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David Smilde concedes US sanctions kill Venezuelans, but argues the price is worth it


US liberals have always preferred to have the US government use economic strangulation against its enemies rather than military force. They’ve also, much more than “conservatives”, stressed the importance of having accomplices (“allies” is common euphemism).

David Smilde, in a New York Times op-ed, stated that a US military invasion of Venezuela would be “folly”. Actually it would be a major crime, but liberals very rarely describe the barbarism of their own government properly.  Hence Madeleine Albright’s infamous slip up when she said publicly that 5000 dead Iraqi children per month from US imposed sanctions was “worth it”.  The fact that a huge crime is causally discussed in the NYT op-ed section by Smilde also speaks volumes about the perversion of US political culture.  

Smilde supports U.S. economic sanctions on Venezuela which is going through a major economic crisis. In other words, he supports making the crisis worse to give “leverage” to the opposition. Incidentally, almost nobody cares to notice, but U.S. sanctions are illegal.  

On Twitter, Smilde (who blocked me in 2015 immediately after I wrote this piece criticizing him) angrily responded to a critic by conceding that “sanctions kill”. 

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According to the opposition–aligned pollster (Datanalisis) that Smilde relies on to claim that he is speaking for 80% of Venezuelans, the majority of Venezuelans oppose the sanctions he advocates. Smilde is, however, too dishonest to have mentioned this in his NYT piece. Moreover, how many politicians in the United States would dare advocate (or even refrain from vehemently rejecting) foreign sanctions on their own country at any time – never mind during a depression? That goes a long way towards explaining the opposition’s humiliating defeat in October’s regional elections – as one would learn from reading Francisco Rodriguez, a vastly more honest and rational opponent of the Venezuelan government than Smilde.

Chart below (from December) claims 55.6% “strongly disagree”  with US sanctions according to Datanalisis. Earlier in 2017, Datanalisis found similarly high levels of disagreement with other tactics, including opposition leaders lobbying foreign banks not to loan to the government (next two charts below).

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Smilde is certainly correct that failed economic policies are lethal. They are throughout the region. See the chart below showing child mortality rates as of 2016. If Smilde accepted that inexcusable poverty, failed economic policies and human rights abuses justify sanctions then he’d be forcefully advocating them against Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Peru and many other countries –  including of course his own.  

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And who does Smilde think he is fooling with his emphasis on US allies? Not arguing for the U.S to “be at the center of responses to VZs problems“? Yeah right. Smilde cannot be ignorant enough to believe that sanctions on Venezuela by Canada and others, but rejected by the US, would have any significant impact. That would be like believing the US was a bit player in the “coalition” that invaded Iraq. Torino capital pointed out in early January

There are currently 26 outstanding foreign currency bonds issued by the Venezuelan government or state-owned companies, with a total face value of USD 64.9bn….. 

All foreign-currency bonds are denominated in dollars, and all are governed by New York law. ”  

One should recall that, a few years ago, a rogue judge in New York was able to effectively impose serious economic sanctions on Argentina on behalf of “vulture funds” while Cristina Fernandez was in power. The U.S. Supreme Court, the Obama administration, and IMF simply looked the other way. The U.S. government does not have the muscle it had in the 1950s, but it courts and financial sector can still wield illegitimate authority and do tremendous damage  throughout the world.

The important role that US allies like Canada play is to provide political cover for US belligerence and lawlessness. That was dramatically illustrated when the Bush administration overthrew Haiti’s democratically elected government in 2004. Smilde tossing around allegations of “racism”, “dehumanizing people” is simply projection. It’s hardly an original point to make, but it’s worth repeating: a person as racist and stupid as Trump did not end up in the White House because only one part of the US establishment is rotten.  

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