By Tafadzwa Masango
IN a space of less than a month, SADC, the AU, SA, Botswana and Namibia, among others, have once again called for the total and unconditional lifting of the illegal US sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Last month, the EU revised its sanctions regime on Zimbabwe, a move that many saw as a sign of the thawing of relations between Zimbabwe and that grouping.
So, when on Monday, the US President Donald Trump announced he was extending sanctions on Zimbabwe by a year because the latter’s policies continue to pose an ‘unusual and extraordinary’ threat to the US foreign policy, some people where surprised as they expected the US to take the route taken by the EU.
For those who understand the US foreign policy, the continued use by successive US administrations of the phrase that claims Zimbabwe poses an ‘unusual and extraordinary’ threat to US interests is an indication America’s illegal war on Zimbabwe is not for the fainthearted.
We have seen it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and many other countries in the developing world. Each time the US speaks of a threat to her national interests or global peace, it has all to do with resources and a political system or Government that is not opening up its borders for US companies to loot and plunder.
It’s always about resources
Early last month, an envoy to the US for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said the country’s oil reserves would be opened to foreign investors, bolstering suspicions that the US support of Guaido is oil-dependent.
Guaido’s representative in Washington, Carlos Vecchio, told the US media the opposition leader wanted to increase oil production and scrap current requirements that state-owned oil giant PDVSA must keep a controlling stake in joint ventures.
Currently, PDVSA must maintain a 51 percent stake in joint projects.
Analysts have long predicted that President Trump is supporting capitalist Guaido against socialist Maduro in order to gain access to Venezuela’s vast natural resources for the already drooling American companies.
US officials have not been shy of admitting that oil is a major interest and motivating factor in the decision to support Guaido.
President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, told Fox News it would “…make a big difference to the US economically…” if US companies could “…invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”
WikiLeaks cables also revealed that the first ‘fundamental interest’ the US has in Venezuela is continued supply of petroleum imports.
On December 20 2018, President Trump signed into law the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA).
This act seeks to use the US’ ‘voice, vote and influence’ within international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank to stop them providing ‘any loan or financial or technical assistance’ to Nicaragua’s Government.
This is of course extremely significant as the US is a strong and at times dominant voice in these institutions and a voice that many other governments do not want to be at odds with.
The Act also gives President Trump the authority to impose targeted sanctions on Nicaraguan Government officials, former officials or people purportedly ‘acting on behalf of’ the Government in Nicaraguan’s capital Managua.
The US Secretary of State is instructed by the Act to submit a report to congressional committees within six months as to whether the Nicaraguan Government is complying with a range of US demands, including a demand for early elections.
The US demand for an early election is outrageous given that Nicaragua’s elected President Daniel Ortega is less than halfway through his constitutional term of office, having won the last presidential election in 2016 with 72 percent of the vote on a turnout of around 65 percent.
The campaign behind the NICA within the US was largely led by recently retired ultra-conservative Florida congressional representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, with help from senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
Their political history includes aggressive support for the blockade of Cuba and sanctions against Venezuela.
The NICA will cut off financial loans to Nicaragua from the World Bank, IMF and other lenders.
Loans to Nicaragua are currently running at US$250 million a year and are invested in education, social programmes, electrification, roads and other infrastructural initiatives.
One such project that might be jeopardised is a US$60 million World Bank-funded project to strengthen the healthcare system in Nicaragua, part of a drive to improve health and education services.
Additionally, there is a danger that donor-nations may use the negative IMF loan decisions to guide their own bilateral aid and loans, creating a multiplier effect and cutting off some European aid as well.
On November 1 2018, Bolton denounced Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela as a ‘troika of tyranny’ and said he looks forward to watching their governments fall.
The US officials love using these catch phrases and over the years, Zimbabwe has been part of the ‘axis of evil’.
It has also been called an ‘outpost of tyranny’ – funny enough for a country that US officials try to paint so bad, they have built, by far one of their most expensive and extensive embassies in Harare.
The common denominator
Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Nicaragua and, to some extent, Cuba are all on the dock because of some of those in government who have taken a stance that does not tow US capitalist line.
Economic models and political systems that make it difficult for US companies to set up in resource-rich developing countries, such as Zimbabwe, are a threat to US national interests of remaining a global power. The façade of elections and the new tactic of contested election results has become a way of waging economic wars against countries that resist the installation of puppets who open up the borders to predatory US companies.
It is about the oil, minerals and markets, and has very little to do with democracy and human rights because if that was the case, some of the US closest allies would be top on these sanctions lists it has been rolling out.
The US versus China
The US predatory tactics have been challenged by China in recent years and the former has had to up its game in an obvious resource war with the Asian giant.
Defence strategy and policy consultant Travis Reese notes that China is disrupting the US’ role as a regional security guarantor by providing tangible development to the Indo-Pacific in the form of ports, airports, telecommunications, roads and other infrastructure.
These investments are not being competitively matched by the US or non-Chinese regional development funding.
A 2016 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recommended some key areas in which the US can compete against Chinese infrastructure investment.
It cited areas such as direct financing or guarantees of project investment (through the Millennium Challenge Corporation or USAID), as well as specialised support for project preparation, feasibility studies and similar work through the US Trade Development Agency.