Created: Friday, 10 August 2012 11:19
Written by Sam Mcgill
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012
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.
Until recently Capriles had refrained from making any public commitment to accept the outcome of the election. This had been accompanied with a welloiled media campaign to question the legitimacy and transparency of the National Electoral Council (CNE). Capriles had previously accepted CNE supervision of the opposition’s primary elections and recognised it when it declared him winner of the 2008 governor’s elections in Miranda State. Now he is sowing the seeds of doubt stating ‘the CNE has to guarantee the electoral process is transparent, and it’s not a secret to anyone that there exists a level of inequality in the elections’. Yet with its sophisticated technology coupled with secret ballots and employment of international observers, the CNE is considered to administer one of the most advanced and secure electoral processes in the world.
On 9 July, Leopold Lopez, the opposition campaign coordinator, presented an ‘agreement for balance and electoral fairness’ to the CNE, stating that ‘candidates commit to accept the results as long as they are a product of a transparent electoral process which reflects the will of the voters...the current president commits to not using, until 8 October 2012, radio or television channels to promote himself, he won’t use public funds nor disguised propaganda’. Given that Hugo Chavez engages almost daily in a variety of programmes to discuss, decide and disseminate governmental plans, the ‘agreement’ presented by the MUD coalition is laying the ground for rejecting the election results. With even oppositionowned polls such as Hinterlaces giving a 20% lead for Chavez over Capriles, it is clear that the rightwing opposition strategy is to cry fraud and call for destabilisation in October.
In the battle between imperialist domination and national liberation, the Venezuelan presidential elections have international implications, not least for the future of Latin America. This was sharply demonstrated in the June ‘parliamentary’ coup in Paraguay. Venezuela, alongside the majority of Latin American countries, immediately denounced the coup, refusing to recognise Franco’s government, withdrawing its ambassador and cutting oil shipments to Paraguay. Whilst serving as vice president, Franco had opposed Venezuela’s entry into the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) and opposed Paraguay’s entry into the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), rejecting the process of Latin American integration. Tellingly, the MUD coalition and Capriles oppose the suspension of oil shipments and Federico Franco stated his opinion that the removal of Lugo has saved Paraguay ‘from becoming a proChavez satellite’.
The battle lines are being drawn. On the one side are the forces of imperialism: the MUD coalition and Capriles, with $20m funding from US organisations such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy,2 and backed by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, by the former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, by Germany’s Chancellor Merkel and by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to name just four. On the other side stand the forces of national liberation, opposing the domination, military occupation and exploitation of Latin America by imperialist interests. This was expressed in the declaration of the XVIII São Paulo Forum of social movements and progressive political parties held in Caracas on 4 July which pledges support for Chavez’s campaign alongside support for the 2012 election campaigns of Xiomara Zelaya in Honduras and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. Emphasising the Venezuelan election’s central importance for the strategy of the Latin American left, the forum called a ‘Global Day of Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution’ on 24 July with events taking place across the continent.
With the deepening global economic crisis provoking an ever more desperate quest for profits and resources, Latin America is set to be a key battleground over the coming months. As Chavez himself has declared,
‘Venezuela is at the centre of an international battle ... The future of humanity is in play here: between socialism and capitalism...in the next 100 days, the next 100 years in Venezuela are going to be decided’.