For the first time in 16 years, the direct aftermath of Venezuela’s elections was peaceful. Until then, the day following each election when Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro, or their political allies were victorious was full of street violence. Most recently in 2014, 43 people were killed in a wave of violence called “La Salida” in response to Maduro’s victory in the presidential election.
What makes the day following the December 6th vote in Venezuela so unique? In this election, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was defeated. The opposition forces who routinely resort to violence had no reason for doing so — as their Roundtable for Democratic Unity (MUD) won a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
The PSUV activists, unlike their political opponents, did not respond to their loss by bombing school buses or universities, stringing wires across intersections to behead motorists, or firing live ammunition in the streets. The message of Maduro and the PSUV has been a call for calm and a national conversation about economic problems.
Just as every election in the past 16 years has been followed by violence, every election in the last 16 years has also been declared fraudulent by the western press. Each time the United Socialist Party was victorious, US media declared that Chavez and Maduro were “dictators” and the election results were illegitimate. However, now that the PSUV has lost, the results have been accepted by the western press.
The deceptive nature of the mainstream capitalist media in the United States and Europe should be obvious. It declares Venezuela — a country that forbids the death penalty and torture in its constitution — to be a “brutal dictatorship.” Western media calls election results that are confirmed by the Organization of American States, the Carter Center, and the United Nations “fraudulent.” Unless of course, pro-US “opposition” forces are victorious.
Aside from exposing the hypocrisy of western media and leaders, the Venezuelan election results put all of Latin America and the world in greater danger. The forces that profit from war and destruction have their tentacles all over the region, and soon they could escalate their confrontation with the forces pushing for sovereignty and economic development.
No Rejection of Socialism
The electoral victories of the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) did not occur because of sentiments opposing Bolivarianism and socialism, as US media is deceptively claiming. In regional media and among Venezuelans, the election results are being described as a “voto castigo” (punishment vote) for the PSUV. The overwhelming majority of those who voted for the opposition, or abstained from voting and campaigning, have a positive view of the dramatic changes the country has experienced in the last 16 years. The election results simply conveyed disgust with policies and conditions in recent months, and were designed to “send a message” to Maduro.
Oil price drops have resulted in massive inflation. Food distribution companies, owned by wealthy capitalists who dislike the socialist government, are exporting food and causing shortages in the domestic market. Products like toilet paper are not readily available and are being rationed. US sanctions have intensified the economic problems, making it much harder for imports to enter the country. As the economy gets worse, a longstanding culture of corruption is becoming more obvious and rampant.
The problem of corruption is not an easy one to solve. In countries that have historically been impoverished, government officials are expected to “take care” of their relatives and friends by abusing their privileges. Under years of US-backed dictatorships, in which starvation and homelessness was common, corruption was something Venezuelans developed as a mechanism for survival. Traditions and habits, developed in order to survive poverty and capitalism in the Third World, don’t go away so easily.
Obama and the wealthy oil cartels of Wall Street and London are currently working very hard to keep the price of oil as low as possible. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which functions almost as an economic vassal of Exxon Mobile, is violating the rules of OPEC. The repressive monarchy is continuing to expand its oil-production apparatus. Saudi oil is flowing onto the international markets at record rates, and all oil-producing countries are hurting. The Saudis themselves are losing money each day, and Wall Street is starting to creak and moan.
The western financial oligarchy, coordinating with the US state department, is keeping the oil prices low as a geopolitical strategy. The aim is to hurt Venezuela, Iran, and Russia. These anti-imperialist countries have economies centered around publicly controlled oil and natural gas resources. The low oil prices have severely limited the ability of the Venezuelan government to feed and house its people, and construct new infrastructure.
Henrique Capriles, Wall Street-Funded “Socialist”
The PSUV has utilized the state-run media apparatus to explain that the US and domestic capitalists are sabotaging the economy. Many Venezuelans agree with this assessment of the crisis, but are still not satisfied. While recognizing the existence of economic warfare, Venezuelans desperately want the government to take action. People are tired of having to wait in line for pharmaceuticals and toiletries, while watching the value of their currency rapidly decrease.
Rising to the occasion and employing a billion-dollar public relations budget, the Venezuelan opposition forces have restructured their messaging. Rather than opposing the movement toward socialism and defending neoliberalism, MUD leaders have started mouthing rhetoric about poverty and class struggle. Rather than blatantly defending capitalism, MUD forces have emphasized “mismanagement” and “inefficiency” and promised to do a better job running the country. Like Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, the rallying cry of the opposition is a vaguely worded promise of change, mixed in alongside echoing of widespread domestic grievances.
The extremist wing of the opposition, which has called for a military coup d’etat and routinely engages in terrorist violence, has been pushed into the background. Leopoldo Lopez, who led the violent street provocations in 2014, is now in prison.
The current leader of the Venezuelan opposition is Henrique Capriles Radonski. Despite being funded by western capitalists in his campaign against the Venezuelan government, Capriles calls himself a “socialist.” He claims his “socialism” is less “authoritarian” and “repressive” than that of Chavez and Maduro.
Capriles has converted to Catholicism, but both his parents are Sephardic Jews of Spanish origin. Venezuelan media has documented that Capriles is an active supporter of the Israeli government, and that he coordinates his political activities with well-funded thinktanks and political organizations in the United States, western Europe, and Israel. Capriles does not deny these allegations, but simply accuses those who bring them up of antisemitism.
Thousands of socialist communes exist across Venezuela. Over 116,000 young Venezuelans are trained in how to use firearms as part of the “Bolivarian Militias” which are independent of the standing army. The Venezuelan military itself is solidly behind Maduro and the PSUV. The bulk of the military receives its training in Cuba, and classes in revolutionary ideology are mandatory for all soldiers. At the polls on December 6, a whopping 42% of Venezuelan voters remained loyal to the “Patriotic Pole” of leftist and nationalist parties that support the current government, despite the extreme hardships. The large political apparatus built by Hugo Chavez and directed by Nicolas Maduro cannot be dismantled at the polls. It remains a solid force for Wall Street and MUD to contend with.
The day after the election, a crowd of Bolivarian activists assembled at the Mausoleum where Hugo Chavez is buried. President Maduro greeted them in the evening, and transferred the facility to a private foundation so the National Assembly could not dismantle it with legislation.
Glen Martinez, a leftist radio host who abstained from voting and campaigning in frustration with the PSUV, said he does not believe the election results reverse the Bolivarian revolution. “We are not the same people we were before Chavez. We will not be submissive. We will stand and fight for what we have,” he said.
While Martinez means to be reassuring with his words, convinced that the National Assembly will not dismantle the popular economic reforms, his comment points to a large, potential danger. There is indeed a large gap between the opposition movement and those who put them into office. Many who voted for the opposition admire Hugo Chavez and want to continue the movement toward socialism. While Capriles delivers a somewhat left-sounding message, a big bulk of the opposition’s leading activists, and those who provide the overwhelming majority of their funding, want to completely overturn the Bolivarian revolution.
With a two-thirds “super majority” in the national assembly, the opposition has the ability to override presidential vetoes, change the constitution, and almost completely run the government without restraint. The opposition can now move ahead with its program, while the overwhelming majority of the state apparatus remains loyal to the PSUV and Maduro. The majority of the population maintains a positive view of socialism, despite their frustrations with the current leadership. However, the central government is now in the hands of committed anti-socialists.
Prior to the elections, Venezuela began facing big external threats. Paramilitary forces from Colombia have continued to launch provocations on Venezuela’s borders. Individuals linked to Colombian right-wing paramilitary forces confessed to murdering popular socialist National Assembly member Robert Serra. Neighboring Guyana has begun to claim chunks of Venezuela’s oil-rich territory, and asked the international community to redraw the borders.
South America is rapidly polarizing. In Brazil, moderate social-democratic president Dilma Rousseff is facing impeachment as a right-wing political movement calls for her to be ousted in a military coup. Pro-US rightists have taken power in Argentina. Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua remain solidly in the Bolivarian camp for the moment, though they have each experienced provocations and right-wing protests in recent months. US leaders seem determined to stop China’s project of building a sea passage through Nicaragua which could compete with the US-controlled Panama Canal.
The Plan to Destroy Venezuela
No matter what government rules over its soil, geologists now agree that Venezuela has more oil than any other country on earth. Libya and Iraq, two major oil-exporting countries who were competing with Wall Street on the global market, were purposely destroyed by the United States. The result of overthrowing Gaddafi and Hussein was not “regime change” but chaos, insecurity, and the expansion of international terrorism.
The US-aligned regimes of Central America are not bastions of stability and commerce, but rather drug and human trafficking. As they are flooded with US-made weapons, suffer the rule of narcos, and experience record-high rates of murder, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala demonstrate the true goal of the United States for its allies. The age of US-backed “strongmen” is over. The global program of international finance, demonstrated most acutely in the Middle East, is civil war and chaos.
As MUD is set to take office in January, Venezuela is becoming a tinderbox, poised to explode at any moment. The forces of counterrevolution, funded by the United States and western Europe, now have access to the highest levels of government. Meanwhile, the Bolivarian movement has not surrendered and maintains the loyalty of a huge section of the population. Even those who have become cynical are not prepared to surrender the housing, education, food, and other economic perks delivered to them by the socialists.
The forces that want to destroy Venezuela, remove it from the international oil markets, and force it back into dependency and poverty, are in a position to exacerbate this crisis.
As Wall Street pushes for an explosion of violence in South America, all Venezuelans, regardless of their feelings about the PSUV and its policies, will soon be facing great challenges. They must try to hold their country together and hold on to the political structures and economic gains that have been created since the birth of Chavismo in 1999. With the election results as an opening, Wall Street is ready to intensify its efforts to tear down the Bolivarian movement. As has been demonstrated in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and Syria, the goal is not simply to destroy the country’s independent and defiant leaders. The imperialists’ aim is to destroy Venezuela.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.