Again, a highly organized attack is being carried out against the democratic and popular government of Venezuela. It has involved monetary manipulations, economic sabotage, international media campaign against the economy despite excellent economic indicators, defaming the state run oil company, and this last week riots on the streets that have left 3 dead and 66 injured.
The tactics are the same that the un-democratic opposition has tried for 15 years ever since the first election of President Hugo Chávez. Such tactics have been used in the so-called Rainbow Revolutions in Eastern Europe, Libya, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Ukraine. The object is to give a semblance of chaos, to provoke the forces of public order, to discredit the government through the compliant international media, to foster civil unrest, even civil war (as it successfully happened in Syria), and ultimately to promote conditions for international intervention and even occupation.
However, Venezuela is not in the Middle nor Near East and its government is a participatory democracy that enjoys a very strong majority, the backing of all key institutions under the rule of law, and the support of its regional neighbors. Furthermore, the population is linked to many organized community groupings, it is not an amorphous mass.
The stakes are high because the country has the largest known oil reserves and these are a stone’s throw from Washington.
The opposition believes that in the absence of Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, is easy pickings. They greatly underestimate the man whose popularity has soared inside and outside the country.[i]
The attack on Venezuela, aimed to create popular discontent has had the following features:
Monetary warfare. This started with run on the currency, the manipulation of the black market dollar, obtaining dollars at preferential price from the government under false reasons. Maduro did not hesitate: he regulated prices and changed the monetary exchange rules and 70% approved of his response.[ii]
False scarcity: A double blow of outrageous overpricing of goods plus artificial food scarcity started just as people were beginning their Christmas shopping. Wealthy merchants proceeded to hoard essential goods: corn flour, sugar, salt, cooking oil, toilet paper, etc. placing them in hidden warehouses or spirited off to Colombia through a well-planned smuggling operation. The military discovered an illegal bridge built for motorcycles that carried the smuggled goods. Thousands of bags of foodstuffs were discovered simply left rotting on Colombian byways: this was not smuggling for economic reasons, but for political reasons. The Colombian government cooperated with the Venezuelan government to stop this smuggling.
Attack on Venezuela’s petroleum company PDVSA: the international press has been alleging that PDVSA is failing because it is using its profits for social programs instead of re-investing, and that the country is running out of petroleum. Funnily enough they never warn Canada or Saudi Arabia about oil scarcity. They even state the preposterous notion that Venezuela is importing gasoline from the USA. The fact is that PDVS owns the large oil company CITGO in USA whose refinery often sends back to Venezuela a special liquid used for improving gasoline grade 95. PDVSA is still one of the top 5 oil companies in the world according to the influential Petroleum Intelligence Weekly.[iii]
Campaign to discredit the economy. The international media has been predicting doom and gloom for Venezuela for years! The Venezuelan economy is doing very well. Its oil exports last year amounted to $94 billons while the imports only reached $59.3 billons – a historically low record. The national reserves are at $22 billons and the economy has a surplus (not a deficit) of 2.9% of GDP. The country has no significantly onerous national or foreign debts.[iv] These are excellent indicators that many countries in Europe would envy, even the USA and Canada. The multinational bank Wells Fargo has recently declared that Venezuela is one of the emerging economies that is most protected against any possible financial crisis and the Bank of America Merril Lynch has recommended to its investors to buy Venezuelan government bonds. [v]
Exaggeration of Security risks. Venezuela has high crime rate, unfortunately, just like most countries in Latin America. The recent death of a young high profile media couple spurred the opposition to exaggerate insecurity. Maduro responded by a widespread Plan for Peace with intense community policing, involving communities and communal councils, dividing the cities in sectors with hotlines and special patrols, the creation of 25 citizens committees for Police Control in total 250 people, new services for victim of crime, involvement of media to curb violent programs. This was highly popular.
There is a section of the opposition that is democratic and law abiding, unfortunately it is the undemocratic elements of opposition that seems to lead. These last few days, these prominent leaders of the undemocratic opposition, parliamentarians Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado, were urging violence. Orchestrated riots, with professional sabateurs, and the manipulation of young men, assassinated 3 people and injured 66.[vi] López –whose link to the CIA goes back to his stay at Kenyon College, Ohio[vii] – stated publicly that the violence would go on until they “got rid of Maduro”. One of the protestors told the media “We need a dead guy”. Twitter messages abound urging that someone kill Maduro. One Twitter message gave out details of the school of the child of President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, urging that the child be kidnapped.
The Attorney General, who is a woman, was physically attacked her offices ransacked. Police cars burnt, cultural establishment vandalized, the Governor of Tachira’s house was nearly burnt with his family in it.
The opposition’s violence has a been a constant. Last October, Henrique Capriles, the presidential candidate four times a loser, upon losing to Maduro openly called for violent protest saying: “go out into the streets and show your rage.” The result was that 10 people died (one who was a 5 year old indigenous little girl) and 178 injured, 19 popular clinics attacked and set fire to, Cuban doctors having to flee Cuban doctors fleeing for their safety.
The international press does NOT REPORT THE VIOLENCE UNLEASHED BY THE VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION. When it reports these violent events it insinuates that it is the fault of the government.
The result of 15 years of the Bolivarian Revolution is evident in the increasing wellbeing of its population.[viii] The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has declared Venezuela to be now the least unequal country of the region (GINI Coefficient) having reduced inequality by 54%.[ix]
Poverty levels are at 21% and extreme poverty dropped from 40% to 7.3%. Infant mortality has been reduced from 25/1000 (1990) to 10/1000. [x] The Chávez government eliminated illiteracy and provided free public education, housing and health services. In just one decade, Venezuela advanced 7 places in the UN Human Development Index.[xi]
Polls show Venezuela has one of the happiest populations in the world. [xii]In all this it has been greatly helped by the solidarity and expert teachers and doctors from Cuba. Cuba and Venezuela have shown the world what is real solidarity between nations.
The financial crisis that has hit the North these past six years, has been met with state antagonism against workers and the general population. With the excuse of a supposed need for austerity, public programs are cut and unions undermined. The crisis also affected Venezuela as oil prices dropped. However, the government solidly continued to reduce poverty, increase salaries, trained thousands of workers, and the country’s Human Development Index continued to rise despite the contraction of the economy. By protecting employment as a basic strategy to counter the crisis, the economy continued to grow at an average that has ranged from 2.5 to 5% GDP. [xiii]
The real opposition in Venezuela is the USA, its allies and its agents who feed the illegal pipeline of dollars that pour into bogus NGOs and the opposition parties.
Venezuela represents the rejection of neo-liberal economics and corporate capitalism. The corrupt elite- governed Venezuela, darling of corporate capitalism, that had impoverished its own population during 40 years, is no more.
These violent tactics have no hope of succeeding because, unlike 1999, the Venezuelan people are now organized into many groups: the communal councils, the communes, the thousands of health, security, militia, sports, educational, cultural committees. The Bolivarian Revolution has fostered, not a mass of people, but an organized organic population that makes decisions about its living conditions along with its government because Venezuela is now a fully functioning participatory democracy.
The opposition has no popular base – as can be seen by its string of electoral defeats.
It has no support of the military – even governors who form part of the democratic opposition have appeared on TV denouncing these tactics with military staff standing beside them.
They do not have the backing of any South American neighbour, as countries have been quick to avow solidarity with President Maduro and denounce their violence.
Their only card is to hope Venezuela is invaded by US Marines. That would be the beginning of regional warfare.
María Páez Victor is a sociologist, born in Venezuela.
[ii] AVN, 15 Dec. 2013, Hinterlaces: 70% de los venezolanos apoya la ofensiva económica emprendida por Maduro;
[iii] Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, 09/05/2013
[v] La Guerra económica y las elecciones municipales, Juan Manuel Karg, Rebelión, 2 diciembre 2013
[vi] Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, Venezuelan Opposition Leaders Demand More Demonstrations Following Deadly Clashes, VENEZUELANALYSIS, Feb 13th 2014
[vii] Jean-Guy Allard, Para destruir la obra de Chávez, la CIA apuesta por López, el fascista que crió, TWITTER: @AllardJeanGuy
[viii] Carles Muntaner, Joan Benach, Maria Paez Victor, The Achievements of Hugo Chavez, COUNTERPUNCH, 20 December 2013.
[x] National Institute of Statistics, Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, 27 March 2012; Yolanda Valey, BBC, 4 March 2012
[xii] Gallup Poll 2012; Happy Planet Sustainable Wellbeing Index, Global Footprint Network, 14 June 2012; New Economic foundation, 24 Oct. 2012; World Happiness Report, University of Columbia, 2012.
[xiii] Jesse Chacón, “La economía nacional en el context de la crisis global del capitalismo” 27 abril 2012, Agencia Venezolana de Noticias”