March 13, 2014

Counterrevolution in Venezuela

“Make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again . . . till their doom; that is the logic of the imperialists and all reactionaries the world over in dealing with the people's cause, and they will never go against this logic… Fight, fail, fight again, fail again, fight again . . . till their victory; that is the logic of the people, and they too will never go against this logic.” – Mao ZeDong

Counterrevolution is deadly serious business.  The elite ruling classes in Venezuela have held exclusive control over productive resources, particularly the world’s richest oil fields; appropriated the social wealth created to the detriment of the vast majority of the people; monopolized state power and used it to brutally quell all dissent and resistance; and dominated the ideological and cultural institutions including in more modern times, the mass media, to impose social control for generations. 

Thus they will not stop making trouble until they overthrow the Maduro government; exterminate the Chavista leaders and organizations; reverse the pro-poor and pro-people socio-economic policies and democratic political reforms of the last 15 years; and ensure that the radically transformative yet peacefully carried-out Bolivarian Revolution will be decisively defeated, never to threaten their privileged positions again nor be a beacon of a “better world” to the rest of the Latin American region.

Like Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro comes from a working class background.  He is a former bus driver who became a trade union leader before being elected to the National Assembly in 2000. After serving in the Venezuelan Government under Chávez in several capacities, he was appointed Foreign Minister in 2006. Described as the "most capable administrator and politician of Chávez's inner circle", he served as Vice President from 2012 to 2013.  Before Chavez died, he endorsed Maduro as his party’s presidential candidate.  Maduro was elected President in special elections held in April 2013 over the Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, a lawyer and former governor of Venezuela’s second most populous state.

US-backed Opposition leaders have plainly made known their aim of overthrowing the democratically elected government they portray as a repressive dictatorship cracking down on peaceful protest by unarmed students and other disgruntled members of society.  They hope to demonize the Maduro presidency using Western corporate media so that the US and other imperialist countries’ military aka “humanitarian” intervention can be justified.

If this sounds familiar, it should, because it is the strategy for "regime change" that the US-led pack of imperialist governments have used to blacken the erstwhile governments of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya prior to the US-led invasion and occupation of these sovereign countries in order to topple the ruling governments and replace them with their puppets.

It is in this context that we can sieve through the information and analysis that we get mainly from global corporate media in order to determine what the protests sparked in February 2014 are about; who are involved and who are leading them; what the protests have led to; how the Maduro government has acted to deal with these protests; how the US is involved; what position have the governments in other Latin American countries taken on these protests and their aftermath.

All accounts trace the beginning of the wave of protests to students in the Western city of Tachira near the Columbian border demanding greater security against crimes in the wake of a reported attempted rape on another student that escalated to an attack on the house of the governor of the state. This resulted in four arrests, two of them students. The arrests, and charges that the government was suppressing the protests, apparently became the issue in student demonstrations that then spread to Caracas, the capital.  In Caracas, complaints about inflation and scarcity of food and other products became highlighted, issues that had been raised by the Opposition since the start of the Maduro presidency. 

In a matter of days the Opposition had openly amalgamated to what then had seemed to be spontaneous, nonviolent protests and the situation in the streets turned ugly when several deaths took place. According to Mark Weisbrot writing in The Guardian, “The latest official numbers have eight confirmed deaths of opposition protesters, but no evidence that these were a result of efforts by the government to crush dissent. At least two pro-government people have also been killed, and two people on motorcycles were killed (one beheaded) by wires allegedly set up by protesters. Eleven of the 55 people currently detained for alleged crimes during protests are security officers.”

The situation deteriorated further in the Eastern part of Caracas, an anti-government stronghold, where protestors set up barricades of burning trash and debris from where they attack government police forces who are trying to clear up the streets to allow the flow of traffic and to staunch the fumes that were affecting nearby residences.  Sporadic protests continue well into the night and the local government officials who are in the Opposition do nothing to bring peace to the streets or at least prevent lawless violence but instead join the chorus of denunciations against the central government for allegedly failing to heed the protestors but also for dealing with them with a mailed fist.

It has become starkly clear that the protests are part of an orchestrated scheme to discredit and destabilize the Maduro regime. Barely a week after these began, the Venezuelan government expelled three US embassy officials, for using their diplomatic cover to meet with the students and organize the protest actions along with the Opposition.

Despite this highly volatile political situation, the government and its supporters from different sectors of Venezuelan society were able to mark the first year death anniversary of Chavez with civic parades and a rally attended by hundreds of thousands and foreign dignitaries in early March.  The fractured student movement with its pro- and anti-government sections have been holding their separate demonstrations; so also pro- and anti-medical professionals. 

By end of February, the Maduro government had held a National Peace Conference backed by social movements, community, business and religious groups but boycotted by the country’s main political opposition.  Nonetheless, it was reported that “the event brought together governors, mayors, legislators, religious figures, trade unionists, the country's largest business group Fedecamaras, pro-government student groups and others.”  (Pablo Vivanco, Basics News, 1 March 2014).

While all denounced the violence taking place (of course with their own views about which side is primarily responsible) a “truth commission of the economy” was announced by Maduro within the framework of the conference.  This constitutes an acknowledgement of the dire situation of the economy with “shortages” and “inflation” but opens the way for an objective determination of the causes. On the side of government, charges of economic sabotage, i.e. “a deliberate campaign by producers, transporters and vendors to hoard and withhold goods, in collusion with speculators, price gougers and others shipping things to sell for dollars across the Colombian border”  (Vivanco) For the Opposition:  the “scarcity” and ballooning prices are an offshoot of the “socialist” policies of government.

The majority of Latin American leaders have supported President Maduro. Only the most staunchly pro-US leaders of Panama, Colombia and Chile have voiced strident criticism of the government’s handling of the protests.  But the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Union of South American Nations and Mercosur, the regional trade bloc, uphold Maduro as the legitimate, democratically-elected president of Venezuela. Over the objections of the US, Canada and Panama, the OAS passed a resolution affirming “respect for the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of states and its commitment to the defense of democratic institutionalism of the state of law  in agreement with the OAS Charter and international law.”

Strong international solidarity and diplomatic support for the Maduro government is helping to foil US-led attempts to undermine and subvert it.  But in the final analysis, it will be the Venezuelan people who shall decide the fate of the Bolivarian Revolution. #

Published in Business World
14-15 March 2014


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