Given the underdeveloped nature of their political consciousness, Caribbean populations often fail to discern and act upon what is in their own interest. Indeed, due to our current neo-colonial condition, other people do our thinking for us, and we uncritically accept their interests as ours. This is the essence of Bob Marley’s reminder to constantly “emancipate yourself from mental slavery” since “none but ourselves can free our minds”.
All of this is said against the background of the universal anti-Caribbean reporting of the Venezuelan protests aimed at toppling the duly elected Nicolás Maduro administration. The term “anti-Caribbean” is meant as a reminder that the dominant view of the events has not been told from the perspective of English-speaking Caribbean political interests.
A pro-Caribbean understanding of the demonstrations in Venezuela would see them as an attempt at reversing the avenues for alternative development which the Bolivarian revolution has provided for Latin America and the Caribbean since the era of Hugo Chavez. The Bolivarian revolution, backed up by its ample energy resources, represents the first moment since the collapse of European communism that a door has been opened for Caribbean development independent of the historically dominant economic interests.
This is the most significant implication of the Chavez legacy for the Caribbean. The crisis which the world entered in 2008, coinciding with the collapse of the traditional staples of countries like St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica, would have utterly devastated Caribbean economies had it not been for Venezuela’s timely construction of regional trade and aid arrangements motivated more by humanistic intervention rather than by imperialist ambition.
Indeed, the full materialisation of Venezuela’s possibilities has not been realised.
It is in the context of the reversal by Venezuela of the traditional regional trade and economic relations, not to mention the break from imperialist control within Venezuela itself, that the current upsurge of right wing internal destabilisation can be grasped. It is no accident that the protests burst into life following a very successful CELAC meeting in Cuba, during which the prestige and regional support for both Cuba and Venezuela received a tremendous boost.
Further, the success of the CELAC meeting provided strong indications of post-Chavez consolidation by Madura. This no doubt roused the traditional ruling forces into opposition, particularly since it frustrated their expectation of Maduro’s early collapse, given the tenuous nature of his electoral victory.
The protest, therefore, is the standard response seen elsewhere in the Caribbean and Latin America, where deliberate destabilisation is utilised to topple a progressive regime. Food shortages and organised violence are known tactics.
It is in the Caribbean’s interest, in this period of global crisis and limited alternatives, for the Bolivarian revolution to consolidate itself, in order that spaces opened for alternative development continue to flourish. The defence of Venezuelan socialism will be a Caribbean victory.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill campus, specialising in regional affairs.
— Courtesy Barbados Nation