Im folgenden dokumentieren wir einige Anmerkungen des Gründers der brasilianischen Landlosenbewegung MST, João Stedile, zur Situation Venezuelas. Stedile ist katholisch, hat in seinerJugend bei der Kommission für die Landpastoral der braislianischen Bischofskonferenz mitgearbeite. Er gehörte auch zu den führenden Köpfen der Weltsozialforen und war bei den Weltforen der Sozialen Beweegungen auf Initiative Papst Franiskus engagiert.
Notes to discuss the current situation in Venezuela
by João Pedro Stedile1
São Paulo, February 18, 2019/latest update, March 18, 2019.
- Since 2008 there has been an international crisis of the capitalist mode of production that has only deepened. In light of this, the hegemony of finance capital means that only large corporations and banks can accumulate in contrast to the economies of countries and people specially the working class who pay with more unemployment, an increase in inequalities, migration, social conflicts and the loss of rights. We also see cuts to basic public services such as education, health and housing, etc.
- With the emergence of the economic crisis, governments that are based on agreements of class reconciliation for political stability are no longer able to sustain themselves because the State and its finances transform in the terrain of class struggle.
- There is also a crisis of the so-called formal bourgeois democracy. Governments and elections are no longer able to represent the real interests of the majority of society and its electoral triumphs are the result of manipulation, fraud and paid for with millions. An effect of this crisis is people’s disbelief in politicians and the regime of formal representation.
- In this context, ruling capital, through large corporations and banks, prioritizes the private appropriation of natural resources: oil, minerals, water, trees, biodiversity and energy as a way of obtaining high rates of profit and thanks to the extraordinary revenues continue to accumulate and grow. In this sense, only the capitalists that appropriate these natural resources that were once common, weren’t produced by labor and are transformed into commodities are able to achieve great profit.
- In this international dispute over these markets for natural resources, a new correlation of forces is unfolding between the United States, Western Europe and Eurasia (Russia, Iran and China). These economies wrestle among themselves for the appropriation of natural resources and markets. This leads American capitalists to increase their pressure over Latin America in order to maintain it as a territory controlled by their interests. Their “backyard” as they call it and therefore guarantee their resources, markets and be in better conditions to confront their international competitors.
- In the fields of politics and ideology, the crisis allowed for the emergence of a world of new bourgeois forces of the extreme right. These reactionary forces promoted the construction of new enemies: immigrants, worker’s rights, customs and culture, etc.
- Sadly, these forces of the extreme right have conquered several governments through elections. Such was the case of Donald Trump in the United States. We saw this in Europe with Italy, Hungary and Andalucía, in Asia with India and the Philippines. In Latin America, these forces have conquered the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Perú and El Salvador.
- In order to win these elections, the forces of the extreme right don’t clearly expose their true projects and ideological conceptions because they know they wouldn’t get support from the majority of the population. Therefore, they dedicate themselves to manipulate public opinion for example with the massive use of the internet and the production of systematic lies against the left and progressive sectors. They have also used Pentecostal churches to influence the poor who depend on them.
- All of this also occurred in the crisis of the 1930s when the capitalists used a nationalist discourse and fascist ideas to conquer governments and get out of the crisis. They also used world wars to dispute markets and eliminate means of production at the cost of millions of human lives.
- It’s in this context that we can understand the defeats of progressive governments in Latin America that governed on the basis of class reconciliation. Even though these were not revolutionary governments they were taken out of power by the bourgeois forces they were allied with.
- In this framework we seek to analyze the political, ideological and now military offensive of U.S. capital against Venezuela which is focused towards controlling its oil reserves through private and international means. Venezuela has one of the largest reserves of oil in the world and one of the closest ones to the United States market. No other country or territory in the world could guarantee and expand the oil supply of the United States.
- In addition to this, let’s consider that analysts foresee that oil prices will continue to reach higher prices above $100 per barrel in the next two years. By the end of 2019, it’s expected to reach $70. This would provide who ever controls the Venezuelan reserves of hydrocarbons with incredibly high oil revenues.
- The people of Venezuela have been confronting this war during the last 20 years and now comes the time in which it can become a military conflict.
- Throughout this period, since Hugo Chavez won the first election in 1999, there has been a permanent scenario of attack by the Venezuelan and international capitalists against the process of economic and social change in Venezuela. They could always allow for a military official to govern Venezuela as so many had already done in Latin America but they could never allow for oil to be used as a fundamental resource to restructure the Venezuelan economy, finance the distribution of wealth and solve the needs of the people such as housing, health, education, public transportation and social infrastructure.
- During these years, capitalists and the government of the United States have applied their historic experience as they’ve done in other countries to try to overthrow the Bolivarian government and process.
- First, they try to build a government of class reconciliation with Chavez, proposing neoliberal policies, suggesting ministers and even a president of the Central Bank. But that didn’t work and Chavez responded by calling for a constitutional assembly that redacted a new constitution that returned sovereignty of political power and the future of the nation to the people and not the conservative parties.
- Afterwards in 2002, they appealed to the classic coup d’état as they’ve done in many countries. They kidnapped President Hugo Chavez from the Presidential Palace of Miraflores and put a businessman in his place. The people responded, besieging the palace and in 48 hours the coup was defeated by the people and an important group of cadets and new military. These had entered the military service with a Bolivarian formation even while the high command supported the coup due to their historic relations with the local oligarchy. This important moment marked a significant step in the civilian-military unity that would play a significant role in the development of the Bolivarian revolution moving forward.
- The businessmen who were still in PDVSA, the state oil company led a general oil strike that paralyzed all activities and provoked chaos in the country, promoting a climate of social destabilization. The government along with the workers were able to revert this process and promote a profound renovation of the company’s structure, reorganizing its command in between the government and the working class.
- They then tried the Chilean tactic promoting the speculation over prices of certain goods in order to generate panic in the people and create shortages. These included shortages of flour, medicine and other highly used goods such as toilet paper, sugar, milk, coffee and tooth paste. The government then used the income from the oil reserves for the state purchase and distribution of these basic goods for the population.
- They then went on to use the tactics used in the Ukraine with public terrorism in the streets and the use of guarimbas (street riots) in which middle class and lumpen youth were paid in US dollars to block streets, burn local symbols, throw incendiary bombs at childcare centers, hospitals and even military bases. But once again, this didn’t work and the people confronted this terrorism and defeated the guarimbas.
- They also tried to subvert and win over military officers to their project. They were able to buy some off but were never able to achieve an uprising or a division within the military. Among other reasons, the majority of the officials they were able to buy off were abroad, which means they lacked direct influence inside Venezuela.
- On the other hand, they consistently accused the Venezuelan government of being a dictatorship, equally against Chavez as they do now against Maduro. In the meantime, the opposition parties participated in 25 elections during 20 years, in which they elected different governors, mayors and members of congress. They organized multiple activities in the public arena and continue to control the majority of the of mass media outlets. With all of this, how can they justify calling it a dictatorship? In no western country are there similar conditions. At the same time, the Venezuelan electoral process, with its electronic voting machines and printed receipts became one of the most transparent processes, verified by diverse foundations in the United States that have observed recent elections there.
- In the last few months, an economic blockade was intensified to prevent foreign consumer goods from arriving. Due to its oil-based economy, Venezuela is very dependent on imported goods. On top of this, they began to openly manipulate the currency exchange rates of the Bolivar from a website located without any reason in Miami. In a symptomatic manner, the local bourgeoise began to refer to this website without any real economic base in order to speculate with the US dollar which became more of a commodity than a currency, a commodity of reference for all others.
- They promoted an intense campaign stimulating and motivating thousands of people to leave the country with the promise of jobs and dreamy futures. More than 30% of those who left have already returned disillusioned, receiving support from the Venezuelan government for their return. On the other hand, migration is not unknown or a problem to the Venezuelan people, since in the country there are more than 5 million Colombians, thousands of Haitians as well as thousands of Europeans who arrived with the oil boom of 1970s such as Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese and also Lebanese.
- The thesis of demanding new elections has no parallel in the history of modern bourgeois democracies. New elections must be called simply because the rightwing lost the elections against Maduro despite these being observed and verified by hundreds of authorities around the world. Why if there is legal or moral basis to remove a legitimate government. This same thesis could also be applied to other governments then such as Bolsonaro and Macri. The same members of the National Assembly that want to remove Maduro were elected under the same system.
- We now enter a final stage. Time is running short. The Trump administration only has two years left and could lose the next elections. At the same time, the price of oil is rising. In the end, the ideological definition of removing progressive and left governments is expressed in the necessity to end Maduro’s government. Trump has said, “first we are going to get rid of Maduro, then come Cuba and Nicaragua, etc.”
- Before beginning this phase of major foreign offensive, the Trump administration has tried to create the internal conditions for economic and political destabilization, naming Guaido as the new legitimate government, unrecognizing the political forces inside the country including those of the bourgeois opposition. Essentially, they have tried a constitutional coup which of course is illegal. This repeats the formula already used against President Lugo in Paraguay, President Zelaya in Honduras and President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil.
- In this new period, the possibility of a military invasion is put on the table. A phantom government that no one in the country knows is created completely at the margins of any elections and legality. Now they focus on strengthening the siege, international pressure and who knows even a surgical military intervention.
- But this final tactic depends on multiple variables. American public opinion wouldn’t accept the loss of its soldiers in an unjustifiable war and therefore they must use multilateral forces such as the Organization of American States (OAS). But in the OAS, they were only able to obtain 16 out of 34 votes and didn’t have a majority to authorize an invasion under the wing of this institution. They then tried in the United Nations Security Council, which also denied them the right to invade Venezuela with the veto of Russia, China and other countries. This effort also required the participation of the armed forces of Colombia and Brazil. Going along with this is not as simple due to the consequences this conflict would have in their internal politics and the little willingness of the military in these countries.
- The last tactic could then be a surgical military intervention for example by air as they did in Yugoslavia, the Ukraine, Libya and Syria in order to break the economic sustainability of the government and force its collapse. But before any military intervention they must break the unity between the Bolivarian armed forces and the majority of the people that today exists in Venezuela. This unity is capable of defeating any military intervention, causing high costs in lives and also politically against the Trump Administration.
- This military adventure could become an international military conflict with the probable solidarity from Russia, Iran and Turkey, transforming Venezuela into a Latin American Syria with unknown consequences and at a high cost to the United States as in fact happened in Syria.
- A military intervention of this type could also create a grave contradiction for the imperialist forces. A probable defeat of the invading forces of the right would mean that the United States would have to receive a new and larger migration of all the Venezuelan bourgeoise which after a military defeat would no longer have the political or social space to remain in the country like what occurred after the military defeat at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba.
- In this framework, for February 23rd, the United States and their Colombian allies had planned an invasion through the Colombian border with the plan to install the self-proclaimed government of Gauido in one of the border towns. But Guaido lied when he said that he had the support of the Venezuelan people and they fell into their own trap. There were no multitudes supporting him on either side of the border. On the contrary, apart from the armed forces, thousands of Venezuelans came out to defend their country. The humanitarian aid is now a farce that has been denounced even by CNN and they themselves has to burn the two trucks that hid the military supplies that were being transported. This was a victory for the Venezuelan people.
- On February 25th, a meeting had been prepared with all the governments of the Lima Group, that in case of an invasion were going to provide their approval of the new government. After the defeat of this initiative, the meeting was more of a wake, made worse by the position taken by the Brazilian military which represented by General Mourao, voted against any form of military aggression.
- After that defeat, they thought the Venezuelan government would imprison Guaido on his return, turning him into a victim and hero of the right. But the Venezuelan government was patient, left him alone and nothing significant occurred on his return. On the contrary the constant mass protests by the people gave more legitimacy to Maduro’s government.
- They then intensified their sabotage. The CIA’s intelligence forces and who knows from what other agencies, operated on the computers of the Guri Hydroelectric Plant and over the distribution of the electric energy grid, creating a national black-out which caused havoc. The government responded with more mobilizations and denunciations while the international bourgeois press as usual placed the blame on them. It’s really pathetic that the CIA and other intelligence agencies led this cyber-attack and then want to blame the government.
- They will certainly continue with their economic and financial blockade and against companies and individuals that act in favor of Venezuela. They have done the same to Cuba for 60 years and against Iran for 30 years. But the will of a united people is hard to defeat.
- The next weeks and months will be decisive to understanding which tactic will be adopted by the United States. In Venezuela a global battle of class struggle is being waged that could mark the geopolitics of the rest of the 21st century. This could be as significant as the Spanish Civil War was a preamble to the Second World War.
- In this battle it will be necessary for the Venezuelan government to maintain the unity of the Bolivarian Armed Forces and maintain the majority of the Chavista people mobilized in defense of the nation. In the short-term and long-term, it will also be necessary to create a new economic program that is able to overcome the challenges imposed by the blockade of the West and the dependency on oil in order to propose a program of economic development with social equality.
- Today the defense of Venezuela’s sovereignty signifies the defense of self-determination of the people against the empire. We must stay active and well informed of all the actions that take place. The next steps will be decisive and all the forces of the people and the left in the continent and the world must clearly take a stand in defense of the Bolivarian process which without a doubt has its own contradictions and challenges as is the case of any process of structural change in a society.
1 Joao Pedro Stedile is a member of the National Coordination of the Movement of Landless Workers of Brazil