Sunday Poems 68: Who do we ask about what we do?

We're now two weeks into a constitutional crisis in Venezuela where two leaders have both declared themselves president, each with a degree of constitutional justification. The incumbent president Nicolas Maduro, who is the heir to Hugo Chavez's socialist Chavismo movement, inherited an economy in freefall and has attempted to hold on to power through autocratic methods by banning various opposition parties and candidates from running. His counterpart is the head of the national assembly, Juan Guaidó, has called the 2018 presidential elections fraudulent, and with the support of the US has declared himself the president, calling for the Venezuelan military to depose Maduro.

Years of US sanctions against the socialist government have worsened a disastrous the Venezuelan economy which has failed to diversify its output beyond oil production. During the Chavez years, oil was good enough to support expanded social policies, but production problems, sanctions, and a lowered price have led to expanded borrowing and runaway inflation. This has led to years of shortages of food, medicine, and consumer goods. New US sanctions from last week on Venezuelan oil will only further the suffering of the Venezuelan people. The US government has also been overtly threatening military intervention. Canada's Defence Minister has called it "far too premature" to discuss military actions which is a statement which, while at first blush seems reassuring, doesn't categorically deny that Canada would be unwilling to participate in intervention.

The Maduro regime in Venezuela has almost assuredly failed, but we must do all that we can to encourage a negotiated transition that represents the Venezuelan people through democratic processes. No matter how disastrous Maduro has turned out to be, backing an immediate power transfer to a US ally under the threat of sanctions and military force betrays basic principles of national sovereignty as outlined by the United Nations and Organization of American States, is unlikely to lead to truly fair elections, and stands a major chance of putting at risk of retaliation the still substantial base of poor and Indigenous supporters of the Chavismo movement.

Periodically, mainstream news sources will put out articles doing a roll call of which countries are officially supporting each side in Venezuela, with a footnote about those countries who are still asking for an officially mediated negotiation between the two sides without outright supporting one or the other party. The US, Canada, the EU, as well as most of South America (which has been recently swept by a wave of right wing governments) support Guaidó, whereas Russia and China (who both have invested heavily in the Venezuelan oil industry) as well as Greece, Turkey, Iran, and Cuba support Maduro. A map is published with most of these stories, showing in various colours the countries which have declared in support of one side or the other. The maps tell the old cold war story of east vs west, but they also show how much of the world remains grey, without opinion. This grey covers South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and represents more than half the countries in the world.

That majority of countries whose views aren't represented are members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), an organization mostly made up of former colonies, which represent just under two thirds of the countries in the world. Initially formed during the cold war as an alliance of independent states against the two world superpowers, the organization has since moved objectives towards strengthening the UN, building unity between developing nations, resolving conflicts through peaceful means, and opposing interventionism. If you put a map of the NAM member states over one of the maps of global opinion about the Venezuelan crisis above, you’ll notice that all that grey is almost perfectly filled in.

We must seek out the opinions of those from nations which have historically been the victims of European and American colonialism and intervention. When the pulse of global opinion is taken but it excludes the opinions of all of Africa, and much of Asia--which accounts for the majority of countries which have historically been subject to intervention and colonization by European and American power--I don't think that in good conscience, we can call that any kind of consensus. For example, in a February fifth article from the BBC called “Maduro and Guaidó: Who is supporting whom in Venezuela?” only four of the top 10 countries by population have their opinions represented.

Articles of this sort are catalogued from prominent statements of national officials. Good analysis of global affairs, especially when it comes to questions of national sovereignty, must go beyond simply printing what the richest and loudest voices have to say. To resist both the legacy and the ongoing project of colonialism requires that we expand the voices that we’re hearing in our communities and globally. These are the voices which know much better than my fellow settler Canadians what it is like to live in and on the other side of situations like those in Venezuela.

Sunday is a good day to practice getting out of the bed in the morning in just the way you’d like. Make sure you’ve had a good start to your day and you’re ready to experiment, then go back to bed. Close your eyes, and when you open them, do just the things you imagine you’d most like to do in the morning if sleepiness wasn’t in the way. What a dream! Go back to bed close your eyes, and when you open them, try again. A few repetitions of this and you may be able to have your ideal morning the next time you have to wake up for real.

Below is a poem. If you like what you read please consider sharing with a friend. As always, I’m here to chat if you have any questions. Have a great week, everybody.


TWO SHORT WINTER POEMS

weasel

a small child and parent on the sidewalk
snowed on, laughing at the apartment below
looking past the staircase.

downstairs cat waiting on the snowy window
hasn’t learned to knock, silent
knows her meow isn’t heard.

kitchen

wrapped up again in two scarves: one
for the neck two for the face, your hat
and gloves in the oven for a minute.

we’re stacked up home on home
and then down the street
hot little baguettes steaming out of the oven.


Theodore Fox is a poet living on unceded Indigenous lands on Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal Island.
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