Zach Foster is “a freelance writer, liberty activist, and political consultant from Southern California. He takes it upon himself to agitate, educate, and organize on behalf of liberty because so few others will.” He is affiliated with the Mises-Mambi Institute, an organization I find highyl dubious, to put it mildly. I also find much of what Foster says to be outlandish, false and deeply offensive, though I agree with some of his criticism of the Maduro regime.
So why am I publishing this? Because even though I find Foster’s opinions often to be vile, I think he is badly misinformed and if he actually studies history for about ten years he’ll abandon his ill-informed views and mature as a thinker. But I don’t think that Foster is personally dishonest, he’s just blinded by his own ideology which is so deeply ingrained that he’s unaware of how entirely biased he is. Furthermore, we believe in free speech here at Washington Babylon and are always open to divergent points of view. That’s what democracy is about.
Lastly, I recently wrote an article calling for the execution of several Venezuelan opposition leaders for treason, because they are conspiring to overthrow the legitimate, if highly problematic, government of Nicolas Maduro. I would have preferred a Venezuelan right-winger to have this space but their replies to my quite serious article were so unhinged — as is much of the opposition, at least its leadership — that I can’t stoop that low. Foster commented negatively on Twitter to my measured call to execute the opposition leaders. I replied harshly but he maintained his cool and kept communication open, so he gets the floor.
So take it away, Zack. And warning, there are a few editorial notes you might not like.
1/ How did you get involved in Venezuelan politics?
I actually got involved in Cuban politics first. A group of Cuban dissidents was asking for my help because one of their comrades was arrested with the wrong books. I’m anti-imperialist, so I don’t approve of the dark history of the US government’s Monroe Doctrine, AND I equally disapprove of the Stalinism of the Cuban party-state and its own human rights abuses. Cuba’s libertarians used to be just a book club in Havana until the government pissed them off into organizing themselves into multiple libertarian organizations. As my international volunteers and I saw how deeply the Cuban government was involved in the mechanisms of repression in Maduro’s Venezuela, we extended our assistance to the Venezuelan libertarians on behalf of the Cuban libertarians. [Editor’s note: This is mostly pretty reasonable.]
2/ I’m a critic of Maduro and hope he leaves office and is replaced by a younger, more progressive socialist. You are pro-opposition. Why?
I’m pro-opposition as far as I’m in favor of the masses rising up against Maduro and the PSUV dictatorship. And to further clarify, I’m pro-opposition because Venezuela’s libertarians are unanimous in that they want the dictator and his terror-state to disappear. Once we’re past this life-and-death stage, there’s not much I have in common with the opposition. If they won the struggle tomorrow and started arming their own counter-Colectivos to shoot at peaceful protesters, or started using the SWAT teams for extrajudicial executions the way the dictatorship uses the FAES, then the opposition would immediately lose the support of the Venezuelan libertarians, as well as lose my support. [Editor’s note: Some of this makes quite a bit of sense.]
3/ Former President Chavez called the old oligarchy the “rancid old opposition.” I agree. I feel badly for the Venezuelan people and know they are suffering, and also know many are fed up with Maduro. But I have no respect for the opposition leadership. What’s your take on Leopoldo Lopez? Who do you like as an opposition leader and is there a party you like?
I’m not a fan of Leopoldo Lopez, but I respectfully disagree that he’s a terrorist. For some of the same reasons why you want Lopez and Guaido to hang, the old oligarchy would have been perfectly justified in executing Hugo Chavez after his little indiscretion in 1992. [Editor’s note: Chavez is, in my view, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Latin leader of modern times. To suggest he should have been executed for trying to overthrow Perez, who slaughtered hundreds if not thousands of Venezuelans in a “little indiscretion” in 1992 is akin to saying that George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson et al should have been executed when some of their comrades threw tea in Boston’s harbor.]
Perhaps it’s your opinion that the 1992 coup was completely justified; I couldn’t care less about the ’92 coup, but I do believe that the current uprising of the masses, (bumblingly) led by the opposition is justified. I believe it was all justified from the moment the Colectivos started deploying with the police and shooting protesters in 2014. [Editor’s note: There’s some truth here.]
I understand the complaints about the old oligarchy, but 20 years of Chavismo has merely replaced the bourgeois oligarchs with the Boligarchs, and all these guys with no history in business came out with big fat Swiss bank accounts. Hell, even Maria Gabriela Chavez, Hugo’s daughter, is a billionaire and she swears it all came from selling Avon. (So… does the self-discipline of the Bolivarian Revolution not apply to the Princelings?) Though I’m not a socialist, I completely agree with the World Socialist Website’s view that the Maduro regime is using violence to keep the working class from breaking politically with the PSUV. The number of soldiers and police killed by opposition protesters is dwarfed by the number of opposition protesters and activists killed by the Maduro regime or by pro-Maduro groups. Given that Voluntad Popular are members of the Socialist International, I don’t see them rapidly privatizing anything anytime soon.
[Editor’s note: Much of this is hard to gainsay but I seriously doubt Maduro’s government has killed more than the opposition, though I know for sure it has killed oppositionists for no good reason. I believe that if the opposition takes power it will kill far more than Maduro has, and that the U.S. media will make excuses for why that is just fine.]
As far as any leader I like, I’d have to say Maria Corina Machado, for her moral leadership. [Editor’s note: Hahahahaha. I detest Machado. In 2002, she supported a U.S.-financed coup against Chavez that briefly out Pedro Carmona, a corrupt oil executive, in power until an uprising of the poor restored him to power. So Zack, would Chavez have been justified in executing her back then? Why not?] I was especially impressed with her fortitude the night she was assaulted in October. I suppose I don’t particularly care for any political party in Venezuela as none of them jibe much with libertarian values. But one thing I feel confident about is that none of the opposition parties will give paramilitary goons free reign to cut people’s heads off like we saw in that video a few days ago.
[Editor’s note: Zack, are you fucking insane? Did you see the video of government opponents setting afire an Afro-Venezuelan supporter of the government? Or maybe he was just a “thief” as the opposition claimed, so it’s OK to BBQ him alive, right? Give me a fucking break.]
4/ Do you favor the U.S. effort to overthrow Maduro? What about the brutal economic sanctions which are punishing ordinary people but not the corrupt elite? And don’t you, as a self-described “libertarian,” oppose regime change operations and US — or any country– seeking to overthrow a government with such heavy-handed tactics? We’ve seen this before in Iraq and Libya — not to mention Afghanistan and Brazil and Guatemala and Iran and on and on. Things generally don’t turn out so well.
I’m not a fan of efforts by the U.S. government to get involved or project its international policy aspirations on the situation. If the US were to invade militarily, I believe the situation would quickly come to resemble Iraq. Not just because the colectivos are cutting people’s heads off, but because the structures of overlap between the state, the PSUV party apparatus, and the paramilitary groups strongly resembles the structures prevalent under Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party on the eve of the US invasion.
That said, just as much as I’m opposed to a possible US invasion, I’m equally opposed to the ongoing invasion of Venezuela by Cuban troops and intelligence agents. While I do generally agree with what John Perkins says in Confessions of an Economic Hitman, the thesis misses the important truth that the Cuban, Russian, and Chinese governments have their own economic hitmen who are looking at getting Venezuela’s oil on the cheap. A lot of people agree with me on opposing US imperialism, but their ears shut off and their eyes glaze over when the subject moves to Cuban, Russian, and Chinese imperialism. There are more millionaires and billionaires in the Chinese Communist Party than in any other club on Earth. Do you really think they’re not eyeing Venezuela’s resources like a medium-rare steak? [Editor’s note: I totally agree with you. Of course they are eyeing Venezuela’s resources and I am not a fan of any of those governments. But I would note that Venezuela had no choice but to turn to Cuba, Russia and China for help because the U.S. has been seeking to overthrow the socialist government for decades. It’s not at all clear it would have otherwise.]
5/ How do you see this unfolding? Is there a way out of this situation whereby the two sides agree to some sort of transitional power sharing arrangement and genuinely free elections down the road? Can more bloodshed be avoided?
I think the military will decide the whole thing within the next year. I want there to be an exit without bloodshed, but I don’t believe the Maduro regime will go anywhere without compulsion by firearm. The opposition didn’t decide that; Maduro and the ruling party did. They decided the army and the police weren’t enough; they created the Colectivos, the Bolivar-Chavez Battle Units, and other groups they regularly use for violent repression. They made alliances with Colombian guerrillas despite their appalling violence against civilians, particularly women. [Editor’s note: Successive U.S.-backed Colombian governments have slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians in recent decades. The country is a death squad “democracy.” Anything the guerillas have done pales in comparison.]
I believe that in a state controlled by the opposition, the socialists will still have rights and participation [Editor’s note: Zack, if you’re a good boy, do you believe Santa will bring you presents this Christmas?], whereas we KNOW today that the regime itself doesn’t respect democracy. If it did, it would have accepted losing the National Assembly fair and square in the 2015 elections instead of packing the Supreme Court with PSUV judges who made it “legal” for Maduro to create a whole new government for himself and the PSUV.
6/ Tell us about your Institute? What is its primary aims and who funds it?
The Mises-Mambi Institute is a hybrid think tank and human rights watchdog group. The Cuban team is based in Havana whereas the international team is “based” in the US, but we work together remotely from around the world. I took a second job to fund most of what we do, and the rest comes in small donations, usually $10 and $20. We want to grow libertarian thought in Cuba and incubate libertarian political action. For Cuba, that largely comprises of protesting against political prisoners and protesting against police brutality.
We’re against political repression and police brutality on all sides, whether the police are Communists, Dixiecrats, or Republicans. We’re against paramilitary violence and all offensive political violence, whether it’s left wing thugs shooting at opposition protesters in Venezuela or right wing thugs shooting at the Mayan people in Chiapas. Instead of a supposed US war with Cuba, we want to see MORE trade and travel between the US and Cuba. More trade and more exposure to freedom is the best way to topple tyrants. That’s because we believe the economist Frederic Bastiat who wrote “If goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.” [Editor’s Note: Love this last paragraph!]