‘Nobody Wants Venezuelan Oil’

Just as people scoffed at the very idea of war for oil as Bush’s death machine revved to demolish Iraq, today the same conceit now rules in the discussion of Venezuela, where the United States is focusing its efforts on finally uprooting and death-squadding a genuine socialist movement.

The US has absolutely no interest in securing democracy or freedom in Venezuela or anywhere else. This comically transparent lie is aimed at the armies of TV news-consuming mental defectives; barely anyone else could keep a straight face at the very idea. One only need take one minute to see that the likes of Elliott Abrams is in charge of “restoring democracy” — yes, the same one who oversaw the butchering of hundreds of thousands of peasants and revolutionaries across Central America, not to mention involvement in the short-lived 2002 coup against Hugo Chávez.

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t require that much background, but just in case: In the aftermath of the inauguration of President Nicolás Maduro, certain US political figures began to ramp up the destabilization campaign against Venezuela. Led primarily by VP Mike Pence and Congressman Marco Rubio, the public effort included coercing Juan Guaidó, CIA-manufactured leader of the rival National Assembly, into proclaiming himself president in a speech he made on a highway overpass in Caracas. Dueling marches were held across the country but only the smaller, less frequent anti-Maduro protests were magnified in the imperial press. Several false news items surfaced to stoke global outrage at the chavista government, including a claim that the security services attempted to “kidnap” Guaidó and that Maduro barricaded an international highway from Colombia to prevent humanitarian food aid from reaching starving Venezuelans. This long con seems to have worked, in part: most Latin American and nearly all European governments have recognized Guaidó as president, along with US poodle Canada. Most Global North media consumers believe the sordid tales of Maduro’s mendacity.

My goal in this and hopefully subsequent posts will be to tackle some of the more persistent lies and exaggerations used to derail Western lefts’ solidarity with anti-imperialist states and movements, using Venezuela as a lens. In a social media landscape riddled with cops and bots, it can be difficult to keep your head above the sewage.

One common claim is that the US can’t be in it for oil because the US is oil independent. Below an example of how this plays out:

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This is a perfect example of a collection of some popularly disseminated points and counterpoints on this theme. It starts with someone simply saying “they’re coming to take the oil.” Someone replies “Actually Russia and Cuba steal it.” The response is “Americans don’t do anything but shoot bullets and pillage wealth.”

-“And why do the Russians help Venezuela? They’re nice?”
“Do the Russians steal it for buy it for a good price?”
-“Until now the US has bought most of it.”
“Well they’ve tired of buying it, they want it as a gift.”
-Then when they realize facts aren’t in their favor, the evergreen: “Whatever you say. Live in Venezuela and then express an opinion.”
“The US is not going to bring you more wealth, but to take it.”
-And then someone else (a Colombian supporter of that country’s own CIA-agent president) comes to finish with “Obama started fracking in the US, so the gringos produce enough for themselves.”

The absurdity of this is that US foreign policy isn’t run for the interests of the mass of US citizens and consumers, but for those of international corporations who own the levers of power in Washington. “War for oil” isn’t about running our cars, as if a military organization larger and more expensive than all others on earth combined by orders of magnitude was just waiting to be triggered into action by dwindling stocks of the gasoline that powers our Amazon deliveries. No, the US military is simply a tool used to scare and compel other countries into complete integration in our global neocolonial economy. Part of this is not just making sure they allow their oil to be pumped into the global market, but that the specific conduit through which this happens is Western oil corporations, preferably US ones, so that they capture more of the revenues than the country where the oil actually is. They overthrew Iran’s Mossadegh expressly for this reason. It’s about the profit rate of a small group of people and has nothing at all to do with the lives of the end users of the oil.

An even hotter corollary take to the above is that, actually, nobody even wants Venezuelan oil. Yeah. You spend long enough on Twitter and you’ll see everything. The argument is that the country’s heavier crude is more difficult to process than Saudi or North American oil and is “more trouble than it’s worth.”

“The US doesn’t need Venezuelan oil. You can thank fracking for that. We can get the same heavy, hard to refine crude cheaper and easier from Canada than Caracas.”

There’s a lot here. Possibly the most laughable is that a fresh fash regime in Venezuela would have the same tax rate as Canada. Or ANY tax rate that might apply to the likes of Chevron or Halliburton for that matter. But aside from that, it’s not necessary to go into the finer details of the oil business (as some of us unfortunately did in that thread) because this sort of antfuckery is part of how propaganda works. Focus on alleged mismanagement at PDVSA, politics at work, corruption, and oil infrastructure deterioration rates is the rightful concern only of the Venezuelan people. I don’t have to know ANYTHING about oil at all because I know how to read and what I read tells me, unequivocally, that actual existing US oil companies are still operating even now in Venezuela, in cooperation with the Venezuelan government. I think they know their own interests better than some amateur Twitter oil pundit.

Now. That these companies are still operating in Venezuela doesn’t mean they wouldn’t welcome a coup and regime change. More favorable conditions, free of the use of the proceeds for national development, would benefit their owners and investors. None of this has anything to do with the quality of Venezuelan oil, which has always been considered immensely profitable. In fact, their champion Sen. Marco Rubio made the argument — “saying the quiet part loud” — that refining this oil “supports great jobs in the Gulf Coast.” Rubio is also on record as being against the actual drilling of oil in that same Gulf; he’d rather reap the economic benefits of the oil industry for the US and leave the environmental problems associated with petroleum drilling for the subaltern. Nat. Security Adviser John Bolton openly admitted on Fox Business that “it will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” If you can stomach it, watch Bolton on Fox News gaslight the universe goaded on by this piece of sentient plastic — while being very frank with his plans for all that oil.

If your appetite for grotesque personalities on television hasn’t been satisfied, I recommend you watch the Bloomberg clip featuring this utter clown, who despite dressing up like a character in The Far Side is an actual expert on commodities. He confirms that The Markets are looking forward to Venezuela going back to “the way things used to be” — that is, US oil companies drinking that heavy crude and pissing out dollars while the peasantry starved.

Despite this extreme difficulty in refining that stubborn Venezuelan crude, the revolution managed to make $1.3 TRILLION dollars in revenue from 1999-2013, which finance bros consider to have “vanished” due to their utter waste on “massive social spending.” In fact so large is the proportion of revenues used to directly benefit and uplift the poor of Venezuela that economists use a different set of metrics to determine PDVSA’s productivity because to the Venezuelan government, “profits” from the country’s natural resources aren’t a driver.

And what of Russia, or China for that matter? No doubt they each have their own reasons for supporting the legitimate president and being involved in various ways with PDVSA or other Venezuelan state-owned industries. Since these relationships benefit the Venezuelan people (via those “wasteful” social programs), they are at least far less exploitative than any possible arrangements under a coup-installed right-wing regime. That said, some governments may do things for reasons outside of immediate gain for either the officials involved or corporate backers or even the benefit of their own state-owned industries. A higher aim may be to rebalance global power away from US-dominated unipolarity. The concept of Internationalism is difficult for US Americans to grasp because it is part of our national religion that man only acts according to his own immediate self-interest. This teaches us to be suspicious of people acting in solidarity with others in worse-off positions — even, in the remarkable case of Cuba, when they barely had much to give.

On the other hand we know by the very nature of the United States, capitalism, and imperialism, that there is no way the most murderous people on the face of the planet are interested in the well-being of the Venezuelan people. We don’t have to know their hearts, just witness their actions. Imperialism seeks to corral all the world, every country, every person, into its plot to vacuum wealth from the poorest up to the richest. The particular motivations for a given intervention are different each time, among which the greed for oil wealth is just one. But if you got it, they want it. This is an imperialist operation, which means it is — must be — a war for oil.

Thanks to Tarzie for research and editing, as always, encouragement!
Also thanks to George Bell for research help.