After 18 years of the Bolivarian Revolution, it is clear that great progress that has been made in the political, economic, cultural and social spheres. It is evident that sectors which had historically been excluded in the Homeland of Bolivar are now protagonists of their own social demands.
In this context it would be unfair to object to the dignity that citizens have been given and their right to a better standard of living, evidence of which can be found in the empowerment and attention they have received during all these years through the Social Missions, which have focused on inclusion in subjects like education, food, health, housing, just to name a few.
In light of this, and with his visionary spirit, the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro Moros, has convened a National Constituent Assembly (ANC), which will not only wisely and fairly allow us to include all the socialist missions promoted by the Bolivarian Revolution in the Constitution, but will also, as in any society that is subject to changes over time, allow us to perfect our constitution and with that continue along the path of development in peace and with the active presence of the Venezuelan People. It is necessary to take advantage of this new instrument to advance towards greater social and legal justice.
Five and forty five women and men, from all sectors of the community, invested by the original and plenipotentiary power of the People, will have the historical mission of taking the qualitative leap that will allow us to consolidate and deepen the progress that we have achieved through our social policies, so that the Venezuelan people continue to climb the scale of human dignity.
This is why we have great expectations for July 30, a historic day in which all popular forces that support the legacy of President Hugo Chavez will joyfully, peacefully and with revolutionary consciousness come out to renew the basis of the transformation that will allow us to continue building a splendid and glorious future, which translates into making more Revolution and giving more power to the People.
I have no doubt that once again this slow and difficult process of transformation will continue consolidating itself. The people are certain that this is the best and only option.
Daniel Gasparri Rey is Charge d’Affaires and Minister-Counsellor of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Australia
International coverage entirely ignores the July 19 demonstration of support for a Constituent Assembly, writes Iain Bruce.
Did you hear the one about a practice election in Venezuela, where millions of people lined up from early morning until late at night, just to cast their vote in a dry run poll that meant absolutely nothing at all? Except to express support for another election in two weeks time?
Actually, it’s not a joke. It did happen. On Sunday. Video shows them singing and dancing as they waited to test voting machines and see how the election of a new Constituent Assembly on July 30 will work.
But you probably never heard about it. Because the world’s media, pretty much without exception, concentrated almost exclusively on the other vote happening in Venezuela on Sunday, an informal plebiscite held by the opposition, with no constitutional status, to oppose that Constituent Assembly.
So let’s just look at the quality media. The New York Times for example — you remember: “All the news that’s fit to print.” Well, maybe not ALL of it …
“Venezuelans Rebuke Their President by a Staggering Margin” states the headline.
“More than 98 percent of voters sided with the opposition,” continues the paper that certainly would have sneered at results like this when the beneficiary was Saddam Hussain or Mobuto Sese Seko.
Mind you, since only opposition supporters voted in this plebiscite, 98 percent is probably fairly accurate.
The Times goes on to say this vote undermines “Mr. Maduro’s plan to appoint an assembly of handpicked supporters to draft a new Constitution”.
Sorry, “Appoint,” “handpicked”? Was that what all those millions of mainly poor Venezuelans thought they were doing when they waited in line all day in favor of the right to vote for the Constituent Assembly?
Readers of the Times have to wait until paragraph 16 to get one short paragraph on the “Maduro loyalists’ drill,” where they learn that “The turnout for that was notably thin.”
That must explain why some of them were still lining up at 10 p.m. after the exercise had been planned to finish at 4 p.m.
The BBC, who many have looked to as the gold standard of accuracy and equilibrium, headlined its lead story overnight, “Woman shot dead in Venezuela voting queue.”
Really, was that the story in Venezuela on Sunday, as millions, voted peacefully on both sides of the political divide?
It goes on, “Men on motorbikes fired at a queue, killing her and wounding three others. The opposition blamed a “paramilitary” gang.”
Now a woman, a nurse, was indeed shot dead, in the working-class Caracas neighborhood of Catia, where there had been a confrontation between government and opposition supporters. But the circumstances are unclear and an investigation is underway. It’s certainly not clear who did the shooting, much less that they were men on motorbikes firing at a line of voters.
But never mind, that story at least fits the assumed narrative of Chavista thugs terrorizing peaceful opponents that has shaped so much coverage of Venezuela in the last three months. So probably somebody thought it must be true.
To give them their due, it seems the BBC did do some checking. By morning they had wiped that story and replaced it with a more sober headline.
Sadly, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, and so on, didn’t fare a lot better.
Now the opposition plebiscite certainly did get a decent turnout. They say almost 7.2 million took part. But none of those serious, fact-checking media saw any need to question that number, even though it is impossible to verify, and likely to be at least a little exaggerated. That’s because it was, of course, an informal ballot, with no roll of electors or way of telling whether people had voted twice, or even 17 times as one person was accused of.
But let’s not be grudging. Let’s assume it was indeed 7.2 million. And let’s assume they all voted against the Constituent Assembly. None of these media told you that there are almost 20 million registered voters in Venezuela. So that would mean 37 percent had supported the opposition. That’s a little bit less than the percentage that Venezuela’s opposition have got in most of the more than 20 elections held in this well-known dictatorship in the last 18 years, and the same percentage with which they have lost all but two of them.
And all the quality media managed to ignore, or dismiss, the millions of Venezuelans who turned out in support of the Constituent Assembly election.
We don’t yet have official figures for how many took part in the dry run. But initial estimates suggest it may have been even more than the 7 million that the opposition claims for its vote.
So, what should we make of the international media coverage of this important day in Venezuela? Plus ca change!
Venezuelans were taken by surprise with the announcement that opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez would serve out his jail term under house arrest. The move is an unprecedented concession that seeks to calm the waters in the lead up to the July 30 Constituent Assembly elections.
But the conflict in the country is showing it has multiple faces. On July 10, a day after the official election campaign began, a candidate was assassinated in the middle of a campaign event.
Revolutionary activist and sociologist Reinaldo Iturriza has spent many years working with popular movements in Venezuela and writing on the rise of Chavismo as a political movement of the poor. He also served as Minister for the Communes and Social Movements, and then Minister for Culture in President Nicolas Maduro’s cabinet between 2013 and 2016.
Together with activists from a range of grassroots revolutionary organisations and social movements, he is standing as a candidate for the Popular Constituent Platform in the July 30 elections for a Constituent Assembly that will seek to find a political way out of the current turmoil gripping Venezuela through the drafting of a new constitution.
Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network’s Federico Fuentes interviewed Iturriza for his views on the current challenges facing Chavismo and the proposed Constituent Assembly. Read interview here
Marco Teruggi, Caracas (Translated by Federico Fuentes)
The right-wing opposition has put its foot down on the accelerator, it is moving all of its pieces at once, and aims to shatter the balance of forces through a coup. It has made it clear: the opposition has June and July to achieve its objective.
It has declared that, backed by article 350 of the constitution, it does not recognise the government. Nor does it recognise the call for a National Constituent Assembly and it is organising to impede the elections for the assembly going ahead on July 30.
Translating these words into actions has meant a rise in clashes between state powers through its use of the attorney-general and National Assembly, largely unsuccessful attacks from the Organisation of American States, media pressure, ramping up attacks on the economy and a deepening of the violence, street terror and attacks on state security forces, particularly the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB)…..
Green Left Weekly – In a speech to parliament on June 21, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson attacked the Venezuelan government and President Nicolas Maduro, while praising right-wing opposition protests in the country.
It is not clear whether Whish-Wilson’s position reflects the official policy of the Australian Greens or is merely a personal view. In either case, the Greens should reject this position that promotes violence and confrontation, rather than dialogue and respect for Venezuela’s democracy and sovereignty.
To understand the current turmoil in Venezuela, Whish-Wilson and the Greens would do well to look at statements made by former Greens leader Bob Brown.
Brown visited Venezuela in 2008 in an attempt to aid efforts undertaken by the Venezuelan government to secure the release of Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, taken hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
In a statement to the Senate on May 14 that year, Brown said: “Venezuela is oil rich, with a highly educated elite and a strengthening democracy. Its President, Hugo Chavez, was one of few world leaders with the gumption to publicly contest the mistakes and exported violence” of then US president George W Bush.
“Due to the Chavez government’s popular — and that is what all the opinion polls show — concentration on helping the millions of poor people on the land and in Caracas’s huge barrios, or slums, the small but highly educated richer class are emigrating.”
While Venezuela faces important challenges, it is clear that Venezuela’s government, first under Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro, continues to focus on helping the poor and has in many ways worked towards implementing policies in line with the Greens’ “Four Pillars”: ecological sustainability, grassroots democracy, social justice and peace and non-violence.
These policies include, among many others:
* a program that has seen Venezuela’s deforestation rate reduced by almost 60% and that this year alone is set to plant 1.6 million plants and trees;
* the promotion of community councils and communes as a way of directly involving citizens in decision making over how resources are spent in their communities;
* a dramatic expansion of the education and healthcare system — which is now free — and a massive housing program that has handed over 1.5 million homes to the poor, to ensure everyone has access to these basic rights; and
* strong opposition to wars abroad and support for neighbouring Colombia’s peace negotiations.
Because of this, the Venezuelan government has faced a sustained campaign of opposition from the richer class — the traditional base of support for the right-wing opposition — including coup attempts, economic sabotage, bosses’ lockouts and violent protests, such as the ones we see today.
It is from this class, which Brown identified back in 2008 as the main source of emigration, that much of the Venezuelan community in Australia is drawn.
But the government also continues to maintain support among the country’s poorer classes, even if their voices are generally silenced by the media, with recent pro-government protests drawing hundreds of thousands of people.
All of this is ignored by Whish-Wilson, who said: “The situation in Venezuela right now is a disaster … some of this situation stems from a sudden drop in the oil price, but much of the trauma appears to come from an increasingly anti-democratic and corrupted government under President Nicolas Maduro”.
Whish-Wilson provides no evidence for his claims of a “corrupted government”, nor does he explain why much of the fault of the current situation lies with Maduro. He ignores strong evidence of a sustained economic campaign being waged by Venezuela’s richer class to create chaos and destabilise the government.
Instead, he accuses the government of seeking to “cling onto power” by any means, including the use of “excessive force against protesters and political opponents — my understanding is that in 80 days of protest over 75 people have now been killed”.
Whish-Wilson goes on: “Despite losing a parliamentary election and despite attempts by the opposition to initiate recall of the president … the president has used what is in effect his own supreme court to overrule these democratic actions.”
Not only are these claims false, they deliberately conceal the violent and anti-democratic nature of the right-wing opposition.
As of June 19, 84 deaths had occurred as a result of the recent wave of political violence. Yet of all these deaths, less that 20% (14 deaths) have been directly attributed to security forces or government supporters. In response almost 30 officers have been detained or have warrants out for their arrest — a stark contrast to Australia, where almost no police officer has been charged for the hundreds of deaths in custody that hagve occurred.
In contrast, 22 deaths have occurred as a result of the actions of right-wing opponents. This includes the targeted assassination — and in some cases mob lynching – of government supporters and deaths resulting from traffic accidents caused by road blockades set up by protesters.
The large bulk of deaths are still under investigation, but victims include security forces, protesters and government supporters.
Clearly, there is violence on both sides. So why does Whish-Wilson only condemn the government?
Moreover, Whish-Wilson seems to lack a basic understanding of Venezuela’s democratic system.
Unlike Australia, Venezuela has a presidential, not a parliamentary, system of government. The president is elected by the people — unlike prime ministers in Australia, who rely on backroom party deals to keep their position — and can only be removed by the vote of the people.
There is no provision in the constitution for the National Assembly to remove the president, something the opposition-controlled parliament attempted to do in January this year. This move was rebuked by the Supreme Court.
Rather than distance himself from undemocratic attempts to use a vote in parliament to overturn the vote of the people, Whish-Wilson attacks the Supreme Court for upholding the constitution.
He also incorrectly attacks the Supreme Court for the opposition’s failed attempt to convoke a recall referendum against Maduro. It is worth noting that while this legal right exists in “anti-democratic” Venezuela, it is denied to citizens in Australia.
It was the National Electoral Court that suspended the recall process, based on decisions made by regional electoral courts that found strong evidence of irregularities in the signature collection process.
Whish-Wilson not only makes a mistake akin to confusing the Australian Electoral Commission with the Federal Court, he provides no evidence to contradict the findings of fraud.
Far from clinging onto power, Maduro has announced elections on July 30 for a Constituent Assembly — which until recently was a demand of the opposition — for regional governors in December, and for president next year. Within a year, the opposition could control the presidency, state governments across the country and remake Venezuela’s constitution to its own liking.
Instead, the opposition has rejected these elections and stated it will do whatever it takes to remove Maduro.
Whish-Wilson not only presents an inaccurate picture of the political struggle underway in Venezuela; he clearly takes the side of the right-wing opposition while ignoring their violent and anti-democratic actions.
Rather than taking the side of the undemocratic opposition, Whish-Wilson and the Greens should be encouraging the Australian government to condemn violence on either side and support efforts that seek to promote dialogue in Venezuela while respecting its sovereignty.
[Jim McIlroy and Federico Fuentes are national co-coordinators of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.]
Since opposition protests began in Venezuela in early April, much of the media coverage has focused on clashes in Caracas. However, the opposition’s campaign to bring down the government of Nicolas Maduro has not been limited to the country’s capital.
Marco Teruggi reports on a recent visit to the small, but strategic town of Socopo, in the largely rural state Barinas, which has been the site of a campaign of terror and an all-out struggle for power.
It was original published at 15 y Ultimo and has been translated by Green Left Weekly’s Federico Fuentes.
Opposition leaders have encouraged “resistence” that has resulted in some 80 deaths and over 1000 injured.
At least 900 workers and 45 children were evacuated after opposition protesters attacked the Ministry of Housing in the upper-class district of Chacao, in the state of Miranda, housing minister Manuel Quevedo said Monday on Twitter.
In a phone interview with state channel VTV, the state official blamed Chacao’s Mayor Ramon Muchacho for “providing protection to the terrorist groups that carried out the attack.”
He also criticized the “inaction” of Venezuela’s Attorney General’s office in “15 attacks against the housing social program,” accusing the country’s top lawyer of backing right-wing supporters by affording them “impunity.”
Last Thursday, Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz filed an appeal to the Supreme Court after it upheld a decision to maintain the National Constituent Assembly called by President Nicolas Maduro to rewrite the Constitution.
Ortega called on the judges to halt the National Constituent Assembly, deepening tensions between her office and the Maduro government.
However, on Monday, the controversial official requested the removal of 13 magistrates and 20 substitutes from the Supreme Court, claiming that the judges represented “an obstacle to peace in the country,” because the “conditions of their appointment lacked legitimacy.”
Members of Maduro’s PSUV party have accused Ortega of acting with bias, while opposition figures have recently been lauding the actions of the attorney general.
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.