Frantz Fanon, the French West Indian philosopher from the French colony of Martinique, observed that decolonization is a violent process, not only of overthrowing a colonial government, but of freeing the colonized from the mindset imposed upon them by Empire. Cuba, China, the USA and Russia are all influencing the fate and the future of Venezuela; a price for the failure and the folly of South American leaders. Their idleness and proneness to venality have birthed a possible Syria of the South.
If power transfers in Venezuela, the Council of South American Defense will deepen cooperation among the armed forces of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the rest of South America. Colombia alone allocates around $30 billion to defence – more than any other country in the hemisphere. In 2012 the FARC made $3.5 billion from the drug-trade. Graffiti from FARC Dissidents in Briceño, Colombia, proclaims ‘We are Indestructible.’ Neighbouring Venezuela is bounded by the Caribbean Sea, Guyana, Brazil and Colombia.
To recalibrate the relationship between Venezuela and Cuba, the US has levied sanctions on 34 vessels owned or operated by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., Venezuela’s state-run oil company, as well as on two international companies that transport Venezuelan crude to Cuba.
CNOOC Nexen Petroleum Guyana Ltd., a subsidiary of Canadian oil and gas company Nexen, and ultimately owned by China’s Hong Kong-based CNOOC Limited, is an energy firm based in Barbados with a 25% interest in the Stabroek offshore exploration block. The company’s operating partner, Exxon Mobil, discovered oil off Guyana totalling five billion barrels of reserves. The discovery has rekindled charges by Venezuela that it was cheated by an 1899 Paris Arbitration Tribunal and that Venezuela is rightfully entitled to nearly two-thirds of former ‘British Guyana’. China is now Venezuela’s most important creditor.
The Ramform Tethys is a Norwegian vessel engaged in seismic testing. It was intercepted off the continental shelf of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana by the Venezuelan Navy. Exxon Mobil has since paused seismic operations in the area. The naval episode occurred only hours after the shaky Guyanese coalition government lost a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly.
Russia now owns significant parts of at least five oil fields in Venezuela, which hold the world’s largest reserves, along with 30 years’ worth of future output from two Caribbean natural-gas fields in exchange for unsure loans. Venezuela has also signed over 49.9 per cent of Citgo, a wholly owned company in the United States — including three Gulf Coast refineries and a countrywide meshwork of pipelines — as collateral to Russia’s state-owned Rosneft for a reported $1.5 billion.
Venezuela and Colombia have not settled the delimitation issues surrounding the maritime boundaries of the Gulf of Venezuela and around the archipelago of Los Monjes. Colombia’s hydrocarbon resource wealth is offshore and in inaccessible parts of the hinterland. Colombia has a refining capacity of 421,000 bpd shared among five refineries. The Cartagena and Barrancabermeja refineries are the largest. But Colombia’s energy industry infrastructure is plagued by espionage from militants. The Marxist National Liberation Army (ELN) recently destroyed a pipeline connecting the Caño Limón field to the Caribbean port of Coveñas that transports 50,000 barrels of oil daily. In February 2018, they ruined a pipeline that took 210,000 barrels of daily production capacity offline.
One way out for Venezuela is amnesty and asylum. The fate of Saddam Hussein in Iraq or Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya, who were both executed after relinquishing power, are signposts in the dark. SG Guterres of the UN failed miserably to convince Field Marshal Haftar of Libya to not advance on Tripoli. Diyala in Iraq is no different from Babhuz in Syria- death and destruction. Asylum will certainly go a long way to avoid many uncertainties facing Caracas, including a prolonged guerrilla war like the one in Colombia that resulted in 220,000 dead, 25,000 disappearances and 5.7 million displaced persons over the last half century.
The United States and Colombia traded a modest $22 billion in 2017 in combined imports and exports. Colombia remains a net exporter of crude, but imports certain refined fuels, including diesel. China is now a new trade partner with Colombia. Twenty years ago, Colombia was on the cusp of becoming a failed state mired in underdevelopment and its social safety-net is now stressed by 550,000 Venezuelan migrants. This is comparable to the 530,000 Syrians in Germany, the 680,000 Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh and the 400,000 Romanians in the UK.
It was only when Lt Gen Salah called on Algeria’s Bouteflika to leave office that he grasped the possibilities. Bouteflika came into office after a civil war that left 150,000 dead. The citizens are thread-worn by the sleaze of Bouteflika and the Algerian 1% who constitute his sequestered Knights in White Satin. Ali Haddad, an Algerian tycoon was caught crossing into Tunisia with large sacks of money with a British passport. Development derailed. Ali Haddad was the main financier of Bouteflika’s political campaigns. Lt Saleh has kept boots in the barracks. Frantz Fanon lived in Algiers and every Algerian enchanted by his brilliance knows that everyman is a state and the state is everyman. The ‘Earth is made Wretched’ by the urban elite who coalesce to form a nation after independence but without delay they re-create the colonial within the decolonized state becoming Black Skins in White Masks.