense in arguing that one is worse than the other, unless, of course, you are trying to keep power.
After reading the two articles above, a number of questions to ponder immediately surface:
Is there any substance to his announcement or is this simply a threat? One M.O. of the government seems to be tossing out promises, threats, accusations with nothing ever coming of them. For example, near the beginning of the school year the government said all travelers would have to have travel insurance in order to fly. But nothing came of it.
Will it be even harder now for our school to obtain work visas for the new teachers? If the government can actually pull this off, the answer is most probably yes.
How many embassy families with children at our school will be expelled and when? If the government actually goes for equal numbers, according to Maduro’s math (which you might want to fact check), 83 diplomatic employees would be expelled. That would be a huge percentage. Our school is already predicting a substantial drop in the student population next year. This may just exacerbate that issue.
Those are the practical questions. Surely answers will be forthcoming in the next weeks. Meanwhile, Maduro is facing an embarrassingly low approval rating, skyrocketing inflation, widespread shortages of basic goods. Once he kicks out most of the US officials for espionage, who will be left to blame? Which leads me to another, less straightforward reflection that comes to my mind:
US imperialism isn’t as black and white as many think. The vast majority of the comments on the RT article are acidic towards the US and its imperialist tendencies. Ex: “Way to go Maduro! That’s certainly a first step to help your people, but better still is heading straight to the US Embassy, US “NGOs” and their Corporate fronts and neutralize the CIA scum once and for all.” My favorite course by my favorite professor in college was International Relation 365: US-Latin American Relations. Dr. Andrus opened our eyes to the wheeling and dealing of the CIA in Guatemala from the Cold War through the 80s and their role in Chile against Allende and all the way back to the 1910s in Nicaragua. I became quite skeptical of the US government which I still maintain to a healthy degree. However, my skepticism is now more mature, more well-rounded you might say, having lived in Venezuela for nearly three years. What I’m getting at is that I understand what these commenters are saying. I’ve been there. I’ve shared those thoughts and conversations — Root for the underdog! Socialism is good! Down with US imperialism! I agree that the US has a tainted and at times evil history in Latin America and deserves to be watched closely. But living here and now, it’s painfully clear that the US can pretty much kick back on this one; the Venezuelan government can take care of its own demise.
In the end, I am reassured as to the importance of teaching my Source Analysis Unit in Grade 8 Social Studies. Students must learn how to look at an event from many perspectives and maintain their mental sovereignty…otherwise the comments on news websites will never be worth reading.