The United States is refusing to recognize the outcome of the recent presidential election in Venezuela, which Chavez ally Nicholas Maduro won with 50.7% of the vote. Washington, virtually alone in the world in its refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of this election, is demanding a recount. On entirely selfless grounds, of course: White House spokesman Jay Carney lamented that this "rush to a decision" would be "inconsistent with the expectations of Venezuelans for a clear and democratic outcome." This despite Maduro's victory being acknowledged by the secretary general of the Organization of American States and by all non-left governments in the region. The opposition representative on the national electoral council has said that he has "no doubt" that the count was accurate. David Rosnick of The Guardian estimates that the probability of a recount changing the outcome is roughly 1 in 25 trillion. The U.S. will not be deterred by facts, though, in its altruistic campaign on behalf of the democratic rights of the good people of Venezuela.
This is high comedy.
First of all, it's common knowledge that the United States enthusiastically supports many dictators around the world who rule without even a pretense of democracy. Isn't it odd that Washington can simultaneously support absolute monarchy in Saudi Arabia while expressing deep concern over precise electoral nuances in Venezuela? It's almost as if all the glowing advocacy for democracy is just a front for what Washington is really concerned about, namely, conformity to U.S. corporate interests.
Second of all, can anyone argue with a straight face that the U.S. would hold the same position if Maduro had lost and a government more accommodating to Washington had been implemented?
I realize that it's almost platitudinous to highlight U.S. government hypocrisy at this point. But to stop calling it out is to invite even more of it. This "contempt" for democracy in Venezuela, indeed in all of Latin America, is, of course, nothing new. The U.S. has, for centuries, viewed Latin Americans as nothing more than "naughty children" who require a "stiff hand, an authoritative hand." It has been official U.S. policy, from the Monroe Doctrine (and its straightforwardly imperialist Roosevelt Corollary) to the present, to intervene at will in the domestic affairs of any Latin American country that it perceives to be misbehaving. Even just last week, Secretary of State John Kerry condescendingly and contemptuously referred to Latin America as the U.S.'s "backyard." One wonders how Americans would react if some Latin American leader referred to the United States as his or her country's "backyard."
It's vitally important for American citizens to understand the simple truth that the U.S. government, like any other government, is not a moral actor in foreign affairs. The U.S. government pursues what it perceives to be U.S. interests. That is it. Democracy, peace, human rights, these ideas are all incidental. A dictatorship that supports U.S. policy is preferable to an elected government that does not. Repression is welcomed if the victims are seen as some sort of potential threat to U.S. interests.
In a functioning democratic culture with an adversarial press, when a White House spokesman proclaims with a straight face that the U.S. has suddenly become irrationally scrupulous about the integrity of a particular foreign election (in which, coincidentally, its preferred candidate happened to lose), the reporters in the room would fall out of their chairs laughing. It's a claim that would be summarily dismissed and mocked by anyone with even a cursory knowledge of U.S. history and foreign policy. The U.S. cares not one iota about Venezuelan democracy and has, in fact, repeatedly demonized it and tried to undermine it. The U.S. cares about itself, as Secretary of State Robert Lansing helpfully explained in 1915, when discussing U.S. intervention in Latin America:
In its advocacy of the Monroe Doctrine the United States considers its own interests. The integrity of other American nations is an incident, not an end. While this may seem based on selfishness alone, the author of the Doctrine had no higher or more generous motive in its declaration. To assert for it a nobler purpose is to proclaim a new doctrine.Then, as now, U.S. foreign policy was sold to the masses as being purely selfless and benevolent. By this point, though, we should know better.