Who is Afraid of Venezuelan Democracy?

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Counterpunch – It is astounding, and sinister, that the European Parliament on May 3 passed a resolution (492 in favour, 87 against, 77 abstentions) demanding that Venezuela suspend the presidential elections slated for May 20. Do these European countries think that they are still colonial powers that can demand anything from other countries? Does European arrogance stretch to demanding that another country disregard its own rule of law, its electoral regulations and its negotiated arrangements with the leaders of their opposition?

There was a time when the non-aligned countries believed that a strong, independent Europe would be a healthy counterbalance to the remaining super power. This was wishful thinking, as Europe today seems a flock of lambs following the dictates of a most unbalanced USA president who is determined to overthrow the legitimate, democratic, peaceful, and popular government of Venezuela.

It, of course, is all about the largest deposit of oil reserves in the world that lie in Venezuela and which is coveted by all and sundry. And how dare its government not follow the neo-liberal dictates of Washington, the IMF and the World Bank?

When examining democracy in any place, the first characteristic that comes under scrutiny is the process of elections: if they take place, how they take place and who participates. It is a given that anyone claiming to support democracy must be in favour of elections.

It is necessary when dealing with democracy in Venezuela to quote over and over what the Ex-president of the USA, Jimmy Carter declared: “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

One reason is the effectiveness of the Electoral Power (CNE) and another is the anti-fraud protection of the system, which is digital, written and electronic. There are three guarantees to each vote: a fingerprint, an electronic vote and a paper receipt.

Another characteristic of the 23 elections that have occurred in Venezuela these past 19 years is the robust presence of domestic and international observers. It is important to note that neither the USA,Canada or most European countries accept international observers to their elections. It is all right for these powerful countries to examine lesser poor devil countries, or (“shithole countries” as Trump inelegantly called them) but do not dare to look closely at what we, the powerful, do.  Thus in our lifetime we have seen two USA presidents arrive at the White House under dubious circumstances at best: George W. Bush’s second term and Trump, neither who won the popular vote and were elected by virtue of a complicated, most un-transparent, patronage system of their “electoral colleges”.  Where were the “demands” of the European Parliament in these cases?

We are witnessing before our eyes a scenario of subversion and disqualification of Venezuela’s democracy. The USA, Canada, the European Union, the OEA and the so-called Lima group of lackey right wing governments of the region, are attacking the very elections that for two years they had clamored to take place. The Venezuelan government responded by quoting its laws, that prescribed that the elections were by law to take place in 2018; it was not good enough. They wanted the elections last year.  The government negotiated with the opposition in the Dominican Republic and an April date was agreed upon. Not good enough- the opposition asked for more time and the government again agreed and they settled on the 20 May date.

Now the European Union, says it “does not accept” the elections because there are no “guarantees” without specifying what they mean, they ask for a “return to the constitutional order” without allusion or attempt to know and understand Venezuelan laws and Constitution.

In Venezuela, the vote is secret; the process is orderly, observed by international witnesses and with the participation of opposition candidates. Some opposition leaders have refused to stand for elections, but this is by their own free will, not because of any prohibition or official hostility. Unless they refer to Leopold López, scion of two of the country’s most wealthy families who is in prison, after a lengthy, fair trial, with the best defense lawyers money can buy, who was nevertheless sentenced to 13 years in prison for inciting – in full view of cameras- appalling street violence that killed 46 people. That is the rule of law: people who are proven to have committed violent crimes must pay with prison, regardless of who their families are.

Actually, it is the USA strategy of abstention that the main opposition leaders are following so that the elections can be disqualified. The government is aware of this tactic but has repeatedly asked these opposition parties to stand for election. These no-show candidates are campaigning for abstention, asking the people NOT to vote! What kind of democrats are these that – after aggressively demanding elections now do not want elections and urge people NOT to vote? They are trying to demonize an otherwise sterling electoral system.

In sum, it is a montage, a theater scenario to continue to demonize, antagonize, and sanction a government they wish to overthrow.

Another montage that those very same no-show opposition leaders are simultaneously presenting along with their international allies,as they  shed  crocodile tears, is that they are very worried by the suffering of Venezuelans and are demanding a “humanitarian” action to save them from the ogre of Maduro. (He whose government has built 2 million units of public housing these last 2 years.) They want a humanitarian action like the ones in Syria, Libya, Iraq where their populations were “saved” from their own governments by killing them with soldiers and bombs. “Humanitarian action” is a by-word for invasion. Already Colombia – with its 7 USA military bases- has amassed 3,000 troops on its border with Venezuela “in readiness” for such “humanitarian action.”

The truth is that it is the left wing governments that repeatedly restore and protect democracy in the region. The right-wing governments in Latin America today are unable to command the popular vote and have come to power through corruption (Peru, Colombia, Panamá), fraud (México), coup d’état (Honduras) and with parliamentary and legal coups (Brazil, Paraguay). Macri being the only exception, as he clearly won the elections.

The right wing governments have come together under the axis of the USA implementing a new type of despicable Plan Condor – that plan that in ‘70 assassinated 60,000 union, rural, political and community leaders. Now embolden with the unbalanced man in the White House, they have without shame reached a point that they openly finance the opposition: for example, last month, in Lima, vice-president Pence of the USA publicly gave $16m.to Julio Borges.

What would happen in Canada if China gave $16m to the NDP party, or in the USA if it gave it to the Democrats? How can the USA tears its robes in anguish alleging that Russia “intervened” in its sacred elections by releasing some e-mails, however authentic they could be? How can they not see what the USA does with impunity, with no questioning by the media, in the elections of a long list of countries? And not just Latin American ones – does no reporter remember Ukraine?

The right-wing governments of Latin America have three powerful weapons:

+ The economic war, which in Venezuela has allies in the wealthy elite of impresarios and banks.

+ The help of the international media that has shown so little critical analysis and investigative ability that it once may have had

+ The new legal coups called LAWFARE, by which courts and parliaments are manipulated to criminalize opponents: thus they ensnared Dilma Rousseff and Lula in Brazil, Cristina Fernández in Argentina, and they are trying to do the same to Rafael Correa (who even out of power is seen as a threat), and of course, to Nicolás Maduro.

A year ago, the opposition in Venezuela managed to get a majority in the National Assembly and immediately afterwards, the Venezuelan government accepted the results and did not allege fraud. They won, not because their votes had increased as they were still at 4%, but because many government supporters abstained, as they were disappointed with the economy.

But it has been 5 years of economic war and the population now understands to whom they owe the economic crisis: the leaders of the opposition were the ones who went all over the world to ask powerful nations to boycott and sanction their own country, to deny it financial and diplomatic support and to help them overthrow a government which they are unable to defeat in the polls. Such treason would have been unthinkable in the past.

There is a systematic, strategic plan devised by Washington to deny Venezuelans food and medicines. Its executors are the large corporations, commercial elite and the banks. It could not be clearer. For example, when there is no bread in the bakeries or the price is too high, people start baking their own bread. Then, flour and yeast disappears from the stores. When there are no detergents, people clean with bicarbonate of soda (up to then an extremely cheat product), and then this disappears from the stores. When corn and corn flour is unavailable people buy yucca (another very cheap product), immediately it disappears from the market or its price skyrockets, so much so that there is talk of “a war on the yucca”. These are not cases of an objective “supply and demand” as some may think. It is a conspiracy of an impresario, commercial, financial class that is so rich and is so backed by foreign finance that they do not care if they do not sell or make a profit, what they want is to strangulate the economy and they do not care how much their own people suffer for it. It is a lust for power, to be given to them by foreign powers.

It is clear that the progressive, left-wing government when they again come to power (and it will happen) will have to take serious measures to protect democracy, in a much more efficient and creative way because the right does not respect the rules of representative democracy. It will mean the democratization of the banks, of the media, greater centralization of imports and the implementation of novel judicial regulations to prevent LAWFARE.

The left has no other option than to deepen participatory democracy, to enlarge it, to give the population greater social accountability to prevent corruption and to strengthen the communes. The duly elected National Constitutional Assembly, which is drafting a new constitution,  has shown great wisdom and they must surely be thinking seriously about these measures.

Hinterlaces, the most respected polling company in Venezuela has had some recent interesting results related to the presidential elections of May 20:

+ 86% of Venezuelans reject any international intervention in the country

+ 70% of Venezuelans say they are going to participate in the elections – this is another defeat for the section of opposition, Washington backed, that is calling for abstention

+ 55% state they will vote for Maduro

+ 11% state they will vote for Henri Falcon

+ 2% state they will vote for Javier Bertucci

+ 50% state that they consider the workings of the National Constitutional Assembly as: “Very Good, Good, or Regular to Good”

+ 71% consider that Maduro will win the elections.

There is strong confidence that democracy in Venezuela is alive and well, and that is why the USA, Canada, European Union and its allies are afraid of it.

María Páez Victor, Ph.D. is a Venezuelan born sociologist living in Canada.