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ALL AH WE IS ONE: Noriega again?

Tennyson Joseph, [email protected]

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Noriega again?

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THE NEWS THAT the United States State Department has publicly designated Venezuelan vice-president, Tarek El Aissami, as a drug smuggler, has provided a clear indication that US assumptions of the legitimacy of its global leadership bear no relation to the flagging legitimacy of its domestic leadership.

Thus, in a moment of ongoing demonstrations against the leadership of Donald Trump, when his own possible knowledge of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election is under scrutiny, and when he has declared open warfare against the US Press, the US still assumes for itself the role of international judge, jury and its favourite part, executioner.

In a moment when Donald Trump, the new US president, is eager to normalise relations with Russia, a country in which some of the leading opposition figures have been dying from mysterious poisoning, the US has sought to blacklist the Venezuelan vice-president and to continue to designate Venezuela as a threat to US security.

The fluidity (one should not say hypocrisy) with which the US uses its self-appointed role as global policeman can be seen in the way it vacillates in its designation of other countries as enemy or friend.

These designations have nothing to do with the objective threats posed to the US. Instead, they have everything to do with US imperialist ambitions. They are really “targets” placed on the backs of countries whose governments are pursuing policies to which the US is ideologically opposed.

The designation of the Venezuelan vice-president as a narcotics peddler has been taken from the playbook which resulted in the toppling of Panamanian president, Manuel Noriega, in 1988/89.

Noriega, who was once a darling of the US Central Intelligence Agency, ran afoul of his former friends over US concerns about the security of the Panama Canal, and over the US concern that their former ally might “have known too much”, according to Guardian writer Simon Tisdall in a 2010 article.

The difference between Venezuela today and Panama yesterday is that Venezuela has embarked on a path of socialist development, and for this reason has been the victim of US hostility and aggression, from the first emergence of late President Hugo Chavez. This history of sustained US hostility raises questions about the legitimacy of the US claim.

In addition, global respect for the US has declined significantly since the days of Noriega, and today, under Trump, is at an all-time low.

None of this is intended as a declaration of the guilt or innocence of the Venezuelan vice-president. Instead, it is a reminder that the US’ self-designated role as global policeman no longer holds merit.

Its own internal problems of virulent racism and xenophobia, police brutality, untrustworthy news agencies and domestic rejection of its own president will likely frustrate the emergence a second Noriega moment in the Caribbean.

•Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email: [email protected]