Stirring the pot in Venezuela
The U.S.- propped extreme opposition's boycott helped the Maduro-led PSUV win in the recent legislative elections.
- On a warm day in December, more than five million Venezuelan citizens went to poll centres across the country to vote in the legislative elections.
- Over 14,000 candidates contested 277 seats from over a hundred political parties.
- A third of the registered voters went to vote despite the pandemic, intimidation from the extremist opposition (which had boycotted the election), and the difficulties produced by the illegal U.S. sanctions (including shortages of fuel, which has hurt transportation networks).
- Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the day after the election that his country had completed a “peaceful journey” on the road to full democracy.
The U.S. hand
- For the past decade, the U.S. has sought to undermine the normal operations of Venezuela’s democratic institutions, including its elections.
- It is the U.S. that pushed the extremist elements in the opposition to boycott all the institutions and urged the opposition to set itself up as a separate political pole, led by Juan Guaido.
- The National Assembly refused to recognise Nicolas Maduro’s victory in the 2018 presidential election.
- The duality of Venezuelan politics - between the elected officials and the U.S.-invented ‘government’ - needs to be “ended”.
- Even before the elections, U.S. government officials said the polls were fraudulent.
- It even sanctioned the most senior officials in the National Electoral Council (CNE) which oversees elections in Venezuela.
- Both the U.S. and the European Union released statements, with little evidence, saying that the elections were fraudulent.
- These statements have a stale air, written in terms that are highly ideological.
- The CNE reports that there was no violence during the elections, and the opposition leaders who participated in the election told me that they had no complaints of fraud.
State of the economy
- The final results gave the left and right opposition parties a third of the vote, with the remainder won by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), led by Mr. Maduro.
- On the night before the election, Mr. Maduro talked about why the opposition won a convincing victory in the legislative elections in 2010, when even the extreme opposition participated in the polls.
- There were many reasons why the opposition won then, many of them drawing from local disputes which is natural in a legislative election; but it was important for the PSUV to recognise, Mr. Maduro told me, that “we made mistakes. Let’s be clear”.
- Oil prices had collapsed, and the entire Venezuelan reliance upon dollars earned from the sale of crude oil meant that the social projects of the Bolivarian Revolution had begun to fail.
- This came alongside the tightened U.S. illegal sanctions pushed by the U.S. administrations of George Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.
- Now, with the low oil prices, the U.S. sanctions, and the pandemic, the Venezuelan government has had to be creative in salvaging productive economic activity and in fighting the pandemic. Residues of Chavismo – the great respect for Hugo Chavez personally and the commitment to the Bolivarian Revolution – fuel the movement of people to the polls and to reject the attempt to overthrow this government with a coup.
- The National Assembly will begin its term on January 5. This is 15 days before the new U.S. President Joe Biden will be inaugurated. It is unlikely that the U.S. will be able to make an attempt to overthrow the government in what Mr. Maduro calls the “dying days of the Trump presidency”.
- Leaders of the PSUV and the various opposition parties told me that they will rush to restrengthen the institutions of the Venezuelan state from January 5 and set a project in place before Mr. Biden begins what is expected to be his attack on Venezuela.
- Mr. Maduro said that he welcomes a dialogue with Mr. Biden. The U.S., he said, is welcome to withdraw the sanctions and to discuss how to move forward.
- This is unlikely, since Mr. Biden has already taken a forceful position against Mr. Maduro by calling him a “thug”.