Published On: February 17, 2019 02:00 AM NPT By: Manjeet Mishra
Dahal’s bid to support another parasitic and decaying communist regime is not based on heartfelt belief of global communist solidarity. It is rather a matter of political expediency
Few months back my knowledge about Venezuela was limited to the fact that it is one of the many failed South American countries ruled by tin-pot dictators. Like most Nepali folks my curiosity peaked after the emergence of the current raging controversy. Out of sheer inquisitiveness, I delved into its history.
Founded by Simon Bolivar (thus the name Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela) who dreamt of establishing the United States of South America but failed miserably, it is an enduring legacy of conflict, poverty and inequality. Never willing to put laws above leaders and principles above men, in his twenty years of rule he made it clear that there would be no property owning democracy in Bolivarian South America and no rule of law. In his last despairing letter just a month before his death, his predictions of South America being ungovernable and inevitably falling into the hands of dictators and tyrants of all colors and races proved strikingly true for the next century and a half as the countries degenerated into cycles of revolutions and counter-revolutions, coups and counter-coups.
Today’s Venezuela is a sham democracy where police and media are used as weapons against political opponents and revenue from country’s plentiful oil-fields is used to buy support from the populace and army, private property rights are violated routinely, businesses are nationalized and constitutions are changed to suit the dictators. That the country has had more than 25 constitutions so far sums up the fate of the cursed nation that never outgrew its tragic past. We, in Nepal, can take solace from the fact that we still have a long way to go to match their level of decadence.
It is in this context the interference by the US to legitimize Juan Guaido as the new president of Venezuela while delegitimizing Nicholas Maduro should be seen. In such a country facing humanitarian crisis of epic proportion it is futile to expect it to solve its own problems within the constitutional framework. It is bound to attract external attention as there are other stakeholders who may be affected by a prolonged crisis. One reason the US wants to install a friendly regime there is to allay its genuine security concerns owing to its geographical proximity. Being a huge debtor of China and Russia—arch rivals of US—Venezuela can be used as a strategic location to mobilize arms in case the ongoing political tension between the super powers reaches crescendo.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s statement on behalf of his party condemning US interference in Venezuela using choicest words such as ‘imperialist coup’ and ‘external interference’ shows the former revolutionary may have dropped the gun but the fervor is yet to subside. The government “owning up” of Dahal’s views albeit with a more diplomatic tone is even more important.
In principle, it would be hypocritical for the government to not express solidarity with the other communist regime in the face of external interference when it sought the same for itself in its moment of crisis. During the great Indian blockade of 2015 when Nepal was at the receiving end, attempts were made by the then government comprising of same people as now to seek solidarity from other countries. Few Nepali intellectuals wrote columns in foreign newspapers while Nepali diaspora was mobilized to denounce external interference with the aim of garnering foreign support. It’s worth recalling Nepali diaspora stood with placards bearing slogans denouncing India in front of the White House to attract US interest in the matter. It is like a déjà vu moment for the government and it can probably vicariously relate to such diplomatic high-handedness by a powerful country on its lesser neighbor.
While ‘imperialism’ is not a new accusation for the West, one that is used by nationalists, liberals and socialists alike for raining coruscating ridicule on the claim that empires interfere in other countries to right the wrongs, it is also a convenient alibi for rapacious dictators and petty tyrants to accuse the West of muscular diplomacy while consolidating their power and prolonging their tenure. However, what riled the US is the timing of such comments. This is the time when global foreign relations are at the cusp of realignment due to the cold-war-like situation between the two superpowers, each seeking one-upmanship in persuading other countries to toe its line.
However, the nadir of the controversy, which somehow has been overlooked for reasons unknown is the pusillanimity displayed by the so called ‘nationalist’ government of Nepal in the face of ignorance and imbecility of Donald Trump, who believed Nepal and Bhutan to be a part of India. No doubt he is the most reviled president in the history of the US. The government of Nepal should have at least protested for such unfair remarks. Contrast its action with some innocuous remarks made by an Indian leader and we would have on display the most virulent form of nationalism in all its colors. It once again smashes the nationalistic halo of the government; especially the prime minister’s and proves that such vitriolic form of nationalism cannot be sacrosanct. Rather it may be used strategically to gain temporary benefits by choosing the right country to pick fight with.
Attributing Dahal’s salvo at the US only to the ideological chasm between the two uniting parties is to miss a point that he is an astute politician and harbors bigger ambitions. Dahal is important and he knows it. He also knows his importance can be undermined by the party he has chosen to unify with. Thus far he has managed not only to keep his flock together but also to extend his influence to the prominent members of erstwhile UML, especially the arch rivals of PM Oli.
His task is cut out and he knows his stock in the party can only rise if the stock of the other co-pilot falls. Such is the nature of power politics. It’s like walking the razor’s edge. It is in this context his pointed barbs at US should be seen.
Dahal’s bid to support another parasitic and decaying communist regime is not based on heartfelt belief of global communist solidarity. It is rather a matter of political expediency. By firing over Oli’s shoulder he has killed two birds with the same bullet. On one hand he forced the government to choose side, thus muddling its much touted claim of balanced foreign policy. Oli has a hard time clarifying his stance on the issue. With investment summit approaching it bodes ill for the PM to antagonize either US or China. On the other hand, he has shown himself as a leader on whom China can count on. Remember the lukewarm welcome he had on his last visit to China.
Dahal’s concern is also related to evading transitional justice process which is hanging like a sword of Damocles. Unless the former Maoists are doubly sure of their safety from the legal process, they will run helter-skelter causing grave damage to his control over his flock. With PM Oli feeling pressure from the West to move forward with peace process, Dahal can sense trouble brewing for him.
The author is a lecturer based in Rajbiraj
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