Last year’s US midterm elections saw a new wave of progressive Democrats elected to congress, including people like Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib. One of the key proposals that got them elected was universal healthcare. This is in a country that remains the only OECD state not to provide healthcare to all its citizens as a right. But now, there are signs this may finally end.
Historic opportunity for universal health coverage
On 27 February, Democrats introduced a bill in congress that would provide all US residents with healthcare coverage. The proposal is known as ‘Medicare-for-all’, because it would extend ‘Medicare’ – a government-provided health coverage program for over 65s – to all people regardless of age. It would also expand Medicare’s provisions to include prescription medication, dental, vision, and long-term medical care; and it would end the system of charging patient ‘co-payments’, ‘premiums’, and ‘deductibles’. Perhaps most crucially, it would allow the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies. This model, already widely adopted across Europe, Canada, and Australia, has consistently proven more effective in bringing down drug prices.
With the Venezuelan coup attempt now over a month in, the US has hit the oil-rich country with a new round of sanctions.
The Trump administration is clearly going into overdrive to topple the democratically elected government of President Nicolás Maduro. But this tactic is nothing new. Because economic warfare by the US and its local allies via harmful sanctions and other means has been going on for years.
On January 28, COHA’s Editorial Board released a statement condemning the US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela and in support of the dialogue promoted by the government of Mexico and the United Nations to settle the conflict peacefully. Since then, the regime change effort has severely lost momentum. The strained attempt to legitimize self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó, a previously unknown 35-year-old National Assembly member of the right-wing Voluntad Popular party, has largely failed. The government of President Nicolás Maduro remains firmly in power and only a handful of military leaders have defected to Guaidó’s side. In spite of multiple US allies in the Western Hemisphere, Europe and beyond having formally recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president, four of the five major emerging BRICS nations – Russia, China, India, and South Africa – continue to recognize Maduro, along with 15 other African countries, some of the Caricom nations and stalwart regional allies Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Cuba.
Coup attempt in tatters
To witness the growing cracks in the coup plotters’ strategy, one need only to observe Guaidó’s own increasingly desperate antics. At the international level, he has been frantically attempting to gain control of foreign-held government assets – so far, to little avail. On the domestic front, having promised amnesty to members of the military who are willing to defect to his side, he is now struggling to get a measure to keep this promise passed by the opposition-controlled National Assembly that he leads. And in the latest provocative move, he recently called on supporters to surround military bases and “demand the delivery of humanitarian aid.” As a result, the opposition camp seems to be fracturing even further, with several of its major figures – including Claudio Fermín and Laidy Gómez – now calling Guaidó’s strategy into question.
Donald Trump recently gave another speech calling for regime change in Venezuela. Yet while he waxes lyrical about the crisis in the oil-rich country, his administration stays silent about multiple catastrophes taking place in Central America. And this is no accident. Because a comparison shows not just brazen hypocrisy, but Washington’s long history of complicity with brutal governments that are willing to kowtow to US interests.
Playing up to exile hardliners in Miami
On 18 February, Trump spoke to a crowd of supporters in Miami. This came as his coup attempt against Venezuela’s government seemed to be losing momentum. But he nonetheless used it to escalate his coup-mongering rhetoric.
Bernie Sanders has now confirmed that he wants to be the Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential elections.
In 2016, US progressives were disappointed when Sanders ‘lost‘ the Democratic primary race to Hillary Clinton. Since then, there’s been ongoing speculation as to whether Sanders would throw his hat in to challenge Trump in 2020. And with hints in recent days that he would, progressives have been showing their excitement.
The UN secretary-general has offered to broker a dialogue between the Venezuelan government and opposition. But while the mainstream media has been portraying the Nicolás Maduro’s government as the stubborn party, it seems it’s actually the US-backed and self-declared ‘interim president’ Juan Guaidó who is unwilling to enter into negotiations.
Government willingness and opposition stubbornness
On 11 February, UN secretary-general António Guterres reiterated his willingness to serve as a mediator to resolve Venezuela’s political crisis through dialogue. This followed meetingsthroughout the weekend with Venezuela’s foreign minister Jorge Arreaza at the UN’s headquarters in New York.
Establishment Democrats in the US, like those who currently lead the party in congress, have long posed as champions of the decades-long struggle to implement universal healthcarecoverage. But the progressive wing of the party has always expressed doubt about their sincerity. And now, it seems that skepticism has been confirmed. Because a leaked documentfrom an aide to the most senior Democrat in congress shows that the establishment wing of the party has plans to derail the drive for universal coverage.
In cahoots with private health industry?
On 5 February, the Intercept broke a story that an advisor to House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi had met with executives of a private healthcare company. The story claims the aide, Wendell Primus, offered them assurances that the Democratic Party leadership would not pursue a universal healthcare coverage program. The Intercept had obtained a slideshow that Primus had shown to Blue Cross Blue Shield personnel that detailed the Democratic leadership’s objections to the proposal – known as ‘Medicare-for-all’ or ‘single-payer healthcare’.