Venezuelan President Denounces International Attacks to 'Steal Wealth'

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gave the last National Address of 2018

The Venezuelan worker President Nicolas Maduro gave a speech for his people on the last address to the nation in 2018. President Maduro thanked the effort and firm commitment of the people in defense of sovereignty and peace.


Maduro talked to all Venezuelans, "thanks for so much solidarity with our country, for your firm commitment with peace, for your democratic vocation," stated the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. For the leader, 2018 was the year of the institutionalization of the social programs and consolidation of rights, when the "democracy was armored" and the year when the government of the Bolivarian Revolution "demonstrated that this sacred land filled with history and future has only one owner and it the Venezuelan people."

"In 2018 we managed to reach 4 million, 300 thousand pensioners. We achieved the goal of 100 percent of pensioners. In addition, 5 million families are already included and protected in the Great Mission Homes of the Homeland," said President Nicolas Maduro.
President Nicolás Maduro reiterated the call for a dialogue with the political sectors willing to work for peace and stability in Venezuela. He also thanked his people "because, in the middle of a bloody economic war, we were united in hope and faith to ourselves, we have laid the groundwork to make 2019 a year of stability and economic prosperity." This will continue with the project of the 21st Century Socialism.
Maduro also thanked Venezuelans for the Unity, "as only together will we be able to defend that what was achieved," by the Bolivarian Revolution "as well as change what needs to be changed." It Is the Venezuelan people who need to adjust the things that need to be changed, and interventionist and coup attempts won't be permitted by Venezuela. Maduro rejected any attempts that go against the principle of self-determination of the peoples.
Maduro stated that peace is the way for Venezuela, and he agreed to meet with the opposition in new dialogue tables that will allow that peace. But peace dialogues under the rule of law and no coup attempt will be accepted. "2019 will be the year of the fight against imperialism."
https://bit.ly/2TiZzAY

From coup leaders to con artists: Juan Guaidó’s gang exposed for massive humanitarian aid fraud

VENEZUELAJune 17, 2019


An explosive new report reveals how Guaidó representatives in Colombia embezzled $125,000 meant for humanitarian aid, suckering deserting soldiers and blowing the aid money on luxury goods.


by Dan Cohen


A new investigation has exposed members of Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó’s inner circle for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars designated for humanitarian aid and spending it on luxury goods and lavish accommodations for themselves. Guaidó had been aware of the fraud for weeks and stubbornly defended his cohorts until a leak from Colombian intelligence forced him to acknowledge the scandal.

The scandal unfolded this February, when Venezuelan opposition figures and their supporters descended upon the border town of Cúcuta, Colombia for what was billed as a Live Aid concert to raise millions of dollars for humanitarian aid for Venezuelans suffering the effects of an economic crisis.

The operation was supposed to have climaxed with a Live Aid concert hosted by billionaire Virgin Group founder Richard Branson while trucks full of US aid blasted across the Venezuelan border. Instead, as Branson gathered his performers on stage for a cringeworthy rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” opposition hooligans set fire to the truckloads of aid with molotov cocktails as they failed to reach the border.

Now, a report by the staunchly anti-Maduro PanAm Post editor-in-chief Orlando Avendaño has revealed a shocking scheme of fraud and embezzlement behind the aid imbroglio. According to Avendaño, Guaidó’s lieutenants embezzled huge sums of money that had been promised to Venezuelan soldiers who deserted their positions and snuck across to the Colombian side at Guaidó’s urging.

The cash that was used to entice desperate soldiers and would-be mercenaries to defect became a slush fund for the US-backed coup leader and his gaggle, who spent it lavishly on hotels, expensive dinners, nightclubs and designer clothes. As Guaidó’s gang lived the high life, he covered for their fraud, keeping his lips sealed until it was exposed through a leak by the Colombian intelligence services.

At a press conference on June 17, Guaidó attempted to downplay his responsibility and redirect public anger back towards Maduro. “The government does not manage [public] resources because we are in the process of transition,” he said. “The dictatorship has begun a process of disinformation.”

But then the defecting Venezuelan soldiers announced plans for a press conference where they pledged to provide even more evidence of fraud.

Constructing an interventionist sham show


It was apparent upon Branson’s announcement of the February 23rd aid concert that the event had little to do with providing relief to hungry Venezuelans. It was a transparent propaganda stunt engineered to destabilize the Maduro government and achieve a long-standing US foreign policy goal.

As Father Sergei San Miguel, a Colombian government-affiliated priest responsible for guiding the deserting Venezuelan soldiers told me in Cúcuta, the successful entrance of the meager amount of supplies into Venezuela was intended to demonstrate Maduro’s loss of sovereignty in front of the global stage and foment an uprising across the country that would finally depose him.

Branson pledged that his event would rustle up 100 million dollars for humanitarian aid. But organizers had omitted how and to whom the funds would be distributed. On February 28th, Venezuela Aid Live organizers announced they had raised just 2.5 million dollars – a tiny fraction of the sum they had promised and likely less than the cost of staging a massive production on one week’s notice.

The weekend of the concert offered a preview of this month’s corruption revelations, with several embarrassing incidents involving Guaidó’s confidantes. Early in the morning of February 23, Popular Will party members Freddy Superlano and his cousin and assistant Carlos José Salinas were found unconscious in a motel in Cúcuta. According to police reports, the two had been drugged with scopolamine and robbed by women, presumably prostitutes, they met in the red-light district. After the women made an early morning dash from the motel room, staff found the two men unconscious and called police. Salinas died shortly after being hospitalized.

Days later, another top Venezuelan opposition figure, Lorent Saleh, was arrested in Cúcuta after he allegedly attempted to sexually abuse two women. He was released after figures close to Guaidó mediated with Colombian authorities. Saleh – a recipient of funds from the US government under the guise of “democracy promotion” – had previously been deported by Colombia to Venezuela after plotting terrorist attacks and assassinations in the latter country.

Dan Cohen
@dancohen3000


“Colombian police arrest Lorent Saleh, who under the influence of drugs had tried to sexually abuse two women. Then they left him free through the mediation of people close to Juan Guaidó” via @MaisantaDigital


But the revelations of fraud are a new level of embarrassment for the Guaidó coup operation, and threaten to undercut support both inside Venezuela and from his foreign patrons. The fraud scheme was revealed through leaked receipts and documents obtained by Colombian intelligence as part of an ongoing investigation. The receipts Avendaño published show Guaidó’s representatives blew more than $125,000 on luxury goods and personal expenses, including nearly $40,000 on expenses in April. Avendaño has yet to publish all of the documents he received, so the total that was stolen remains unknown.

Suckering the soldiers

Popular Will party members Rossana Barrera and Kevin Rojas are the main subjects of the corruption investigation. Barrera replaced Roberto Marrero as Juan Guaidó’s chief of staff after Marrero was arrested by the Venezuelan government on charges of plotting terrorist attacks. Rojas, for his part, is the regional coordinator of the Popular Will party in the border state of Tachira, and had been denounced for his role in violent destabilization plots by the state’s former governor, Jose Vielma Mora.

For months, Popular Will party parliamentarians Dr. José Manuel Olivares and Gaby Arellano had been tasked with overseeing the aid operations, and according to Avendaño, Olivares was preparing for a collapse in the military’s command and control structure on the border that would allow the opposition to ram the aid trucks through.

Yet Olivares and Arellano were replaced without explanation on direct orders from Guaidó. I reached out to Olivares via Whatsapp for comment, but he declined to respond. However, the two released a statement expressing confidence in the investigation while blaming their disgraced counterparts, Barrera and Rojas.

“We don’t have any responsibility with respect to the soldiers that are in Colombian territory that began to enter on February 23rd through the bridges where we were,” they remarked. “We must highlight that the person in charge of this process of the Venezuelan officers into Colombian territory is the ambassador, Humberto Calderón Berti, and the president’s appointees in Cúcuta: Kevin Rojas and Rossana Barrera.”

While the attempt to push aid trucks across Venezuelan borders was a resounding failure, the desertion by scores of Venezuelan soldiers to Guaidó’s cause was spun as a major success. Soon, Guaidó and his partymates promised, thousands more soldiers would break ranks and Maduro’s government would dissolve. The soldiers had been promised amnesty and stays in hotels, schooling for their children, medical care and employment. Chilean president Sebastián Piñera even offered renewable one-year visas with the possibility of permanent residency.

On February 25th, I spoke to three defector soldiers in Bogotá who expressed optimism that Maduro would soon be ousted and their conditions would improve dramatically. “This country has extended its hand and helps us,” Sergeant Major Jose Luis Suarez told me. “As a Venezuelan soldier, I’m very thankful to Colombia.”

At first, the turncoat soldiers were put up in nine hotels in Cúcuta at $30,000 per night, paid for by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Juan Guaidó’s ad hoc Humanitarian Aid Coalition.

However, just one day after they arrived, representatives from the Coalition for Humanitarian Aid in Cúcuta told soldiers to stop coming across the border because they were in “a complicated situation” with an insufficient budget.

Optimism soon turned to outrage as the benefits the soldiers had been promised failed to materialize. By mid-March, funds for the deserters had completely dried up. The UNHCR attempted to expel a group of soldiers from one shelter, giving each a stipend of 350,000 Colombian pesos ($106), a mat, and a sheet to sleep on.

“We are desperate. We do not want to stay in Colombia, we want to return to Venezuela, but not in the conditions that are being lived now. We do not know what to do,” one deserter complained.

The soldiers’ families paid an especially heavy toll. Several of their wives were pregnant and were denied access to medical attention. One woman was forced to give birth in an emergency room and could not pay for a taxi to leave. The 130 children of the deserters were so poorly fed that twenty percent were assessed to be suffering from malnutrition.

Unable to work, some defectors joined paramilitaries and drug trafficking operations along the Colombian-Venezuelan border and received training in high-powered weapons. Others drank away their misery, descended into violence and cast about for prostitutes.

By the beginning of May, Guaidó’s representatives had cut off all communication with the soldiers. Having sold out in pursuit of promises that turned out to be hollow, the lost army was set to turn on Guaidó’s gaggle.

‘Transparency above all!’


According to Avendaño’s report, the two Popular Will figures appointed to oversee the funds and payment for the lodging of the deserters – Barrera and Rojas – spent 3,000,000 pesos ($915 USD) each night on hotels and nightclubs.

“About a thousand dollars in drinks and meals. Clothing expenses in very expensive stores in Bogotá and in Cúcuta. Vehicle rental reports and hotel payments at surcharge. Silver flowing. A lot of money,” the journalist wrote.

Barrera told the Popular Will leadership in Caracas that the funds were being dispersed among seven hotels that were providing housing for deserters and their families, but only two hotels had actually been paid.

What’s more, Guaidó’s representatives had falsely claimed there were more than 1,450 Venezuelan soldiers in Colombia. According to Avendaño, Colombian intelligence counted only 700. It turned out that Barrera and Rojas had inflated the number in order to embezzle more funds for their luxury spree.

In mid-May, Barrera and Rojas attempted to defraud even more money through a phony charity dinner in a luxurious Bogotárestaurant, falsely claiming the event had been convened to raise money for deserters and their families. Using a fake email account for Guaidó’s “ambassador” in Colombia, Humberto Calderón Berti, the two Popular Will activists invited representatives from foreign embassies, including those of the U.S. and Israel. The dinner was cancelled after Berti’s representatives informed embassies that they were not sponsoring the dinner.

By then, the reckless behavior of Guaidó’s appointees was known throughout the entire Colombian government. Soon after Barrera and Rojas were quietly removed from their positions.

Shortly after Avendaño’s article was published, it became clear to Guaidó that he could no longer shield the con artists he placed in charge of the aid operation. After ordering Berti to ask Colombian authorities for their investigation, he took to Twitter to declare, “Transparency above all!”

Minutes later, Berti announced he would get to the bottom of the case. The coup ambassador tweeted that the investigation was in its final phase, provoking many observers to point out that he and Guaidó had known about the fraud for months and covered it up. Shockingly, Berti confirmed the cover-up, responding that he had personally ordered the investigation two months ago after receiving information from Colombian intelligence.

At a June 17th press conference, Guaidó claimed that he immediately requested an investigation when Berti informed him of the fraud schemes. But according to Avendaño, Guaidó “showed a stubborn defense of both” of his disgraced party lieutenants, using blustery threats to shift blame onto his “embassy” in Colombia. Avendaño attempted to contact Guaidó and his press officer, but received no response.

“They will burn it, I imagine”


While the money intended for defecting soldiers padded the pockets of Popular Will leaders, hundreds of tons of food donated by the USAID and other countries that was stored in Cúcuta wound up rotting. The figure Guaidó had appointed as his liaison to USAID was Venezuelan businessman Miguel Sabal.

Sabal is the president of the Present Future Association, which was founded by Popular Will member Yon Goicoechea after he won $500,000 from the Koch Brothers through the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Back in 2010, Sabal participated in the Mexican Fiesta plot along with Guaidó and others where they received training from the CANVAS regime change group and plotted the assassination of Maduro.

After the February 23 aid operation floundered, Sabal let the food rot in the steaming tropical heat. “Everything [Chilean] President Piñera sent is no longer useful,” a source told Avendaño. “It’s there. They do not know what to do with it [the rotten food] so that a scandal is not created. They will burn it, I imagine.”

When I was in downtown Cúcuta last February, I saw desperation at every turn. Impoverished Venezuelan migrants could be found on street corners begging for money and food. Many had left Venezuela hoping for better conditions in Colombia only to find a situation that was at least as dire. One pregnant woman told me she was considering giving away her baby in order to give it a better life. Rather than hand the aid to the migrants around Cúcuta, Guaidó’s representatives apparently chose to burn it.

For exposing the corruption in Guaidó’s inner circle, Avendaño has received an onslaught of hatred and harassment from opposition figures. The pushback has forced the anti-Maduro journalist into a defensive crouch.

“It has cost me, it has deeply hurt me, to publish something that, I knew, would have immense consequences,” he wrote. “But I would never have forgiven myself that I had known that some traded in the misery of others, and not published it.”

For Guaidó, the fall out is already beginning. Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro – an anti-Maduro fanatic who has transformed the OAS into a playground for Venezuela’s opposition – has called for a full investigation. It is hard to see how an already deflated Guaidó will be able to recover from this massive blow to his credibility as a self-proclaimed reformer. While Guaidó’s support in the streets of Venezuela is rapidly deteriorating, the Trump administration has yet to address the scandal and continues to voice strong support for their man in Caracas.

Dan Cohen is a journalist and co-producer of the award-winning documentary, Killing Gaza. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine, Latin America, the US-Mexico border and Washington DC. Follow him on Twitter at @DanCohen3000.



Venezuela’s Crisis: A View from the Communes

Grassroots communal organisations and the tension between popular power and sectors of the government

by Federico Fuentes - Green Left Weekly
May 10th 2019

Within hours of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó calling for street mobilisations to back his attempted military coup against President Nicolás Maduro on April 30, Guaidó’s supporters had looted and set fire to the headquarters of the Indio Caricuao Commune in south-west Caracas.

The building was used for local residents’ meetings and housed a commune-run textile enterprise, which funds projects in the community.
Atenea Jiménez, from the National Network of Comuneros (commune activists) said: “Once again attacks on the communes by fascist sectors have begun.”

She also noted however that comuneros “are facing persecution by sections of the government”, in reference to the March 23 arrest and 71-day long detention of 10 comuneros who occupied a state-owned rice processing plant in Portuguesa state. The occupation denounced the fact that private management who were hired to run it refused to work with local producers.

“Why is this occurring? Because the commune is the only space that disputes power … it is one of the few, genuine, self-convened spaces for building direct democracy,” she said.

Grassroots power


Venezuela’s communes seek to bring together communal councils that encompass 200–400 families in urban areas and 20–50 families in rural areas, to tackle issues such as housing, health, education and access to basic services in the local community. Decisions about problems to prioritise and how to tackle them are made in citizen’s assemblies.

The idea of the commune is for local communities to take on bigger projects and become self-sustaining through enterprises owned and run by the community.

Former president Hugo Chavez viewed the communes as the fundamental building blocks of a new communal state based on self-management and participatory democracy.

According to the Ministry of Communes, there are currently more than 47,000 registered communal councils and close to 3000 communes, though many of the activists I spoke to on my visit to Venezuela in March said they believed the number of genuine communes and councils was less.

Jimenez explained: “The comunero movement involves communes that have been consolidating themselves over the past 10 years.”
During this time, “new communes have emerged, interesting advances have occurred and, of course, there have been communes that have fallen by the wayside.

“But the communes remain active and have achieved a very interesting level of political and ideological consolidation — and a determination to continue advancing.

“What we have is the consolidation of 10 years of work and a strength based on the knowledge that there are problems, but that together we can resolve them through self-management.”

Self-management

Gsus Garcia, from the Altos de Lidice Socialist Commune, which unites seven communal councils high up on Caracas’ hillside in La Pastora, explained that the commune came about because “local community councils realised they shared the same problems, but on their own they would not be able to resolve them.”

He added that the commune “is not simply about getting together to resolve problems, we want to go beyond that to build genuine self-government.”

While Garcia acknowledges that Chavistas (Chavez supporters) have been at the heart of the creation of the communes, Altos de Lidice Commune also includes residents who oppose Maduro.

“There are many who are discontented, there is a lot of opposition. And yet they involve themselves in the dynamic of the commune; they don't reject it, they accept it and little by little they understand that, together, we can do more.

“They see that if we don't come together, both of us will suffer. So we have to have patience and understand each other.

“I have been surprised by the level of patience. I think that in any other country, with everything that has happened this year and last year, that country would have exploded.”

In the nearby 23 de Enero neighbourhood, the Panal 2021 Commune, involving eight communal councils and about 3600 families, is an example of the kind of local self-government many comuneros envisage.

Cucaracho, an activist with Panal 2021, explained that the commune began with activists raising funds through raffles and activities. The commune passed through a period of co-management, receiving state funds for projects, and was now self-managed.

Panal 2021 has its own bakeries, a textile and sugar packaging plant, and a food storage and distribution centre. Proceeds from these communally-run enterprises are deposited in a communal bank, with citizen’s assemblies deciding how funds are redistributed for community projects.

The ability of Panal 2021 to generate its own revenue, as with most of the communes that exist today, has been key to its ongoing existence. With the onset of the economic crisis, the state has largely stopped handing over funds to local communities.

Julian from the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current, a radical grassroots current within the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), believes this has had an impact on the level of community organising. “When the government funded projects, it created certain expectations and encouraged participation, as people felt their problems could be resolved.

“But given the strong rentier culture that exists, what has happened is that many have said: ‘If we don’t receive anything, then we can’t do anything’. In those cases, community councils largely limit themselves to administering the distribution of government services such as gas bottles in their community.

“The error was that the focus was put on promoting initial participation while less attention was paid to helping build the capacity of communities to self-organise.

“Those communes that are most active today are the ones that don’t have much to do with the government and the [PSUV] doesn't control them.”

Tensions

Producing and distributing food to meet community needs in times of crisis has become a priority for many communes, including in Caracas.
Panal 2021 has linked up with communes in the countryside to bring food to the city and sell it at much cheaper prices than private supermarkets.

Jimenez said many communes are doing the same, “There are systems for the exchange of food and services between communes, which function with different levels of complexity but which have been improving.”

Despite — or perhaps because of — its importance, food production and distribution has been a key point of tension between the state and the comunero movement.

Several years ago, the National Network of Comuneros handed over a proposal to Maduro for the creation of a nationwide communal enterprise for food production and distribution.

The idea was that all the communes and campesinos could distribute their produce via a system controlled by the people rather than private intermediaries, to ensure cheap food reached those who needed it.

Jimenez explained: “Our vision for the enterprise was that everything produced in the countryside needs to be distributed and not lost, and that only after this should we import what we cannot produce — not the reverse.”

Instead, the government initiated the Local Committees for Food Distribution and Production, commonly known by their Spanish acronym, CLAPs.
Jimenez notes that despite “the P — for production — being in its name, those that are producing, the campesinos and comuneros, were not included” in the process of forming the CLAPs. Instead, these committees are largely controlled by local PSUV officials and “everything that is distributed through the CLAPs is imported.”

Jimenez said this meant “putting to one side the organisations that exist because they're more difficult to control, because in a commune a proposal has to be debated in an assembly, whereas with the CLAPs you can simply tell people what to do.”

In practice this has meant that in many communities the CLAPs have surpassed the communes as the focus of community organising, according to Julian. “It's not that the other structures don't exist, it’s that the most dynamic structure is the CLAP because access to food is the most important issue for many.

“In some cases, the CLAPs have weakened the communes and I believe that this has been deliberate because the CLAPs respond to the party, but the communes don't.

“The party has never played a key role in promoting communes and communal councils, with the exception that in a few places; the party has concentrated more on electoral issues, on government.

“There is a conception that the comuneros are in permanent conflict with the party, with the local mayor or governor, due to the very dynamic of the communes, which are based on the idea of self-government.

“Comuneros have proposed the transfer of responsibilities from municipal councils to the commune to allow people to begin to self-govern.
“This has created a tension between the comunero movement, on one hand, and the party and local government officials on the other, who don't want to transfer responsibilities such as rubbish collection in Caracas, because in many cases for them it's a business.

“I believe the conclusion the party came to with the CLAPs was that it had to create and control them. They could not control the communes because of their democratic, contestational, irreverent nature, but they could designate who ran the CLAPs.

“The strong rentier and clientalist culture that exists meant that people gravitated towards the CLAPs, which were being funded and supported by the government, and converted the CLAPs into the centre of organising in many places.”

Love-hate relationship


Summing up the situation, Garcia said: “The state doesn't have the ability to resolve all the problems, given the current mess, but people are trying everywhere to resolve their issues.

“And yet one of the big problems that the government has is that it's difficult for it to cede space, it doesn't want to let go of the reins, so that the people can solve their problems.

“So what exists is a love-hate relationship between the government and the commune.

“Even with all its weaknesses and failures, it's our state, it's our government. At the same time, we have a relationship in which we have to struggle. We're not going to deny that.

“There are things that don’t get to us that we need to produce food, at a time when we are importing almost all the food we need. But instead of helping, the state puts up all these bureaucratic hurdles, when all we're trying to do is to guarantee that people have food and deal with the situation of children with malnutrition.

“We are clear, however, that only with this government can we do what we are doing with the communes. In another government, we would not have this possibility, much less with the type of right-wing government Guaido wants to install with his coup.”

Regardless of what happens next in Venezuela, Julian believes that the strong level of community organisation built up over the past two decades will not go away easily. “There's still a lot of strength, a high level of organisation. Wherever you look, you will find a commune, a cooperative, some kind of committee or organisation.

“If [the government] was to fall, that organisation will still be here; this huge spirit of participation will still exist, and it will be a problem for any government that tries to dismantle it.”

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff. https://venezuelanalysis.com/YUxz

The U.S. and its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change

Dear friends,

The Maduro government: why illegitimate?

By Pasqualina Curcio

25/01/2019

Have those who claim that Nicolas Maduro is a dictator, a usurper and that the 2019-2025 period lacks legitimacy asked themselves this question? Or do they just repeat what they hear?

It was the 12 countries gathered in Lima that began to position this opinion matrix. Their communiqué reads: "...the electoral process carried out in Venezuela on May 20, 2018 lacks legitimacy because it did not include the participation of all Venezuelan political actors, nor the presence of independent international observers, nor the necessary international guarantees and standards for a free, fair and transparent process.”

The leaders of the Venezuelan opposition, we refer to the non-democratic one, tirelessly repeat, and of course without arguments, that Maduro is a usurper.

In an act of desperation, the Vice President of the United States himself, Mike Pence, when forced to personally call out the opposition march for January 23, due to the incompetence of the opposition leadership, insisted and repeated that President Nicolas Maduro is a usurper and illegitimate dictator.

The strategy is clear: to repeat the lie a thousand times in order to turn it into truth.

Let us dismantle the lie:


1. There were presidential elections. They were held on May 20, 2018, that is, before January 10, 2019, when, according to articles 230 and 231 of the Constitution, the presidential term 2013-2019 expires. It would have been a violation of the Constitution if the elections had been held after January 10, 2019, or worse still if they had not been held.

2. It was the Venezuelan opposition that asked for the elections to be brought forward.
They were held in May and not in December, as was traditionally the case, because it was the opposition that requested it, within the framework of the dialogue in the Dominican Republic, that took place in the first trimester of 2018.

3. In Venezuela, voting is a right, not a duty.
Those who freely decided, although influenced by some non-democratic political organizations that called for abstention, not to go to the polls, are in their full right, but in no way does this make the electoral process illegitimate, even less so when that would imply ignoring and disrespecting the 9,389,056 who decided to vote and democratically exercised their right to suffrage.

4. Sixteen political parties participated in the electoral contest
: PSUV, MSV, Tupamaro, UPV, Podemos, PPT, ORA, MPAC, MEP, PCV, AP, MAS, Copei, Esperanza por el Cambio, UPP89. In Venezuela, it is not mandatory for all political parties to participate in electoral processes. They have the full right to decide whether or not to participate. Precisely because our system is democratic. The fact that three parties (AD, VP and PJ) freely decided not to participate does not make the electoral process illegitimate.

5. Six candidates contended for the presidency:
Nicolás Maduro, Henri Falcón, Javier Bertucci, Reinaldo Quijada, Francisco Visconti Osorio and Luis Alejandro Ratti (the last two decided to withdraw).

6. Maduro won by a wide margin, obtaining 6,248,864 votes, 67.84%;
followed by Henri Falcón with 1,927,958, 20.93%; Javier Bertucci with 1,015,895, 10.82% and Reinaldo Quijada who obtained 36,246 votes, 0.39% of the total. The difference between Maduro and Falcón was 46.91 percentage points.

7. Around 150 people accompanied the electoral process, including 14 electoral commissions from 8 countries;
2 technical electoral missions; 18 journalists from different parts of the world; 1 MEP and 1 technical-electoral delegation from the Russian Electoral Centre.

8. The elections were held using the same electoral system used in the December 2015 parliamentary elections, in which the Venezuelan opposition won.
This system is automated and audited before, during and after the elections. This system guarantees the principles of "one elector, one vote" because only with a fingerprint is the voting machine unlocked; it also guarantees the "secrecy of the vote".

9. Eighteen audits of the automated system were carried out.
The representatives of the candidate Henri Falcón participated in all 18 and signed the acts in which they express their conformity with the electoral system. The audits are public and televised live on the channel of the National Electoral Council. Once the audits have been carried out, the system is blocked and the only way to access it again is with the simultaneous introduction of the secret codes that each political organization holds.

10. None of the candidates who participated in the electoral process contested the results.
There is no evidence of fraud, they did not present any evidence or concrete denunciation of fraud.

The presidential elections of May 20, 2018 were free, transparent, reliable, secure and in accordance with the Constitution and the laws despite the anti-democratic call for abstention on the part of one sector of the opposition.

It is others who seek to usurp the office of President of the Republic with the argument of a supposed power vacuum, a figure that is not contemplated in our Constitution and the establishment of a "transitional government", a figure also not contemplated in the Magna Carta. And as if that were not enough, they intend to exercise power outside our borders in violation of Article 18 of the Constitution, which establishes that Caracas is the seat of public power.

Things being as they are, the usurpers, those who are illegitimate and anti-democratic, are others. It is illegitimate and constitutes an attempted usurpation that some sectors of the opposition are trying to sustain themselves with the support of foreign actors coming from imperialist governments to exercise an authority that neither the people nor the Constitution gives them.

Let us repeat these truths a thousand times.


23/01/2019

(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)

Source: https://www.alainet.org/en/articulo/197765



Open Letter by Over 70 Scholars and Experts Condemns US-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela

"For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents."

As many American lawmakers, pundits, and advocacy groups remain conspicuously silent in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to formally recognizeVenezuela's opposition leader as the "interim president"—a move that was denounced as open support for an attempted coup d'état—renowned linguist Noam Chomsky, filmmaker Boots Riley, and over 70 other academics and experts issued an open letteron Thursday calling on the Trump administration to "cease interfering in Venezuela's internal politics."

"The U.S. and its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change."
—Open Letter

"Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability," the letter reads. "The U.S. and its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change. If the Trump administration and its allies continue to pursue their reckless course in Venezuela, the most likely result will be bloodshed, chaos, and instability."

Highlighting the harm American sanctions have inflicted upon the Venezuelan economy and people, the letter goes on to denounce the White House's "aggressive" actions and rhetoric against Venezuela's government, arguing that peaceful talks are the only way forward.

"In such situations, the only solution is a negotiated settlement, as has happened in the past in Latin American countries when politically polarized societies were unable to resolve their differences through elections," the letter reads. "For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents that will allow the country to finally emerge from its political and economic crisis."

Read the full letter below:


The United States government must cease interfering in Venezuela’s internal politics, especially for the purpose of overthrowing the country’s government. Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability.

Venezuela’s political polarization is not new; the country has long been divided along racial and socioeconomic lines. But the polarization has deepened in recent years. This is partly due to US support for an opposition strategy aimed at removing the government of Nicolás Maduro through extra-electoral means. While the opposition has been divided on this strategy, US support has backed hardline opposition sectors in their goal of ousting the Maduro government through often violent protests, a military coup d’etat, or other avenues that sidestep the ballot box.

Under the Trump administration, aggressive rhetoric against the Venezuelan government has ratcheted up to a more extreme and threatening level, with Trump administration officials talking of “military action” and condemning Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, as part of a “troika of tyranny.” Problems resulting from Venezuelan government policy have been worsened by US economic sanctions, illegal under the Organization of American States and the United Nations ― as well as US law and other international treaties and conventions. These sanctions have cut off the means by which the Venezuelan government could escape from its economic recession, while causing a dramatic falloff in oil production and worsening the economic crisis, and causing many people to die because they can’t get access to life-saving medicines. Meanwhile, the US and other governments continue to blame the Venezuelan government ― solely ― for the economic damage, even that caused by the US sanctions.

Now the US and its allies, including OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, have pushed Venezuela to the precipice. By recognizing National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the new president of Venezuela ― something illegal under the OAS Charter ― the Trump administration has sharply accelerated Venezuela’s political crisis in the hopes of dividing the Venezuelan military and further polarizing the populace, forcing them to choose sides. The obvious, and sometimes stated goal, is to force Maduro out via a coup d’etat.

The reality is that despite hyperinflation, shortages, and a deep depression, Venezuela remains a politically polarized country. The US and its allies must cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change. If the Trump administration and its allies continue to pursue their reckless course in Venezuela, the most likely result will be bloodshed, chaos, and instability. The US should have learned something from its regime change ventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and its long, violent history of sponsoring regime change in Latin America.

Neither side in Venezuela can simply vanquish the other. The military, for example, has at least 235,000 frontline members, and there are at least 1.6 million in militias. Many of these people will fight, not only on the basis of a belief in national sovereignty that is widely held in Latin America ― in the face of what increasingly appears to be a US-led intervention ― but also to protect themselves from likely repression if the opposition topples the government by force.

In such situations, the only solution is a negotiated settlement, as has happened in the past in Latin American countries when politically polarized societies were unable to resolve their differences through elections. There have been efforts, such as those led by the Vatican in the fall of 2016, that had potential, but they received no support from Washington and its allies who favored regime change. This strategy must change if there is to be any viable solution to the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.

For the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region, and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiations between the Venezuelan government and its opponents that will allow the country to finally emerge from its political and economic crisis.

Signed:

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, MIT and Laureate Professor, University of Arizona

Laura Carlsen, Director, Americas Program, Center for International Policy

Greg Grandin, Professor of History, New York University

Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of Latin American History and Chicano/a Latino/a Studies at Pomona College

Sujatha Fernandes, Professor of Political Economy and Sociology, University of Sydney

Steve Ellner, Associate Managing Editor of Latin American Perspectives

Alfred de Zayas, former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order and only UN rapporteur to have visited Venezuela in 21 years

Boots Riley, Writer/Director of Sorry to Bother You, Musician

John Pilger, Journalist & Film-Maker

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Jared Abbott, PhD Candidate, Department of Government, Harvard University

Dr. Tim Anderson, Director, Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies

Elisabeth Armstrong, Professor of the Study of Women and Gender, Smith College

Alexander Aviña, PhD, Associate Professor of History, Arizona State University

Marc Becker, Professor of History, Truman State University

Medea Benjamin, Cofounder, CODEPINK

Phyllis Bennis, Program Director, New Internationalism, Institute for Policy Studies

Dr. Robert E. Birt, Professor of Philosophy, Bowie State University

Aviva Chomsky, Professor of History, Salem State University

James Cohen, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Associate Professor, George Mason University

Benjamin Dangl, PhD, Editor of Toward Freedom

Dr. Francisco Dominguez, Faculty of Professional and Social Sciences, Middlesex University, UK

Alex Dupuy, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Wesleyan University

Jodie Evans, Cofounder, CODEPINK

Vanessa Freije, Assistant Professor of International Studies, University of Washington

Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor in International Development Studies, St. Mary’s University

Evelyn Gonzalez, Counselor, Montgomery College

Jeffrey L. Gould, Rudy Professor of History, Indiana University

Bret Gustafson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis