Venezuela's right-wing have a fight on their hands – all power to the communes!

'Self-criticism is to correct, to rectify, not to continue doing everything in a vacuum ... either independence or nothing, either the commune or nothing!'

Hugo Chavez – 'Golpe de timon' (Strike at the Helm) speech, 20 October 2012

Venezuela's 6 December National Assembly elections represent the biggest electoral loss for the Bolivarian Revolution in its 17-year history. The Venezuelan right-wing have secured a two thirds 'super majority' with the Round-table of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition winning 109 seats, alongside the election of three opposition aligned indigenous national assembly legislators. This gives the Venezuelan opposition a massive majority over the coalition aligned with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) which only won 55 seats. The death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, the prolonged economic war and the international campaign against Venezuela, coupled with the PSUV government’s reluctance to confront head on the private sector’s strangulation of the economy, pushed many to switch sides and vote for the MUD's undefined promise of 'change'.

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Venezuelan opposition win National Assembly elections: Now is the time to defend the gains of the revolution

UPDATED: 7 December 2015

As feared, Sunday 6 December saw the Venezuelan opposition sweep to victory in the National Assembly elections. Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) has now published the preliminary but irreversible election results, detailing that the MUD opposition coalition has won 99 seats compared to the PSUV’s 46 seats, securing the opposition a simple majority.

This landslide victory will allow the opposition to grant an amnesty to Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the Popular Will party imprisoned for his role in the violent street barricades last year,  block public spending on social programmes beyond the budget approved for 2016, block or push through international treaties and essentially block the PSUV government’s every move. 

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Venezuela acts to secure its borders

Demonstration in support of the government campaing against smuggling

We will launch a sweeping plan with the support of the people. Enough of the criminal economy and economic sabotage ... I will intensify the Operation for the Liberation and Protection of the People so that it reaches every last corner of the last municipality of the country.’ President Nicolas Maduro, 8 August 2015.

It is estimated that 40% of Venezuela’s subsidised goods have been smuggled out of the country to Colombia, at a loss to Venezuela of $2bn each year, as well as 100,000 barrels of oil a day – an annual loss of $3.65bn. Currency manipulation, speculation, hoarding and fraud have long been central to the economic war within Venezuela against the Bolivarian Revolution. The economic sabotage being carried out across the country’s western border has opened up a new external front, prompting Venezuela’s robust response, as SAM McGILL reports.

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Venezuela-Guyana border dispute: Britain’s colonial legacy

US oil giant ExxonMobil is at the centre of a renewed border dispute between Venezuela and neighbouring Guyana. Earlier this year the Guyanese government unilaterally accepted a $200m deal from ExxonMobil to begin offshore oil exploration in the disputed Essequibo zone, which has been under official mediation by the United Nations since 1966. In May 2015 the company reported a ‘significant oil discovery’, fanning the flames of regional tensions. Sam McGill reports.

The blood-stained hand of British colonialism is at the root of this historic border conflict. In 1811 Venezuela became one of the first Spanish American colonies to declare independence and its recognised territory included the region west of the Essequibo river. However, the first republic was destroyed, and sovereignty was only attained after Simon Bolivar’s liberation armies won the Battle of Carabobo in 1821. Venezuela’s borders immediately came under threat from Britain, which controlled what was then British Guiana. Explorer Robert Schomburgk was commissioned by the British government to conduct a survey of British Guiana’s geographical boundaries. He identified the Essequibo and the Orinoco river basins as geopolitical strongholds from which to advance deeper into the continent, drawing the infamous Schomburgk line which attempted to claim the Orinoco river mouth for the British empire. Britain’s interests were further stoked by significant discoveries of gold in the region. In true colonial fashion, a map was drawn up in London and a border declared with scant regard for the region’s inhabitants.

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Venezuela - The threat of a good example

Venezuela's armed forces and civilian militias mobilised in solidarity with the government

On 9 March, President Obama invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), declaring Venezuela an ‘unusual and extraordinary threat’ to US national security whilst sanctioning seven Venezuelan officials. The act enables Obama to block transactions and freeze the assets of any Venezuelan government entity or official and take steps towards confiscating Venezuelan state property such as the CITGO oil company, which provides subsidised heating oil to poor US citizens.

This executive order will now operate alongside the United States’ covert subversion, military intervention and media vilification, a pattern illustrated in the string of other countries currently subject to IEEPA including Cuba (since 1977), Iran (since 1979), Syria (since 2004) and Russia (since 2014). It is an overt act of aggression against Venezuela. Sam McGill reports.

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Venezuela: Fighting sanctions and sabotage

In the face of plummeting oil prices, US sanctions, recession and inflation, in January President Nicolas Maduro promised that Venezuela would invest in production and slash government salaries, including his own. He went on: ‘We will never cut one bolivar of what we spend on education, food, housing – on our people.’ Sam McGill reports.

War of attrition

In the same week that US President Obama announced the re-establishment of diplomatic ties with socialist Cuba, he signed a law freezing the assets of Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights abuses during the opposition’s orchestrated ‘Exit Strategy’ violence in spring 2014. What the new law ignores, of course, is that the majority of the 43 deaths during the clashes were caused by street barricades erected by opposition gangs; four are attributed to state security forces. These sanctions were imposed scarcely a week after the US Senate intelligence committee reported on the brutal torture methods used by the CIA. At least Venezuela’s attorney general has launched a criminal investigation into the deaths that occurred at the hands of the state security forces. Obama on the other hand has categorically refused to prosecute any US official implicated in using or ordering torture.

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Venezuela: The battle against police corruption and counter-revolution

At the beginning of November, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called for ‘a revolution’ within the police and a purging of the state security forces. His comments came after a Caracas police officer was implicated in the brutal assassination of a Chavista politician and members of a collective in the capital were shot in cold blood by police. The two events illustrate just some of the problems facing the country’s PSUV government as it attempts to build socialism in the face of vicious counter-revolution and tackle the endemic corruption and violence that are the legacy of years of neo-colonial government prior to 1998. Sam McGill reports.

On 1 October, PSUV activist and national assembly member Robert Serra was stabbed to death in his home alongside his partner, Maria Herrera. His bodyguard, a Caracas police officer, later confessed to allowing the six murderers into Serra’s apartment. According to Venezuela’s Justice Ministry, a Colombian/Venezuelan paramilitary, Leiva Padilla Mendoza was paid $250,000 – by whom, it is not clear – to organise the killing. He was arrested by Interpol in Cartagena in early November and is now in prison in Colombia.

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PSUV Congress agrees Bolivarian Revolution’s line of march

President Maduro addresses July's PSUV Congress

In July 2014 the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) held its third Congress, the first since the death of the party’s founder Hugo Chavez in 2013. The Congress ratified the political programme put forward by Chavez and reaffirmed Nicolas Maduro as party leader. It identified the fundamental tasks of the Bolivarian Revolution over the next five years as ‘the construction of a productive economic apparatus and the advancement and transition towards a socialist economy’, with ‘state transformation’ a key objective. The subsequent cabinet shake-up, campaign against smuggling and focus on food production and popular participation are crucial steps in the struggle for socialism in Venezuela. Sam McGill reports.

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Venezuela: Imperialist lies, socialist advances

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

As the Bolivarian Revolution resists the most recent wave of destabilisation, official statistics on poverty in Venezuela for 2013 are deliberately manipulated, becoming yet another stick with which to beat the socialist government. Yet despite headlines in pro-imperialist Venezuelan newspapers crowing that ‘Over 700,000 Venezuelans slipped into extreme poverty in one year’ (El Pais, 28 May) and ‘Poverty in Venezuela swells from 21.2% to 27.3% in one year’ (El Universal, 23 May), a closer look at the actual figures shows that, under the Bolivarian Revolution, structural poverty fell to a record low in 2013. Sam Mcgill reports.

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Venezuela: The battle for the socialist heart of the Bolivarian Revolution

Venezuela has faced down the most serious challenge to its Bolivarian Revolution since the 2002 attempted coup. Despite a wave of street violence orchestrated by the opposition, with the specific aim of creating a pretext for imperialist intervention (see FRFI 238), the government of President Maduro has managed to restore near-stability. Sam Mcgill & Cat Allison report.

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Venezuela fights counter-revolution

Last summer, Venezuelan opposition leaders met with a group of international reactionaries, including the viciously right-wing former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and the director of USAID for Latin America, Mark Feierstein, to pen the following strategy:

• ‘Maintain and increase sabotages that affect public services... that will enable responsibility to be placed on the government for supposed inefficiencies and negligence’;

• ‘Emphasise social problems, provoking social discontent, increase problems with supply of basic consumer products’;

• ‘Create situations of crisis in the streets that will facilitate US intervention, as well as NATO forces, with the support of the Colombian government. Whenever possible, the violence should result in deaths or injuries’;

• ‘Extend the image of a severe crisis in Venezuela to more external media and possible countries as a means of managing international public opinion’.

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Venezuela: New year, new battles

‘[2014] is going to be a year of establishing a new internal economic order... at the service of the population.’

President Nicolas Maduro

A significant victory in the December municipal elections has enabled President Maduro to begin 2014 in a strong position. This year will be the first since 2006 that the Bolivarian Revolution has not been put to the test in the ballot box. Socialists must use this opportunity to win the economic war, consolidate the bases of popular power and push ahead with Chavez’s Programa Patria plan for socialist development which was passed by the National Assembly at the end of 2013.

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Venezuela: Bolivarian Revolution faces renewed violence

On 12 February, fascists attacked the presidential Miraflores Palace in Caracas and the Attorney General's office. Exploiting the 12 February Day of Youth celebrations, when annual processions commemorate the role of youth in the independence battle in La Victoria in 1814, violent groups of masked thugs took to the streets in several cities across Venezuela. During clashes with revolutionary forces in Caracas and Merida, student Basil de Costa and community activist Juan Montoya were killed, and 23 were injured.

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Venezuela economic battlelines are drawn in run-up to elections (updated)

 Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014 

They underestimated me. They said Maduro was an amateur… what you have seen is little compared to what we’re going to do to defend the people’s rights.
(President Maduro, 19 November 2013)

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has passed a series of economic decrees to protect job stability and savingsOn 19 November, Venezuelan President Maduro secured the votes he needed from the National Assembly to empower him to legislate by decree for 12 months. This ‘Enabling Law’, as he explained, gives the Bolivarian Revolution vital powers to ‘fight corruption, usury, money-laundering and the economic war unleashed in recent times against the country by the national oligarchy’.1 It follows a series of active measures taken by the government to exert greater control over the Venezuelan economy. 

Eduardo Saman, the new head of the price-control organisation Indepais, has continued to take a hard line against speculation despite an assassination attempt on his life in early October. During November, inspectors and soldiers entered more than 1,400 shops accused of extortionate price-fixing and corruption – for example, the country’s largest electrical chain, Daka, was forced to slash prices marked up to 1,200% of import costs.

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Venezuela: Class struggle in the fight for food

Recent struggles by Venezuelan workers have exposed the opportunism that still exists within the management structures of industry, permeating through nationalised companies, and even the highest levels of government. This point has been illustrated in a series of protests and victories in state food companies throughout July and August. They show that the forward momentum of the Bolivarian Revolution depends on the socialisation of production and the deepening of worker controls throughout the country.

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Venezuela: the fight against corruption

At his inauguration in April 2013, President Maduro said his presidential term would be ‘a revolution within the revolution – efficiency or nothing’, stressing that ‘Only with the people, with socialism’ was it possible to live humanely. In the last few months, Maduro has taken steps to implement this vision by cracking down on corruption and battling against food shortages, speculation and hoarding.

Following the violent aftermath of the April presidential elections, when fascist opposition gangs ransacked and torched public services and state buildings leaving 13 dead, the Venezuelan government has faced down continuing attempts by the imperialist-aligned opposition to destabilise the Bolivarian Revolution. The opposition’s accusations of electoral fraud were exposed as empty posturing when the results of a two-month audit of 100% of the votes found a 99.98% correspondence between paper and electronic votes. Those present at the audit included candidate representatives, external auditors, electoral council technicians and 141 representatives from civil society groups. This transparency, coupled with broad international recognition of the results, has left the opposition scraping the barrel for fresh smears, such as claiming that Maduro was in fact born in neighbouring Colombia, making him ineligible to be president – a claim easily disproved.

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Venezuela: Class struggle sharpens in wake of presidential elections

The snap April presidential elections following the death of Hugo Chavez have provided the pretext for a sharpening of the class struggle and political polarisation in the battle over Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution. Winning by a narrow margin of 1.5%, Nicolas Maduro represents a commitment to socialism and the deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution. His opponent Henrique Capriles, who facilitated a brutal attack on the Cuban embassy in the bloodstained 2002 coup, represents a continuation of the interests of finance capital that have orchestrated violence and unrest over the last decade. The accusations of election fraud are part of pre-meditated plan to destabilise the country. Sam McGill reports.

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Protest to defend the Venezuelan embassy

Right-wing Capriles supporters who planned a demonstration outside the Venezuelan embassy in South Kensington, London, to oppose the democratically-elected government of Venezuela were thwarted today, Saturday 20 April, by solidarity protesters. Numerous Latin-American and socialist groups agreed the previous night to defend the embassy from reactionaries who refuse to accept the election of Nicolas Maduro as President on Sunday 14 April. Even the British government has now recognised Maduro’s victory.
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The call for an emergency demonstration was made during a meeting called by Hands off Venezuela on Friday afternoon. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) activists were among those who responded to news of a second protest planned by the Venezuelan right-wing since the election by calling for a solidarity protest to defend the embassy. On Tuesday 16 April, around 300 supporters of the neo-liberal Capriles surrounded the Venezuelan consulate near Warren Street harassing diplomatic staff and blocking their exit. An embassy statement said: ‘The Diplomatic Police had to intervene to prevent the crowd from attacking a local employee of the Embassy, who they insulted…’ FRFI and other activists were determined to prevent a repeat of this attack on Venezuela’s sovereignty. 

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Why the majority of Venezuelans will vote Maduro for President

Nicolas Maduro is set to win Venezuela’s presidential election on 14 April, not because of his manipulation of Chavez’s death, as the opposition is shamefully claiming, but because of his record as a committed socialist.

Maduro’s political career started as a union leader while he was a Caracas bus driver. He even drove himself in a bus to and from registering his candidacy for the presidency on 11 March, mocking the opposition who have attacked him for not having a university degree.

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Chavez’s legacy: the fight for socialism

The death of President Hugo Chavez on 5 March has prompted fresh presidential elections in Venezuela on 14 April. Former Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, whose candidacy was proposed by Chavez, is widely expected to win. On 19 March, results published by private poll Datanalysis gave Maduro a lead of 14% over Henrique Capriles, the candidate of the opposition’s Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition. Capriles himself has recognised his minimal chance of a victory, comparing his candidacy to being ‘led to a slaughterhouse and dropped into a meat grinder’. Despite winning 44% of the votes in October 2012’s presidential election (the opposition’s best electoral result to date) the coalition lost all but three of Venezuela’s 23 states in December’s governor elections and has become increasingly divided. Sam McGill reports.

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Comandante Chavez: socialist, internationalist, revolutionary

Comandante Chavez: socialist, internationalist, revolutionary

28 July 1954–5 March 2013

‘I am convinced that the path to a new, better and possible world is not capitalism – that is the path to hell. The path is socialism.’

The death of Hugo Chavez, socialist leader of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, sent a shock wave around the world. The millions of Venezuelans who gathered across their country in mourning, with shouts of ‘Chaves lives, the struggle continues!’, had their counterparts not just across Latin America – where many flags few at half mast and national days of mourning were announced – but in Haiti, in Palestine, in the Philippines, across Europe and even in parts of the United States. Twenty-two heads of state and 50 international delegations attended Chavez’s state funeral on 8 March.

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Victory for Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution

Nicolas Maduro, candidate of the Bolivarian Revolution, has won the 14 April snap presidential election with 50.66 percent of the vote against 49.07 percent for his neoliberal challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski. With the turn out at nearly 79 percent of the electorate, the results were announced with 99.12 percent of the votes totalled and were considered an irreversible trend.

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SWP’s Mike Gonzalez says yes to counter-revolution in Venezuela

As the imperialist media and its hired lackeys foretell the end of the Bolivarian Revolution, Socialist Worker has once again entered the fray on their side against the Venezuelan people. (see www.revolutionarycommunist.org/index.php/latin-america/2832-swp-vultures-circle-bolivarian-revolution for their previous attempt in January this year)

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In memory of President Hugo Chavez

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Long live the Bolivarian Revolution!
28 July 1954-5 March 2013

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from complications following surgery for cancer, is a huge loss to the revolutionary movement worldwide, and the Revolutionary Communist Group and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! joins with the people of Venezuela in mourning the loss of a great socialist leader.

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Venezuela: masses mobilise in defence of Bolivarian Revolution

‘All of us here are Chávez, the people in the street are Chávez, the lady who cooks is Chávez, the soldier is Chávez…the farmer is Chávez, the worker is Chávez; we’re all Chávez.’

Elias Jaua, Minister of Foreign Relations, 10 January 2013

On 10 January, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez still recovering in Cuba from post-operative complications following surgery for cancer and unable to attend his inauguration ceremony, tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets in his place. With their symbolic tri-colour presidential sashes and rallying cries of ‘Yo soy Chavez!’ – ‘I am Chavez!’ and ‘Chavez is the people’, the vast crowd was proof once again that the power of the Bolivarian Revolution lies not in the hands of a single revolutionary but in the vast mass of that same Venezuelan working class which swept Chavez to a fourth presidential term in the elections of October 2012. SAM MCGILL reports.

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SWP vultures circle Bolivarian Revolution

[RCG 12.01.2013] For fifteen years, since Hugo Chavez’s first presidential election in 1998, we have been witness to a popular struggle in Venezuela for political and economic power by working class people which has withstood every attempt by imperialism and its local allies to destroy it.

Venezuelan militants protest in support of Chavez in January 2013The Bolivarian Revolution and its leader have given hope to hundreds of millions of people in Latin America and have inspired movements throughout the continent and indeed throughout the world. With the support of Cuba and other countries in ALBA Venezuela has put the US completely on the back foot: no longer can it treat Latin America as its back yard. Such developments should be celebrated by every socialist wherever they are.

Yet throughout this time, the SWP has repeatedly attacked the Bolivarian Revolution and denigrated President Chavez. The latest issue of Socialist Worker (12 January 2013) continues in this reactionary vein, joining the international ‘campaign of psychological warfare’ denounced by the Venezuelan government (see our blog).

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Venezuela: on the frontline of the battle for socialism

From the beginning of 2012, the RCG grasped the tremendous significance of Venezuela’s October presidential elections – not just for the people of Venezuela, but for the whole of Latin America and, indeed the international working class. We began organising and raised money to send a delegation to Caracas and to make a film about the election period. Our aim was to understand better the process of the Bolivarian Revolution and to directly challenge the hostile propaganda and lies of the imperialist media. Over a period of two weeks, we saw how hundreds of thousands of working class Venezuelans thronged the streets of the city, braving torrential rain or baking sun, to express their support for President Chavez.

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Venezuelan presidential elections the state and the Bolivarian Revolution

We go to press on the eve of the October Presidential elections in Venezuela. The re-election of Hugo Chavez is crucial for the continuation of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ that has decisively changed the political history of Venezuela and Latin America. Chavez’s opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski of the Roundtable of Democratic Unity coalition (Mesa de Unidad Democratica, or MUD) is a right-wing extremist who participated in the 2002 attempted coup against Chavez. Whilst even opposition polls give Chavez an 18% lead over Capriles, the political outcome of the election will depend on the strength of class forces in the coming battles to implement government plans for 2013-2019. SAM MCGILL reports.

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RCG Delegation Heads to Caracas Today! - 26 Sep 2012

Hugo Chavez[RCG 26/09/12] TODAY, The Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) is sending a delegation to report on and film Venezuela’s presidential elections on 7 October, elections which will play a crucial role in determining the future not just of the country itself but of the whole of Latin America.

Our delegation team have been working hard updating our blog with news and articles but also fundraising, to ensure our film work can take place out in Venezuela and we can present a full-length documentary on our return to Britain.

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Venezuela elections: political violence and media manipulation

Political violence and media manipulation are going to be the campaign signature of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski in the run up to Venezuela’s October Presidential elections. The electoral campaigns officially began on 1 July for both the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (Mesa de Unidad Democratica – MUD) candidate Capriles and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) candidate Hugo Chavez.

Barely a week later controversy reigned at a MUD march through La Vega, a predominantly proChavez neighbourhood in Caracas. In a clear act of intimidation, Capriles’ supporters arrived carrying guns and wearing facemasks. Chavez supporters flooded into the streets to oppose the armed gang, resulting in the National Bolivarian Police (PNB) intervening to prevent violence and injury. This presented the private media with the perfect opportunity to denounce police repression which Ultimas Noticias, the media chain owned by the Capriles family, took advantage of.1 The next day in the eastern state of Mongas, four thugs wearing Tshirts of the MUD coalition party, Un Nuevo Tiempo, attacked a group of Chavez campaigners who were distributing leaflets in the city of Maturín. Geraldin Lara, one of the victims, described how the men ‘approached our campaign tent and attacked us with knives and bottles’. Ten people were injured and taken to a medical clinic after the men broke a bottle over the head of one victim, stabbed one man, and kicked and punched eight others.

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