Venezuela's Chavistas register highest vote since 2012 in Constituent Assembly election

The National Constituent Assembly elected in Venezuela yesterday with the sole support of the Chavistas registered more than 8 million votes, or 41.53% of the electorate.

This was substantially more than the 7 million votes for Nicolás Maduro in the 2013 presidential elections and much more than the 5.5 million votes for the Chavista coalition in the 2015 legislative elections, when the opposition won 7.7 million votes largely thanks to the abstention of some two million former Chavista supporters. The country’s opposition parties, currently in control of the National Assembly, boycotted the election.

Among the 545 constituentes elected were First Lady Cilia Flores, the first Vice-President of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) Diosdado Cabello, and the former foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez. The results were announced by the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena around midnight last night. So many Venezuelans lined up to vote that the electoral process was extended to 10:30 p.m.

The newly elected Constituent Assembly is made up of 364 members elected by territorial constituency -- one per municipality, two per state capital and seven per Capital District (Caracas) -- and 181 according to social or class sector (24 students, 8 peasants and fishers, 5 business people, 5 disabled, 28 pensioners, 24 communal council representatives, 79 workers and 8 indigenous (the latter to be elected this Tuesday in assemblies to be held in three states).

The National Constituent Assembly (ANC) will begin sitting 72 hours after the official declaration of those elected. Maduro has indicated that it will be tasked with reforms of the economic and justice systems, reaffirmation of the pluricultural character of the country, the “preservation of life on the planet, “and the constitutional recognition of the all the government social and cultural missions and the Communal Power. In popular assemblies held throughout the country during the three months prior to yesterday’s vote some 22 sectors and social movements (communes, workers, cultural and environmental collectives, etc.) debated and adopted proposals for action by the ANC.

Maduro, in his victory speech last night, said the ANC will, among other tasks, take action against the "parasitical bourgeoisie," largely held responsible for the country's current economic crisis. (La Razo, Crore del Orinoco.)

For more on the election and the immediate tasks facing the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, see

George Ciccariello-Maher, Which Way Out of the Venezuelan Crisis?
Joe Emersberger, Trump Is Not the Venezuelan Supreme Court
Boaventura de Sousa Santos, In Defence of Venezuela

Venezuela is not alone: To U.S. and Canada - Hands off!

Former Ambassador Julio Escalona said that some of the diplomatic tactics currently being used against Venezuela mirror those used against Libya. He said that U.S. aggression against the South American country is precluded by worldwide support for the Bolivarian Revolution.

Venezuela Opposition Attacks Nursery at VTV, Forcing Evacuation

During an interview with VTV, Escalona said that Venezuela holds important positions in international organizations and enjoys warm relations with most countries, debunking claims that it is a rogue nation.

“It is false that Venezuela is isolated,” Escalona said. “It was impossible to defeat Venezuela in the Organization of American States (OAS) because Venezuela chairs the Non-Aligned Movement.”

Escalona also raised Venezuela’s work alongside for important U.N. institutions, such as the Human Rights Council, the Security Council and the Decolonization Commision. He added that some of the diplomatic tactics currently being used against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro mirror those used against murdered Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

“They are applying here, in some sense, the Libyan model. They succeeded in having the Arab League condemn Libya, they managed to isolate it diplomatically. Once isolated, it took to the Security Council and condemned Libya. That is what they wanted in Venezuela,” Escalona said.

“They wanted the OAS to condemn Venezuela to then apply everything that has the imperial plan and that is why they invented the plebiscite, the so-called popular consultation.”

Escalona, however, reaffirmed that the United States has not been able to attack Venezuela in the same way because it is not isolated internationally.

Russia, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ecuador, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and several other countries have commissioned support for Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution against U.S. aggression. They have also condemned U.S.-backed right-wing protests in Venezuela, which have since claimed at least 95 lives.

Long live the Bolivarian revolution!

What Is at Stake Is the Fate of Venezuela's Revolutionary Democratic Experiment

Venezuela: ‘Our revolutionary democratic experience is at stake'

Interview of Iturriza by: Federico Fuentes
Published 3 July 2017

Revolutionary activist and sociologist Reinaldo Iturriza has spent many years working with popular movements in Venezuela and writing on the rise of Chavismo as a political movement of the poor. He also served as Minister for the Communes and Social Movements, and then Minister for Culture in President Nicolas Maduro’s cabinet between 2013 and 2016.

Over 30 Indigenous Delegates Nominated to Venezuela Constituent Assembly So Far

Together with activists from a range of grassroots revolutionary organisations and social movements, he is standing as a candidate for the Popular Constituent Platform in the July 30 elections for a Constituent Assembly that will seek to find a political way out of the current turmoil gripping Venezuela through the drafting of a new constitution.

Green Left Weekly’s Federico Fuentes interviewed Iturriza to gets his views on the current challenges facing Chavismo and the proposed Constituent Assembly.

Federico Fuentes: How would you characterise the current political and economic situation in Venezuela?

Reinaldo Iturriza: The political and economic situation in Venezuela today is the most difficult one we have faced since 1999, the year in which Hugo Chavez assumed the presidency. This situation is occurring within a global economic context, which of course partially explains what is happening: the drop in the prices of raw materials, and in Venezuela’ case the fall in oil prices.

But there are many other important factors, because what is at stake is not simply control over Venezuela’s natural resources, but the meaning, the reach, the influence even of Venezuela’s revolutionary democratic experiment.

What is at stake is Chavismo’s political capital, and that explains why, together with the brutal attacks on the economy and the new wave of street violence that began on April 1, we have seen attacks on the republic being made in the name of Chavez, such as Attorney General [Luisa Ortega] has done, as well as some ex-ministers, almost all of whom are conspiring with the right to overthrow the constitutional president, Nicolas Maduro.

This anti-Chavismo has not been able to, and will not be able to convert itself into a viable political reference point for the majority of the population. Its class origins and the content of its governing program, which is neoliberal and radically anti-people, impede this. That is why its efforts have been centred on demobilising the people, demobilising and demoralising.

The boycott against the national economy, which economist Pasqualina Curcio has explained very well in her book The Invisible Hand of the Market, seeks to not only create discontent, but to demoralise what is a very politicized populace.

Anti-Chavista violence, that contrary to what the immense majority of the media say has left a trail of deaths in which a majority of the victims have been people who were not participating in any protest, has been aimed against public infrastructure in general: schools, hospitals, popular markets, food shortage deposits, electricity infrastructure, public transport, government institutions, etc.

It has also expressed itself in the form of hate crimes (lynchings in public places of people “suspected” of being Chavista) and attacks on military bases. This has produced an important degradation of public life.

Lastly, the discourse according to which Nicolas Maduro has “betrayed the legacy of Chavez” clearly seeks to sow confusion, disorientation or at the very minimum doubt in the minds of the people. The most rancid sector of the anti-Chavista political class has even gone as far as to express its “concern” for the legacy of Chavez. The objective is to defeat Chavismo by attacking its material, spiritual and symbolic bases.

Federico Fuentes: What has been the response of grassroots Chavismo and the people in general to this situation?

Reinaldo Iturriza: The issue that has had the most lasting effects, and is without a doubt the principal concern of the majority of the population, is the whole range of brutal aggressions that have been carried out against the economy, the induced shortages and inflation as a consequence of the manipulation of the illegal exchange rate that has occurred.

The political correlative of these aggressions has been a popular retreat from public spaces, from spaces for participation. In general, Chavismo continues to be the principal political force in the country. The principal political minority, to be more precise.

Grassroots Chavismo, the most militant sector, has been particularly hit hard materially, it is sitting back, waiting, and much like the majority of the population shares a generalised rejection towards the political class, but continues to support Maduro.

Federico Fuentes: The government has proposed elections for a Constituent Assembly. As a candidate in these elections, how do you view the proposal and what fundamental task must the Constituent Assembly confront?

Reinaldo Iturriza: I agree with the political arguments that President Maduro has made in explaining his call for a Constituent Assembly. He is attempting to find a political way out of a conflict that everyday seems to be heading in the direction of a resolution by force.

The express, public objective of the anti-Chavista political class is to generate a situation of ungovernability. The president is trying to create some minimal conditions in which it can govern in peace. He is not interested in perpetuating himself in power, as the right-wing propaganda campaign claims.

Federico Fuentes: What can you tell us about the Popular Constituent Platform?

Reinaldo Iturriza: The platform is a space in which some of the movements and organisations that in 2011 participated in Chavez’s initiative to create a Great Patriotic Pole have come together. These include the Urban Poor Movements (Movimientos de Pobladores), the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ, Corriente Revolucionaria Bolívar y Zamora), the National Network of Commune Activists (Red Nacional de Comuneros), and comrades from feminist, sex-gender diversity, and student movements, among others.

Only Venezuela's Electoral Body Can Organize Elections: Maduro

Beyond the immediate issue of the elections, we believe it is strategically important to combine efforts in the construction of reference points for popular unity. This phenomenon of a retreat from politics that I referred to before is in part caused by a severe crisis of political mediation.

The most advanced initiatives in popular organisation, of popular self-government, are not necessary the result of the work of the party. In fact, in many places, the party bureaucracy puts obstacles in the way of these initiatives.

So we have these dispersed experiences throughout the country, but lack the necessary connections between them. And achieving basic levels of connections and unity is vital for guaranteeing the continuity of the revolutionary process.

This article originally appeared in Green Left Weekly.

Venezuela asserts that Black Lives matter

by Andrew King

Since 1999, the Bolivarian Revolution has empowered poor people of African descent

The Venezuelan opposition has enjoyed the unconditional support of the U.S. government and mass media -- conservative and liberal pundits alike -- who simultaneously demonize and undermine the nation's democratically elected government as a brutal dictatorship while portraying the U.S.-funded and often violent opposition as peaceful, pro-democracy, anti-government protesters.
It is true that the current economic situation in Venezuela is quite dire; the nation is currently experiencing a triple digit inflation rate, and Venezuelans often face long lines to purchase basic commodities. While these challenges are due to a complex array of factors, including an economic war waged against the country along with the plummeting price of oil, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and Fox News alike use an endless barrage of crisis imagery to turn public opinion against Venezuela's government in order to destabilize and ultimately overthrow the socialist administration.

While the mainstream media tend to seek out stories that demonize Maduro's government and glorify the anti-government demonstrators, they do not show the true character of Venezuela's opposition movement nor shed light as to why they oppose the government. Indeed, many dozens of people, including government workers, have been killed in recent years due to the actions of violent right-wing protesters. Powerful media outlets conveniently gloss over what should be headline stories, such as that of Afro-Venezuelan Orlando Figuera. On May 20, the 21-year-old was walking through the government opposition stronghold of Chacao in Caracas when a group of masked anti-government "protesters" accused Figuera of being a government supporter. The mob proceeded to surround Figuera, stab him six times, douse him in gasoline and set him on fire.

The young man died later at the hospital. President Nicolas Maduro called this the symbol of hate crimes in Venezuela, noting the racist character of this lynching of a Black Venezuelan. He is the ninth person to be killed at opposition barricades since the violent protests erupted in early April. The same powerful media outlets that routinely decry human rights abuses by Venezuela's government remain largely silent about such racist acts of terrorism by the right-wing opposition.
It is important to note that while the vitriolic right-wing government opposition is concentrated among the white and economically elite elements of the population, the barrios, shanty towns and rural areas that are home to the poor, Indigenous communities and the Afro-Venezuelans have not erupted into protest for the most part because they support the government. In order to understand the roots of the elite opposition's hate and racism toward Black and Indigenous government supporters, one has to understand the history of the presidency that preceded Maduro's -- that of Hugo Chavez.

Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution
Decades of failed neoliberal policies and government repression set the stage for Chavez's democratic election in 1998. After taking office, the Chavez government launched a vigorous campaign to combat poverty and social exclusion by redistributing the nation's vast oil wealth to the poor, Indigenous and Afro-Venezuelan sectors of the population. Chavez called this movement against U.S. neoliberal hegemony the "Bolivarian revolution," inspired by the 19th-century South American independence hero Simón Bolívar. According to Chavez, the ultimate goal of this revolution was to build a 21st-century socialism from below that would be led by the poor, women, Indigenous people and Afro-Venezuelans.

One of the central goals of Venezuela's revolutionary project has been to combat the historical legacy of racism against Indigenous and Afro-Venezuelans. The new constitution created under Chavez advanced the social, cultural and economic rights of Indigenous peoples, Afro-Venezuelans and women, including the recognition of intercultural education. Chavez was the first president in the Americas to openly acknowledge and embrace his Indigenous and African heritage. The privately owned Venezuelan media often referred to him with racist slurs. In 2005, Chávez declared that, "hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth and curly hair. And I'm so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it is African." That same year, Chávez created the Presidential Commission for the Prevention and Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination in the Venezuelan Educational System.

Caribbean People do not Need Instruction from US on Venezuela Crisis
The Chavez government used the country's oil wealth to increase social spending and developed revolutionary programs known as "social missions," which have resulted in tremendous social gains for the country's poor and socially excluded sectors, many of which are of African or Indigenous descent. By 2010, government programs had cut poverty in half and extreme poverty was reduced by two-thirds. In 2005, the UN declared the country illiteracy free, after 1.5 million Venezuelans were taught to read and write.

Thousands of Cuban doctors and health professionals were brought in to the country's poor and rural communities, providing millions of citizens with unprecedented access to free health care. Through this program, more than 6,000 community health clinics have been built and millions of free consultations conducted. Other achievements include a massive public housing program that has built over a million housing units since its inception; the redistribution of thousands of communal land titles to Indigenous communities; and a democratization of the media through an explosion of community radio and television stations.

The South American nation strengthened its commitment to Black lives in 2011 when it passed a historic law banning racial discrimination, which according to the Correo del Orinoco International newspaper, "will establish mechanisms to prevent, respond to, punish and eradicate racial discrimination by any person, group of persons, public authorities, private institutions, and civil, economic, political, cultural, and social organizations." The government also created a new census question that allowed citizens to classify themselves as Afro-Venezuelan.

Solidarity With African Americans
In 2015, President Maduro came to Harlem to speak on a panel with Black leaders, including Opal Tometi, cofounder of Black Lives Matter. This move was reminiscent of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro's 1964 visit to Harlem to meet with Malcolm X. Several months later, the Black Lives Matter network and other Black North American groups put out a statement denouncing U.S. intervention in Venezuela and expressing their solidarity with Afro-Venezuelans and Indigenous Venezuelans in the wake of the 2014 right-wing national assembly election victories, which threaten to roll back the social gains of the revolution.

In the letter, the U.S. activists thank Venezuela for its ongoing support of the African American community in the United States, dating back to Chavez's offer to send large amounts of aid, including doctors and disaster specialists, to post-Katrina New Orleans. George W. Bush, who largely left the city's Black residents there to drown, turned down the offer. Over the last 12 years, Citgo -- the Venezuelan-owned subsidiary company -- has provided low-cost heating oil assistance to hundreds of thousands of poor families in 23 states, which have benefited Black residents in the Bronx, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, along with other cities. A number of African American leaders, activists and artists such as Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte and Jesse Jackson Jr. have traveled to Venezuela, building strong ties of solidarity with Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution, and acknowledging its connection to the Black liberation movement in the United States.

Solidarity With Haiti, the Caribbean and Africa
Nowhere perhaps is the Venezuelan government's commitment to solidarity with Black people more evident than in the generous aid and support it gave to the people of Haiti in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake, which included thousands of tons of food, medicines, the setting up of relief camps, mobile hospitals and medical personnel and relief workers. In addition, Chavez forgave Haiti's $395 million debt, proclaiming that, "Haiti has no debt with Venezuela -- on the contrary, it is Venezuela that has a historic debt with Haiti," due to the fact that it was the newly self-freed Black republic that had given Simón Bolívar arms, ammunition and ships to fight the Spanish in Venezuela, with the promise in return that he would end slavery in his homeland.

Venezuela has also forged new ties with African nations by opening 18 new embassies and establishing cooperative health and education agreements.

It is precisely because of the Venezuelan government's audacity to stand up against racist U.S. imperialism -- and to unapologetically assert that Black lives matter by empowering poor people of African descent -- that it is under constant assault from the white U.S. ruling class and the international corporate media. Thus, it is quite easy to see why, to quote the slain Black radical Prime Minister of Grenada, Maurice Bishop, "Goliath has turned his full attention to David."
Source: Truthout