Bolivarian Revolution continues

Federico Fuentes replies to Mike Gonzalez's 'Is Venezuela burning?'

By Federico Fuentes
February 26, 2014

Putting aside the fact that Mike Gonzalez can't even get the name right of the oil minster (Rafael Ramirez, not Rodriguez), ( here are three things that are wrong with the article.

1) Gonzalez writes: “It is no secret that behind the façade of unity, there is a struggle for power between extremely wealthy and influential groups within government — a struggle that began to intensify in the months before Chavez’s death.”

If this was no secret, then surely there would be a mount of evidence to prove this. But Mike Gonzalez offers none. A more serious analysis would indicate the opposite: that despite the narrow election victory by Nicolás Maduro in April 2013, the immediately wave of opposition violence and campaign around “fraud”, the ongoing economic war against the government, the municipal elections and the most recent events, there has been no visible signs of fractures in the government.

Even serious right-wing analysts can see this: “What makes Venezuela’s government so different is its absolute dominance of all the main levers of political power. President Nicolas Maduro’s administration wields unquestionable control over the Supreme Court, the Congress, the military and the oil industry -- the very institutions that could threaten his regime.” (

Add to that the solid support the government still maintains among working-class and poor Venezuelans and you start to see a very different picture to the one Gonzalez paints of a government on the brink of cracking up.

In fact, the only people who continually speculate about such internal struggles (apart from Gonzalez and a few other leftists) are the gossip columnists in the right-wing media.

None of this is to deny that there are political differences within the government and Chavismo more generally, which brings me to …

Venezuela's Economy -- speculation, imports, black market
2) “All of this is an expression of an economic crisis vigorously denied by the Maduro government but obvious to everyone else.”

Again, it is just plain silliness to claim that the Maduro government is denying economic problems. In fact one of the key triggers of the recent protests (ignored by Gonzalez) was that the government had precisely begun to take measures to address the economic problems, starting with the imposition of set profit margins and accompanying regulations to open company account books.

But Gonzalez’s article goes further and also invents a crisis that does not exist. Let’s just look at what he says and some of the actual figures:

“2012 had seen inflation rates hovering around fifty percent (officially) and the level has risen inexorably throughout the last year.”

Inflation in 2012: 20.1% (
Inflation in 2013: 56.2% (

That is, it was not around 50% in 2012 and it did not rise inexorably from that imaginary figure (even if it clearly did rise substantially in 2013).

“The shortages are explained partly by speculation on the part of capitalists — just as happened in Chile in 1972 — and partly by the rising cost of imports, which make up a growing proportion of what is consumed in Venezuela".
Value of imports in 2012: US$47.310 billion.
Value of imports in 2013: US$37.802 (

That is the value of imports when down. In fact the value of imports in 2013 was higher in 2007, 2008 and 2009 than it was last year.

“Today, those funds [oil wealth] are drying up as Venezuela’s oil income is diverted to paying for increasingly expensive imports.”

As I showed above, imports are not more expensive. But its also not true that funds are drying up:
Value of exports 2012: US$97.340 billion (

I couldn’t find the figure for 2013, but I doubt exports fell by 2/3rds which would indicate Venezuela continues have a nice trade surplus.

I could continue to do the same for almost every other assertion Gonzalez makes (and happy to do so if you want me to). Or point to figures that show despite the “crisis” poverty rates and unemployment continue to fall, unheard of in any other economic crisis. But the main point is not so much the gross errors Gonzalez makes, but why he does so.

Who's to Blame?
The reason is because what he wants to demonstrate is that the Venezuelan government is just as responsible for the “economic crisis” as the right-wing opposition. To so he has to make up stuff like the government is going bankrupt, oil money is drying up, imports are skyrocketing while production at home has all but disappeared….All the same stuff that the right-wing media says.

This matters because, as the old saying goes: “If you make the wrong diagnosis, you will never apply the right remedy”.

The right wing says all this to prove that the Chavista economic model of state control and redistribution of oil wealth to meet people's needs will inevitable destroy the economy. They are not the only ones saying this. There are some in the government who disagree with key economic policies, hence the political struggles I referred to above.

Gonzalez: Restore old order or Deepen revolution
This is also true more broadly with the Bolivarian Revolution. For example, Roland Denis, who Gonzalez is so fond of, is part of a group within Chavismo that argues much the same line as Gonzalez when it comes to the government’s economic problems. Unlike Gonzalez, they have put forward their alternative economic policies in the Que Hacer? document.

I’ll let you decide jut how “left-wing” their economic policies are.

Again, none of this is to say there are not economic problems, but behind this debate filled with dubious statistics and assertions is a more important political debate of what should happen to Venezuela’s oil wealth.

3) “What can save the Bolivarian project, and the hope it inspired in so many, is for the speculators and bureaucrats to be removed, and for popular power to be built, from the ground up, on the basis of a genuine socialism — participatory, democratic, and exemplary in refusing to reproduce the values and methods of a capitalism which has been unmasked by the revolutionary youth of Greece, Spain and the Middle East.”

This is all well and good, but ultimately a motherhood statement devoid of any content. I wonder if Gonzalez agrees’ with the alternative policies proposed in the Que Hacer? document as a way to refuse to reproduce the values and methods of capitalism? Who knows? All Gonzalez has to say can be summed up in a slogan “One solution: revolution!”

But this is not the only problem with such statements. Pretty much since 2002, leftists like Mike Gonzalez have been saying the same thing: “Venezuela is at a crossroads, only two options, restore old order or deepen the revolution towards socialism”.

Slogans or real action?
But after 12 years should we ask ourselves some questions like: Isn’t it perhaps possible that out of every crisis, the government has taken measures to deepened the revolution, hence why the Bolivarian Revolution is still going and the old elites are not back in power? Isn't perhaps true that implementing some kind of war communism in Venezuela (which tends to be what calls to deepen the revolution amount to) would not be the best course of action? Isn’t it the case that given the current international balance of forces it is possible for the revolution to continue advancing but that conditions do not exist for Venezuela to implement socialism in one country?

This are serious questions that some of the left continue to paper over, preferring slogans to real action.

[Federico Fuentes is an activist with the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network, a co-author of Latin America's Turbulent Transitions: The Future of Twenty-First Century Socialism and a member of the Socialist Alliance in Australia]

Venezuela - one of the most economically equal countries in Latin America.

Why is Inflation So High in Venezuela?
Feb 23rd 2014

Transcript - Real News interview with Gregory Wilpert

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And we're continuing our interview with Gregory Wilpert about the situation in Venezuela.

Gregory joins us in the studio. He's the founder of He's the author of Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chávez Government. His wife is the Venezuelan consul general in New York. And he's about to become the head of English TeleSUR, which will be based in Ecuador. So you'll be heading down to Quito soon.


JAY: And we discussed all of that in part one, at the beginning of part one of the interview. So if you want to, I'd suggest maybe you watch part one, which is a little bit more about the politics and the political situation of Venezuela. This part's going to be more about the economic situation.

So in terms of the protests and such, whether they're taking advantage of the situation or whatever, there is a real economic problem. So, first of all, describe where things are at right now in terms of inflation, cost of living, and some of the other issues related to that.

WILPERT: Well, the inflation figures for January just came out, and it was measured at 3.3 percent, which is still very high. If it were at an annualized rate, it would come to over almost 40 percent. So that's an extraordinarily high rate of inflation. Last year, for 2013, it was 56 percent.

And shortages in Venezuela are actually also quite dramatic, and they went up, actually, in between November and January. That is, previously, the Central Bank measures shortages as a percentage of how many of the basic goods cannot be bought in any given store. And they--previously it was around 20 percent. In, I think, December, January, it was around 28 percent. So things have gotten kind of bad in that sense.

JAY: And there's just no way that workers' wages would be keeping up with this.

WILPERT: They do, actually.

JAY: Are they pegged to inflation?

WILPERT: Many times, yes; not always, but in many cases they are pegged to inflation. And then there's the informal labor market, which also essentially pegs their income also to inflation, because they can charge whatever prices they want in the street, you know, the street venders and so on.

JAY: But, for example, do government jobs automatically rise in relation to inflation?

WILPERT: Not always, but in most cases they do, yes. And if it weren't, Venezuela would become the most unequal country in Latin America, as a matter of fact, because it is pegged to inflation--not automatically, as I said, but usually as a result of negotiations.

JAY: And, in fact, the recent numbers were, in fact, Venezuela is one of the most equal countries in Latin America.

WILPERT: Exactly. Exactly. And that's because, you know, especially also the minimum wage is practically pegged to inflation. It's not--again, it's the president's decision, but as a practice, they always adjust it by at least as much as inflation was in the previous period.

JAY: So still, as you say, there's not enough foodstuff available. There's shortages.

WILPERT: Well, I wouldn't say--there's a distinction, I think, one has to make between shortages and not enough food. Venezuelans still eat incredibly well. I mean, if you look at, you know, the amount of calories that Venezuelans consume between--you know, when Chávez first came into office in 1998, it was around 2,000 calories per person per day. Now it's closer to 3,000 calories. I mean, so they're eating a lot more and a lot better than they did. So just because, you know, you can't find, let's say, butter one day or milk one day, it doesn't mean you're going to eat less that day. So you have to make a distinction. It's not like people are going hungry in Venezuela. That's certainly not the case.

But it is a frustrating experience. If you do want to--I mean, recently an opposition blogger made the comment that she couldn't bake a cake. Okay. Perhaps you can't have cake that day. But you can have some cookies, perhaps. So that's not really the issue. The issue is really the frustration level that goes with these shortages and the long lines. That's really the main problem or the main reason that people go out on the streets.

JAY: But there must also be sections of people that do not have their incomes pegged to inflation, whether they're retired or they're in workplaces that simply they don't have those kinds of agreements. So if your wages are being deflated by 56 percent, that's a lot, or 40-something percent.

WILPERT: Yeah, there are certainly sectors where it isn't. But it's really a minority sector in Venezuelan society.

JAY: So why is there such a problem? I mean, and Venezuela has, I think, now the worst inflation in Latin America.

WILPERT: Yes. Well, even in the world, actually. And it has its historical reasons, and it has reasons that are specific to the Bolivarian Revolution. The historic reasons is that Venezuela actually has had a problem with inflation already ever since the early 1980s. As a matter of fact, in the 1990s, inflation averaged back then already 50 percent per year. So, actually, during the Chávez government, they got it down to 22 percent on average per year, with the exception of the past year. So it has been a problem.

And the reason for that really has to do with what's called the Dutch disease, that Venezuela receives an influx of petrodollars that basically come into the economy and raise the level of wages and raise the level of prices in a way that heats up inflation. And so that's really a persistent problem that a petrol-based economy normally suffers from.

The big question is: how do you deal with that? And there's a number of ways that the government has tried to deal with it. And one of them is to--also, one of the problems has to deal with the fact that Venezuela is trying to establish a transition towards a socialist economy, which develops its own kind of problems, given that Venezuela exists in a global capitalist market economy.

What that means is that there's a lot of capital flight. And it is this capital flight that the government has tried to control, and has thereby also tried to control inflation. And so it's rather complicated. But, I mean, that's really at the heart of it.

JAY: But some of the other countries that have, perhaps, not as much as a resource-based economy like Bolivia--but certainly natural gas in Bolivia is, I guess, their main source of revenue, I would think, other than coca, and their inflation's very low. Ecuador, oil and natural gas, and do not have the same runaway inflation problem. Why is it such a problem in Venezuela and not in those countries?

WILPERT: I think the reason for why in Venezuela it's a problem has to do again with the historical difference between or the difference between Venezuela and Bolivia, which is that Venezuela has taken a more radical approach towards the economy. That is, when Chávez first tried to institute many of the reforms that he instituted, it provoked a coup attempt, and it was this coup attempt that in turn provoked a massive capital flight. And it is this capital flight that the government tried to get under control through a currency control.

JAY: Just to be clear to everybody, capital flight meaning people with money sending it to Florida or wherever.

WILPERT: Right. And the government at that time was faced with a choice: either try to intervene in the currency market and lose its hard currency--that is, its dollars, dollar reserves--or let the currency basically go to hell, that is, become completely devalued, because all of the money was being taken out of the country, and thereby the currency was dropping like a stone.

JAY: So used foreign reserves to buy bolívars, which would stabilize it, except you're using up your foreign reserves.

WILPERT: Exactly. That's what they were doing until they established a currency control in 2003. And this currency control has been in existence since that time, till the present period, for the past ten years.

JAY: Explain it clearly what the control was, and then why didn't it work.

WILPERT: Well, the control was basically that you could only exchange money through the government under certain preestablished, approved rules, that is, only for certain types of purchases, like if you're traveling or if you want to import certain goods that are needed within the country, or if you need to pay off foreign debts, or something like that. There was a whole list of things for which you could request dollars.

JAY: So if you want to buy American dollars, you have to come within that criteria or you're not allowed to buy American dollars through the banks.

WILPERT: Exactly.

JAY: So instead you go to the black market.

WILPERT: Exactly. So there was a black market from the start already, but the black market in the beginning wasn't that much different from the official exchange rate. It might have been 50 percent more expensive to buy dollars on the black market than it would have been through the government. So, in other words, if you didn't have the reasons for buying dollars that you needed, you could go to the black market, which was illegal, but it was something that everybody knew how to do or most people know how to do, and therefore it was almost impossible to prevent.

But the real problem was that over time inflation continued to essentially devalue the currency within the country. But the exchange rate wasn't really--wasn't--rarely adjusted to the outside world. So, in other words, the currency became overvalued. And that meant that the gap between the exchange rate--the official exchange rate and the black market exchange rate became ever wider.

And when you have a widening gap between two different exchange rates, people start to take advantage of that through what's known as arbitrage. That is, they buy the currency, the dollars, at a very low price, and then turn around and sell it on the black market for a very high price and make a hefty profit.

In the beginning it wasn't really worth it, because you could, you know, buy it--you know, for two bolívars you could buy a dollar and then sell it again for three. So you'd have a 50 percent profit margin. But considering the complications involved and the limitations, it wasn't always worth it. But as that gap got larger--and now it is a factor of ten-to-one, that is, you can buy a dollar for, let's say six bolívars and sell it for 60--that is a tremendous temptation. So anybody, for example, who gets bolívars to--.

JAY: Sell it for 60 to the official bank.

WILPERT: No, no. You sell it on the black market to whoever wants dollars on the black market.

JAY: Where do you buy it from?

WILPERT: You buy it from the government.

JAY: Right, the government, 'cause government is saying the bolívar is really worth that much more than the black market says it's worth.

WILPERT: Exactly. Exactly.

JAY: Right.

WILPERT: But that, of course, requires that you have access. And who has access to those official exchange rate dollars? Well, basically people mostly from the middle class who can say they need it for travel, that they, you know, have a plane ticket, or people who say that they're going to import something. And so then those two sectors, really, they're really the main beneficiaries of the official exchange rate. Most of them don't actually use it for travel. They just--they might travel and then quickly sell the dollars that they got--I mean, that is, get the dollars that they got and return to the country and sell them within Venezuela at a 1,000 percent profit margin. Or the people who import, let's say, some essential good, let's say, you know, cornmeal or whatever or milk, turn around and export that same milk to Colombia and sell it there and get the dollars again and sell the dollars within Venezuela at a factor-of-ten profit margin. So that's when it becomes a real problem, and that's what's currently happening. And it also explains the shortages. People are importing things that get smuggled out of the country right away because it's so much more lucrative to sell them outside of the country than within the country.

JAY: So you get a lot of dollars chasing too few goods.

WILPERT: Well, not dollars. A lot of bolívars.

JAY: A lot of bolívars. Well, a lot of bolívars chasing too few goods.

WILPERT: Yes, essentially.

JAY: So what is the government going to do about it? What are the proposals on the table?

WILPERT: That's the thing. I mean, the government has been relatively, I would say, slow in reacting to this problem. That is, more and more they've realized that this is a serious problem. As a matter of fact, Maduro recently announced that up to 30 to 40 percent of the products that are imported with goods, dollars that were obtained through the official exchange rate mechanism, up to 30 to 40 percent of those dollars actually--or imports, actually, get exported through smuggling right away. So it's a complete--.

JAY: Thirty to forty percent.

WILPERT: Yes. So it's an enormous number. And we're talking tens of billions of dollars that are basically being wasted on this currency control right now. And so the government has realized this cannot continue.

And, as a matter of fact, just yesterday--and this got completely lost in the news, actually--is--with the protests--the vice president for economic affairs, which is also the president of the oil industry, Rafael Ramírez, made a very important announcement that they were going to allow basically an open free-floating currency market again in Venezuela--that is, there are going to be two exchange rates. One is going to be still the official exchange rate under those certain circumstances,--

JAY: Which is fixed.

WILPERT: --which is fixed, and in order to keep inflation down. That is, if you're going to import something, it's going to be relatively cheap to sell it in Venezuela.
However, there's also going to be a parallel exchange rate that would essentially be floating, although the government will intervene in that market.

JAY: Has anyone done this before anywhere?

WILPERT: To have two exchange rates? Yeah. Well, it has existed in Venezuela before, actually. And it has--I mean, the Cuban government also has something similar, in a sense, although not a floating exchange rate, but it has also a varying--dual exchange rates. So that--certainly there is precedent for that.

The problem is it doesn't really eliminate the problem of what I mentioned before of the arbitrage. If the gap is too large, it creates this tremendous incentives for smuggling and for trying to beat the system in one way or another.

JAY: So what is the solution?

WILPERT: Well, there's several arguments. I mean, on the one hand, the government doesn't really want to give in completely to the capital markets and say, we're going to let the currency float.

JAY: Why?

WILPERT: Because they're afraid of the capital flight. So they want to--and also of inflation. They're afraid that it will heat up inflation even more. So that's why they're resistant to completely letting it float. But that's what many people argues would be the solution, to let it float, or at least not completely to let it float within certain bandwidth [crosstalk]

JAY: But the capital flight, again, this is people taking their money out of the country. You need--to really have any serious capital flight, you need to be able to convert it to dollars, 'cause you're not going to run with bolívars.

WILPERT: Of course.

JAY: So if they make it very difficult to convert, then how much capital flight can there be?

WILPERT: It's not--the thing is, you cannot control capital, the conversion, because what you could do is very easily just--.

JAY: Oh, 'cause they can do it on the black market.

WILPERT: Yeah, on the black market, exactly. And the black market--people always have this idea that there would be international bank transfers, but that's not even necessary. You can just have a friend transfer money from one account to another, and then you transfer it from your account to somebody else's account. And that's kind of--even though it's not a direct transaction that crosses borders, it still does have an effect on the black market value of the currency.

JAY: So go back, then. Why not--then what's the argument against the floating rate, then?

WILPERT: Well, the government's argument mainly is that, yeah, it would heat up inflation too much, essentially because, you know, if the currency becomes too devalued, imports become much more expensive. That's one major problem. The other problem is, yeah, the value of the currency is also something they want to maintain in order for Venezuelans to buy--to travel abroad and to buy things abroad.

JAY: I mean, is part of the problem that Venezuela's still too much of an oil economy that's too dependent on imports for too many things?


JAY: If more of this was produced in Venezuela, it'd be far less of an issue.

WILPERT: Yes, absolutely. I mean, that's the heart of the problem.
But on the other hand, the government is trying to wean itself away from oil dependency by investing its oil revenues within the Venezuelan economy and other sectors. But that's not really working, because these sectors are nowhere near as profitable and productive as the oil sector. And therefore it's just a--it's almost like a vicious cycle, really, that they can't seem to get out of, at least not using the oil money.

JAY: Okay. We'll unravel this more again later. It's complicated, but clearer than it was 15 minutes ago. Thanks for joining us.

WILPERT: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

Violent right wing has no popular base

Maria Páez Victor
15 Feb. 2014

Again, a highly organized attack is being carried out against the democratic and popular government of Venezuela. It has involved monetary manipulations, economic sabotage, international media campaign against the economy despite excellent economic indicators, defaming the state run oil company, and this last week violence on the streets that have left three dead and 66 injured.

The tactics are the same that the un-democratic opposition has tried for 15 years ever since the first election of President Hugo Chávez. Such tactics have been used in the so-called Rainbow Revolutions in Eastern Europe, Libya, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Ukraine. The object is to give a semblance of chaos, to provoke the forces of public order, to discredit the government through the compliant international media, to foster civil unrest, even civil war (as it successfully happened in Syria), and ultimately to promote conditions for international intervention and even occupation.

However, Venezuela is not in the Middle nor Near East and its government is a participatory democracy that enjoys a very strong majority, the backing of all key institutions under the rule of law, and the support of its regional neighbors. Furthermore, the population is linked to many organized community groupings, it is not an amorphous mass.

The stakes are high because the country has the largest known oil reserves and these are a stone’s throw from Washington.

The opposition believes that in the absence of Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro,is easy pickings. They greatly underestimate the man whose popularity has soared inside and outside the country.[1]

The attack on Venezuela, aimed to create popular discontent has had the following features:
1. Monetary warfare. This started with run on the currency, the manipulation of the black market dollar, obtaining dollars at preferential price from the government under false reasons. Maduro did not hesitate: he regulated prices and changed the monetary exchange rules and 70% approved of his response.[2]

2. False scarcity: A double blow of outrageous overpricing of goods plus artificial food scarcity started just as people were beginning their Christmas shopping. Wealthy merchants proceeded to hoard essential goods: corn flour, sugar, salt, cooking oil, toilet paper, etc. placing them in hidden warehouses or spirited off to Colombia through a well-planned smuggling operation. The military discovered an illegal bridge built for motorcycles that carried the smuggled goods. Thousands of bags of foodstuffs were discovered simply left rotting on Colombian byways: this was not smuggling for economic reasons, but for political reasons. The Colombian government cooperated with the Venezuelan government to stop this smuggling.

3. Attack on Venezuela’s petroleum company PDVSA: the international press has been alleging that PDVSA is failing because it is using its profits for social programs instead of re-investing, and that the country is running out of petroleum. Funnily enough they never warn Canada or Saudi Arabia about oil scarcity. They even state the preposterous notion that Venezuela is importing gasoline from the USA. The fact is that PDVS owns the large oil company CITGO in USA whose refinery often sends back to Venezuela a special liquid used for improving gasoline grade 95. PDVSA is still one of the top 5 oil companies in the world according to the influential Petroleum Intelligence Weekly.[3]

4. Campaign to discredit the economy. The international media has been predicting doom and gloom for Venezuela for years! The Venezuelan economy is doing very well. Its oil exports last year amounted to $94 billons while the imports only reached $59.3 billons – a historically low record. The national reserves are at $22 billons and the economy has a surplus (not a deficit) of 2.9% of GDP. The country has no significantly onerous national or foreign debts.[4]

These are excellent indicators that many countries in Europe would envy, even the USA and Canada. The multinational bank Wells Fargo has recently declared that Venezuela is one of the emerging economies that is most protected against any possible financial crisis and the Bank of America Merril Lynch has recommended to its investors to buy Venezuelan government bonds.[5]

5. Exaggeration of Security risks. Venezuela has high crime rate, unfortunately, just like most countries in Latin America. The recent death of a young high profile media couple spurred the opposition to exaggerate insecurity. Maduro responded by a widespread Plan for Peace with intense community policing, involving communities and communal councils, dividing the cities in sectors with hotlines and special patrols, the creation of 25 citizens committees for Police Control in total 250 people, new services for victim of crime, involvement of media to curb violent programs. This was highly popular.

There is a section of the opposition that is democratic and law abiding, unfortunately it is the undemocratic elements of opposition that seems to lead. These last few days, these prominent leaders of the undemocratic opposition, parliamentarians Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado, were urging violence. Orchestrated riots, with professional sabateurs, and the manipulation of young men, assassinated three people and injured 66.[6] López –whose link to the CIA goes back to his stay at Kenyon College, Ohio[7] - stated publicly that the violence would go on until they “got rid of Maduro”. One of the protestors told the media “We need a dead guy”. Twitter messages abound urging that someone kill Maduro. One Twitter message gave out details of the school of the child of President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, urging that the child be kidnapped.

The Attorney General, who is a woman, was physically attacked her offices ransacked. Police cars burnt, cultural establishment vandalized, the Governor of Tachira’s house was nearly burnt with his family in it.

The opposition’s violence has a been a constant. Last October, Henrique Capriles, the presidential candidate four times a loser, upon losing to Maduro openly called for violent protest saying: “go out into the streets and show your rage.” The result was that 10 people died (one who was a five-year old indigenous little girl) and 178 injured, 19 popular clinics attacked and set fire to, Cuban doctors having to flee Cuban doctors fleeing for their safety.
The international press does NOT REPORT THE VIOLENCE UNLEASHED BY THE VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION. When it reports these violent events it insinuates that it is the fault of the government.
The result of 15 years of the Bolivarian Revolution is evident in the increasing wellbeing of its population.[8] The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has declared Venezuela to be now the least unequal country of the region (GINI Coefficient) having reduced inequality by 54%.[9]

Poverty levels are at 21% and extreme poverty dropped from 40% to 7.3%. Infant mortality has been reduced from 25/1000 (1990) to 10/1000.[10] The Chávez government eliminated illiteracy and provided free public education, housing and health services. In just one decade, Venezuela advanced seven places in the UN Human Development Index.[11]

Polls show Venezuela has one of the happiest populations in the world. [12]In all this it has been greatly helped by the solidarity and expert teachers and doctors from Cuba. Cuba and Venezuela have shown the world what is real solidarity between nations.

The financial crisis that has hit the North these past six years, has been met with state antagonism against workers and the general population. With the excuse of a supposed need for austerity, public programs are cut and unions undermined. The crisis also affected Venezuela as oil prices dropped. However, the government solidly continued to reduce poverty, increase salaries, trained thousands of workers, and the country’s Human Development Index continued to rise despite the contraction of the economy. By protecting employment as a basic strategy to counter the crisis, the economy continued to grow at an average that has ranged from 2.5 to 5% GDP.[13]

The real opposition in Venezuela is the USA, its allies and its agents who feed the illegal pipeline of dollars that pour into bogus NGOs and the opposition parties.

Venezuela represents the rejection of neo-liberal economics and corporate capitalism. The corrupt elite- governed Venezuela, darling of corporate capitalism, that had impoverished its own population during 40 years, is no more.

These violent tactics have no hope of succeeding because, unlike 1999, the Venezuelan people are now organized into many groups: the communal councils, the communes, the thousands of health, security, militia, sports, educational, cultural committees. The Bolivarian Revolution has fostered, not a mass of people, but an organized organic population that makes decisions about its living conditions along with its government because Venezuela is now a fully functioning participatory democracy.

The opposition has no popular base – as can be seen by its string of electoral defeats.

It has no support of the military – even governors who form part of the democratic opposition have appeared on TV denouncing these tactics with military staff standing beside them.

They do not have the backing of any South American neighbour, as countries have been quick to avow solidarity with President Maduro and denounce their violence.

Their only card is to hope Venezuela is invaded by US Marines. That would be the beginning of regional warfare.

María Páez Victor, Ph.D. is a sociologist, born in Venezuela.

Cuba stands by Maduro and Venezuela

Cuba Condemna Coup Attack in Venezuela
HAVANA, Cuba, Feb 14 (acn) Cuba strongly condemned on Thursday the coup attempt against the constitutional government of Venezuela and the most recent violent incidents that resulted in three deaths and over 70 injured in Caracas.

In a statement posted on the website of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Cuban authorities also blasted the attacks against public institutions, the burning of vehicles and other violent actions organized by fascist groups, as it was denounced by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The Cuban government expresses its full support of the Bolivarian Revolution and calls for international solidarity based on the conviction that the Venezuelan people will defend its irreversible achievements, the legacy of President Hugo Chavez and the government that they elected in a free and sovereign way, headed by Maduro, the statement reads.

The document also reads that Cuba also affirmed its unconditional support of the tangible efforts by President Maduro and its government to preserve peace and join all sectors in the country to boost social and economic development.

No Turning Back for 21st Century Socialism

By: COHA Staff
February 14, 2014
COHA Opinion

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) views with great alarm the violence perpetrated against the democratically elected government and civilians in Venezuela that has resulted, as of February 12, 2014, in three confirmed deaths, 61 persons wounded and 69 detained. The carnage and destruction in Caracas on Wednesday comes on the heels of generally peaceful marches held on the 200th anniversary of the battle of La Victoria, a battle in which students played a critical role in a victory against royalist forces during Venezuela’s war of independence. While some groups of students marched in celebration of the Day of the Student, anti-government demonstrators used the occasion to protest episodic shortages of some basic goods, persistent crime, and to demand the release of students who had been arrested in earlier demonstrations.

The vicious street attack near the national headquarters of the prosecutor’s office in Caracas came after several days of often violent anti-government protests in the streets of Aragua, Lara, Mérida and Táchira.[1] Some of these protests included the use of rocks, guns, and Molotov cocktails, and were largely directed against government buildings, the public (pro-government) television station Venezolana de Televisión, vehicles and other property, the police, and civilians.

Among the injured were three students of the Central University of Venezuela who were reportedly wounded by gunfire as well as 17 Bolivarian National Police personnel, two of whom were attacked with Molotov Cocktails. Among those killed in Caracas were Juan Montoya, a community activist in the pro-Chavista 23rd of January barrio and Bassil Da Costa, a marketing student. A third person was killed in the Chacao neighborhood in the Eastern part of the Venezuelan capital.

In Venezuela, the media war and the contest over how to portray the demonstrations and violence is already at full throttle. Thabata Molina, reporting for the opposition newspaper El Universal (February 13), claimed that Montoya and one other victim were shot in the head by pro-government “collectivists” who, Molina reports, without offering evidence, were shooting at student marchers.[2] The term “colectivos” is being used in this context to evoke a pejorative image of Chavistas who are associates of collectives. Molina’s version of events has been challenged by reports by a number of eye witnesses as well as reporters who suggest right wing extremists were taking advantage of the day of demonstrations to wreak violence and death.[3] Also, the generally anti-government flavor of the attacks indicates that the main culprits are more likely extreme elements of the opposition. It stretches the bounds of credibility to argue that the government would seek to destabilize itself when it has come out the winner in two important elections (presidential and municipal), has made reducing violence and crime a top priority, has recently met with opposition mayors to find ground on which to cooperate, and seeks a peaceful implementation of the government’s six year plan (Plan de la Patria).

Venezuelans who are now mobilizing in the barrios of Caracas have seen a similar set of events unfold during the prelude to the coup of 2002 against the democratically elected former President Hugo Chavez, so they are not likely to be taken in by the opposition’s skewed version of events. On the contrary, the killings have ignited calls from the Chavista base for strong government intervention to bring a halt to the violence and punish both the intellectual authors and the direct perpetrators of these crimes.[4]

A number of student leaders, both pro and anti government, have spoken out against the violence, and the more ostensibly moderate elements of the opposition that have called for peaceful marches have also condemned the violence. Former right wing MUD candidate for President and current governor of Miranda, Henrique Capriles, who participated in a pro-opposition student march, has distanced himself from the ultra-right, declaring on twitter ”We condemn the violence. Violence will never be our path. We are sure that the large majority reject and condemn this!”[5] While it is uncertain whether Capriles’s statement signals a growing breach within the opposition leadership over strategy and tactics, his statement correctly reads the aversion to violence of the large majority of Venezuelans. There is well founded skepticism about whether Capriles is committed to democratic procedures and peace. The proof is in the practice.

A mounting number of Chavistas in the government and among the popular sectors fault ultra-right wing leader of the Voluntad Popular party, Leopoldo López, for inciting much of the violence. The right wing figure, who played a role in the short-lived coup against former President Hugo Chavez in 2002, has been calling for more demonstrations and for the “exit” of Maduro from the government, blaming government repression by the national guard for the violence. In an interview with Reuters reporter Peter Murphy on February 11, López insisted that his intention was to lead peaceful protests, declaring, “We are proposing to have millions of people supporting the movement and to activate one of the mechanisms that is within the Constitution, including (seeking) the resignation of the president” adding that “It’s not a conspiracy, it’s not incitement to a coup … It’s the citizens’ right to assemble in the street.”[6]

Speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, accused armed right wing groups for the killings, saying, “They are fascists, murderers, and then they talk about dialogue.”[7] In an interview with TeleSUR, Foreign Minister Elías Jaua has declared that, “there are fascist groups that are defending transnational interests that seek an end to the sovereign and independent management of the natural resources, just as they have done ever since the arrival of Commandante (Hugo) Chavez fifteen years ago.”[8] He alleged that Leopoldo López was the “intellectual author of the deaths and injuries in Caracas.”[9] On February 13, El Universal reported that a warrant had been issued by a Caracas judge for Leopoldo López’s arrest on charges that include homicide and terrorism.[10] This press report, however, has not yet been confirmed by the Attorney General or other judicial authority.

Government officials have been urging against retaliation and are seeking to avoid any escalation of violence in the streets. Maduro charged that “these are trained groups who… are prepared to overthrow the government in a violent way, and I’m not going to allow this, so I call on Venezuela to be peaceful.” [11] He has also promised to fully support the attorney general in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of the violence and murder. Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, said detainees would be presented promptly for judicial review.[12]

The practice of extreme elements of the opposition during the past week does indeed look somewhat similar to the tactics used to engineer a coup in 2002. The balance of forces, however, is not on the side of counter revolution. First, the memory of the 2002 coup has produced an alert Chavista base that is prepared to join in a civic military alliance to defend the bolivarian revolution from any threats from within or without. Second, the opposition is not of one voice, with more moderate sectors opting out of violent confrontation and seeking to shake off the stain of golpismo. Third, the opposition strategy of turning the municipal elections of December 8, 2013 into a plebiscite on the status of the Maduro administration only magnified the Chavista victory at the polls and has generally solidified Maduro’s democratic legitimacy both at home and abroad. Fourth, Maduro has galvanized the Chavista base by launching a counter offensive in the economic war and stepping up government support for the communal organizations that express grass roots constituent power. While there are indeed some divisions within Chavismo, in this moment of crisis they have apparently closed ranks when the fate of the revolution is at stake.

The moderate response of Maduro to what he takes to be an attempted coup, should not be mistaken for a lack of resolve. Nor should this challenge by the extreme right sabotage the attempts by Maduro to build national unity with the more moderate opposition in the fight against crime. The current clash between revolution and counter revolution reflects an underlying dialectic between two different visions of the social and economic spheres. The Chavista counter offensive in the economic war has seriously called into question the priority of the claims of private property over the claims of human life and development for all citizens. We can expect the government counter offensive, the struggle for food sovereignty, and the building of communes to continue unabated, despite challenges, sometimes violent, from the hard liners on the right. For the formerly excluded and dispossessed, for those working towards building 21st century socialism, there is no turning back.

For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: and Rights Action
[1] Juan Francisco Alonso. “Fiscal assegai que atacantes del Ministerio Público buscaban “matar,” El Universal, February 13, 2014.; Molina, Thabata. “Jornada de protesta dejó tres muertos,” El Universal, February 13, 2014.; Pearson, Tamara and Ryan Mallet-Outtrim. “Peaceful Marches and Opposition Violence, Two Deaths Mark Day of Youth in Venezuela,”,February 12, 2014.; see also La Nacion on events in Tachira. [All articles were accessed on 13 Feb. 2014].
[2] See note 1, Thabata Molina, February 13, 2014.
[3] Pearson, Tamara. “Opposition Violence Continues in Some Venezuelan Cities, Attacks on Journalists,”, February 11, 2014. [Accessed on February 13, 2014].
[4] The website has a series of videos on the anti-government violence and the Chavista response. See, for example, “A Community Response to the Killings,” and “Pueblo exige justicia contra los responsables de muertes y hechos violentos generados desde la oposición,” February 12, 2014. [Accessed on February 13, 2014].
[5] “Condena Capriles Violencia Tras Marchas En Venezuela,” El Universal, February 12, 2014. [Accessed on February 13, 2014]
[6] Murphy, Peter. “Venezuela Protest Leader Says Seeks Maduro’s Exit, Not Coup,”Reuters, February 12, 2014 [Accessed on February 13, 2014].
[7] see note 1, Pearson, Tamara and Ryan Mallet-Outtrim., 10346.
[8] “Venezuela está enfrentando a un grupo fascista liderado por Leopoldo López,”Correo del Orinoco, February13 (The translation into English is the author’s and is not official)[Accessed on February 13, 2014].
[9] See note 1, Pearson, Tamara and Ryan Mallet-Outtrim., 10346.
[10] Juan Francisco Alonso. El Universal, February 13, 2014. [Accessed on February 13, 2014].
[11] See note 1, Pearson, Tamara and Ryan Mallet-Outtrim., 10346.
[12] See note 1. El Universal, 104213.[Accessed on February 13, 2014]

Right-Wing response to CELAC - historic vision


Feb. 14, 2014
By Felipe Stuart C.

Yesterday and today, I spent many hours trying to follow events in the current outburst of fascist and anti-Bolivarian violence in Venezuela. In Managua, we have the luxury of cable news access via Telesur, Cuban, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan special TV programming, and also many radio sources.

Clearly, sections of the Venezuelan extreme right, some incubated by the EMBUSA [USA Embassy] are carrying out a big budget, high stakes agenda. Levels of deliberate, organized violence of this intensity have not been seen since the 2002 failed coup against President Hugo Chavez Frias. Likewise, mobilizations in defence of democracy and the Bolivarian revolutionary process are beginning to take on an accelerating dynamic. Huge actions are now being organized for tomorrow (Saturday, 15th).

Bolivarian socialist leaders, including President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, have been issuing joint appeals (in the name of the Bolivarian government and of the parties in the Patriotic Front including the governing PSUV) to mobilize to confront the fascists in the streets (“the streets belong to the people, not the fascist thugs!”). Simultaneously, they stress the crucial importance of avoiding provocations and traps set by criminal elements.

But whose agenda?
Those best suited, equipped and armed with detailed information, to probe for actionable intelligence to answer that vital question are already on high alert in Venezuela. They can, and are already counting on, extensive collaboration from their counterparts in allied ALBA countries, and allies operating in the new framework constructed by the CELAC -- the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

In the aftershock of this new round of elite and foreign sponsored fascist violence and street mobilizations, messages of solidarity from ALBA, CELAC, and other foreign governments have already been received in Caracas.

No such messages have been received from Washington or Ottawa. Such thunderous silence echoes a gnawing silence in US President Obama’s “State of the Union” address last week to the traditional Joint Session of the (Imperial) House and (Imperial) Senate. Obama did not let even one word about Latin America or the CELAC slip through his teeth. As he began his all-important remarks, broadcast simultaneously around the globe, another Head-of-State – Cuba’s President Raul Castro – was inaugurating the Second CELAC Summit in Habana. Guests included UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon and José Miguel Insulza, General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS).

The CELAC Second Summit, hosted by the revolutionary socialist government of Cuba, registered in spades that the new continental organization had successfully weathered not a few storms and cold fronts unleashed by Washington. President Castro’s speech – almost historic for its modesty and respect for the time restraints of such a gathering – will perhaps most be remembered by future generations for CELAC’s Declaration of a Nuclear Free Latin America and the Caribbean.

The anti-nuclear vote was unanimous – enthusiastically so!

How would Canadian Prime Minister Harper have reacted to that vote had he been present with even consultative voice? His Queen’s UK navy patrols the Argentine Malvinas Islands (which their colonial settlers call the Falkland Islands} with a flotilla that has nuclear arms.

Of course, there’s zero need to ask how Bush or Obama would have voted on anything to do with their nukes.

This is but one example of why the rest of the Americas decided that an organization consciously designed to exclude the two North American imperialist power centres – Canada and the USA – was now more than ever a necessity to enable the CELAC countries to better fend for themselves in the 21st Century’s multipolar world reality.

So why did Obama say nothing, not even a grunt, about the Latino–Caribbean world south of the Rio Bravo?

Of course, in self-defence, the Nobel Peace prize recipient and US Supreme Commander could have advanced the argument that he also made no mention of the political crisis in Egypt! In fact, he did not even once utter the name ‘Egypt’ [nor the words Latino or Latin America!].

Democracy is usually Obama’s theme song.
He talked about his administration’s commitment to democracy – not in Egypt, but in Tunisia, Burma, and the Ukraine! Certainly not in Puerto Rico, a US Caribbean island colony just invited to join the community of Caribbean and Latin American nations at CELAC’s Havana Summit.

How to explain the exclusion of Latin America and the Caribbean – and above all the CELAC (to speak of the ALBA would be tantamount to Obama announcing the ‘second coming’ of Bolivarian hero Hugo Chavez Frias) – from Obama’s survey of The State of Their Union?

I do not know for certain why the US president’s speech writers and advisors decided to seal Obama’s lips on this big, really big issue. But I can hazard a guess.

Much evidence points to disarray in the White House and at State – and in the so-called non-political strategists housed at the Pentagon, at the CIA-NSA, and at their most important think tanks, Foundations, and NGO-fronts such as the infamous NED.

Another possible explanation comes to mind. Was Obama’s Latino-Carib “omission” really a ruse?

Let’s all breathe easy; we’re not even on his radar!

So many questions, but few answers!
What about Uruguay’s decriminalization of marijuana? What to do about China’s new economic weight in the Americas? What to do about Nicaragua’s decision to build a Pacific-Caribbean canal mainly with Asian capital and expertise? How to bring down the Indigenous majority rule government in Bolivia without appearing to revive a de facto apartheid state? How to blow up the Cuban sponsored peace talks between the FARC and Bogota without appearing to want to revive a narco state in Colombia?

How to bring that uppity Dilma, president of Brazil, down to earth? She must be persuaded to cease all solidarity and collaboration with types like Julian Assange and that “traitor” Edward Snowden. How dare this ex-terrorist Brazilian leftist turn down the prize invitation to the year’s one and only White House State Dinner just because she regards the privacy of her phone conversations to be more important than whatever was on the menu of that affair. More to the point, how can the CIA-NSA scuttle the initiative of the Brazilian government to hold in Sao Paulo, in April 2014, the Global Multisector Meeting on Internet Governance?

Who is going to control the Guarani Aquifer, located under the surface ground of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay? Think tank “experts” predict that this underground treasure, as well as the Amazon Basin, will be the motive for future water wars. And, aye, Mexico if only the Long Wall could really work! And what to do about the movements towards local self-arming by citizens trying to protect themselves from armed mafia thugs. Will Mexico become another of their failed states? Or will inspiration from Zapatista Chiapas, the ALBA, and class struggle feedback from Mexican super-exploited laborers on US soil lay the groundwork for a re-edition of the Zapatista revolution of the opening years of the last century – a revolution that helped motivate their Russian admirers to prepare for October 1917?

Incoherence at the Casa Blanca
The White House and State have yet to work out a coherent response to CELAC-style unity and sense of new historic vision expressed at the Havana Summit. President Raul Castro, in his inaugural remarks, said: “we know that among us exist different thoughts and even differences, but the CELAC has emerged from two hundred years of struggle for independence and is based on a deep community of objectives. Therefore, the CELAC is not a series of mere meetings or pragmatic coincidences but a common vision of the Great Latin American and Caribbean Motherland that is due only to their people.”

Is Obama's Pacific Rim pipe dream really an acceptable counter vision to the new Caribbean-Latin American vision of a great, unifying dynamic throughout the non-imperialist continental zones? Not in a long shot!

Much, then, is left to haphazard reaction to events carried off by Southern Command experts and the countless Trojan horses the US has ensconced in the foreign aid-NGO sectors in countries like Venezuela and Bolivia.

This spells danger.

Despite any momentary disarray in Washington at this turn of events – and Obama really does have a lot of ‘eat crow’ on his daily world menu right now – one consistent fact of US-Latin American-Caribbean relations remains crystal clear; and it has remained constant ever since Washington’s war against Sandino in the late 20s – early 30s of the last century. The Monroe Doctrine – Kerry’s buffoonery aside – remains the core of US strategy on its southern flank and its great Caribbean Lake.

Washington will act BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY to destroy the on-going process of unity proclaimed by the CELAC. Above all, just as the Empire has never forgiven revolutionary Cuba for its now 55-year long general strike against global imperialism, it will attack even more viciously against Venezuela’s advancing anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist revolution. Their broader target is the ALBA -- the most advanced expression of popular desire and political will to break away from imperialist domination and capitalist disorganization and destruction of our Madre Tierra, our Pacha Mama.

Today, Cuba and Venezuela are the key targets.
Who is next – Bolivia? Nicaragua? Ecuador?

And tomorrow?

Tomorrow many hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans and compatriots from up and down our Patria Grande will take to the streets to let the Venezuelan fascists know that the lessons of Europe of the 1930s, of the Spanish Civil War, of the disappeared arranged for by Argentine Generals , and of Pinochet’s long Chilean nightmare are not forgotten. Not at all.

Chávez Vive! La Lucha Sigue!
Chávez Vive! La Patria Sigue!
La Patria Grande Sigue! Sigue! Sigue
[1] President Obama delivered his 2014 State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2014, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service. See
President Raul Castro delivered his inaugural address to the Second CELAC Summit in Havana on Jan. 28, 2014 See