Statement on Venezuela by the Anti-War Committees in Solidarity with The Struggles for Self-Determination

A man is detained during clashes with the Bolivarian National Guard in Urena, Venezuela, near the border with Colombia, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Venezuela’s National Guard fired tear gas on residents clearing a barricaded border bridge between Venezuela and Colombia that day, heightening tensions over blocked humanitarian aid that opposition leader Juan Guaidó has vowed to bring into the country over objections from President Nicolás Maduro. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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.

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“‘Humanitarian Aid’ As a Weapon of Regime Change in Venezuela” by Diego Sacchi

(Courtesy Camilo Rozo/El País and Andrés Martínez Casares/Reuters)

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 2/6, written by Diego Sacchi. Originally published on Left Voice on 26 February 2019.

Last week [two weeks ago now], Venezuelan right-wing coup leader Juan Guaidó called for a “human wave” to mobilize at the country’s barracks in order to pressure the military into turning against President Nicolás Maduro. He also called on supporters to gather at the border with Colombia on Saturday to receive the “humanitarian aid” sent by the United States. The goal was to present an image of chaos to the world and force the Army and National Guard to let in the trucks carrying supplies—signaling a break with the Maduro government.

This maneuver was defeated, sparking an aggressive response by the Venezuelan right, the U.S. state department, and several high-ranking American officials, who have been beating the drums of war since the crisis began last month.

On Saturday evening, Guaidó stated, “The events of today have forced me to make the decision to formally declare to the International Community that we must consider all options to liberate this country, which is fighting and will continue to fight.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Guaidó’s threats, maintaining that “Every option is on the table. We’re going to do the things that need to be done.”

After Saturday, Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, focused on searching for a “casus belli” that could justify a military response, using his Twitter account to spread lies, such as the claim that shots were fired into Colombia from Venezuela. [There have been reports of Venezuelan forces firing tear gas over the border into Colombia.]

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New Uprisings in Iran: A Preliminary Analysis — by Ali Kiani

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Courtesy AFP/Getty Images

Presented in Los Angeles at a January 14, 2018 public forum sponsored by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice

It is four weeks after the protest began against the Islamic Republic of Iran in Mashhad, one of the most religious cities of the northern province of Khorasan. This protest is different from Iranian struggles for freedom and democracy over the last decade, including the Green Movement of 2009-10 that started in the capital city of Tehran. The start of this latest movement is more like the Arab Spring of Egypt and Tunisia which erupted into an unexpected uprising of poor and working-class people demanding democracy, social justice and economic equality within a matter of weeks in early 2011. The epicenters of the protests were in regions badly hit by the economic crisis like Mashhad, which was stronghold of religious fundamentalists and the home of two of President Hassan Rouhani’s main rivals in the 2017 presidential elections. On December 28, when thousands of citizens came together in Mashhad to protest against higher prices and economic hardship, some “reformers” accused religious principalist fanatics under Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, a representative of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, of having the intention of covertly organizing the demonstration for a few days to weaken the “moderate” president, Rouhani, and his administration. Despite the hardliners’ intentions, once people went into the streets, protests quickly followed in dozens of other small to mid-sized towns that suffered from high rates of unemployment. They chanted slogans against the supreme leader and the regime as a whole, which shows that even if the uprising was started by a conspiracy on the part of one faction in the regime, it was not under its thumb.

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Zach Medeiros, “Solidarity with the Oppressed, Not the Oppressors: Why We Should Support Syrian Revolutionaries”

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Zach Medeiros, Socialist Party of the USA

Comments presented at the July 14 launch of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution and Social Justice at a public meeting at the Westside Peace Center, Culver City

How can we support revolutionary Syrians and the Syrian people as a whole? This is not an easy question to answer. Yassin al-Haj Saleh, one of Syria’s greatest intellectuals and a former political prisoner jailed for nearly two decades for speaking out against his government, once wrote that “Syria is the world, and the world is Syria.” In other words, Syria has not only become a global issue, but the world has become a Syrian issue. When Syrians first took to the streets in 2011 to protest the brutality, corruption, poverty and discrimination that defined life for most living under the Assad regime, who could have foreseen that they would become the world? In those heady days, where dictators who had ruled for decades were falling like cards before the might of the people, who could have imagined that over six years later, Bashar al-Assad would still be on his butcher’s throne, propped up to one degree or another by most of the regional and global powers?

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