With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Century-Old Racist Tropes Guide US Policy on Venezuela

On Saturday, high-level American officials traveled to Caracas to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government. The officials hoped to try to drive a wedge between Venezuela and Russia, while also exploring the possibility of removing sanctions on Venezuelan oil exports. The Biden administration worries that if Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine leads to deepening acrimony between the United States and Russia, having Russian allies in Latin America could be a security risk.

For over 20 years, the relationship between the United States and Venezuela has been tense. U.S. officials cast former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who led the country from 1999 until his death in 2013, as an authoritarian ruler bent on turning Venezuela into a dictatorship. Following Chávez’s death in 2013, Maduro, Chávez’s former minister of foreign affairs, officially took over the Venezuelan government.

Then, Donald Trump’s administration cut off Venezuelan oil supplies from entering the country, and leaders encouraged the Venezuelan military to overthrow the government. The United States and several other governments even recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the Venezuelan president after a controversial 2018 election characterized by unfair conditions and accusations of fraud. Though the Biden administration has dropped Trump’s bellicose rhetoric, many of the same policies remain.

This tense relationship between the United States and Venezuela has been shaped by assumptions and ideas about U.S. dominance of the Western Hemisphere that date back centuries. Indeed, it is worth understanding the mentalities of the U.S. foreign policymakers as they sought to engage Venezuelan officials and citizens. Despite different personnel and stated goals, there has been remarkable continuity across the Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden administrations. Their efforts remain rooted in a history of U.S. foreign policymaking that has embraced racist and neocolonial visions of American leadership in the hemisphere.

Read entire article at Made By History at the Washington Post