The Venezuela ‘Opposition’ We Never Hear About

By Arnold August

At 35 years of age, he is tall and slim, and his imposing stature moves about in a subtle swagger that exudes confidence tempered with a humility that does not succumb to his good looks and natural charisma. As a deputy, he is the leader of a block of 55 deputies in the Venezuelan National Assembly. From all appearances, his personality and the important position he holds should attract the sensation-seeking U.S. corporate media that hangs on to every word and is so eager to capture images of the deputies and their supporters to make a “story.”

There is, however, a problem for them and for Washington. Héctor Rodríguez is the leader of this minority block of 55 Chavista-led deputies, Bloque de la Patria, which is an outcome of the Dec. 5, 2015 legislative election that saw the ruling socialist party, the PSUV, lose its majority in the National Assembly.

Rodríguez opposes the majority in what has become a bourgeois national assembly, to paraphrase the words that Nicolás Maduro used in a talk in Caracas to national and international guests on March 7, 2017.

In the U.S. Congress, depending on its composition, the minority Democrats or Republicans oppose the majority. However, this “opposition” is always within the framework of the capitalist status quo, preserving the racist state as a vestige of slavery, negating the genocide of the Indigenous peoples (which is still under way in different forms) and sacrificing the working people on the altar of capitalist globalization, which itself is a key component of a foreign policy based on imperialist aggression and wars.

In parliamentary systems, such as in Canada and Britain, the establishment consensus adds a shameful British slant to the “opposition” charade, which would be a comedy if it were not so tragic. In these other countries in the North, the “loyal opposition” (as they are actually formally recognized) can feel free to oppose as long as they are loyal to the head of state, which in both Canada and Britain is the Queen of England.

However, Rodríguez’s loyalty lies with the Bolivarian Revolution and nothing else. On March 6, in Caracas, he participated in a more intimate meeting with delegates of the international Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity. It took place in a small hall in the Foreign Affairs building. During the course of this encounter, an exchange between the participants and the deputy naturally evolved. It was so engrossing that the banal act of taking notes would have failed to do justice to the content or the style in the best Chavista tradition exhibited by Rodríguez, which is also increasingly being demonstrated by President Nicolás Maduro and other leaders.

The discussion covered many themes. One, for example, was an incredibly lucid explanation of the view that the Bolivarian Revolution, which the block of deputies are part of, is based in words and deeds on opposition to U.S. imperialism and capitalism. While the Revolution is flexible in terms of tactics, for example, in negotiating with the majority pro-capitalist, pro-U.S. force in the National Assembly in order to strive for a peaceful solution to the crisis, when it comes to the question of principles and objectives, there is no compromise possible.

No wonder that those in the North, who rely on the corporate media, never hear about this “opposition” as personified in Rodríguez. This censorship takes place even though the establishment media must be in dire straits in the hunt for a new face to replace the bland dinosaur-type politicians in the National Assembly. Washington and its media would rather sink into the swamp of Venezuelan political oblivion, even though they should pay formal attention to the “opposition” as they do so faithfully not only in other countries but also, of course, in the U.S. Congress. If they ever decide to focus on Venezuela’s opposition to the National Assembly majority, Rodríguez and other such deputies would no doubt steal the show.

Another distinguishing feature of the Bolivarian Revolution opposition is that its rejection of the status quo is defined more by what it is in favor of than what it is against. The goals of the Bolivarian Revolution comprise social and economic equality, housing, food, health, education, culture, sports and a participatory and protagonist democracy, the very essence of which is blocked by imperialism and the neoliberal status quo.

Those of us who came of political age in the 1960s felt right at home as the deputy zeroed in on the imperialists, gringos and Yankees while making crystal clear what we already know. The conflict is not with the people of the U.S., who were duly represented in red those days in Caracas, but rather with the ruling circles who, as Martí and Bolívar said in their own respective ways, are destined to plague the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean with hardship and misery.

Moreover, the U.S. is doubling-down on its reprehensible destiny as the peoples in the South strive to finally break free from the shackles of the most forceful and aggressive military and economic power in the history of mankind (or surely since the fascism of WWII), represented by Republicans and Democrats. Thus, it was encouraging to hear President Maduro on that memorable evening in Caracas telling the truth: Venezuela has not been attacked by any U.S. president as much as during the eight years of Obama. Let that sink in.

In this context, the intransigent Bolivarian opposition to U.S. imperialism is no small matter. Venezuela, at the forefront of anti-U.S. imperialism today, is thus writing another chapter in modern world history, as the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro have done in safeguarding their sovereignty, dignity and the social system they have chosen.

For his part, Rodríguez walked the audience very carefully and deliberately, repeating as if to test our determination (and looking us in the eyes), that while the battle is at present still mainly in the realm of ideas, if necessary – if necessary – Venezuela will also fight militarily. There is no doubt that if forced to do so, the Bolivarian Revolution will resist in this way as well. This is why all of humanity must today more than ever stand with Venezuela

During the course of the exchange with Rodríguez, what stands out is his deep political conviction illuminated by clarity in theory. This is not merely manifested by ideas and words. When ideas and words combine with action, they become a material force in society. Material force means that the ideas become an organic part of society: the ideas in the minds of individuals such as Rodríguez and other leaders and activists at all levels are socialized and thus evolve into a common movement replete with diversity. Yes, diversity – but always and only within the wide framework of broad-based Chavismo.

Thus, the minority in the National Assembly — and perhaps still a minority of 40 percent, or even half of the population in the shifting sands, of Venezuelan society – represents the future of Venezuela and that whole region. A material force such as the Bolivarian Revolution cannot be snuffed out. Yes, it can suffer setbacks, but it cannot be eliminated.

Nevertheless, Chavismo is not an electoral movement but a revolution in the making and constantly redefining itself. It does so to the extent of fearlessly organizing revolutions within the revolution, striving to carry this out in conjunction with the people and activists at all levels. With this fresh approach so singularly characteristic of the Bolivarian Revolution, the irresistible material force of socialism to replace capitalism and foreign dependence increasingly takes root and grows in Venezuelan society and on its political scene.

Arnold August, a Canadian journalist and lecturer, is the author of “Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections” and, more recently, “Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion” which explores Cuba’s relationship with the U.S., Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. He is a collaborator of teleSUR English. Arnold can be followed on Twitter @Arnold_August and Facebook.

Venezuela Opposes OAS Secretary General Ultimatum: Elections or Suspension

Los Angeles, Wednesday March 15th 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Relations Delcy Rodríguez issued an official statement Tuesday rejecting the Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro’s latest report calling for the suspension of the South American nation if general elections are not held “as quickly as possible”. The 75 page report, released this week, outlines the Bolivarian government’s alleged human rights abuses and violations of the OAS Democratic Charter.

“Almagro heads the hemisphere’s fascist right-wing group that harasses, assaults and viciously attacks Venezuela, without any scruples or ethics,” read the communique released on Rodríguez’s official social media page @DrodriguezVen.

Almagro insists that Venezuela hold general elections within 30 days and “retake an institutional route” or face suspension from the regional bloc, despite the fact that general elections are not due in Venezuela until 2018.

Elections “are the only real solution that exists,” Almagro attests.

“We cannot allow the premise of dialogue to continue to be used as a smokescreen to perpetuate and legitimize the authoritarian power of what has become a regime in Venezuela,” he stated in the updated report.

In response, the Venezuelan government denounced “before the whole world the aggressive intentions of this sad, evildoer against our unwavering decision to continue living in peace, with independence and sovereignty, as is the right of all peoples of the world”.

Last May, Almagro presented a similar report and invoked Article 20 of the OAS Democratic Charter. He threatened the South American nation with intervention, citing “an alteration of the constitutional order that seriously affects its democratic order.” Nonetheless, the move was rejected by the majority of member-states, who voted to back dialogue in Venezuela to resolve differences between the national government and political opposition.

Since May, the Bolivarian government has attempted to reconcile tensions with sectors of the opposition, whose efforts to realize a recall referendum to revoke the president last year were quashed. The National Electoral Council (CNE) suspended the process after thousands fraudulent signatures were registered in support of the recall by the opposition.

Subsequently, the Bolivarian government extended an invitation to dialogue with sectors of the opposition with support from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Vatican as international facilitators. However, the opposition has yet to resume the dialogue since late last year calling for the release of “political prisoners” and making other demands before committing to next steps.

Almagro’s report comes after he stated in February that the OAS would not apply the Democratic Charter in Venezuela’s case until the Bolivarian government, opposition and Vatican officially confirmed that dialogue efforts had ceased. A joint official statement between the two parties and the religious body has not been released.

Almagro’s threat of suspension for Venezuela is not new. The OAS suspended the revolutionary Cuban government and people from the regional body between 1962-2009.

Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Front: ‘Reviving Chavez’s politics is our greatest homage’

By Revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Front

Four years have passed since that March 5th that changed the history of the country. Four years without the physical presence of Hugo Chávez, without his leadership at the helm of the historic project he had led and developed. From that day on, there was an epochal change: the coordinates – secure up until then – began to shift, the enemy sharpened its strategy of war, the revolutionary leadership lost its clarity, the millions, who on March 5 and during 10 consecutive days said farewell to Chávez, began losing their clear references and the certainties established over the course of 21 years.

The country is not the same one that Chávez left us. There are continuities, particularly in terms of social policies: housing, for example. 1.5 million homes have been built in six years [under the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission]. But there have also been ruptures, in particular, the way in which politics is done, the thinking regarding how the people should be protagonists, the mechanisms of revolutionary democracy and the ethics of the leadership of the process, as well as the direction of the way forward.

We say that it’s necessary to resuscitate the politics of Chávez – both in theory and practice, which are inseparable – in order to find in his vision the keys for advancing the project, which we must not forget, proposed a transition towards socialism. Today that course is not clear. We can ask ourselves, for example, if the communes are still part of the project. If they are not, then where are we headed?

There are several central points in Chávez’s thought: politics must be about revolutionary democracy. This does not mean passive attendance of grand ceremonies in which the same people are always speaking. It’s not applause for the cameras, but a way of participating that demands instruments, channels, and concrete organizational forms. Another key is to recover the politics of the everyday: it’s no secret that macro politics have become distant from the politics of the day to day, from the politics of the people. The official discourse does not register in the language of the commons.

To remember Chávez is then a necessary act of memory, but it’s also a responsibility and a dedication. What must be done for radical democracy to return, for power to be appropriated by the people, for the construction of a productive economy based on mixed forms of social property? If this is to become a reality then it will depend on the successful accumulation of popular forces, the organization that is being territorially developed among the young, women, the middle class, LGBTQ people, intellectuals, workers – in other words, that broad and heterogeneous universe called the people.

We must put into practice the politics of Chávez. This is our best homage.

Translated by Lucas Koerner for Venezuelanalysis.

Julian Assange on Chavez, Ecuador and WikiLeaks’ struggle for truth and justice

Letter sent by Julian Assange to the XV Encounter of the Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defence of Humanity, held in Caracas, Venezuela over March 6-7, 2017. Translated by Federico Fuentes, Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.

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Dear friends in the Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements for Humanity meeting in Caracas,

In the book of Proverbs, it says, “A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense.”

“Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables.” Yet there is more to it.

The next verse says, “The wise are mightier than the strong.” Knowledge is power.

I have the great honour of addressing you on the anniversary of the death of a man who fought long and hard against imperialism, neo-colonialism and other forms of oppression of the peoples, especially in Latin America.

[Former Venezuelan president Hugo] Chavez played the most important role on the global stage, with his tireless efforts to continue down the path of regional integration and cooperation and build a multi-polar world.

He denounced injustices as he saw them and in 2001 was the only leader to denounce the killings by the US of innocent civilians in Afghanistan, noting, “You cannot fight terrorism with terrorism”. A little over six months later, the US supported a coup against him that was defeated when hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets, many of them with the constitution in hand.

Like all of us, he was not free from sin, but his virtues shook the world.

As director of WikiLeaks, we have shed light on the secrets of the powerful, and have built a different and powerful library; a library that contains information regarding how our world and its institutions really function; a library that contains information that for centuries was solely in the hands of the elites and that now – not without facing risk and persecution – we have democratised and put at the disposition of the people, regardless of political orientation or creed.

It is for everyone, so that society as a whole opens their eyes and, with irrefutable information at hand, confront the powerful and come to their own conclusions, without the filter of the media, regarding political events and decisions that affect their lives.

The objective of WikiLeaks, of seeking truth in the name of humanity, is today more important than ever, an objective we continue to seek despite the high price we pay for it.

The cost, in my case, has been high. I have been legally persecuted and detained for almost seven years, without any charges having been laid against me. This persecution has been extended to my family, my children, to those I have not been able to see during this period of time.

The United Nations, as well as numerous human rights organisations and personalities at the global level, have called on Sweden and the United Kingdom to respect their international obligations, to respect and recognize the sovereignty of the state of Ecuador and to, therefore, recognise my asylum and stop blocking the exercise of this human right.

It is inconceivable that, in the 21st century, the imperialist attitudes of the United Kingdom and Sweden could lead them to ignore, with complete impunity, a sovereign act by an independent country, Ecuador.

I remind those present that Ecuador has paid and continues to pay a high price for granting me asylum to protect me from political persecution for having exposed the secrets of the empire. The British police have attacked its Embassy in London, which even today continues to be subjected to unprecedented levels of surveillance.

Denying safe passage so that I can go to Latin America is an act of pure imperialism by countries that occupy high posts in the United Nations and that, nevertheless, refuse to recognise and enable the exercise of a universal right. They do so with total impunity while mocking the sovereignty of a country of the South and the entire region of Latin America, which unanimously supports my asylum.

This constitutes a great insult to the dignity of our peoples and the very system of the United Nations. To have done this over many years demonstrates the deterioration and grave backwards steps that have occurred in terms of the international system of protection of human rights for all.

Not to speak of my country, Australia, another servant of imperialist interests, that in seven years has not once pleaded my case and, moreover, has sought to criminalise me to ensure I cannot return home.

Both Sweden and the United Kingdom have completely ignored a firm resolution from the highest authorities on the issue of arbitrary detention, who after closely analysing my case determined that my detention was arbitrary and illegal and that I should be immediately allowed to leave and be compensated.

But despite all this, the empire has not been able to silence me. I am free simply because I am free to express myself. And I have this freedom thanks to the courage of Ecuador and other states, among them Venezuela, that have united to support me.

My struggle could become a success story for freedom of expression and human rights. As such, granting safe passage would be an act of justice and dignity for the region.

We remain faithful to our promise to publish the truth without fear or negotiating under the table. We will continue to strive to fulfil our commitment to truth and social justice.

The liberation of the peoples depends on the liberation of the minds of the peoples. For this, we need peaceful revolutionary efforts, like those of WikiLeaks, to flourish around the world. That is why we need to halt the persecution of WikiLeaks and its people.

Let us do this together, today. Tomorrow may be too late.

Julian Assange

Venezuela’s Communal Movement

By STANFIELD SMITH – COUNTERPUNCH , January 3rd 2017

George Ciccariello-Maher, author of We Created Chavez, has come out with a short book on Venezuela, Building the Commune (Verso, 2016 Verso, 138 pp). Here the grassroots struggle  to build a new society, focusing on the cooperatives, the community councils, the communes, established to strengthen popular participatory democracy, is  keeping the Chavista revolution alive.

Venezuela’s Communal Movement

This communal movement began with the fight against neoliberalism’s anti-working class measures even before the Caracazo, the 1989 outburst against IMF imposed cuts resulting in the then government killing up to 2000 protesters. The later struggles against anti-neoliberal economics  in the 1990s eventually led to a series of anti-neoliberal governments taking power in South America,  where Chavez’ Venezuela led the way.

Continue reading “Venezuela’s Communal Movement”

Venezuela: The Suspension of the Recall Referendum, the Sharpening of Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries

This has essentially ruled out any possibility of a presidential recall referendum being run this year or next.

Venezuela’s Communes Form the Front Line of a Difficult Revolutionary Struggle

Nov 2nd 2016, by Tamara Pearson – Green Left Weekly