The U.S. Blockade Has Robbed A Lot of Money From Venezuela
Memorial Day Interview with Sociologist James Petras
Centennial Radio Uruguay
(Translation from Spanish by Michael K. Smith)
Hernán Salina: Memorial Day, (Mr.) Petras?
Petras: Well, it's a day that has various dimensions. For the majority of people it's a day to visit the cemetery and put flowers on the graves of family members who died.
For others, which is more and more the direction the media takes, it's a day to celebrate war veterans. That means that all the news are about the soldiers who fought in Vietnam, Korea, WWII, and other related matters. So it's a day of militarism, a day in which the soldiers of the past (are celebrated), whatever their views may be, because many who served in Vietnam were anti-war. It's a mix of veterans who died without a (military) cause and veterans who died fighting in imperialist wars.
So there's a lot of (national) chauvinism today, normally there are ceremonies, but since coronavirus is now here, they can't gather in big marches through the streets. It's one of the consequences of the contradictions of capitalism that the very diseases generated are the product of political-military policy. . . . It's a reactionary day, validating imperialist wars from the Conquest of Mexico to today.
HS: Speaking of war-mongering in the U.S., what can be expected from the U.S. government against Venezuela with the arrival of Iranian oil tankers? What is being said in the United States, (Mr.) Petras?
Petras: Well, in the first place Trump threatened to attack the ships, blocking the entrance to Venezuela. But once Venezuela showed determination, that it was going to resist militarily if they blocked the ships, Washington backed down.
So, for now, the fact that the ships have entered Venezuelan territory and the U.S. hasn't attacked is good, but it's an extremely tense and threatening situation. One never knows from one minute to the next what Trump is going to do, threats on one hand, and then retreats.
HS: Venezuela, a country so rich in petroleum that it has had to receive help from Iran no less. How far has the attack on its primary industry gone, the primary wealth that Venezuela has?
Petras: Yes, it's become difficult because the American blockade has robbed Venezuela of a lot of income, the blockades, the intervention, the Venezuelan bank accounts in British banks, they lost $200 million in gold reserves that were in Britain. Citgo, a Venezuelan company in the United States, has been taken by the U.S.
So all the American piracy has caused a lot of damage to the oil industry and Venezuela's capacity to convert petroleum into gasoline that can be used in cars.
HS: It's also a very important signal from Iran, the gamble it's taking on sending ships from there and the warning it has made that it would consider any interference on the part of the United States an act of war.
Petras: Yes, it's one of the repercussions that we must take into account. Venezuela has allies, principally Iran, and to a lesser extent China and Russia, but in any case, Iran has said that if they start to attack its ships or destroy them, they would be able to take reprisals against the U.S. in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Persian Gulf.
For this reason the consequences of a military attack against Iranian oil has multiple repercussions, as much in the Caribbean as in the Gulf. Trump has to have calculated extensively in order to launch an attack with so many repercussions at a time of economic depression. It could be very costly.
HS: And about the ex-Marine mercenaries detained in Venezuela, U.S. spokespersons came out saying they demanded they be returned. Is something being said about this in the U.S. or will this be a quieter negotiation that can be done with Venezuela?
Petras: I don't know, there is no indication right now, but it could be that something may be happening behind the scenes. For the moment Washington is simply demanding, not offering anything by negotiation. In order to negotiate Washington has to make concessions and right now Trump doesn't want to make any concession, he simply wants to dictate policy that Venezuela and Iran submit to, but this is not going to happen.
HS: With respect to Covid-19, what's the latest, (Mr.) Petras?
Petras: They've opened a lot of avenues for people to leave the house, go walking, but it's a disaster because people go out without taking precautions to maintain social distance, nor are they wearing masks when they go out to enjoy themselves or take a walk.
The beaches are full in New Jersey, in Florida, in Miami, almost everywhere. In California many people walk without consideration for taking precautions, they go together to taverns, bars, downing drinks, and everyone goes together contaminating one another.
The beauty salons, for example, in some cases that we know of, there are hundreds of people infected because the worker or the employee of the salon has been infected with the virus. So the opening up could be a disaster.
HS: The other day we were saying that a good portion of the affected are immigrants, Latinos, poor whites. Is there an organized reaction to this scene, (Mr.) Petras?
Petras: There are, there are local protests, there are protests at the national level, but apparently the investigations and denunciations of the inequalities in treatment haven't had much effect. An increase in neighborhood testing, but there is no strategy that could improve the vulnerable position of minorities, who are actually the majority in many places like Texas, California and New York. That seems to me a form of genocide against minorities.
HS: President Trump continues with accusatory rhetoric against China: now in an interview he has said that, whether it be due to incompetence or refusal, China didn't prevent that the coronavirus spread throughout the world, and he has been pressuring so that the origin of the virus be investigated inside China.
Petras: There is an economic-political war against China, and now it has increased with Washington's failures; today (virus) deaths have surpassed 100,000. Trump confronts a political-electoral threat, for that reason he's beginning to make declarations blaming China, Russia, anyone except himself. And he uses thugs in Hong Kong to attack China, he uses the virus to blame China. China is recovering from the virus, peple are beginning to go out in the streets with safeguards and controls.
And since Washington has failed in its fight against the virus, blaming China is part of aggression against it, because China has recovered sufficiently to re-launch its manufacturing industry and technology.
HS: How does life go on in the United States? I was reading a report about the situation in Detroit, for example, that once had great industrial activity but which has now been badly battered, an emblematic city in that sense.
Petras: Yes, they're beginning to increase production at Ford for a week and suddenly there's another coronavirus case and they have to back off. The American economy is in full depression, unemployment has risen to more than 40 million people. It's a very grave situation, the unemployment, the hunger, the lack of resources, the loss of homes, the crisis is growing and one can't avoid it. Trump says they're going to continue with everything opened up, cost what it may, however many deaths it costs doesn't matter. Trump says that never again will we shut the economy in order to save lives.
HS: Is there something else you want to mention as we wrap up, (Mr.) Petras?
Petras: Well, what we have more information about is Israel, where President Netanyahu confronts a trial for bribery, fraud, and corruption. Finally, after so many years of robbing the Palestinians and Jews themselves, now Netanyahu faces a trial and we hope they finally put him in jail. But I have doubts that he will be punished, especially with the corruption that exists in Israeli courts and also in general.
In the United States there is little information about the crimes of Netanyahu because of the influence of the Israel lobby, they can influence what the media are going to publish and not publish. A Netanyahu crime that goes beyond bribery and fraud are the crimes against the Palestinians, but about that the judges have nothing to say.