The more things change…the more we need to ask the questions why

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By Sister Ana María Siufi and Sister Janet Korn

When the Extended Justice Team gathered in March, we had the opportunity to reflect on current events, specifically in Latin America. These conversations are the microcosms of what the internationality of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas means, as well as our commitment to delve deeper into the root causes of the injustices we see through our news and social media channels. There is always more beneath the surface, and the firsthand experience of sisters and associates forces us to keep asking important questions.

Venezuela, the most recent case study

Sister Ana María Siufi in Argentina used Venezuela as the most recent example to illustrate the heavy hand the U.S. government has had in influencing governments throughout Latin American to ensure favorable conditions for its own economic needs:

When Hugo Chavez assumed the presidency of Venezuela he implemented a policy of freedom, independence and development in his country that was contrary to the geopolitical and economic interests of the United States. International media outlets launched a defamation campaign based on lies and the permanent disqualification of Chavez and his nationalist and Latin-Americanist policies.

However the people of Venezuela, composed of an impoverished majority and a privileged, rich minority, advanced in the distribution of their rights and wealth. President Maduro, legitimized by elections that he won and which were verified by international observers, inherited this situation of struggle for autonomy and the division in Venezuelan society between the majority that supports him and an opposition sector spurred on by the media and the CIA.

The strategy of the USA is: total economic boycott, international isolation, a media campaign of lies and accusations, the promotion of coups d’état, and the threat of military intervention to regain control over the immense oil, gas, gold and coltan reserves that Venezuela possesses. Today, a U.S. military attack—as carried out against almost all of the countries in Central America, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria in order to impose governments that are obedient to its control—is possible.

Countries in the Americas, as well as Russia and China, and the Pope, the United Nations, independent media, intellectuals and artists from around the world denounce and try to stop this dangerous and destructive spiral of violence, demanding an end to imperialist intervention so that social justice and peace can be achieved and the right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination can be re-established._x0001_

Echoes of Chile

Sister Janet Korn immediately identified similarities of today’s Venezuela to her lived experience in the early 1970s in Chile:

Even though no two situations are exactly alike, there seem to be similarities between the present situation in Venezuela and the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973. The following are situations and circumstances evident in Chile at that time that may be presently occurring in Venezuela:

  • Both countries have rich natural resources that are desired internationally—copper in Chile and oil in Venezuela.
  • Both countries elected presidents that many may refer to as “leftist.”
  • Much of the land as well as other resources in Chile were owned by wealthy companies, and workers’ salaries were low.
  • The CIA was present but “under cover.” They infiltrated several facets of Chilean life, including universities and businesses.
  • Popular workers movements were increasing.
  • More members of the U.S. Navy asked for Chilean visas.
  • Secretary of State Henry Kissinger feared that South America would elect communist leadership and did all in his power to prevent that from happening.
  • In 1972, the CIA and the Chilean right wing created a chaotic situation that led to increasing inflation.
  • The truckers in Chile went on strike but were paid in dollars with the help of the U.S. There was a shortage of food and many other items that only worsened as the days went by.

Analysis that challenges media messaging and the perspective pushed out by the greater economic powers is necessary.

As Sisters of Mercy, we are poised and called to hear the stories of the people on the ground and to challenge the systems that are building their empires on the backs of our brothers and sisters. Let us keep our ears open, our eyes wide and our mouths ready to ask the questions that get to the real issues and answers. Then let us, together, act for change.