Washington Consensus, then and now…

Profiteering imperialist boneheads never learn, it seems. Check out their latest fuck-up in Iraq:

Violent demonstrations broke out across Iraq and the oil minister threatened to resign Monday after the government raised the prices of gasoline and cooking fuel by up to nine times.

The Cabinet raised the prices of gasoline, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas on Sunday to curb a growing black market, Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said.

The price of a liter of imported and super gasoline was raised to 17 cents, which is a fivefold increase from previous prices. There are about 3.8 liters in a gallon, meaning the new price is about 65 cents a gallon.

The price of locally produced gasoline was raised about sevenfold to about 12 cents per liter, or about 46 cents a gallon.

Not surprisingly, this has touched off rioting all over Iraq. Basically, this is all about profiteers trying to prevent ordinary Iraqis (who are facing a 70% unemployment rate, please note) from scratching up whatever meagre living they can. Yes, the rich are trying to get richer on the backs of the stone-sucking poor.

If this all sounds painfully familiar, perhaps you saw something like it in Venezuela, 1989. If you recall it only vaguely, don’t worry…what you are suffering from is a completely routine case of media-induced amnesia. I’ve got your cure in the form of a tutorial right here.

The Venezuela parallel is not coincidental. The Caracazo basically catapulted Hugo Chavez into political activity. It mobilized not only him, but many of his fellow army officers, who had been in a radical ferment for years and were disgusted at how their government had ordered them to kill and repress their own people. In a conversation with Aleida Guevara, which was later published in book form, Chavez recounts:

After the Caracazo I was working in Miraflores Palace…I was taking a postgraduate course in political science. I was coming back with my books to the little room in the White Palace where I slept. A young officer approached me suddenly. I didn’t know him very well. He said, “Major, I need to speak to you.”

“Well, let’s go to my office,” I replied.

The young man said, “Major, they say you are involved in a movement. They’re talking about a Bolivarian movement.”


He told me his tragic story about how he had been ordered to patrol near the palace during the Caracazo. He detained a group of kids who were looting a shop and took them to a sports court close by…He held them there but with no bad feeling….”I’ll release you soon, but you must stop looting,” he warned. He told me he’d planned to release them later in the afternoon, but then an order arrived from some commission that he had to transfer them to the Tiuna Fort or to the DISIP headquarters. He obeyed the order and handed them over to DISIP, the state’s secret police. They were loaded into a truck. There were about 12 or 15 kids….Half an hour later [he and his men] found all those kids in an alley. They had been murdered. He wept with rage when he saw them, and protested, but was told to keep quiet, told to keep his nose out of it. He finished his story, saying, “Listen, major, if you do have a movement, tell me, because if not, I’m getting out of here.”


During the terrible days of the Caracazo, people took to the streets to protest against neoliberalism, against the “electro-shock therapy” of the IMF, against universal privatization, unemployment, and hunger. They sent us soldiers to fill those people with lead. The political leaders, so-called democrats, spoke of justice and democracy. What democracy? That was not democracy, it was pure dictatorship: an oligarchic government using the armed forces and the media to brainwash and confuse the people. There was no democracy here.

I can remember the first time I read that account, I was so sickened that I nearly vomited over the nearby bluff. I was reading it on a park bench, down by the lakeshore; it was a beautiful early-autumn day, but this story cast a cloud over it all. I felt as though the ground had literally shaken under my feet. Perhaps it had, for certainly my perceptions had suffered the equivalent of an earthquake. This was the same “democracy” under which I live that had just been accused of mass murder! No wonder I had an acute case of Sartrean nausea. (Which, incidentally, hasn’t left me yet.)

That’s why I’m sickened afresh at this series of events, which the Oil Wars blogger has perceptively termed the Iraqicazo. Yes, an Iraqicazo it most certainly is. The events of the Caracazo are being replicated quite precisely here, and I predict blowback from it several years down the line, such that the Washington Consensus will be broomed out of Iraq as it was in Venezuela ten years later, with Chavez at the helm.

Incidentally, if you don’t mind looking past the doctrinaire Marxist language of it, Alan Woods has an excellent and lengthy analysis of current events. It’s a useful backgrounder to the Venezuelan situation, and I predict Iraq will resonate similarly in due course.

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