On Saturday, March 17, members of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) attended a small ANSWER-dominated rally in downtown Los Angeles against US intervention in Venezuela, as we share the aim of opposing any US imperialist attack or strangulation of that country. Chants from the stage included “Hands Off Venezuela,” but also the more problematic and myopic “Venezuela Is Not Divided,” implying that the entire people is behind the increasingly authoritarian Maduro government.
Our slogans, as seen on the signs in the photo above, emphasized a firm opposition to US imperialism and intervention plans. But, unlike ANSWER, we also stressed that our solidarity is with the people, not the regime, and that we support socialist democracy and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity everywhere.
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 6/6, written by Charles Davis. Originally published on The Daily Beast on 21 February 2019.
Donald J. Trump, the oppressively dim
president of these United States, was elected by a majority of white
people who cast ballots but only a minority of the popular vote, and
only then with the actively solicited help of a foreign intelligence
service. His closest allies are gaudy authoritarians who murder their
critics without so much as a plausible cover story. He does not, one
must conclude, give half a goddamn about democracy—not in the
United States, not in Saudi Arabia and certainly not in Venezuela,
where his point person is a man, Elliot Abrams, whose obituary will
include the term “right-wing death squads.”
It is an obvious point, but one
necessary to make in a world where implausible statements from an
incoherent president are still treated with legitimacy by a class of
reporters and pundits trained to show undue respect to those who
wield power, corporate or political and nowadays both. Trump cares
about Venezuelans, whom his government routinely
deports, about as much as he cares about his own children, which
is not to say “a lot.” If he cared about corrupt elites ignoring
the opposition-held legislature on their way to bankrupting a country
for profit, he would resign, or at least hand back the $500,000
he received from the Venezuelan state for a party on his
It is good and just to be an irritant on this point, but it is
equally important that it not be the only one that is made. When
Trump talks about democracy and poverty in Venezuela unconvincingly,
what he says that is discernible is not necessarily wrong; the former
is indeed lacking, in Caracas and Washington, and the latter
abundant. As in the imperial core, the Venezuelan government has
usurped its constitutional authority. I know, in part, because I was
paid by it, working as an editor at the state-sponsored teleSUR,
based in Ecuador, a former sponsor (its governing social democrats
In late 2015, when the opposition coalition won the National
Assembly with 56 percent of the vote, the expectation was that my
employer would go down with the dethroned ruling party—the
expectation being that legislatures, not presidents, determine
spending priorities. And the opposition did not like us.
That did not happen. Maduro, instead, claimed the authority to
pass budgets by executive fiat—in the U.S. democracy, presidents
declare a “national emergency” to do that—helping preserve the
delicate balance of power that has led the military, enriched by
smuggling and the self-inflicted currency exchange system that fuels
it, to stick with his administration. He then created an extralegal
body, called a Constituent Assembly, that has the purported power to
rewrite all laws.
Filled with party loyalists, the assembly was declared illegal by
Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, who had been
appointed by Hugo Chavez in 2007; she was forced to flee the country,
another Chavista labeled a right-wing plotter by a government that
has betrayed the poor. Maduro then won a presidential election, after
his leading opponents, in a vote that, according
to the United Nations, “does not in any way fulfill minimal
conditions for free and credible elections.”
The international left, then, should have taken notice
and—supporters of Maduro or not—urged against the dismantling of
democracy, and walking back from the precipice; friendship is not
telling a drunk comrade that they are a great driver and thus ceding
the moral high ground to the cop that pulls them over.
It is also true that the Venezuelan government, not the U.S., is
largely responsible for the state of the Venezuelan economy.
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
Oppose Trump’s threats to send
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
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
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