By Paul Roberts
Venezuela’s Presidential election takes place in just over a week, with Chávismo, one of the most advanced political currents in the world, set to win once more under Nicolás Maduro. Given this, imperialism and its local allies are stepping up their campaign to discredit the expected result as part of their strategy to defeat Venezuela’s socialist revolution.
If anyone was foolish enough to doubt the willingness of the US to deploy the entire arsenal of dirty tricks to overturn Chávismo, then they should turn to the written words of William Brownfield, a previous US Ambassador to Venezuela. In a 2006 memo to US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Brownfield outlined his embassy’s five core objectives in Venezuela since 2004, which included: ‘penetrating Chávez’ political base’, ‘dividing Chávismo’, ‘protecting vital US business’ and ‘isolating Chávez internationally’.
The email memo, published by Wikileaks, exposes the fact it is an absolute lie for the US to claim that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other states. And in Venezuela this means seeking to undermine, infiltrate and destabilise Chávismo.
As shown by the huge out-pouring of grief at the death of Hugo Chávez, in which two million people took to the streets to show their respects, popular support for Venezuela’s socialist revolution remains strong.
The Chávista candidate, Nicolás Maduro, has a commanding lead in the polls, 10 per cent to 20 per cent ahead of the right’s candidate Henrique Capriles.
Capriles already lost last October’s Presidential election to Chávez by 44 per cent to 55 per cent. His right wing coalition suffered further setbacks at the December state elections, losing five of the eight governorships it held whereas the Chávista coalition won in 20 of the 23 states.
Economic growth of over 5 per cent, huge improvements in people’s living standards and the mobilisation of the masses behind this programme and rejecting the coercion of US imperialism explain this support.
So, preparing for the reality of another Chávista victory, the right’s strategy is to undermine the election’s legitimacy with false claims that the process has been biased against them.
Venezuela’s right has a record of making fake charges against the country’s democratic processes to cast doubt on the socialists’ victories. In 2004, the right-wing opposition refused to accept the results of the Presidential recall referendum, claiming that voting machines had been tampered with, despite the results being endorsed by the Carter Centre and the Organization of American States. At the 2005 parliamentary elections the right withdrew at the last minute when it was evident they faced defeat – a manoeuvre that was criticised by the EU.
In the run up to this 14 April election, the US and right are coordinating attacks on the Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), the body that oversees the contest. They are claiming the democratic process is flawed and question the CNE impartiality – all to de-legitimise the anticipated result.
Capriles’ supporters have called for changes to the elections to make the results more open to challenge, such as scrapping the reliable automated voted machines. Even the Economist noted how advanced this system was!
Right wing politicians claim the process is rigged in favour of Maduro. It is even suggested that former Vice-President Maduro has effectively orchestrated a coup by taking on the role of Acting President whilst running as a candidate – despite both the Constitution and the Supreme Court affirming that all is in order.
The US is conducting a similar smear campaign, with Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jackson stating that it is ‘difficult’ to have ‘open, fair and transparent elections’ in Venezuela.
Chávismo promotes democracy
The truth is quite opposite; it is the socialists in power who have taken the greatest steps to promote democracy. Since Chávez was elected President in 1998 Venezuelan democracy has become highly regarded by international standards, with 16 sets of national elections held these past 14 years. That is more than were held after ‘democracy’ was restored in Venezuela in 1958 following the fall of its dictatorship.
Even former US President Jimmy Carter – no supporter of socialism – said of last October’s election: ‘of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world’.
The CNE’s reputation is so solid that the right wing opposition itself commissioned the CNE to oversee its internal primary elections to select its 2012 presidential candidate.
It is imperialism and its local puppets that want democracy in Venezuela overthrown. There is nothing new in this: from the ousting of the leftist Presidency of Allende in Chile 40 years ago to recent destabilisation plots against Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Honduras and Hugo Chávez himself in recent years, the will of the people is irrelevant for imperialism. What is important for imperialism and its lackeys in Venezuela is control of the world’s largest oil reserves.
The aim of the campaign against a legitimate re-election of a Chávista President is not simply to try to force out the leadership of the revolution and replace it with an alternative more acceptable to the West – a more ‘reasonable’ ‘social democratic’ alternative as much of the Western media claims to favour. The aim goes much further, to remove every trace of revolutionary fervour in the masses, which could only be done by huge state repression and violence and reaction.
As Gabriel García Márquez explains in his essay on the Chilean coup, but which is applicable more widely, ‘it was not simply a matter of overthrowing a regime but one of implanting the Hell-dark seeds…[until] there would be no trace of the political and social structure’.
In Venezuela, the population supports the revolutionary transformation of society that Chávez led and the counterrevolution cannot win at the ballot box. Hence the US and opposition have acted so decisively against democracy in Venezuela, orchestrating the 2002 coup attempt and the 2003 oil industry sabotage.
They have continued to explore the possibilities of further coup attempts, including last year when two Presidential primary candidates, Diego Arria and María Corina Machado, supported a petition calling for the Armed Forces to take charge of the country.
The US is trying to discredit Venezuela’s electoral process whilst providing huge assistance to the opposition campaign, including publicly endorsing Capriles. US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson has told Spain’s El País newspaper that Capriles could be ‘a very good president’.
The long standing US practices of interfering in Latin America’s politics are being challenged across the region. The determined defence of sovereignty provided by the socialist leaderships in Cuba and Venezuela is appreciated by the region’s less advanced political forces.
Former Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has firmly endorsed Maduro, in this video.saying: ‘Chávez’s great work was the transformation of Venezuela into a more just country…and I’m sure that Maduro as president will be capable of fulfilling the goals of Chávez’. Lula said he was speaking on behalf of the Mercosur trading bloc – whose members include Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, alongside Brazil,
Maduro is a long-standing revolutionary, inspired by the Cuban revolution and who has worked for 30 years for the transformation of Venezuela, including through socialist organisations whose members were assassinated, kidnapped and tortured by Venezuela’s state security forces during the pre-Chávez ‘democracy’ in the country.
The choice in the election is between a President committed to continuing the consolidation of the revolution or the candidate of the counterrevolution.
Given the immense social advances that have been made this past decade under Chávez, polls indicate the majority wants his policies to continue under Maduro. Under democracy such a victory should be the outcome, but the US and its Venezuelan clients are looking for every illegitimate way to prevent or undermine that outcome.
Venezuela is at the forefront of the struggle for socialism in the world today. Hugo Chávez was one of the most advanced political leaders of the past 100 years. Under Hugo Chávez the beginnings of a new worker’s state was constructed that defends the interests of the majority. Under Nicolás Maduro, who has been a close ally of Chávez from the start, Venezuela’s socialist revolution will continue to advance.
Socialists need to do all they can to defend Venezuela’s revolution against US-led attempts to undermine it. In Britain promoting the activities of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign is the priority for that.
Forthcoming solidarity events
Monday 8 April 6.30pm Bolivar Hall London
Venezuela‘s Presidential Election: Respect the will of the Venezuelan People – No to US Intervention!
Saturday 27 April 9.30am – 5.00pm, University of London Union London
Venezuela – Showing There Is An Alternative In the 21st Century