Sunday, September 10, 2017

Suspension of Flights in Venezuela and the Economic War


With the cancelation of so many international flights to Venezuela, what used to take one day to travel between two cities in the hemisphere, now takes three. That means 6 days round trip. (I am currently stuck in Bogotá where I am returning to Venezuela from a university conference in Mexico; in the best of cases it will be a 5-day return trip). With so many cancelations, traveling even with confirmed reservations becomes problematic because of cancelations. Between my recent travel experiences and those of people I know, I am convinced that this is one more front in the war in which Venezuelans are being forced to pay a heavy price.

Waiting on line for my return flight from Bogotá, I hear travelers blame Nicolás Maduro for the inconveniences. But what are the facts?
1. The airlines offer completely different explanations for their decision to pull out of Venezuela or to eliminate flights. Delta, United, Lufthansa, Avianca, Iberia have all completely shut down operations in Venezuela. Some of the airlines say it’s because of the insecurity, others because of the situation of instability, others say because the government owes them money. American says that it's because of insecurity, but if that's the reason why haven’t they eliminated all flights? And the argument that the government owes them money isn’t convincing either. The debt stems from the period when Venezuelans could purchase tickets in bolívares and the government was supposed to convert the bolívares into dollars for the airlines, but that practice was ended three or four years ago. So why have airlines chosen this moment to discontinue flights? 
2. Don't the actions of political actors opposed to the Venezuelan government have anything to do with the airlines' decision? After all, opposition leader and National Assembly president Julio Borges travels widely in a public attempt to block economic deals involving the Venezuelan government.
3. Were the multinationals impervious to the message of Obama's executive order declaring Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security? And what about Trump's financial embargo against Venezuela? The private sector paid no attention and wasn't at all influenced by these actions?
4. And what about Fedecamaras' lead role in the coup against Chavez in 2002? And wasn't the 2002-2003 Fedecamaras-promoted general strike an example of the strategy of creating shortages in order to achieve regime change? Both failed attempts to remove Chávez demonstrated that the private sector is hardly on the margins of politics.
5. The problem of international (and national) air travel would not be that severe if Venezuela had a major national airline. Venezuela had such an airline. It was VIASA and it functioned well until it was sold to Iberia by Carlos Andres Perez II and then wiped off the map.

At the theoretical level, some people adhere to the notion (defended by social scientist Fred Block) that corporations are purely business oriented and they leave politics to the politicians. But what about the media, which is owned by conglomerates and whose reporting obviously reflects the positions and interests of big capital. Furthermore, money from business magnates (the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and the list goes on and on) is what sustains both the Republican and Democratic Parties. In short, there is all the reason in the world to believe that the decision of major airlines to suspend flights to Venezuela is politically motivated.  


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