Venezuela’s political crisis is rooted in the conciliatory policies its socialist reformist government has followed towards its utterly implacable opponents.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will cast votes on 30 July to determine its fate as President and United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader Nicolás Maduro continues to battle neoliberal opposition party Popular Will (VP), who has received Washington’s blessings.
Since 19 April, spontaneous “uprisings” have erupted in affluent barrios of Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, and Socopó, a small town strategically located in Barinas, where protesters have cut off food and medical supplies, killed over 80 people, and injured hundreds more.
Opposition protesters hijacked a PDVSA tanker truck on May 24 and use it to cut off the highway which runs through Socopo. (Source: Green Left Weekly)
Historically, Venezuelans are no stranger to US-orchestrated coups, which began during the Bush Administration’s 2002 putsch against PSUV founder and former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and subsequent riots in 2014; many carried out by senior officials in the US government.
“[The] crucial figure around the coup was [Elliot] Abrams, [the] senior director of the National Security Council for ‘democracy, human rights and international operations’” and “has a conviction for misleading Congress over the infamous Iran-Contra affair,” the Guardian highlights.
US congressmen have also drafted a bill (S.1018) that “would allocate £7.8m for the Department of State and USAid to provide ‘humanitarian assistance’ — code for funding rightwing activities”, the Morning Star highlighted.
“If this Bill is approved, the Caribbean region would also come under renewed lobbying by the US government to strengthen its ‘energy security initiative’ (CESI) project — a move designed to undermine Venezuela’s support in the region and opening up new markets for the US”, it continued.
Fortunately, the US failed to coerce the Organisation for American States (OAS) to approve a resolution condemning Venezuela’s election during their 20 June meeting in Cancun, Mexico.
“Mexico’s position on Venezuela is a position that will not waver […] representative democracy is the only form of government acceptable in the Western Hemisphere,” Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray exclaimed, remaining completely mum on the 129 Azinoyapa students found dead in over 60 mass graves throughout Iguala several years ago.
Videgaray was not convincing enough to secure a majority vote, Venezuela Analysis noted:
“[It] secured the support of 20 OAS member states, falling short of the required two thirds majority by three votes [where] Bolivia, Nicaragua and a handful of small Caribbean states outright rejected the proposal, while Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, the Dominican Republic and others abstained.”
After lambasting Videgaray, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez reminded him of Venezuela’s departure from the OAS, “which […] began on April 27 [and] will continue since it takes two years for a country to withdraw from the organization,” CaribFlame reported.
Venezuela’s election would secure popularly appointed representatives for a Constituent National Assembly to replace the current parliament now controlled by opposition parties.
It would organise 540 constituent parliamentarians, with 346 from all territorial municipalities and 186 MPs from seven key sectors, into communes, TeleSUR notes.
constitutionnet.org elucidates the reasons for these reforms:
One of [Chavez’s] 1998 campaign promises was that he would [organise] a referendum asking the Venezuelan people if they wish to convene a National Constituent Assembly [in order to] to open up political discourse to independent and third parties by changing the national political process and eliminating political corruption of the past.
However, what Venezuelans need is less, not more dialogue with the opposition, if any at all.
Material Reasons for the US-led Coup
When analysing US imperialism, one must consider that American invests in ‘liberal democracy’ and ‘human rights’ for purely materialistic (resource-based) and geopolitical reasons.
As noted in previous Duran articles, the Trump Doctrine prioritises its economic policy, which combines the vast privatisation of public infrastructure with control of the petrodollar by opening domestic oil production and consumption—both to stave off an economic collapse.
They also criticise the failures of both the Peronist Argentinian government under Christina Fernandez Kirchner and Brazilian Worker’s Party (PT) with Dilma Rousseff, as they were both overthrown by US-led political coups; the very same that Venezuela faces today.
Maduro’s snap elections have not provoked the US; this is a superstructural casus belli. Rather, the PSUV has been moving away from Western financial institutions, selling off USD, nationalising capital, and forming solid partnerships with Iran, China, Russia, and others.
A month before the protests began, The World Bank International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled in Venezuela’s favour after Chavez nationalised the Cero Negro and La Ceiba ExxonMobil refineries in mid-2000 “as part of a strategy to redirect the profits away from Venezuela’s mineral resources, telecoms, and agriculture industries and toward social programs”.
“[…] even at $1.6 billion, the compensation was substantially lower than what Exxon had asked for: $14.7 billion,” Oilprice insinuates. The US—mainly US Secretary of State (and former ExxonMobil CEO) Rex Tillerson—was left fuming by the ruling.
In May 2007, the PSUV government also parted with the IMF and World Bank after paying off all its outstanding debts, in response to the 2002 US-backed coup.
“Venezuela recently repaid its debts to the World Bank five years ahead of schedule. In doing so it saved $8m (£3.99m) and cleared all its debts to the IMF shortly after Mr Chávez was elected,” the Guardian noted.
The gesture empowered Venezuela to seek new fiscal ventures following a period of “high public spending and private consumption, fuelled by high oil prices and historically low interest rates.”
The following December, Chavez inaugurated plans with six South American presidents to create the Bank of the South (BancoSUR), the central bank of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and a rival institution to its former creditors.
“The bank is a political fact and is part of an economic war that is also social and ideological,” Chavez mentioned.
A 2015 Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) article specifies the bank’s nature:
The bank will have an authorized capital of $20 billion USD, with 20,000 trade shares, each with a par value of $1 million USD [and whilst] only UNASUR member states may hold the main shares, every state in the world may be a purchaser of secondary shares.
“Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela will provide 20 percent of the subscribed capital one year after the agreement [and become] endorsed for $7 billion USD shares,” it explained.
These three nations are the largest shareholders of the bank and, subsequently, became targets of former US President and counterintelligence laureate Barack Obama. US President Donald Trump continued these attacks by picking Rex Tillerson over Elliot Abrams, as Tillerson’s oil market experience took precedence following the 2015 Saudi oil glut.
As a result, Venezuela has been left at the helm of Bolivarian regional integration with only its secondary shareholders remaining, and was also forced to prioritise UNASUR after its primary shareholders became US vassals and suspended the country’s participation in Mercosur.
However, BancoSUR has yet to find suitable replacements for the gap in primary shareholder capital, and to further expedite regionalisation, needs to fully implement the Regional Compensation Unique System (SUCRE) for Bolivarian Alliance for the People of our Americas (ALBA) members.
The SUCRE, a virtual currency, would help avoid “the dollarization of Latin American economies [and] the ebb and flow of foreign capital that causes economic bubbles [and] volatility,” and move “towards a more decisive monetary edifice [for] regional trade requirements,” COHA explained.
However, corruption within Ecuador and Venezuela emerged after white collar criminals used it to launder money via “ghost companies”, where they “over-invoiced for goods received and took advantage of favourable exchange rates” and, by 2014, “up to 5% of Sucre transactions were suspicious in nature,” prompting a thorough joint investigation, FINTRAIL highlighted.
The Saudi oil glut ravaged global oil markets and Venezuela’s petrol revenues, prompting Maduro to discuss matters with Russia, Iran and other Persian Gulf states to stabilise production.
“Some 95 percent of its foreign incomes results from the export of crude oil with 40 percent of sales coming from the United States,” Deutsche Welle reports.
Luckily, banning PDVSA crude will, in the long term, force Venezuela to diversify clientele; something Russia and Iran are wholly familiar with. Obviously, the best way to achieve this is via the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); however, Venezuela requires something more.
Resolving the Crisis of Bolivarian Socialism
Latin American socialism is dying because of its social-democratic nature. Its leaders have prioritised Bolivarian ‘regional integration’ over all other necessities, foregoing a dictatorship of the proletariat (DotP), which has allowed reactionary forces to flourish with impunity.
Consequently, the Latin American bourgeoisie are more aptly trained in the ‘international, violent character’ of revolution than their hosts, and Venezuela is no exception.
For these reasons, VP spokespersons Henrique Capriles and Leopold Lopez openly command Venezuela’s far-right, “[asking] his supporters to keep up the almost daily street mobilizations.”
US-backed death squads can murder innocent Venezuelans, attack supply routes, and enjoy the good graces of the US State Department and its invasive, lickspittle press with few consequences.
The opposition claims that Maduro does not respect ‘constitutional democracy’; yet, Venezuela’s constitution needs to be rewritten, as it is the very obstacle hindering the security of the country.
Constitutional democracy has permitted neoliberal MPs 167 seats in parliament and the Supreme Court to reverse Maduro’s transfer of powers from the National Assembly to the judiciary branch, with spectators clasping hands and rejoicing, “the people have spoken!”
Had the PSUV been more Bolshevik and less Narodnik in its views, it could have achieved the same level of success as its ALBA comrades in Cuba, whose only concession to the bourgeoisie was providing transport for a permanent settlement in Little Havana.
Instead of following Cuba’s example, the PSUV have instead relied on economism, regionalism, and legalism to secure its revolutions. What it has failed to do is utilise the entire state apparatus to eliminate class divisions and wither away the state.
A furious Karl Marx addressed a similar leader, Gottfried Ludolf Camphausen, in the Neue Rheinsiche Zeitung with his essay, “The Bourgeoisie and the Counter-Revolution”.
Hal Draper invokes Marx’s definition of a ‘proper’ dictatorship:
Every provisional state setup after a revolution requires a dictatorship [and] taxed Camphausen […] with not immediately smashing and eliminating the remnants of the old institutions.
Lenin elaborates this in precise detail in State and Revolution:
Only in communist society, when the resistance of the capitalists have disappeared, when there are no classes […] only then “the state… ceases to exist”, […] only then will democracy begin to wither away, owing to the simple fact that, freed from capitalist slavery, from the untold horrors, savagery, absurdities, and infamies of capitalist exploitation, people will gradually become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social intercourse […] without coercion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for coercion called the state.
This is precisely what Latin America, save for Cuba, has failed to do. They call themselves “socialists” without following socialism’s basic tenants—smashing the state as prescribed by Marx.
Following the 26 July revolution, Republic of Cuba founders Fidel and Raul Castro expropriated the bourgeoisie, nationalised foreign capital, and abolished private property without hesitation.
Venezuela must act just as decisively after the 30 July elections.
Once (if!) the new Constituency Assembly convenes, the government should propose the following resolutions via popular vote, executive orders, and intergovernmental dialogue:
- Rewrite Venezuelan constitution to reflect socialist ambitions of the public.
- Designate Popular Will as a terrorist organisation for treason and collusion with the US.
- Initiate military campaign to root out Popular Will collaborators and saboteurs. Establish a humanitarian corridor and provide timely updates to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
- Jail key Popular Will members and fully establish DotP via new constituencies.
- Create a 5-year plan with direct consultation from the public. Strengthen international alliances.
- Negotiate with the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to denominate national oil in alternative currencies. Float SUCRE on Yuan or Euros.
- Work with global partnerships throughout AIIB to oversee construction of refineries, pipelines, and infrastructure. Offer oil security and secondary shares to collaborators in return. Renegotiate relationship to private sector.
- Prepare to leave the OAS and MercoSUR. Prioritise and build UNASUR.
Venezuelans must restore democracy after 30 July. No longer can neoliberal elements lie in wait like a chronic illness amongst the people. Maduro must take the steps to learn from the mistakes of Brazil and Argentina, as well as follow Cuba’s example, in order to become a true socialist state.
For the sake of its bright future, it must take action, and whilst its task is daunting, it can prevail.
Haneul Na’avi is an independent journalist and geopolitical analyst based in the United Kingdom. He has previously written for RT, Press TV, Global Research, and the Pravda Report.