President Obama's Cynical Declaration

Last week President Obama declared Venezuela a threat to United States national security, going so far as to characterize the country (operating under a duly elected President and legislature) a national emergency. He did so with the full knowledge that the statement is untrue. Rather, the declaration was made to satisfy United States legal requirements for issuing sanctions against individual Venezuelan leaders. What does this behavior say about the state of affairs in Washington as regards Venezuela? Nothing good.

We at the Quixote Center affirm our opposition to the Obama administration’s efforts to isolate and destabilize the elected government of Venezuela. We do this with the full knowledge that Venezuela is experiencing a dramatic political battle in the wake of President Chavez’s death two years ago. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has faced off with an increasingly energized opposition since assuming office, with both sides appearing to engage in violence in the streets.

Our condemnation of President Obama’s actions is based on our long-held position in support of maintaining democratically elected governments, even those considered embattled. By issuing sanctions against the Venezuelan government, the Obama administration harms regional progress and security, and provides an easy bogeyman for Venezuelan politicians who may seek a distraction from home-grown problems.

President Maduro has repeatedly accused the United States of supporting efforts to organize a coup in Venezuela. The Obama administration has repeatedly denied support for coup plots as ridiculous, but history tells us that these concerns are valid and ought to be brought out into the light for a true examination. If the United States is providing financial or moral support for an illegal change of administration, this support must end immediately because it would be both illegal and harmful to global security and cooperation.

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President Obama’s Cynical Declaration

Last week President Obama declared Venezuela a threat to United States national security, going so far as to characterize the country (operating under a duly elected President and legislature) a national emergency. He did so with the full knowledge that the statement is untrue. Rather, the declaration was made to satisfy United States legal requirements for issuing sanctions against individual Venezuelan leaders. What does this behavior say about the state of affairs in Washington as regards Venezuela? Nothing good.

We at the Quixote Center affirm our opposition to the Obama administration’s efforts to isolate and destabilize the elected government of Venezuela. We do this with the full knowledge that Venezuela is experiencing a dramatic political battle in the wake of President Chavez’s death two years ago. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has faced off with an increasingly energized opposition since assuming office, with both sides appearing to engage in violence in the streets.

Our condemnation of President Obama’s actions is based on our long-held position in support of maintaining democratically elected governments, even those considered embattled. By issuing sanctions against the Venezuelan government, the Obama administration harms regional progress and security, and provides an easy bogeyman for Venezuelan politicians who may seek a distraction from home-grown problems.

President Maduro has repeatedly accused the United States of supporting efforts to organize a coup in Venezuela. The Obama administration has repeatedly denied support for coup plots as ridiculous, but history tells us that these concerns are valid and ought to be brought out into the light for a true examination. If the United States is providing financial or moral support for an illegal change of administration, this support must end immediately because it would be both illegal and harmful to global security and cooperation.

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Oil Prices and Regional Solidarity

Oil prices matter beyond the pump. The recent drop in the price of crude (from $100 to $30 per barrel) has been cause for celebration in oil-consuming countries like the United States. An understandable reaction since it sometimes seems as if our economy is based entirely on this liquified fossil fuel. The impacts beyond the gas tank are, however, more complex and diverse.

The IMF recently warned that Haiti and Nicaragua stand to lose out because of the low oil prices. That’s because both countries (along with seventeen others) receive oil at a steep discount from Venezuela through the regional solidarity bloc PetroCaribe. Through the alliance, Venezuela offsets these discounts with profits from oil sales to other countries. With profit margins thinning and a series of local crises, some internal and some external, Venezuela’s ability to continue the program is now in question.

Like all national and international policies, I find it helpful to look at concrete impacts. In Nicaragua you needn’t look past the local bus stop. The country’s public transportation system is kept affordable because of the subsidized oil imports from Venezuela combined with Nicaraguan policies dictating reduced rates for travel by bus, van, and taxi both in urban centers and between them. These reduced rates allow people from the countryside to reach urban areas and the economic opportunities they contain. They make possible local trade networks for individual producers and small businesses. Without reduced oil from PetroCaribe, it’s quite possible that transportation costs could become prohibitive for those who rely most on public transit. In Haiti, the situation is much the same.

It’s unclear how long Venezuela can maintain these subsidies, but in the meantime continuing sanctions and denouncements from Washington are complicating rather than resolving Venezuela’s own internal conflicts. These conflicts also threaten regional initiatives like PetroCaribe, and in doing so carry the possibility of unsavory outcomes in fragile countries like Haiti and Nicaragua.

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Small Steps Matter

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

-Lao-Tzu

The Quixote Center has been on the front lines of the social justice movement since 1976 working to improve the lives of communities in the United States and Latin America. The Center finds its strength in the power of many individual supporters. We do not accept government or corporate funding.

The legacy of the Quixote Center is that small steps matter.

  • Every tree planted in Haiti matters. Every acre that is reforested makes a difference on that island.
  • Each home built in Nicaragua makes an enormous difference for one family, and lifts up the whole community.
  • Each farmer who learns more sustainable techniques to improve their crop grows more food for their family and enriches the quality of the soil, which will benefit future generations of farmers.

We are humbled by your ongoing support and all that you have allowed us to do. Together we have planted over one million trees in Haiti, built thousands of homes in Nicaragua and touched the lives of countless families. We know each of you do so much more. You give to your families, neighbours, congregations and schools. In this season of giving, we offer our thanks to you, for all you do and the many ways you give. Happy #GivingTuesday.

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Wishing for a peaceful and just holiday

This week we want to give thanks for all the people we work with at the Quixote Center – here at our offices in Maryland, our partners in Haiti and Nicaragua, and you our supporters across the country who give your time, money and prayers to make this important work happen. We are certainly grateful for all these people and the incredible impact they are having on their communities.

Events this week, however, have been a sobering reminder of all the work that remains to be done in the fight for social justice for all our brothers and sisters. It is a sad reminder that structural violence is so embedded in our culture and systems that it allows some lives to matter more than others. The continued outpouring of grief and rage in Ferguson and other cities is testament to the concrete and daily effects of marginalization of these communities. The frayed trust between police forces and the communities they serve; the unjust sentencing and incarceration of people of color; and growing inequality between the 1% and the rest of the country are all symptoms of an unsustainable system.

So we enter into this holiday of gratitude with a heavy load, and eyes on the road ahead as we continue to fight for social justice. We take comfort in knowing you are on this road with us, with hope that our collective wisdom will guide us to a peaceful and just future. Thank you for your ongoing support of the Quixote Center and your enduring commitment and solidarity. May your holiday be a time to reflect with loved ones on the many blessings we share and an opportunity to ponder and prepare for the journey ahead.

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Ecology of Liberation: Naomi Klein on Overcoming Overburden

Naomi Klein was the keynote speaker at the convention launching a new union coalition in Canada. In her speech, Overcoming Overburden: The Climate Crisis and a Unified Left Agenda, she laid out some compelling arguments for climate activism becoming the glue that binds social and economic justice movements into a broad coalition demanding transformation. You can read the entire speech here. A few highlights
Even when there is mass resistance to an austerity agenda, and even when we understand how we got here, something is stopping us – collectively – from fully rejecting the neoliberal agenda. And I think what it is is that we don’t fully believe that it’s possible to build something in its place. For my generation, and younger, deregulation, privatization and cutbacks is all we’ve ever known. We have little experience building or dreaming. Only defending. And this is what I’ve come to understand as the key to fighting the Shock Doctrine. We can’t just reject the dominant story about how the world works. We need our own story about what it could be. We can’t just reject their lies. We need truths so powerful that their lies dissolve on contact with them. We can’t just reject their project. We need our own project.
On Extractivism:
It’s an approach to the world based on taking and taking without giving back. Taking as if there are no limits to what can be taken– no limits to what workers’ bodies can take, no limits to what a functioning society can take, no limits to what the planet can take. In the extractivist mindset, labour is a commodity just like the bitumen. And maximum value must be extracted from that resource – ie you and your members – regardless of the collateral damage. To health, families, social fabric, human rights. When crisis hits, there is only ever one solution: take some more, faster. On all fronts. So that is their story – the one we’re trapped in. The one they use as a weapon against all of us. And if we are going to defeat it, we need our own story.
On the centrality of climate change:
Far from trumping other issues, climate change vindicates much of what the left has been demanding for decades. In fact, climate change turbo-charges our existing demands and gives them a basis in hard science. It calls on us to be bold, to get ambitious, to win this time because we really cannot afford any more losses. It enflames our vision of a better world with existential urgency. What I’m going to show you is that confronting the climate crisis requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook — and that we do so with great urgency.
Anyway, great stuff from a real visionary. Give it a read in full and get inspired!! P.S. After I read Klein’s speech, the next article in my news feed was about ranchers fighting the coal industry – a powerful tale that brings to life the ‘extractivism” Klein discusses in her speech, as well as the pushback from social movements that can have a real impact.
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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)