photo by Marco Hernandez via Flickr
Rocky relations between Venezuela and the US have spanned over a decade, outlasting not one, but two full-term US presidencies.
Since 1999 when Hugo Chavez and his self-proclaimed socialist party took the reins in Venezuela, US and Venezuelan relations have steadily deteriorated.
Now, with President Obama’s declaration that Venezuela is a threat to national security, things have again taken a turn for the worse. But what exactly is going on, and how did we get here?
How did we get here?
Relations between the US and Venezuela have been strained since former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez took power in 1999.
Between then and his death in 2013 there were many contributing factors to the worsening of US and Venezuelan relations. Some include:
Purported assassination attempts
Before Chavez’s death in 2013, the former leader of Venezuela claimed, multiple times, that the CIA had made attempts on his life.
Though the veracity of of such claims have never been definitively proven, other leaders in Latin America and even the former US ambassador to Venezuela, Charles Shapiro, have in the past indicated that plots to assassinate Chavez may have indeed been real.
Allegations that the US government supported a Venezuelan coup
In 2002 Chavez claimed that the US government had been actively supporting a coup following his two-day ouster by military rebels in the country.
Such assertions were also supported by independent diplomatic entities like the Organization of American States and other major media outlets around the world.
At the time, Chavez claimed that these US attempts to spur a coup in Venezuela were in an effort to destabilize the country and usurp its oil reserves.
Following these events, skepticisms over any US involvement in Venezuela have proved to be deep seated.
Chavez’s ties to US aggressors like Cuban communists Fidel Castro and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in addition to his staunch anti-US rhetoric have also fueled tensions on either side.
Throughout the course of the countries’ steady downfall in relations, Venezuela has consistently made friends with countries outside the US sphere; like Russia, who in addition to providing Venezuela weapons, contemplated building a seaport in the country; and Iran who has united with Venezuela to “combat US imperialism” in the past.
Where are the nations now?
More recent US sanctions on Venezuela signed by President Obama have once again fueled already strained relations between the two.
The Obama administration levied the sanctions, stating that Venezuela was a threat to national security and alleging that the country had violated the civil rights of protesters there earlier this year when 43 were killed following an outburst of violence.
The sanctions are designed to exclude Venezuelan leaders from using any US financial systems, but will not affect Venezuelan citizens or and trade relations between the two.
With Venezuela’s economy already in shambles – over 60 percent inflation as well as food shortages resulting from a steep decline in oil prices – Venezuela has recently struck a deal with China.
For now, China’s $20 billion investment package will remain a lonely lifeline for a struggling Venezuelan economy expected to default on its debt this year.