As the Venezuelan presidential election on 20 May draws closer, the campaign of imperialist aggression by the US and its allies intensifies. The aim is clear: to implement regime change. At the same time, the economic crisis gripping the country has reached intolerable levels for the workers and the poor, and the government’s policies are impotent to resolve the situation. A revolutionary alternative is required, one capable of fighting the right wing and showing a real way out of hyperinflation, scarcity and economic depression.
A year ago, we were in the middle of a sustained campaign by the Venezuelan opposition, with the backing of imperialism, to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Maduro. Through violent mass mobilisations in the streets, terrorist attacks and international pressure, they hoped to create a situation of chaos that would push a section of the army to remove the government. They failed. The oligarchic opposition was unable to go beyond its traditional base of support in the middle-and-upper-class areas. The Venezuelan working class showed a very healthy class instinct. Even though many have developed a justified scepticism about the Maduro government, they knew full well that the opposition represents the interests of the ruling class and their arrival to power would spell disaster for workers and peasants. While a few coup conspiracies were uncovered, the bulk of the army remained loyal to the government. The defeat of the opposition’s insurrection led to splits and demoralisation within its ranks.
Watch the author of this article, Jorge Martin, discussing the 20 May Venezuelan presidential elections on IMTV!
Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in July 2017 saw a significant mobilisation of the chavista rank-and-file, which regarded the poll as an opportunity to deliver a blow against the right wing and imperialism. But any hopes that the CA would serve to give back power to the Bolivarian movement, or take decisive measures to deal with the economic crisis, were soon dispelled.
New elections and imperialist aggression
The 20 May presidential elections will take place in the context of increased imperialist aggression and a marked worsening of the economic situation for the workers and poor. The reactionary opposition is divided. One section, led by Henry Falcón, is standing in the election against Maduro, while the bulk of the old MUD (Democratic Roundtable Unity) is calling for a boycott.
The program of Henry Falcón has one main tenet: dollarisation as a way out of the crisis. In practice, removing monetary policy from the hands of the government would mean a brutal fiscal adjustment, which the workers and the poor would have to pay for. He tries to make it more attractive by promising to raise wages to 75 US dollars a month (the minimum wage is now equal to 36 dollars at the official exchange rate). In the context of a severe economic crisis, he hopes to attract a layer of middle-ground voters and even disenchanted, former chavista supporters.
From the day the elections were announced, both the US and the EU declared they would not recognise the results. Their decision has nothing to do with concern for ‘democracy’ or ‘fairness’. These are the same imperialist powers that not only turned a blind eye, but organised and backed massive election fraud in Honduras a few months ago, having already played a key role in a 2009 military coup. They are not worried about election fraud, as long as it delivers the government they want.
The presidential elections in Venezuela are taking place using the same methods and the same National Electoral Council that delivered a victory for the MUD opposition at the 2015 National Assembly elections. The MUD also participated in the October 2017 regional elections. The decision by sections of the opposition to participate in elections (or not) and of Washington and Brussels to recognise them (or not), has little to do with the quality of the process, and everything to do with achieving their main aim: the removal of the Maduro government. Thus we have the surreal spectacle of the same forces that spent the whole of 2017 demanding immediate elections (using violent and terrorist means, starting before the elections were called) now demanding that elections be cancelled!
Washington has been working with right-wing governments in the region (Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Colombia) to tighten the economic noose of sanctions around Venezuela’s neck. US Vice-President Mike Pence has described Venezuela as a “failed state” in need of “humanitarian intervention” at a meeting of the Organisation of American States. The “Lima Group” of right-wing, Latin American governments, in a joint statement with Spain and the US, demanded the suspension of the elections. There is no doubt that the Trump administration wants regime change and thinks it can be achieved sooner rather than later.