An important debate has opened up among the left, both within Venezuela and internationally, as a result of the recent turmoil in the country.
In an attempt to bring the views of grassroots Venezuelan militants to an English-speaking audience, Green Left Weekly’s Federico Fuentes interviewed Stalin Perez Borges.
A life-long union and socialist activist, Perez Borges is today a member of the United League of Chavista Socialists (LUCHAS), a radical current within the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
LUCHAS was formed by a group of former leaders and activists of Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide), including many of its trade union militants. The decision to form LUCHAS came after Marea Socialista resolved to leave the PSUV and began taking an increasingly hostile approach to the Bolivarian process.
Perez Borges is also on the consultative council of the Bolivarian Socialist Central of Workers (CSBT), Venezuela’s largest trade union confederation.
Jorge Martin, secretary of Hands Off Venezuela, an international organisation that campaigns in solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution and in opposition to imperialist intervention, recently visited Venezuela in the midst of the current upheaval rocking the nation.
Following his visit, Martin was interviewed by Ricardo Vaz for the Investig’action website. Below is a heavily abridged version of the interview published in Green Left Weekly.
You were in Venezuela in recent weeks. How does the reality that you witnessed contrast with one being presented by the western media?
There are a number of different points.
The first one is that the media is presenting this idea that in Venezuela we have groups of peaceful opposition demonstrators fighting for democracy and government repression that has killed over 50 people [the figure is now over 70]. This is all wrong.
There are big opposition demonstrations, they have been going on now for [over] two months and have attracted quite a lot of people.
But in most cases they have also degenerated into violent clashes in which opposition demonstrators, or groups in the vanguard of the opposition demonstrations, have used firearms, home-made explosives, weapons, rocket launchers and all sorts of stuff not only against the police, but also against educational institutions, state buildings, government housing projects, public transportation. They have even set up burning barricades outside maternity hospitals.
On top of this there has been gunfire coming from opposition rioters against civilians and against chavistas in general.
So it is hardly a picture of peaceful pro-democracy protesters…
Yes, it is not correct to say that these are peaceful opposition demonstrators, it is not correct to say that what they want is democracy or that what they want is elections.
In fact, their own leaders have admitted that what they want is “regime change”. For example, Maria Corina Machado wrote an article in El Comercio, in Peru, where she said “the first step is the overthrow of the government. Then we can talk about having elections in a different institutional context”.
Another thing I will say is that these protests are not taking place across the whole of the territory, not even the whole of the capital city. They are very concentrated in a number of states and municipalities, most of them ruled by opposition governors or mayors, particularly in Tachira, Merida, Barinas, Carabobo, Lara, and also in eastern Caracas.
So if you are in Caracas, you can go about your daily life without ever encountering an opposition demonstration or violence, which is concentrated in Altamira, in Chacao, to the east of the city, where the middle and upper class areas are.
This means the protests have not spread beyond the opposition’s bastions of influence?
This is something very telling you see in Caracas, namely that the opposition has not achieved one of its main aims, which was to bring the people from the barrios, the working class and poor areas in the hills around Caracas, into the protests. And this undercuts the idea that these protests are motivated by hunger and scarcity.
There are problems of scarcity of basic products, people’s diets have suffered in recent years, but the people that are most affected by this are the ones that remain firmly on the side of the Bolivarian Revolution.
The people in the middle and upper middle class areas, which are not so affected by these economic hardships, are the main subjects of these anti-government demonstrations.
And the last thing that contrasts with the picture that the media is giving is that there have been large pro-Bolivarian, chavista demonstrations.
On April 19 there was a very big one, on May Day there was a huge one that I was able to attend.
These major demonstrations have been supplemented by almost daily, smaller demonstrations of women, peasants, youth, etc, in defence of the Bolivarian Revolution and against this right-wing attempt to overthrow it.
And this is never shown by the mass media, not even referred to. So they are giving, as usual, an extremely one-sided picture of what is happening in Venezuela.
You mentioned that the opposition protests have not managed to spread to the barrios and in two months they have hardly made any progress. What do you think their strategy is at this point?
It is a bit difficult to say, because there are many different factors involved. But I would say that we have reached a point already where the opposition supporters are getting tired and frustrated by the lack of progress.
Above all, they have not achieved any substantial support for their protests in the working class and poor areas, but so far they have also not managed to break the state.
There has been no movement inside the army, even though the opposition leaders constantly appeal to the army to come out and overthrow the government.
Other than some statements by the State Prosecutor, that the opposition are trying to claim is on their side, there have not been any major breaches in terms of the state institutions. They have not pushed the government out, or into making substantial concessions that they could present as a victory.
So they are basically trapped, they are in a cul-de-sac, and what I see now is a section of the opposition demonstrators, and some of the leaders, going for a radicalisation of the protests, in terms of becoming more violent, using terrorist methods.
But I also think that if they do not manage to step up the mobilisation or achieve any of their aims, this will also push a section of them towards the negotiating table with the government. And this will create a big split within the opposition.
You have to remember that the leaders of the opposition are already very discredited among their own ranks because of their actions in October/November last year, when they basically called for big demonstrations, promising that the government was going to be overthrown, and then immediately switched towards the negotiating table, at which they did not achieve anything.
How do you see the situation developing in the coming months?
It is difficult to say. I would say the main problem in Venezuela, which is at the root of everything, is the fact the Bolivarian Revolution has lost a lot of support, and we need to identify why this has happened.
This was revealed in the National Assembly elections in December 2015. This was the first time, other than the constitutional referendum of 2007, that the Bolivarian Revolution lost an election contest.
The reason for this is not so much a shift of people from supporting chavismo to supporting the opposition, but a lot of people abstaining. The Bolivarians lost about a million votes between the presidential and the National Assembly elections, while the opposition’s increase was much smaller.
On the one hand this is explained by the economic crisis. But not just the economic crisis in itself, also the government’s handling of the economic crisis. Many people cannot see whether the government has got a strategy or not.
One day they are railing against the economic war carried out by private businesses, the next day they are calling on private businesses to collaborate, giving them money, making concessions, subsidies and so on.
There is also the impact of corruption, bureaucracy and reformism within the apparatus at the top of the Bolivarian Revolution which has created scepticism, pessimism and even cynicism among layers of people who previously supported the Revolution wholeheartedly. And this is the main problem.
Most people know that they are going through a difficult situation, and they are quite prepared to accept that, so long as they do not see chavista leaders and officials living in luxury. This goes against the grain of the Bolivarian Revolution.
The situation can only be turned around by measures that really with deal with the economic problems of the country. And this means a radical shift in the government’s policies on this question, as well as a change in the way that politics is conducted.
Right now there is a very bureaucratic, top-down way of doing everything. Even though there are big mobilisations, the people are not participating directly in their organisation, or in discussing the strategy of the movement. They are just allowed to respond, or not, to calls made from the top.
So I think that, unless and until these fundamental questions are solved, the perspective is one where this government will fall: either overthrown by direct force by the opposition or defeated in the elections.
Maduro has said that, rain or shine, presidential elections will take place next year. But they will take place in very bad conditions and it is very likely, all things standing as they are now, that chavismo will be defeated.
What would be the consequences of the opposition taking power?
That is something that really worries me, because the ascension of the opposition to power would be an unmitigated disaster.
They would solve the economic crisis, but they would make the workers pay for it. They would massively cut public spending, destroy all the social missions, privatise social housing, apply the IMF recipes, etc.
They would bring products back to the shelves, but at prices that no one would be able to afford.
It would bring a massive backlash similar to what we have already seen to take place in Argentina and Brazil. But on a higher scale, because the depth and reach of the Bolivarian Revolution is nothing comparable to what happened in the past in Argentina or Brazil with the previous governments.
Moreover, this will be accompanied with a lynch-mob against anyone who looks like or is suspected of being chavista, a massive purge of the state apparatus and institutions, persecution and suppression of democratic rights of the chavista working class and poor majority. This is quite clear.
And it is from this point of view that I am making the criticism of the government policies, because I think the policies of the government are not conducive to defending the Bolivarian Revolution but leading directly to disaster.
In the face of ongoing attempts to violently depose the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro, the Socialist Alliance reaffirms its support and solidarity with the Venezuelan people, their government and the Bolivarian revolution.
Contrary to claims by the corporate media and right-wing governments in the region, Venezuela is not witnessing a peaceful protest movement for democracy but rather its opposite: a counter-revolutionary wave of violence that seeks to provoke greater bloodshed, and potentially, an international intervention.
The recent wave of violent protests that began in early April is just the latest in a long string of attempts by Venezuela’s right-wing opposition to roll back the gains of the pro-poor Bolivarian revolution.
The revolution has its origins in the popular anti-neoliberal revolts of the ’80s and ’90s and that began to dislodge the corrupt, right-wing political class from power with the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998.
Since then, opposition destabilisation attempts include:
A combined bosses lock-out that attempted to shut down the economy in December 2001;
A military coup in April 2002;
A two-month shutdown of Venezuela’s oil industry between December 2002 and January 2003;
Weeks of violent street protests – known as guarimbas – in February-March 2004 that left nine dead;
Violent guarimbas following Maduro’s victory in the 2013 presidential elections that left seven dead; and
Several weeks of violent guarimbas that left over 40 dead in February-March 2014.
Each of these attempts have been spearheaded by the same political and economic elites that have seen their class interests and power affected by the actions of the Chavez and Maduro governments and that today are calling for Maduro’s ouster.
Under the guise of fighting for “democracy” and against “authoritarianism”, this minority has sought to use violence and undemocratic measures to nullify the consistent majority votes that the Bolivarian forces have achieved in all but two of the numerous elections that have taken place in Venezuela since 1998.
This time around, the right-wing opposition hopes to use two important factors to tilt the situation in their favour.
The first is the shift in the regional balance of forces that has occurred following the right’s return to power in countries such as Argentina and Brazil (where a constitutional coup removed an elected president). Along with this, we have seen the increasingly hostile attitude taken by Organisation of American States (OAS) secretary general Luis Almagro, who has attempted to lead a regional campaign against Venezuela. The opposition expects to use this international pressure to isolate Venezuela, and if necessary provoke a foreign intervention in the country.
The second is the effects of the ongoing economic war against the government that, together with the impact of the drop in oil prices and certain errors in government economic policy, is the main reason for the shortages in basic goods and spiralling inflation. The opposition hopes that this situation may help them win support among the poor majority that make up the revolution’s base and ultimately turn them against the government.
In all this, the corporate media has played a critical role internationally in the campaign against Venezuela and its revolution. Despite clear evidence that the majority of deaths in recent weeks have occurred as a result of opposition violence, and that the majority of victims have been government supporters or innocent bystanders, the media continuously refers to all deaths as “victims of regime repression”.
They purposely exaggerate the scale of the economic problems, while ignoring both the causes of these problems and the important social gains made by Venezuela in terms of poverty reduction and increased food consumption; gains that even the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Food and Agriculture Organisation have acknowledged.
All of this means that Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution today finds itself facing a critical challenge: defeat the latest counter-revolutionary campaign or witness the ushering in of a period of brutal reaction.
We only have to look at recent history to know what a coup against the Maduro government would mean for Venezuela. The last time the right-wing was in government and faced a similar economic crisis, it enacted policies that saw social spending and real wages plummet while poverty soared. When the poor revolted, as they did in the Caracazo uprising of February 1989, hundreds of people were massacred by security forces.
More recently, when the right was briefly in power following the April 2002 military coup, a witchhunt of government officials and revolutionaries was carried out, while dozens of civilians were killed.
A powerful and brutal symbol of what the right-wing would do in power was offered when opposition leaders refused to condemn the recent lynching and setting alight of a government supporter during an opposition march.
For these reasons, the Socialist Alliance makes clear its opposition to the counter-revolutionary campaign to overthrow the Maduro government.
The Socialist Alliance rejects any foreign intervention in Venezuela and calls on the OAS to immediately halt its meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs, which only seeks to aggravate the situation.
While progressive and anti-imperialist forces might hold differing opinions in regards to the Maduro government and the Bolivarian revolution, it should be clear which side we are on in this struggle.
For our part, the Socialist Alliance has viewed the Bolivarian revolution not only as a profound anti-capitalist struggle, but as a spearhead in the regional and global fight for a better world. Its defeat would set back the peoples’ struggle not only in Venezuela but more broadly.
Now is the time to demonstrate our solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution and defend the Maduro government against right-wing counter-revolution.
As security forces repressed anti-government protests in the capital, a military police operation to break up a protest camp left 10 civilians dead, with witnesses claiming they were killed execution-style.
None of this made it into the international media however, because it happened in Brazil, not Venezuela.
While the corporate media has given ample coverage to the violent right-wing protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, falsely blaming the government for most of the deaths that have occurred in recent weeks, almost no media outlet covered the massacre at a landless peasants’ camp in the Brazilian state of Para on May 24.
The deaths occurred the same day that right-wing President Michel Temer – who took power via a constitutional coup – called on the military to repress a march of 150,000 protesters in the capital, Brasilia, the latest in a growing wave of protests calling for immediate general elections.
Nine men and one woman died as a result of the joint local and military police operation that sought to dislodge a small community of landless peasants that was occupying unused land belonging to a local large landowner.
According to survivors, when security forces arrived at the farm, the occupiers attempted to run away, with a group seeking shelter from the rain under a tent. They were then surrounded and fired upon, with the dead bodies being moved from the site before proper forensics of the crime scene could be carried out.
Local police were heard laughing and cheering as the military police fired upon the peasants.
The deaths take the number of peasants killed so far this year by security forces or paramilitary groups in Brazil to 37.
Puebla, Mexico, June 1, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Organisation of American States (OAS) failed to pass a proposed declaration condemning Venezuela Wednesday, while the European Union considered passing its own sanctions against the South American country.
Throughout more than five hours of OAS talks, the United States and Mexico led calls for a resolution demanding President Nicolas Maduro abandon a proposed constituent assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution. The initiative was put forward by Maduro on May 1 as a path towards dialogue and a way to reunite the politically divided country. Nonetheless, the opposition has dismissed the proposal as a ploy, with many of their spokespeople arguing that the time for dialogue with the government is over, referencing the failure of Vatican-mediated talks last year.
Justifying their calls for the abandonment of the constituent assembly, a US Department of State spokesperson argued “good-faith negotiations” are needed between the government and opposition.
“The main responsibility for showing good faith in any negotiations now is on President Maduro and the government of Venezuela. We seek the full diplomatic strength of our hemisphere to help make such negotiations possible,” one State Department official told the press on Tuesday.
Along with urging Maduro to ditch the constituent assembly, the OAS resolution also called for the release of what opposition leaders say are political prisoners, and an end to the violence in Venezuela which has so far claimed at least 68 lives since the beginning of April.
Venezuela didn’t attend the talks, and has vowed to leave the OAS, claiming that the organisation’s secretary general is leading an interventionist campaign against its government.
Along with the US and Mexico, the resolution was co-sponsored by Canada, Peru, and Panama. A second draft resolution was also supported by Antigua and Barbuda, though it was withdrawn during the meeting. Neither resolution managed to garner enough support to pass, with Venezuelan allies accusing the US and others of seeking regime change in Caracas.
“The OAS cannot continue to be used by a country for a political lynching against the government of Venezuela, it is regrettable that a group of sister countries has been biased in their appraisals and focus,” Nicaraguan Ambassador Luis Ezequiel Alvarado said.
The meeting was adjourned with no agreement being reached, and talks postponed for later this month. Venezuela has welcomed the outcome as a victory.
“The interventionist bloc in the OAS continues to be defeated by the honourable states of the region,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said shortly after talks concluded.
Venezuela also claimed a diplomatic victory at the United Nations, after it secured majority support to head the Special Political and Decolonization Committee overseeing missions covering peacemaking, human rights, and Palestinian refugees. Venezuela’s UN representative, Rafael Ramirez, said the outcome had been reached “despite US manoeuvring”.
Rodriguez took to Twitter to welcome the outcome.
“Venezuela defeats the US and its imperial obsession at the UN election, to chair the Peace, Decolonisation, and Palestine Missions Commission,” she wrote.
EU considers sanctions
Meanwhile, the European Parliament may consider imposing sanctions on Venezuela, according to its president, Antonio Tajani.
“We have to act now. That is why we also have to evaluate other concrete measures such as the possibility of taking sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials,” Tajani said.
The comment came after Tajani held talks with Venezuelan opposition leader and National Assembly head Julio Borges.
The EU already issued a statement in April condemning what it labeled “brutal repression” by Venezuelan state security forces against peaceful protesters, which faced immediate condemnation from Caracas.
“The position of the European Parliament is clearly interventionist,” Venezuela’s EU vice-minister, Yvan Gil, said earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Tajani doubled down, blaming the government for Venezuela’s current political crisis.
“Violence and repression are not the solution to the peaceful demonstrations that have lasted more than nine weeks in which around sixty people have already died,” he said.
Several Venezuelan officials are currently under sanctions by the US government due to unsubstantiated allegations such as drug trafficking and overlooking human rights abuses. The sanctioned officials include Vice-President Tareck El Aissami, Attorney General Luisa Ortega, as well as several Supreme Court judges.
Of the 68 people who have died in Venezuela’s current wave of unrest, around 20 may have been killed by protesters themselves, according to data compiled by venezuelanalysis.com. At least 10 are suspected to have been killed by the actions of state security forces, while many others took place under unclear circumstances.
The crowd struck the victim with sharp objects in different parts of his body, leaving him for dead on the street.
Danny Jose Subero, a retired lieutenant of the Bolivarian National Guard was beaten to death Saturday in the Venezuelan state of Lara by opposition forces during the funeral of Manuel Sosa, a student who died from a gunshot wound during an anti-government protest in Valle Hondo.
According to witnesses, Subero was nearby taking selfies when a group of people accused him of being an infiltrator, proceeding to strike him with sharp objects in different parts of his body, leaving him for dead on the street. He was taken to Barquisimeto Hospital by police but arrived with no vital signs. Doctors reported that he had shots in different parts of his body, according to La Prensa.
His motorcycle, along with other belongings, were set ablaze on another street and completely destroyed.
Venezuela’s Ombudsman Tarek William Saab condemned the murder, which he described as a lynching. On Twitter, he explained that the official was “savagely beaten by a murderous mob in the urbanization Valle Hondo, who tortured him in the meantime and then shot 2 bullets.” He also described the incident as a hate crime, calling the crowd “criminal lynchers.”
The Public Prosecutor’s Office commissioned a state prosecutor to investigate the death of the 34-year-old Subero.
Puebla, Mexico, May 26, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan grassroots movements are gearing up for a weekend of popular assemblies to nominate candidates for the upcoming Constituent Assembly elections.
The assemblies were called by President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday, who said “the time has come to nominate the leaders of the country”.
“This Saturday and Sunday, I want women, labourers, workers, campesinos, entrepreneurs, people with disabilities, the youth, students, [and] all social and political forces to participate in their nomination assemblies for the National Constituent Assembly [ANC],” Maduro announced via state media.
These assemblies over the weekend won’t choose candidates. Instead, they’ll offer ordinary Venezuelans the opportunity to put their names forward as potential candidates in ANC elections in July. Any potential candidates will be able to begin the process of official registration next Wednesday, when Venezuela’s electoral authority, the CNE, will begin distributing registration documents.
According to CNE head Tibisay Lucena, “All people [who are running as candidates] will be able to download the … official form to collect 3 percent of the signatures [required].”
To be officially recognised as a candidate, an individual must secure the support of at least 3 percent of voters in their municipality. This, however, only applies to candidates for territorial delegate positions.
These territorial delegates will represent Venezuela geographically at the ANC, with each delegate representing a municipality. Each state will also be represented by two delegates.
Meanwhile, sectoral candidates will also be elected based on their occupations. These sectors include workers, rural workers (campesinos) and fishermen, students, people living with disabilities, indigenous peoples, pensioners, businesspeople and spokespeople from communes and communal councils. These sectors will also be sub-divided into smaller sectors representing specific areas of society.
Each candidate for these positions will need at least 3 percent of signatures from their sectoral area.
Once delegates are elected, the ANC itself will have the power to propose changes to Venezuela’s constitution, though any proposals will need to be put to a referendum to be enacted.
Maduro has argued constitutional reform could aid his country in overcoming its current political and economic crisis. Since Maduro announced the ANC in May, the proposal has garnered widespread support from Venezuela’s grassroots, who view the initiative as a chance to reinvigorate the country’s Bolivarian revolution.
Double standards come naturally to the OAS, especially when the balance of power is defined by people’s power or power usurped by political elites.
Pick-and-choose. It’s the modus operandi of the Organization of American States, headquartered in Washington, D.C. While the organization schedules debate on Venezuela, total silence reigns over the scandal-ridden government of Brazilian President Michel Temer.
TeleSUR English– Just when Brazil’s political crisis seemed like it couldn’t get any worse; Temer was caught red-handed on tape giving his blessings to bribes paid to: judges, prosecutors, a police task force member, and a powerful witness in the government’s corruption investigations, Eduardo Cunha, the former president of Brazil’s lower house of representatives.
But not a whisper from the OAS.
On Wednesday, Brazil’s security forces cracked down on protesters who were demanding free, democratic elections.
Not a peep from the OAS.
Also on Wednesday, Brazil’s military police were ordered to remove rural workers located on the Santa Lucia farm in the municipality of Pau D’Arco in the state of Para. The operation resulted in the deaths of 10 campesinos.
And still, the OAS utters not a word.
Ecuador managed to include in the daily agenda of the OAS, a discussion about the ongoing and worsening crisis in Brazil. However, the majority of countries considered such disturbances to be of a sovereign, internal matter, unbefitting of debate by the OAS Permanent Council.
“We repudiate misplaced interpretations of the functioning of our democratic institutions,” argued Brazilian ambassador Jose Luiz Machado. Unable to hide his frustration at the mere suggestion of debating Brazil’s crisis, Luiz Machado continued, “there’s no alteration or risk to the constitutional order.”
Several other delegations, including Argentina, Mexico, and Paraguay, shared Luiz Machado’s indignation.
Chile’s representative, Juan Barria, stated that Brazil’s crisis “is an absolutely internal issue.” Meanwhile, Argentina’s representative, Juan Jose Arcuri, asserted that the “issue should not have been considered.”
Just an odd mistake? Or convenient?
Whatever the case, the OAS hasn’t shied away from using its pulpit to convene a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the Venezuelan protests, with 19 votes in favor, 10 against, one abstention and one absence.
Hours after the vote, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez announced that the country will begin the process of exiting the OAS. She asserted that the organization had plans to criminalize the Venezuelan government and destabilize constitutional democracy in order to facilitate foreign intervention.
On April 27, Venezuela presented a formal letter pulling out of the OAS. At the time Rodriguez asserted, “We will defend the self-determination of our people.”
While Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called for a constituent assembly and the country’s electoral board has called for regional elections in December, Temer has taken no democratic measures to help quell the growing unrest in Brazil.
Having come to office through what many considered a parliamentary coup, Temer’s claim to fame has been proposing undemocratic pension cuts, austerity measures, reforms that minimized workers’ rights, and getting caught, red-handed on tape, approving bribes.
The latest Parana Institute Research poll indicates that 87 percent of Brazilians favor the immediate removal of Temer.
Double standards come naturally to the OAS, especially when the balance of power is defined by people’s power or power usurped by a handful of political elites, right-wing media, and the big-business class. The U.S.-dominated organization seems to have no use for people’s power.
Caracas, May 24, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) has set December 10 as the date for gubernatorial elections, after they were controversially postponed in 2016.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, CNE President Tibisay Lucena stated that the electoral body was close to concluding a six-month long registration process to validate Venezuelan political parties, meaning that election dates could finally be announced.
She also confirmed that elections to choose delegates to the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) announced by President Nicolas Maduro on May Day will take place “at the end of July”.
Making reference to the deadly protests that have rocked the country since the beginning of April and which have cost 63 lives to date, Lucena affirmed that the CNE would act “with special care to guarantee the rights of all citizens at a crucial moment for the country”.
“It is important to highlight that this is a hopeful opportunity for those of us who want tranquility and progress in Venezuela. This constituent assembly… should put forward a necessary social and political agreement to be able to live together with respect,” said the CNE head.
“We believe that the whole nation wants to overcome this terrible, violent episode as soon as possible, which harasses and wounds the will of Venezuelans to live in harmony,” she added.
Despite having demanded regional elections as part of a set of ultimatums presented to the government since their supporters took to the streets at the beginning of April, the Venezuelan opposition has rejected the CNE’s announcement of the election dates.
Just hours after Lucena’s press conference, the president of the opposition-held National Assembly, Julio Borges, slammed the CNE announcement as a “trick”. He confirmed that the opposition would continue to boycott the National Constituent Assembly and had activated a “new phase of struggle” against the process.
“We will not fall into this trap, we think that today’s announcement is to distract and divide us,” he said.
“The Supreme Court, Maduro and Lucena keep promoting the violence, we will stay in the streets until our objectives are achieved,” he added.
Meanwhile, from a pro-government march in Caracas on Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced ten points that will orientate the constituent process as it moves ahead.
The information – which is the most in-depth to have been made public since the initiative to re-write the country’s Constitution was first announced – was divulged by the president on the back of several meetings with the Presidential Constituent Commission, which is tasked with overseeing the process.
According to statements from Maduro, the ANC will be made up of an still unknown number of sectoral delegates, 364 territorial delegates, and an additional 8 indigenous representatives, who will be elected according to indigenous norms and customs.
The president explained that one constituent delegate will be elected by a majority vote in each municipality across the country regardless of population size, while two constituent delegates will be elected in each of Venezuela’s 23 states and the Capital District of Caracas via proportional representation.
“This means that the Capital District of Caracas will have 7 constituent delegates, the state of Anzoategui will have 22 constituent delegates as a state, Apure 8, Aragua 19, Barinas 13, Bolívar 12, Carabobo 15, Cojedes 10, Falcón 26, Guárico 16, Lara 10, Mérida 24, Miranda 22, Monagas 14, Nueva Esparta 12, Portuguesa 15, Sucre 16, Táchira 30, Trujillo 21, Yaracuy 15, Zulia 22, Amazonas 8, Delta Amacuro 5 and Vargas 2,” explained Maduro.
Venezuelans may put themselves forward as a territorial candidate or be nominated by a group of voters, however they must have the support of 3% of the electoral roll in their corresponding municipality.
Meanwhile sectoral delegates will be elected from amongst constituencies of workers, rural workers (campesinos) and fishermen, students, people living with disabilities, indigenous peoples, pensioners, businesspeople, and spokespeople from communes and communal councils.
The “workers” sectoral category will be broken down into sub-sections which include oil, mining, basic industries, business, education, health, sport, transport, construction, culture, intellectuals, press, science, technology and public administration.
According to Maduro, the CNE will be responsible for coordinating with official institutions, trade unions, and professional guilds in order to cross-check their employee records with electoral lists. The electoral body will also make contact with private and public universities, as well as with state educational missions, to obtain records for the country’s student sector.
One national delegate will be elected for every 83,000 voters on the electoral list for each sectoral constituency, with the exception of the commune and communal council delegates who will be chosen via “communal leadership in their own states”.
Candidates will be nominated by their corresponding sectors and must also have support from at least 3% of registered voters in their professional field.
Additionally, the president announced that the ANC will be single-chambered and elected government officials, active army personnel, judges, ministers, and CNE rectors, amongst others, will be prohibited from standing.
Once the delegates are elected, the ANC will be convened within a period of 72 hours, stated Maduro.
The surprise initiative to convoke the Constituent Assembly was announced by President Maduro on May 1 as a political solution to the past seven weeks of violent protest and to the ongoing confrontation between the opposition-controlled National Assembly and the executive branch of government.
The right-wing opposition withdrew from Vatican-mediated talks with the government last year and has since refused to enter into further dialogue despite the escalating violence.
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.