Venezuela today – a grassroots perspective

Posted by Rachel Evans on Saturday, May 20, 2017

Video from the recent public webinar “Venezuela Today – A Grassroots Perspective” co-sponsored by Venezuela Analysis, Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network and Latin America Social Forum.

Guest speakers:

Katrina Kozarek is a US documentalist, currently working with the news website Venezueanalysis. Kozarek has resided in Venezuela since 2004 and is a militant of the National Asociation of Free and Community Media (ANMCLA) with the communal television station of the Comuna Ataroa, LaraTVeC and audiovisual collective “Voces Urgentes.” She is also a member of the popular feminist movement “Mujeres Por La Vida”

Ryan Mallett-Outtrim is an Australian journalist with the progressive news website Venezuelanalysis. He has also worked with other Venezuelan news outlets including the cable news channel teleSUR and national newspaper Correo del Orinoco.

Part of the “Revolution in the Age of Trump – day of education for activists” organised by Socialist Alliance.

Venezuela: Right-wing campaign spreads to Australia, internationally

Far-right Venezuelans surrounded the Venezuelan embassy in Spain on May 11.
Federico Fuentes
Saturday, May 20, 2017, Green Left Weekly

As violent anti-government protests continue in Venezuela, supporters of the right-wing opposition have begun targeting Venezuelan government officials and their families in Australia. The actions are part of a string of recent attacks abroad on government representatives by Venezuelan opponents of President Nicolas Maduro.

On May 17, two Venezuelans were removed by police from the Latin America Down Under mining expo held in Perth, before they were able to confront Venezuelan vice minister for mining Victor Cano.

Cano was part of a Venezuelan delegation that was invited to attend the conference involving government and mining company representatives from Australia and Latin America.

Arnaldo Valdemar Vivas Perez and Andrea Aurrecoechea Diaz allegedly paid $1900 to register for the conference and forged documents claiming to be representatives of Sunrise Resources.

Opposition leader Julio Borges had previously sent a letter to conference organisers calling on them to revoke their invitation.

This followed the posting of a YouTube video on May 7 in which three Venezuelans surrounded and harassed Lucia Rodriguez, the daughter of Caracas mayor and United Socialist Party of Venezuela leader Jorge Rodriguez, as she was walking along Bondi beach in Sydney.

Jorge Rodriguez, who said his daughter is in Australia to study, denounced the attack the following day.

He said the incident was a premeditated attack and noted that the main instigator, Deborah Goldberg Solomovic, was a long-term friend of the wife of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Lopez, a leader of the ultra-right party Popular Will, is currently in prison for his role in violent protests in 2014 that led to more than 40 people being killed.

Opponents of the Venezuelan government are now petitioning the Australian government to revoke Lucia’s student visa.

Venezuelanalysis reported on May 12 that far-right protesters had surrounded the Venezuelan embassy in Spain the day before.

“The protesters have been accused of chanting ‘Franco, Franco!’ while protesting outside an embassy event on violence in Venezuela. A close supporter of Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco ruled Spain as a military dictator for over three decades until his death in 1975.”

A man was apprehended by New York police on May 17 after causing a disturbance in Venezuela’s UN mission offices and allegedly stealing an official UN pass card.

Similar protests by right-wing Venezuelans targeting Venezuelan embassies and consulates in other countries have taken place since the outbreak of unrest in the country in early April.

These actions have been opposed by more moderate sections of the opposition.

Venezuela Violence: Alleged Chavista Set on Fire as Death Toll Hits 55

A man accused of being a supporter of President Nicolas Maduro was doused in gasoline and set on fire by opposition protesters Saturday.

By Lucas Koerner

Caracas, May 22, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro condemned the latest round of opposition violence Saturday that saw one youth set ablaze by protesters.

Speaking on his weekly Sunday television program, the head of state denounced as a “hate crime” a brutal attack on a man accused of being a “Chavista infiltrator” at an anti-government demonstration in the affluent eastern Caracas neighborhood of Altamira.

“They doused him with gasoline, they burned him alive. What does [Organization of American States General Secretary] Luis Almagro say? What does [Colombian President] Juan Manuel Santos – who every day opines about Venezuela – have to say? What does Donald Trump say?” he stated.

In graphic video footage circulated on social media, Orlando Jose Figuera (21) is shown being beaten to the ground by a mob of over 40 predominately masked demonstrators who subsequently set him on fire.

According to the president, Figuera suffered first and second degree burns on 54 percent of his body as well six knife wounds in his stomach. He is currently undergoing treatment in El Llanito hospital. A local district attorney has been assigned to the case.

The incident occurred during another day of anti-government protest that saw opposition supporters attempt to march on the Ministry of the Interior in downtown Caracas, despite lacking a permit for the route.

The march was preceded by a speech by Miranda Governor and former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles in which he called Maduro the “the biggest motherfucker in the country”.

“We will remain firm until this corrupt narco-dictatorship leaves Venezuela, until we have the change we want… If we have to risk our skin, we will risk it!” he told the crowds.

Although the march began peacefully, the mobilization later devolved into violent clashes as demonstrators tried to penetrate police lines around the western Caracas municipality of El Libertador.

The weekend’s violence extended to other parts of the South American nation.

On Saturday evening, 23-year-old university student by the name of Edy Alejandro Teran Aguilar was shot dead during a protest in the western state of Trujillo.

According to a statement by Venezuela’s Public Prosecution, the incident occurred when “presumably various armed persons arrived on the scene and opened fire”. An 18-year-old man and a 50-year-old women were also wounded in the altercation.

Local opposition Mayor Jose Karkom, for his part, has blamed the death on “regime paramilitaries”, though he did not offer any evidence to bolster the accusation.

The third district attorney for Trujillo, José Luis Molina, has been dispatched to investigate the case.

The latest killing brings the death toll in seven weeks of anti-government protests to at least 55, including eight confirmed deaths at the hands of authorities and eighteen people killed by opposition violence. The Public Prosecution has confirmed that at least 972 people have been injured in the unrest to date.

The protests have likewise seen widespread attacks on public and private property, including 115 businesses looted nationwide, reports Últimas Noticias.

In the latest incident of public property destruction, Bolivar state Governor Francisco Rangel Gomez has confirmed that 54 public-operated TransBolivar buses were set on fire early Monday morning, leaving 51 of the units totally destroyed.

Fifty-four public buses were torched in Ciudad Guyana early Monday morning. (@TransBolivar). 

The Venezuelan government has previously estimated that the opposition protests have caused the country at least US $140 million in damages.

Most Victims of Fatalities in Recent Venezuela Violence Weren’t Protesters

The government of Venezuela also said that there were more policemen wounded by bullets than people dead during the protests.

 

The majority of the 40 people who have died amid ongoing anti-government protests in Venezuela in recent weeks were not participating in the demonstrations, according to the Ministry of Communication and Information

“The overwhelming majority of people who have lost their lives, until today, were non-demonstrators. The overwhelming majority were not participating in demonstrations, neither peaceful nor violent,” said Minister Ernesto Villegas Poljak.

Villegas said an investigation is underway to provide precise information about the citizens who have died since the beginning of April, when opposing anti-government and pro-government marches began to take to the streets in near-daily protests.

“Each life counts the same as the other. It hurts us equally the life of any human being and it would hurt us if it had been a single person or the 40,” Villegas said.

The minister said that the preliminary investigation has found that there have that there are more officers of the Bolivarian National Guard wounded by gunshots than the total number of fatal victims.

During the same period, there have been around 1,600 demonstrations in the country of all sizes, large and small, and from those about 500 actions have been violent.

The official said he rejected the information that international media has published about the Venezuelan government that has focused on the state crackdown on opposition protests and denied state repression.

Villegas expressed regretted that there were cases where people died from police gunfire, like the case of Jairo Ortiz. According to the official, Ortiz was walking by close to his house and was hit by a bullet from an officer’s gun.

“That officer is currently in custody and paying the consequences of his actions, for violating the Constitution, for violating the law and for violating the express orders of President Nicolas Maduro to strictly respect human rights,” said Villegas

TeleSUR

Venezuelan Revolutionaries Demand ‘Truly Communal State’

Venezuela has around 1500 communes nationwide.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Puebla, Mexico, May 13, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas this week to rally in support of the country’s commune movement.

Socialist revolutionaries from across the country joined the march, calling on the government of President Nicolas Maduro to endorse a proposal to provide constitutional recognition of communes. Currently, the commune movement has broad legal recognition, but isn’t included in the country’s constitution. However, commune supporters are optimistic that could soon change, with Maduro recently calling for constitutional reform.

“The commune is the essence of the people,” said Frank Corrales from the Guerrero JiraJara Socialist Commune.

Speaking to Venezuelanalysis during a rally on Tuesday, Corrales said, “We know what we really need [and] … it is in us to truly prepare, from the grassroots, the transformation of this state into a truly communal state.”

“We have to keep transforming the state, into a socialist state, where the largest possible amount of happiness is brought to all of the people. The commune or nothing!” he said.

Venezuela currently has around 1500 communes and 45,000 communal councils nationwide, with members numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Supporters say these communes are organised through direct democracy, with the backing of the Maduro administration.

To find out more, check out the video below.

Constituent Assembly, an opportunity for peace and the revolution

These are turbulent times in Venezuela. The opposition has gone all-in on their soft coup attempts, whose main ingredient is violence and death in the streets. Chavismo, despite the crisis of recent years, has mobilised en masse to defend the revolution. President Maduro’s call on May 1st for a Constitutional Assembly has taken everyone by surprise. To understand this process, the risks and opportunities it brings, we have spoken with Misión Verdad, one of the most reliable sources in Venezuela.

In what context does the Bolivarian government’s call for a Constituent Assembly take place?

It comes in the background of several weeks of opposition protests, which take the form of a colour coup d’etat (not quite a colour revolution), after a controversy between state powers. This was a decision of the judicial branch, which was forced to assume some tasks and functions of the legislative body as a result of political paralysis. Then, the anti-political factions of the so-called “opposition” took advantage of it as a trigger for the beginning of the actions that have gone on to this day.

Then on May 1, Workers’ Day, President Nicolás Maduro decides to convene the Original Constituent Power (Poder Constituyente Originario). He does so under the full constitutional authority of the executive power (article 348), imposing and opening a new window which is deeply political. He does so in the context of a climate of open confrontation, which seeks to rule out any political resolution of the conflict. Through hybrid warfare mechanisms, the opposition seeks to move to new stages of violence that culminate either in regime change or in civil war.

How did the opposition react to this call?

First of all, in a disoriented fashion. This process has thrown a wrench into the gears, imposing new political realities, forcing everyone to take a position, and it has also exposed the hypocrisy of the radical elements of the opposition, since they have been calling for a Constituent Assembly for several years.

Now they refuse even to attend the meetings that the government has called. There are two aspects that stand out. First, that any formal political activity by the opposition is nothing more than a vain and opportunistic exercise to achieve “higher goals.” And second, that it has never had any interest in finding a solution, their only goal is the subordination to the powers of global financial brokerage, the empire.

This brings us, thinking of the first question as well, to the bigger picture. Since President Nicolás Maduro won the elections in 2013, he has constantly called for political dialogue in order to avoid confrontation and establish ways to solve existing problems, negotiate what can be negotiated. Even offering concessions when necessary.

With this in mind, the decision to invoke the Original Constituent Power (which, as Chávez used to say, is a continuous process) is a direct consequence of the opposition’s leadership’s will to paralyse, generate confrontation and make a mockery of the political processes.

After four years of searching for dialogue, some even involving the Vatican, these operators have ruled themselves out as valid political players. This has forced the President to hold the dialogue now with the most legitimate, valid and necessary partners to resolve the country’s situation. This is an absolutely valid legal and constitutional interpretation, and necessary in this context. The hand remains open to the opposition should they wish to join this process.

Should the opposition double down on its violent plan, do you think the government’s strategy can work?

It is difficult to predict whether or not it will work, as this is a confrontation between elements of local power (the Bolivarian government and the chavista base) and global, fluid structures with their own agenda, whose actors in the country are only vulgar Intermediaries that are even handling politics with an import/export logic.

There, in part, lies the audacity of the move, and its dangers as well. Thinking in Gramscian terms, “the optimism of will and pessimism of the intellect”, we are entering an unprecedented, unknown, and powerful scenario. On the other hand, we have these very dangerous possibilities based on precedents from other places around the world like Syria, Ukraine and Libya. All in all, these are the same methods that have been in use since late 2012.

In this context, could the new constituent process mean a deepening of the social achievements of the Revolution?

Yes, and from any perspective. Both in terms of formal/legal aspects as well as aspects of the country’s political framework. The National Constituent Assembly of 1999 and the Constitution approved at the time were limited by the structural boundaries of the 1961 Constitution, which did not contemplate any of the constitutional instruments and organic laws that for almost 20 years have been been in place with the Constitution of the Fifth Republic.

On this basis, there is much that can be done to consolidate a number of elements that already deserve to have constitutional grounds, such as the social missions or the need for the national budget to be fundamentally oriented towards social policies (the proportion is currently 71% of the budget). This would also ensure that foundations are laid for an interpretation of economic policy according to this vision, having the actors participating in this dialogue as its main protagonists.

Source: Investig’Action

Why Are There No Riots in the Barrios of Venezuela?

By Gustavo Borges, TeleSUR

The only ones who have both the number and fury to set fire to this country are working, organizing, discussing the call to a Constituent Assembly.

Closing streets, paralyzing the subway system, burning urban transport units, attacking public institutions, even some private ones, the looting of shops, schools and hospitals, terrorizing popular neighborhoods with hired gangs, mercenary style.

In eastern areas of Caracas, a minority sector goes to the opposition demonstrations where all of this takes place and daily life is a chaos in the middle of battles where this privileged little world rebelled against the poor. Wearing all sort of gas masks, journalists, photographers, camera people with helmets and bullet-proof vests, opposition leaders, members of the national assembly, mayors and governors of the counterrevolution stand there giving orders, Molotov cocktails keep coming and going, sometimes they collide with tear gas canisters in the air, youths wearing balaclavas and with shields that look like they are from the crusaders, using gloves to throw tear gas canisters back, barricades, cut down trees, fires, a constant battle against Bolivarian police and the national guards who are forbidden from using firearms and violence.

The cameras try to capture a picture showing that the country is at war.

This same scenario is repeated in specific places in different states of the country. But despite this theatrical set, something is not working for the terrorist agenda of the opposition. Thousands of neighborhoods, hills and low income areas throughout the entire country continue about their daily lives attentive to what happens in that upper-middle class, Hollywood type world and their declassed playing at absolute war that has already taken some 40 lives and wounded hundreds of other in the entire country. Here the murdered and wounded are not extras. They are real.

In the neighborhood of 23 de Enero, west of Caracas, about 200,000 inhabitants wake up everyday in the middle of that fascinating entanglement of popular sectors. There are no incendiary bombs or tear gas bombs here. Children go to school, kindergartens, youngsters in blue flannels and beige (school uniforms) take the streets to get to their high schools. Subway cars travel at full capacity as far as violence from the other side of the city allows them to get to. Small and medium size businesses start to open their doors. Queues begin to form in the hundreds of popular medical practices where people get free basic health care attention. A group of women from the communal councils fix on the walls handwritten posters announcing the nightly meeting to organize the community food delivery, which also posts the amount to be paid and an account number to deposit the payment.

Motorcycle riders go to work. Fruit and vegetable trucks offer their fresh merchandise through their speakers. Empanadas, arepas and juices, garages, hairdressers and local mom-and-pop stores, taxi cooperatives and trucks filled with workers, teachers, civil servants, students and others lead their way to the differents demonstrations of today, mothers with their children, or simply workers of all kind. Most are commenting on the drama of the day: in the east where the rich live, they are playing with shit.

The same situation repeats in other working class communities nearby: La Pastora, Catia, Lídice. And beyond downtown in San Agustín, Mamera, Petare, El Cementerio and in the other hundred and something boroughs and densely populated municipalities. About 6 million people in Caracas alone. This is what is not giving working in the opposition plans and their focused terrorist escalation. Millions of inhabitants of these neighborhoods are not singing along with their tune.

The same happens throughout the country. Instead of this in various sectors, people go out onto the streets to protect and defend their places as in this story of what happened in a neighborhood in the state of Barinas: “Here they will not come to loot, no way, here they will not come to make the disasters they did to the bakeries and hardware stores and pharmacies of La Cardenera.” The woman from Barinas, with a machete in hand, led a few hundred neighbors who were armed with sticks, tubes, machetes, bats, went out to confront the opposition ‘guarimberos’ (rioters) who had wiped out most of the neighborhood business in the past few weeks. The alarms had been going at night all around the neighborhood through pot-banging, text messages and calls of “here come the guarimberos.” Now they came for all the equipment of the public sports court, built by the Revolution to the Francisco de Miranda neighborhood and inaugurated by Chavez himself. Things get tense. The ‘guarimberos’, mostly upper-middle-class kids mixed with some from poorer areas and some thugs came in groups of 30 to lock streets and to loot and to set fire to the neighborhood’s sports court, begin to retreat. It is not easy for them because the people are in the streets, ready to fight to defend this sport facility that Chavez gave them. “You better get the fuck out, you’ll ’cause no trouble here,” “out, out, out, out.” Machetes, bats, sticks, pipes, spikes, move menacingly as my people scream at them – what a beatiful scene. The guarimberos retreat: “We are going to look for reinforcements to the Corozitos, no joke, we are gonna burn all this shit, you damn chavistas.” “Come, you squalid jerks, terrorists, here we wait, out, out, out, out with you.”

“That night no one slept. But they never came back,” says the old lady.

The only ones who have both the number and fury, balls and ovaries to set fire to this country are working, organizing, discussing the call to a Constituent Assembly. And defending in the street when necessary. A show of strength that goes unnoticed by the minds of those who want a great civilian confrontation, a war: to stay calm, not to come to interfere even knowing that the counterrevolution that is in the streets on the other side of the city but could not withstand the irruption of these neighborhoods at ther most violent. This is a titanic display of strength.

While the country’s wealthy opposition sectors are running their “I Want Freedom” drama, those with the true power are active. The barrio is active.

Original printed in Misión Verdad.

Standoff in Venezuela

May 12, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal / Green Left Weekly — Venezuela has been rocked in recent weeks by almost daily protests and counter-protests, as right-wing opponents of socialist President Nicolas Maduro seek to bring down his government.

While the media portrays these events as a popular rebellion against an authoritarian government, supporters of the pro-poor Bolivarian revolution initiated by former president Hugo Chavez say the country is witnessing an escalation in what is an ongoing counter-revolutionary campaign seeking to restore Venezuela’s traditional elites in power and reverse the gains made by the poor majority under Chavez and Maduro.

Federico Fuentes interviewed Steve Ellner, a well-known analyst of Venezuelan and Latin American politics and a retired professor at Venezuela’s Universidad de Oriente, to get his views on recent events.

* * * * *

When it comes to the current turmoil in Venezuela, the media have been unanimous in their version of events: the Maduro regime is on its last legs due to the overwhelming opposition it faces from the people, including among the poorest sectors that previously supported the government, and therefore its only recourse for survival is violent repression. How accurate is this media narrative?

It’s hardly a far-gone conclusion.

There is no better indication of the deceptiveness of the mainstream media’s narrative than the spatial nature of the anti-government protests in early 2014 known as the “guarimba” and again this year.

The protests are centred in the middle and upper class areas whose mayors belong to the opposition. The strategy behind the protests is for the mass civil disobedience, confrontation with security forces and widespread destruction of public property to spread to the poorer areas.

Certainly, the popular sectors have a long tradition of street protests, particularly over deficient public services. But the popular sectors have remained largely passive, although with more exceptions now than in 2014. Obviously the opposition is banking on greater active popular support than in 2014.

Along similar lines, the Chavista United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has been more damaged by electoral abstention among disenchanted Chavistas than those who end up voting for the opposition. Such electoral behaviour is what explains the Chavista defeat in the December 2014 elections for the National Assembly.

But the Chavista leaders still have an impressive degree of mobilisation capacity, as was demonstrated in two recent marches, one on Venezuelan Independence Day on April 19, and the other on May 1.

The nation’s precarious economic situation as well as the complete political turnaround in the hemisphere strengthens the opposition’s hand. Whereas in past political crises, such as the coup attempt in 2002 and the general strike of 2002-2003, the Chavez government was able to count on backing from other Latin American nations including in some cases non-leftist ones.

Now Venezuela’s neighbouring governments, in spite of their considerable unpopularity and internal discontent, have explicitly taken up the cause of the Venezuelan opposition.

But at this point I would describe the political situation in Venezuela as a standoff, a far cry from saying that the government is on its last legs. Of course, given the political volatility over the recent past, predictions have to be at best tentative.

In an ultimate sense, the popular sectors have the last word. If they were to join the protests, then the statement that the Maduro government is, as you say, on its last legs, would be accurate. The situation would then be similar to that of the Soviet Union in 1991 when the miners began to march against the government, thus signalling the collapse of the regime.

Even some former supporters of the government today speak of an authoritarian turn on the part of Maduro. Is there any truth to this accusation?

To answer your question it has to be pointed out that Venezuela is not in a normal situation, with what political scientists call a “loyal opposition” that recognises the government’s legitimacy and plays by the rules of the game. Thus to talk about government actions without placing them in context – as the corporate media is prone to do – is misleading.

The opposition leaders of today are, for the most part, the same ones involved in the coup and general strike of 2002-2003, the same ones who refused to recognise the legitimacy of the electoral processes in 2004 and 2005 and consistently questioned the legitimacy of the National Electoral Council except in those cases in which the government was defeated.

They are also the same ones who refused to recognise Maduro’s triumph in the presidential election of 2013, resulting in about a dozen deaths, and then promoted the four months of protests in 2014 involving civil disobedience on a massive scale along with considerable violence, resulting in 43 deaths including six members of the national guard.

The current period commences with the opposition’s triumph in the National Assembly elections of 2015 when the president of that body, Henry Ramos Allup, immediately announced that regime change would be achieved within six months; subsequently the National Assembly turned down the executive’s budgetary allocations. All along the opposition has rejected the government’s call for a national dialogue, demanding concessions as a precondition for negotiations. The protests that have occurred in the last month are a repeat of the guarimba of 2014. Opposition leaders completely evade the issue of violence, other than declaring that they are opposed to it in an abstract sense.

Practically every day they call marches in the affluent eastern part of Caracas that attempt to reach the downtown area where the presidential palace is located. Government spokespeople have stated numerous times that downtown Caracas is off limits for the opposition marches; security forces commonly employ tear gas to prevent passage.

The reason for the government’s refusal is obvious. With a massive number of opposition people in the downtown area for an indefinite period of time, massive civil disobedience, the surrounding of the presidential palace and violence would all ensue, along with uncontrollable chaos.

The confrontations would be aggravated by the coverage of the international media, which has always spun their reports to favour the opposition. The fact that every day for the last several weeks the main leaders of the opposition have called for marches to reach downtown Caracas, even though they know full well that confrontations will occur, would suggest that their strategy for gaining power envisions street disruptions and combat.

The spatial nature of the protests is key. You may say that the government is justified in avoiding the protests from reaching the centre of Caracas. But the question may be asked, would the Chavistas tolerate peaceful marches originating from the affluent eastern half of the city marching though Chavista strongholds in the popular sectors?

The question is clouded by the fact that the opposition marches almost invariably involve civil disobedience and violence.

Would you say that both the Chavistas and the opposition are assuming intransigent positions?

Both sides are playing hard ball, but a description of the political setting is indispensible in order to appreciate what is at stake. The fact is that the democratic nature of some of the government’s decisions is questionable, two in particular.

A month ago, ex-presidential candidate (on two occasions), and governor of the state of Miranda, Henrique Capriles was stripped of his right to participate in elections due to charges of corruption.

In the second place, the gubernatorial and municipal elections which were slated for December 2016 have been delayed on grounds that other proposed electoral processes have pushed them into the future. Although Maduro has indicated that his party is ready to participate in those elections, a date has still not been set. If elections were held today, the Chavistas would very possibly suffer losses.

The hardliners in the Chavista movement headed by National Assembly deputy Diosdado Cabello are obviously calling the shots and they support an aggressive line toward the opposition. The most visible voice for the “soft-line” is former vice-president Jose Vicente Rangel, who favours gestures that would encourage negotiations and buttress those in the opposition who reject street confrontation.

Likewise, the radicals in the opposition are firmly in control. They have made clear that once in power, they would jail the Chavista leaders on grounds of corruption and violation of human rights. Their call for “No to Impunity” is a coded slogan. It means in effect a witch hunt against the Chavista movement and repression that would pave the way for the imposition of unpopular neoliberal policies.

Indeed, neoliberalism characterised Capriles’ platform in the two presidential elections of 2012 and 2013. There is a definite relationship between the radical tactics and intolerance displayed by the opposition, on the one hand, and the neoliberal program which would be imposed should the opposition return to power, on the other hand.

To sum up, the narrative that calls the Maduro government “authoritarian” is a blatant misrepresentation of what is happening. On the other hand, the Chavista leaders have on occasion distanced themselves from democratic principles. Their actions, however, need to be contextualised.

What has been the impact of interference by the US government and the Organization of American States, along with the changing attitude of certain governments in the region?

The foreign actors you refer to have failed to place themselves above Venezuela’s internal politics in order to promote a peaceful resolution to a conflict that could well degenerate into civil war. The statements issued by the White House as well as Luis Almagro, the OAS’ secretary general, coincide in their entirety with the opposition’s narrative and demands.

Rather than taking sides in Venezuela’s internal conflict, the OAS should have called for a national dialogue and named a nonpartisan committee to investigate disputed events. The decision of the Maduro government to withdraw from the OAS was a reaction to the organisation’s partisanship, which has served only to exacerbate the political polarization.

The OAS and other international actors reinforce the Venezuelan opposition’s narrative that conflates pressing economic problems and the alleged authoritarianism of the Maduro government. This line inadvertently strengthens the hand of the hardliners within the opposition.

The only way to justify regime change by non-electoral means and the intervention of foreign actors, such as the OAS, is to attempt to demonstrate that the nation is headed toward a dictatorship and systematically violates human rights.

But the moderates within the opposition – although at this point they have no visible national leader – favour emphasising economic issues in order to reach out to the popular sectors of the population, attract some of the disenchanted Chavistas, and at the same time accept dialogue with government representatives. The moderates therefore place an accent mark on economic issues more than political ones.

In this sense, the intromission of foreign actors who question the Venezuelan government’s democratic credentials only serves to bolster the position of the radicals in the opposition and to further polarise the nation.

In terms of the current economic problems: how serious are the shortages?

The problem of shortages of basic products is undeniable, even while media outlets like the Wall Street Journal claim that the nation is on the verge of mass starvation. Hunger is a scourge that afflicts the lower strata in other, if not all, Latin American nations. But the key index from social and political viewpoints is the contrast with standards in Venezuela in previous years. The deterioration has certainly been sharp with regard to the period prior to the sharp decline in oil prices in mid-2015.

What do you foresee happening in the immediate future? Is the Maduro government doomed? What do you think of the proposed Constituent Assembly?

Maduro’s proposal for a constituent assembly is a mixed bag with regard to the possibility of achieving greater stability.

On the one hand it is an initiative – something new – that is designed to break the deadlock the nation finds itself stuck in. A favourable scenario would be that the Chavistas are able to activate their base as well as that of social movements and achieve an important degree of electoral participation.

Furthermore, in the best-case scenario, constituent assembly delegates would formulate viable proposals to deal with pressing issues, such as corruption, and the Chavistas in power would demonstrate genuine receptivity to them. In short, a constituent assembly based on bottom-up participation could be a game changer.

In the case of the alternative scenario, the constituent assembly proposal will be viewed as a ploy to buy time and sidetrack the electoral process.

Steve Ellner is currently coordinating an issue on the class policies of progressive Latin American governments for Latin American Perspectives, a journal for which he is a participating editor. His “Implications of Marxist State Theories and How They Play Out in Venezuela” is slated to appear in the next issue of Historical Materialism.

Berta Cáceres’ Organization Expresses Solidarity with Bolivarian Revolution

Thousands of Venezuelan women marched Saturday chanting “No to violence, yes to peace and to life” to voice their support for the Bolivarian Revolution.

Introduction and translation by Jeanette Charles for Venezuelanalysis.com

The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), founded by Lenca indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, who was assassinated March 2016, released a recent statement expressing their solidarity with Venezuelan women this week.The Women’s Coordinating Committee of COPINH condemned the opposition violence against Venezuelans and the opposition’s insistent invitation for US interference, recalling the effects of the US backed coup d’état in 2009 in their country.

Last Saturday, Caracas was the backdrop for a women’s march in support of the Bolivarian Revolution. Thousands of women poured onto the streets of the Venezuelan capital to demonstrate their commitment to women’s rights and liberation.

Undeniably, the Bolivarian Revolution has created unparalleled opportunities for women. Within the last 18 years of revolution, women have consolidated their access to education, healthcare and other social services with unprecedented numbers of women entering universities and professional fields throughout the country.

Likewise, grassroots movements have upheld women’s voices and political participation in their organizations, communes and other sectors. Social missions directly tailored to caregivers, mothers and elders have provided key economic resources to women across generations.

Recent violence in Venezuela has escalated as the number of deaths associated with opposition guarimba protests have reached 44.

The Lenca people’s statement also invites international reflection on the oppositon’s call for regime chage in Venezuela as their country is one of the most devasted by US intervention within the hemisphere especially since the 2009 coup d’état.

The June 28, 2009 coup d’état resulted in the forcible removal of President Manuel Zelaya and also marked the indefinite stall of the Honduran people’s call for a constitutional assembly.

As the 2009 coup d’état unfolded in Honduras resulting in widespread repression, Venezuelan grassroots movements expressed solidarity by demonstrating and sending humanitarian aid to the Central American nation.

In the weeks following the coup, thousands of Hondurans used their bodies to protect the Venezuelan embassy as coup supporters and the military attempted to attack the South American nation’s headquarters in the Central American nation’s capital.

The US backed coup in Honduras has left a devastating impact on civil society as grassroots movements continue to struggle against transnational corporate extraction and rampant violence particularly US funded and trained police and military violence.

COPINH’s statement comes as President Nicolás Maduro’s recent announcement of a constitutional assembly offers a unique opportunity to bridge together different sectors of Venezuelan society as well as to strengthen pre-existing institutional guarantees in defense of human rights and 21st Century Socialism.

Undoubtedly, Venezuela’s latest initiative is significant to the multitudes of Hondurans and COPINH’s base which have struggled since 2009 to defend their self-determination in ways that the Bolivarian process has made possible for millions of Venezuelan.

COPINH’s statement in solidarity with Venezuela is poetically necessary as they defend the Bolivarian Revolution as if it were their own.

COPINH in Solidarity with the Venezuelan Women’s Revolutionary Movement

Barrio Las Delicias, Intibucá, Intibucá; Honduras C.A, Tel: 2783-0817

Copinhonduras.blogspot.com; www.copinh.org,

Facebook. Copinh Intibucá; Twitter: @copinhhonduras

The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) salutes the Venezuelan women on their day of mobilization and struggle in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution.

We know that the sisterly people of Venezuela have been suffering an imperialist onslaught, involving economic warfare, disinformation campaigns and disrepute. Knowing this, COPINH ratifies its solidarity with the Venezuelan people, as in 2009 when we gathered outside the Bolivarian embassy in Tegucigalpa to defend it against the Honduran golpistas (coup-supporters). Today we raise our voices, once again to accompany, not only the Bolivarian government but also the people, against new coup attempts, who respond to the same imperialist interests that seek to plunder and militarize Our America. We understand the difficult situation and we call for the unity of revolutionary forces and for the deep dialogue that will enable [Venezuela] to overcome the crisis.

As COPINH, we continue to defend our territories, and reaffirm that we firmly believe that this work is possible only with the active and proactive participation of women, who have not only had to face capitalist and racist violence, but also faces patriarchal violence. We believe in the fundamental participation of women to defend the achievements of the peoples of Our America and to confront those that ravage our territories. That is why today, accompanied by our Berta Cáceres, we salute with joy the mobilization of women in Caracas, against the coup and in defense of the Bolivarian revolution.

Berta Lives On, the Struggle Continues!

Berta did not die, she multiplied in all Latin American struggles!

With the ancestral strength of Berta, Lempira, Mota and Etempica, our voices are full of life, justice, dignity, freedom and peace!

Women’s Coordinating Committee of COPINH

La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras.

Steve Ellner on Venezuela’s withdrawal from the OAS

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez addressed the Organization of American States Permanent Council

Steve Ellner

The political polarization in Venezuela has reached new levels of intensity and could easily drag the nation into a veritable civil war. The problems the nation is facing have no easy solutions. While the government of Nicolás Maduro has committed its share of errors, the opposition has also assumed positions that do not reflect popular sentiment, which is in favor of national reconciliation and a focus on concrete economic solutions rather than political confrontation.

Unfortunately, Secretary General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro, among other foreign actors in the hemisphere, has failed to place himself above the nation’s internal politics and to facilitate a peaceful and constructive resolution of the conflict. Instead, his statements without exception have been explicitly in line with the opposition’s narrative and the demands it has formulated. Nevertheless, what is happening on the ground in Venezuela is not black and white and the true facts are hard to determine.

The opposition accuses the government of violent repression. The government, for its part, accuses the opposition of organizing protests that lead into actions carried out by small combat units involving barricades, fires, destruction of public property and attacks on security forces. Given this complexity, the OAS should have promoted a national dialogue and named a nonpartisan committee to investigate disputed events. Venezuela’s decision to withdraw from the OAS must be seen in the context of the organization’s partisanship, which has only exacerbated, rather than eased, polarization.

Originally published in the “Latin America Advisor” (publication of the Inter-American Dialogue).