Venezuela: The meaning of democracy

Ten days of demonstrations, led by wealthy students, against the Venezuelan government’s refusal to renew RCTV’s broadcasting licence in May, have fizzled out. The protestors rejected an opportunity to debate the issue in the National Assembly on 7 June, where they would have been mercilessly exposed as frauds. ALVARO MICHAELS reports.

The US government has been funding, through USAID, training seminars for student leaders with the objective of promoting ‘student activism’ in political life. Antonia Ledezma, now an opposition spokesperson for ‘democracy’, was the governor of Caracas in 1992-93. This hypocrite prohibited all student protests in the street that year. Some groups and individuals that participated in the RCTV protests had received training with US bodies such as the Albert Einstein Institute and the International Centre on Non-Violent Conflict. These were responsible for helping to promote, fund and advise the ‘coloured revolutions’ in Eastern Europe, the Ukraine, Serbia, Yugoslavia and Georgia. They failed in Belarus and began working in Venezuela in April 2003.

A new TV channel TEVES, or Venezuelan Social Television, has begun broadcasting in place of the RCTV drivel. To meet its constitutional obligations, Public Service Radio will be introduced for the first time next year, which indicates the previous and present unhealthy dominance of private interests in the communications industry.


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Chavez confronts fascist-appointed relic Juan Carlos

On 10 November, at the XVII Ibero-American Summit, an argument broke out between the Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez. The King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, intervened by shouting to Chavez, ‘Why don’t you shut up?’ The King left the conference room shortly afterwards. The image was sent around the world and the Spanish media rushed to present the King as a decent democrat, willing to confront and defy ‘Chavez’s totalitarianism’. TV footage has been relentlessly broadcast, taken out of context, providing fuel for a diplomatic crisis between Spain and Venezuela. But, what really happened and what was the argument about?

The Spanish delegation patronises these summits, more interested in defending Spain’s investments in South America than anything else. However, this time some participants seemed less docile than on previous occasions; Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina criticised Spanish diplomacy and the role of Spanish companies. The meeting was chaired by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, close friend of Zapatero, who allowed him to justify the so-called ‘Spanish social investment’ in the region when it was Nicaraguan President Ortega’s turn to speak. Chavez interrupted Zapatero, and in his intervention called former Spanish Prime Minister Aznar ‘fascist’. Nothing shocking, considering that prior to the summit Aznar said Chavez was a ‘new dictator’, ‘supporter of abuse, tyranny and impoverishment’ and Aznar helped the failed 2002 military coup against the Venezuelan President. Chavez’s insistence in calling Aznar fascist was the spark for King Juan Carlos Borbon to lose his temper and take on the role of the Chair with customary arrogance.


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Venezuela: a revolutionary constitution

‘The socioeconomic regime of the based on the principles of socialism, anti-imperialism, humanism, co-operation, efficiency, protection of the environment and solidarity, to the ends of assuring the development of the complete person living a dignified existence to the benefit of all’ (Article 229, Venezuelan Constitution). ALVARO MICHAELS reports.

The revolutionary campaign to change 69 articles of the 350 in the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution began with huge rallies on 4 November, two days after the start of the founding congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). The referendum on the changes takes place on 2 December. Attacked by its opponents as anti-democratic, the campaign will establish a firm basis for a revolutionary social and political system, a horrifying prospect for the small Venezuelan bourgeoisie. As they are implemented, the changes will have enormous significance for the oppressed world wide. That is why the US government continues in its efforts to undermine and depose President Chavez.


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Venezuela: Chavez leads

‘Enough with betraying the people. We have arrived here to make a real revolution or die trying’, President Hugo Chavez, 14 January 2008, addressing the founding congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), formed in 2007.

Opening the congress, Chavez spoke of the need for the PSUV to become a party that would subvert the historic capitalist model of the bourgeois state. Referring to the recent, narrow defeat in the 2 December 2007 referendum to give Venezuela’s present radical bourgeois constitution a decidedly socialist content, he announced the need for the PSUV to go on the offensive as ‘the spearhead and vanguard’ of the revolution, to ensure that ‘2 December never happens again’.


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Venezuela – PSUV founding conference success

‘Throughout this period of transition, which at this moment marches from a state capitalism dominated by market forces towards a state socialism with a regulated market, the aim is to move towards a communal state socialism, with the strategic objective of totally neutralising the law of value within the functioning economy’. (Draft Programme of the United Socialist party of Venezuela, paragraph II.4)

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was established in April 2007 to unite all the pro-Chavez forces that have emerged during the political revolution that has taken place over the last ten years. By June 2007, some 5.7 million people had joined the party. It had originally planned to hold its founding congress in October. However its members postponed the congress so as to campaign for the amendments to the Constitution put to the December referendum. The narrow defeat in the referendum was certainly a consequence of the absence of a functioning mass working class party. This is clear from the intense efforts President Chavez is making to build the party on a socialist programme. The founding conference thus began on 12 January and, with meetings all across the country, finished on 2 March. At the final meeting President Chavez argued that the party must unite different groups and consolidate a mass base among the poor that support the revolution: the party’s fundamental role is to guarantee the revolution’s permanence.


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Venezuela Confronting the food crisis

‘The food crisis is the greatest demonstration of the historical failure of the capitalist model.’
President Hugo Chavez

An extraordinary meeting of the member nations of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) met in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, on 23 and 24 April to discuss the world food crisis and the political crisis in eastern Bolivia.

At the meeting, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez signed accords to promote mutual agricultural development, create a joint food distribution network and set up a $100 million ALBA food security fund in the Bank of ALBA, created in January. As Chavez pointed out, the crisis, described by the United Nations World Food Programme as ‘a silent tsunami’, demands an internationally co-ordinated response. ‘ALBA announces its willingness to assume responsibility, ALBA responds immediately… here we are’. Carlos Lage blamed the food crisis on an ‘unjust international economic order’ in which ‘the logic is profit and not the satisfaction of people’s needs’.


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Venezuelan referendum – a victory for all anti-imperialists

Venezuelan referendum – a victory for all anti-imperialists

The victory for the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela in the referendum on 15 August is not felt only within Venezuela, but is of huge significance to the Cuban Revolution and the whole of the revolutionary movements in Latin America. With 58.25 percent of the vote, the Venezuelan people ratified President Hugo Chavez and the revolutionary process.

Rock around the Blockade was involved with the Hands off Venezuela campaign in organising a week of action in solidarity with Venezuela in the lead-up to the referendum, culminating with a march and rally outside the US Embassy in London on 15 August.

During the week there were meetings, musical events and film showings. Rock around the Blockade members spoke alongside Socialist Appeal at a meeting focusing on the anti-imperialist struggle in Latin America and the Caribbean. We also co-hosted a meeting with the Global Women’s Strike on the topic of ‘Creating a caring economy’. The Global Women’s Strike had been present at the referendum and spoke of the palpable enthusiasm among the Venezuelan people and their commitment to continue building the Bolivarian Revolution. Rock around the Blockade used data from Cuba on health, education, literacy, the Battle of Ideas, youth, older people, gay people and people with disabilities to illustrate how a socialist society is able to care for its inhabitants, their quality of life and their future. We also used the Cuban example to show how only by basing itself absolutely on the interests of the vast mass of the population can a revolution withstand the inevitable attempts of imperialism to destroy it. There was a lively debate about the importance of socialists and progressives in this country offering unconditional support to all those fighting imperialism by any means around the world.


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Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution

• Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution: Hugo Chávez talks to Marta Harnecker, translated by Chesa Boudin, Monthly Review Press 2005, 193pp, £10

• Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution, Richard Gott, Verso 2005, 291pp, £9.99

‘Chávez may go, but Chávez is not only Chávez...The situation we are in has awakened very radical tendencies, feelings. I’m sure that no matter what happens to me, these radicalised sectors would keep going and new leadership would emerge...I’m certain that the process is irreversible. This...revolution, will not be stopped.’ Hugo Chávez, June 2002
(Harnecker pp102-3)

Since 1994, the revolutionary national movement in Venezuela has successfully developed as a popular movement guided by determined anti-imperialist military officers and civilian leaders. As President Chávez says, the aim was to convert the already existing popular rejection of the oligarchy into ‘a bottom up avalanche’ (Harnecker p153), and to do this peacefully ‘but not disarmed’ (p45).


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Venezuela: PSUV success in regional and local elections

FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009

The first electoral test of the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the 23 November 2008 regional and local elections was a significant success. The government now faces the task of deepening the revolution as world capitalism struggles with its crisis.

With a 65.45% turnout of almost 17 million registered voters (exceeding all previous non-presidential elections) and 95% of the vote announced, the PSUV and its allies increased their vote by 1.1 million over the last national turnout – the December 2007 constitutional amendment referendum. This reversed that vote’s abstentions. President Chavez and his supporters have now won 13 of 14 national elections and referenda held since 1998. In 40 years prior to Chavez’s election, Venezuela staged only 15 national electoral contests.

In the 2004 regional elections, the opposition refused to stand, so this time some seats in reactionary wealthier and middle class districts were expected to change hands, with the help from much of the media. The PSUV and its coalition allies won 58% (5.5m) of the popular vote for a total of 603 elected positions. The opposition received 200,000 fewer votes than in the 2007 referendum. Pro-Chavez parties won 17 of the 22 governorships, one of two Metropolitan mayoralties, 265 of 328 municipal mayoralties – 41 more than in 2004 – and the majority of the 251 local state legislature seats up for election.


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Venezuela: deepening democracy

I’m not going to tell Obama what to do, but by immediately withdrawing from Iraq, from all of the military bases they have all over the world, he could use those billions of dollars to buy medical equipment for the people of the United States, and provide social security, free healthcare, education.’ President Chavez

Obama – a new train on old tracks
In a provocative two-part interview shown on 13 and 18 January by the US Spanish-language network Univision, Obama declared that Chavez has ‘been a force that has interrupted progress in the region’. With the standard incantation ‘We need to be firm when we see this news, that Venezuela is exporting terrorist activities or supporting malicious entities like the FARC,’ he stated ‘This creates problems that are not acceptable’. In response Chavez noted that the US was the world’s top exporter of terrorism and harshly criticised Obama’s silence over the bloody assault on Gaza by Israel, saying ‘There is still time’ for Obama to change his views. ‘No one should say that I threw the first stone at Obama. He threw it at me.’


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Venezuela: A Third Way?


Like many Latin American countries, Venezuela possesses immense natural wealth. Yet although it holds the sixth largest oil reserves in the world (more than 75bn barrels, sufficient to last 60 years), and although it is the largest foreign oil supplier to the USA, the overwhelming majority of its people — 80% of its 23 million population — live in poverty.

Other figures give a graphic demonstration of a country held to ransom by imperialism:

• 70% of the people earn less than $2 a day — twice as many as 25 years ago;

• 36% get less than $1 a day;

• a quarter of the adult working population is unemployed;

• the poorest fifth of the population consumes only 3% of the GNP;

• the infant mortality rate is three times that of Cuba.

Such wealth as exists is in the hands of the few: 60% is owned by the richest fifth of the population. Recently, however, a new electoral coalition has broken the back of the two ‘traditional’ ruling parties. The key question is what will this mean for the working class and poor? Will the new government be able or willing to meet their aspirations?


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