There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 5/6. Originally published on News and Letters on 12 February 2019.
- No to the U.S. Intervention in Venezuela!
- Oppose Trump’s threats to send troops!
- No confidence in Maduro or Guaidó!
- Corrupt Venezuelan generals and foreign creditors profit while the people face hunger!
A severe economic crisis coupled with a deepening crisis of leadership has left Venezuela vulnerable to U.S. attempts to orchestrate a political transition that protects the military high command and creates a regime directly subordinate to Washington. Nicolas Maduro offers no alternative to the economic crisis and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV by its acronym in Spanish), created by Hugo Chávez, is an obstacle to the popular mobilizations and struggles required to overcome the crisis.
Although the U.S. has recently taken economic measures to cut the Maduro government’s access to vital oil revenues, throughout the Chavista “revolution” of “21st Century Socialism,” the U.S. has been the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil. Trump’s sanctions preventing Maduro and members of his inner circle from receiving oil revenues are effectively a blockade on oil sales to the US, but this recent development does not explain the hyperinflation and scarcity of food and medicines driving popular protests against the government.
The root cause of the hyperinflation immiserating the people is the Chávez regime’s attempt to purchase the loyalty of the military high command, keep paying the foreign debt and avoid directly challenging the economic power of Venezuela’s criollo elite through serious land reform and nationalizations aimed at breaking the power of landlords and monopolists, and securing food sovereignty and the ability to overcome Venezuela’s dependency on imports.
Chávez coopted the popular struggle that challenged IMF-imposed austerity in the Caracazo of 1989. That popular struggle swept aside the power pact between corrupt political parties in 1998 and defeated a coup attempt in 2002. Initially enjoying deep popular support, Chávez replaced the old political regime, and carried out a redistribution of oil revenues in popular social programs to alleviate poverty and increase access to housing and healthcare. But these policies could only be maintained as long as oil prices remained high. Chávez did not break the country’s exclusive reliance on oil revenues to purchase imports of consumers goods. With the collapse of oil prices, the needs of the people competed with the colossal waste of resources spent purchasing the loyalty of the military high command and, worst of all, the uninterrupted service on the foreign debt.
Historically, the resistance against austerity in Latin America has been associated with struggles against measures imposed upon governments in or at risk of default to international banks. The populist redistribution of oil revenues by Chávez was praiseworthy. Today, however, the government’s policies following the collapse of oil prices have tightened the belt on Venezuela’s people in order to purchase the loyalty of the army; the result is a massive transfer of wealth to the generals. Workers’ wages are eaten up by hyperinflation. Venezuela imports everything except oil, and an artificially low exchange rate is reserved for the regime’s allies—in particular, the high command of the military. The result is a black market that fuels inflation. The military is in complete control of food imports and distribution, and it has become an enormous parasite sucking the lifeblood from the Venezuelan people. Under Maduro, the Chavista regime has gone from populist programs to aid the poor to effectively forcing Venezuela’s poorest to bear the burden of the crisis, while enriching the generals who maintain control over the military and guaranteeing debt service to foreign creditors.
The question of control over the military is key to understanding the political crisis in Venezuela. Up until recently, Juan Guaidó was largely unknown to Venezuelans. He has seized upon popular discontent to present his leadership over the simmering revolt, but his planned transition is based on amnesty for the same corrupt, criminal generals whose loyalty Maduro buys. The Trump administration, European governments, together with reactionary governments like Brazil’s and Colombia’s, have backed Guaidó’s claims that Maduro’s election in 2018 was illegitimate, but although much noise was made about corruption, none of the opposition candidates in that election opposed the foreign debt service nor seriously challenged the military’s control over food imports. In any case, no election result or constitutional crisis can bind millions of Venezuelans to endure years of misery. Political struggles aside, Guaidó and the National Assembly are in fact in agreement with Maduro on protecting the generals and continuing the debt payments.
The desperation of Venezuelans disillusioned with Maduro will probably soon give Guaidó the upper hand, especially now that the U.S. has announced the inner circle of the regime will no longer be able to access oil revenues. Resolving the constitutional crisis, however, leaves open the question of who is to suffer the pain of overcoming the economic crisis. Guaidó can rely on U.S. aid while he allows the exchange rate to float, but freed prices will not break Venezuela’s dependency on imports and stabilizing the country’s currency will require tight control on wages and social programs for the poor. Guaidó and U.S. imperialism know that the military as an institution may soon be required to confront new popular rebellions for basic necessities. The generals’ continued control over the Venezuelan military is a serious threat to the people. Illusions about a democratic transition that leaves the generals in command are dangerous. U.S. imperialism wishes to preserve the military to restore order and continue debt payments if the impoverished masses challenge austerity—without the populist demagoguery.
At present there is no identifiable alternative to Guaidó and Maduro, but the leadership that must arise will come from the popular struggles for basic necessities. Guaidó claims Venezuela’s constitution gives him the right to declare himself president, but that same constitution also extends important legal guarantees to Venezuela’s working and poor millions. In response to the constitutional crisis, the Venezuelan Workers Confederation (Intersectoral de Trabajadores de Venezuela), which recently led a strike by health care workers to demand Maduro’s government index wages to inflation, recently stated: “The lack of democratic principles and the intensification of repression against the population, go hand in hand today with the violation of constitutional rights to work, to food, to health, quality education, decent wages, and intangibility and escalation of labor rights. The Constitution is being violated in its entirety and must be defended in full.” Their demands included freedom for imprisoned trade unionists. (http://comunicacioncontinua.com/la-intersectorial-de-traba…/)
U.S. imperialism has a long, sordid history of intervention and support for military dictatorships in Venezuela and throughout Latin America, and clearly the Trump administration seeks to take advantage of the political crisis that has resulted from the popular repudiation of Maduro. Guaidó is surely counting on the promise of humanitarian aid to facilitate his transition, but Maduro’s rejection of offered aid is a sick joke. There is nothing “revolutionary” about rejecting desperately needed aid. Politically condemning the Trump administration’s cynical intentions is appropriate, but the people do not eat revolutionary propaganda. Maduro’s tough talk is at the service of the parasitic generals he relies upon to stay in power.
On principle, Trump’s threats to use U.S. troops in Venezuela must be opposed, but this opposition should not translate into support for Maduro. More than one imperialist power is working against the Venezuelan peoples’ struggle for self-determination. Under Chávez and Maduro, firms and banks linked to the Chinese and Russian governments have acquired significant economic power in Venezuela. No confidence should be given to the government that surrendered as debt collateral 50% control over CITGO (a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA) to the Russian state oil company Rosneft. Chinese state banks hold at least US$60 billion of Venezuela’s foreign debt. There is nothing “anti-imperialist” about selling off the country’s assets to Russian and Chinese imperialism.
Solidarity with the Venezuelan people cannot be built on loyalty to leaders who leave unchallenged the forces that impose hunger. Opposition to U.S. imperialist intervention in Venezuela is a matter of principle. The alternative to wars and interventions can only be found in solidarity with the mass movements and, to the extent that leaderships consistently fight for the interests of these movements, support is warranted.
The forces of the U.S. anti-war opposition today are in a deep crisis. Coalitions such as ANSWER and UNAC have openly supported the brutal anti-democratic Assad regime and its genocidal repression of the democratic struggle in Syria. Other groups, including Code Pink, have maintained a shameful silence in the face of the repression. These groups have reduced opposition to imperialist interventions to a mechanical isolationism that abandons popular struggles to the repression of dictators. A principled anti-war leadership is required, one that grounds itself in solidarity with the people, not dictatorships!
- Trump and reactionary leaders in Latin America conspire against the Venezuelan people!
- Demand debt forgiveness for Latin America and an end to U.S. intervention!
- Solidarity with the popular struggles for basic necessities!
- Neither Maduro nor Guaidó challenge the debt and dependency at the root of poverty in Venezuela!
- Maduro and Guaidó protect the generals whose control of the army is a real danger to the people!
- Venezuela’s self-determination requires an end to the foreign debt that strangles her people!
- Condemn Maduro’s repression of popular protests!
- Reject Guaidó’s undemocratic amnesty for criminal generals! The generals do not serve the people!
- No confidence in Assad’s apologists!
- Build solidarity with the people in struggle, not dictatorships!
- The leaders in the U.S. who have apologized for Assad’s atrocities and war crimes in Syria have no moral authority to lead an anti-war opposition!
- Maduro’s support for the murderous Assad regime betrays the Syrian people!
- From Venezuela to Syria, solidarity with the democratic struggles for self-determination, not dictatorships, is the only alternative to wars and imperialist interventions!