International solidarity needed for defence of Bolivarian revolution

Is Venezuela on the Verge of a Another Coup?
by Jeanetter Charles

Current events in Venezuela and the political opposition’s call for global protests against President Maduro conjure memories of the 2002 coup d’état - a moment marked by violence all too familiar for most Venezuelans. The opposition’s public call for national and international protests slated for September 1st accompanied by transportation strikes in some of the nation’s opposition strongholds along with rising inaccessibility to most basic staples also indicate strong possibilities for rampant guarimba violence reminiscent of the 2014 opposition demonstrations. So it would seem, a potential coup d’état is in progress.

Yet, what are the real possibilities? What are grassroots movements and others aligned with the Bolivarian process saying about the opposition’s upcoming demonstrations? What are the strategies in place? And, more importantly, how are the grassroots preparing to respond come September 1st?

2016 Opposition Protests and their Political Backdrop

This week’s protests center on the Venezuelan opposition’s insistent demand for a recall referendum to occur this year. This is not the first time Venezuela has faced a potential presidential impeachment. As teleSUR English’s Iain Bruce reports, “On August 15, 2004, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, faced his opponents in the first and only recall referendum against a sitting president in modern world history. The opposition parties were confident they would win. They assumed they would naturally recover the positions of power they had lost.” However, Venezuelan history proved otherwise and Chávez remained in office, securing a majority.

Since the people’s election of Chávez in 1998, the Bolivarian Revolution has marked a distinct transition away from an oligarchy that has historically siphoned oil and resources from the people devastating Venezuela’s majority poor nation. Over the last 17 years, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Process has made major strides in inclusionary rights, economic access and political consciousness raising domestically and on an international scale.
However, the opposition, actively supported by the United States, continues to strategize against the Bolivarian process which has radically transformed people’s material conditions and improved the majority poor’s livelihood.

On repeated occasions, the opposition has illegitimately pushed for the recall referendum to happen this year. Yet, National Electoral Council (CNE) President Tibisay Lucena publicly announced earlier this month that according to constitutionally established timelines, the recall referendum will not happenbefore January 2017. This is due to the opposition consciously beginning the process too late for all the steps to be completed this year.
Nonetheless, the opposition has found support of right-wing factions throughout the region such was the case earlier this month when 15 out of 35 OAS membersreleased a joint statement calling for the Venezuelan government to carry out what would be an unconstitutional referendum process before January 2017.

We’ve witnessed this same tactic over and over again. The battle to deligitimize Venezuela, allege that the country is breaching its constitution and highlight its challenges both economic and political are seemingly never-ending in the political arena and in corporate media. To a certain extent, the opposition has also successfully confused millions internationally about the diverse realities facing most Venezuelans.

The economic lead-up to this 2016 call for protests parallels the April 2002 coup. Just last week opposition legislator Freddy Guevara admitted that the opposition had used an "economic boycott" to force the government out. Moreover, he vowed that opposition would reach "Miraflores Palace" on September 1st, just as they did in 2002 when the opposition suddenly diverged from its pre-determined route and decided to march to Miraflores resulting in a direct confrontation between the right-wing opposition and Venezuelan popular forces.

Among the opposition's other tactics have included a campaign to prevent the country from assuming Mercosur’s pro tempore presidency. Minister of Foreign Affairs Delcy Rodríguez along with grassroots movements aligned with the Mercosur process have denounced the continued refusal to transfer power over to Venezuela without grounds.

While international reports may seemingly paint a picture of disaster across the Latin American left and especially of more progressive governments, the continued efforts to destabilize Venezuela indicate that US imperialism is re-positioning itself in the region and returning to relationships with historic right-wing allies.

With this said, the direct hand of the US government in these destabilization attempts against Venezuela remains evermore present. One can look to the sanctions that were renewed in April this year as a prime example.

Furthermore, Venezuelan Foreign Ministry’s North American agency released a statement this Monday that renounced the US State Department spokesperson John Kirby’s call to release former mayor of San Criśtobal, Táchira state, Daniel Ceballos from prisoner.

Ceballos was transferred to prison after spending time under house arrest for his role in the 2014 guarimbas. The Ministry of Justice asserted that this week's transfer was made after recent information surfaced of Ceballos’ potential escape plans to “coordinate acts of violence” this week.

"The brand and authorship of the coup being planned for September 1, 2016, in Venezuela, in collusion with the anti-democratic opposition and international right, has become clear...," read the statement. It continued, "[President Barack Obama's government] is seeking to destabilize Venezuela and the region in its final days to legitimize its imperial plans against peace and the development of the people."

Likewise, US prize winning opposition spokesperson Yon Goicoecha was also arrested this week for the alleged possession of explosives equipment.

Voices from the Bolivarian Process

While there is more than enough evidence to suggest a coup may indeed already be in the works for Venezuela in the near future, a wide range of opinions and actions characterize Venezuelan public opinion regarding the opposition’s latest call for protests.

For example, the government has taken steps to prevent violence such as prohibiting drones from entering into Venezuelan airspace for the next 120 days unless sanctioned by the Defense Ministry. Many private businesses are also closing their doors amidst security concerns.

Meanwhile, grassroots spaces such as community councils and local media outlets have called for marches in support of the Bolivarian Process starting Tuesday August 30th as well as reminding people to have non-confrontational behavior on September 1st to avoid any possible bloodshed.

For example, the Bicentennial Women’s Front convened “a great mobilization in defense of the revolution...we will demonstrate that we are the guardians of Chavez and the Revolution.”

In an exclusive with Venezuelanalysis, María Helena Ramírez, student organizer and resident of San Crístobal, Táchira state, stressed that during the September 1st demonstrations despite the opposition’s alleged call for “peace”, “some right wing spokespeople have remarked that ‘there will be deaths’ and ‘blood will run’ in public interviews.”

Ramírez also commented on the opposition’s strategic use of transportation highlighting that, “there will be buses leaving many regions of the country toward Caracas. This is a very interesting strategy given that Chavista social movements have mobilized across the country to march in the capital for years and the opposition historically has not.” The opposition most certainly counts on selling the impression internationally that their political position has a consolidated and unified base.

Likewise, in Táchira, Ramírez confirmed reports that there has been a transportation strike announced for nine days meant to interrupt and complicate citizens’ daily lives contributing to heightened levels of frustration and concern. Similarly, this last weekend when current opposition National Assembly leader Ramos Allup visited Táchira, people found tire road blocks in the same places that were strongholds for the 2014 guarimbas.

Ramírez suspects that, “what we are seeing is the beginning of an attack against Venezuela meant to push the people to the limit and carry out a coup.” However, Ramírez emphasized that the grassroots along with the Bolivarian government have committed to “protecting the people of Venezuela, especially in Caracas, and the Bolviarian Revolution.”

José Vicente Rangel, long time comrade of former President Hugo Chávez who also served as Minister during his administration, publicly expressed similar concerns over the September 1st marches in Venezuelan media - distinctively drawing parallels to the prelude of the 2002 coup. “In the time of a tense climate, this march could have very grave consequences. Any detail can be explosive and although the same promoters [of this march] insist that it will be civil in character, [our] experience proves otherwise,” Rangel suggests.

“As the march can occur in all normalcy, it can also repeat the brutal experience of April 11, 2002 march and other episodes of violence like the guarimbas, we must put forth with urgency: dialogue,” he continued, of which he stated 80 percent of Venezuela’s population favors.

“There are factions intent on creating a chaotic situation and provoking the rupture of constitutional and democratic order, as well as foreign interventionist adventures that would severely affect our national sovereignty. The opposition that exists in this country seems bent on disaster and total institutional rupture to facilitate [their] access to power; apparently all other options, except violence, are blocked,” Rangel stressed.
It is not without saying that President Maduro also conveyed similar concerns at a rally this weekend and denounced what he called a “an imperialist attack on all.” Maduro cited ongoing US interference and right-wing assaults against the governments of Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador among other examples.

However, there are dissenting opinions. These reflections rest on the unforgotten ingenuity of the Venezuelan people to defy all odds and prevail against an avalanche of uncertainty.

In his recent publication “The Takeover of the Cities and Power (and the Desire to Take-Over)”, Venezuelan public intellectual and historian José Roberto Duque explains why he believes September 1st will be another unsuccessful opposition attempt to destabilize the nation.

Principally, Duque suggests that very few historical cases exist that show “rebellions” have led to drastic societal shifts and that these oppositions marches will not be among these examples.

“The only mobilizations of this historical time that have toppled governments or at the very least have shaken [them] include: 1) sudden and spontaneous [rebellions] (Venezuela, 1989); 2) [rebellions] directed, defined and inspired by genuine leaders (Venezuela, 1998); or 3) [rebellions] headed or financed by the international war machine (Libya, 2011),” he attests.

Additionally, Duque outlines that due to the opposition’s absent effort to build a consolidated base, combined with the Venezuelan Chavista population’s will to rectify the errors of the revolutionary process, while there may be a series of violent episodes across the country - nothing will mark a definitive “exit” to Maduro’s administration.

“Maybe blood will be spilt in some places, maybe they try and prolong for a few days the media sensation of a rebellion (the cameras and audiovisual production are ready, count on that),” Duque writes. However, he continues, “And perhaps from our side, from the side building this country, we will probably forget the arguments and demobilizing divides, and maybe we will remember in unison that the Revolution charges us with an important task, parallel or previous to all the others: avoid at all costs that the transnational corporation’s racist plague take ahold of the institutional management of the State.”

He concludes, “If this is the result, we will have obtained another political victory as others walk around announcing our decisive defeat.”
What about international solidarity?

While we’ve assessed an array of hypothesis regarding Venezuela’s future, time is the truest test. While one may argue that it would be foolish for the opposition to carry through a coup at this time, when they are relatively close to securing a recall referendum for early next year, we have seen how often the opposition is prone to bouts of sabotage and violence at the expense of people’s stability and lives.

However, in the process of writing this piece, what remains blaringly clear is the incredible need for international grassroots movements to re-engage with Venezuela and develop a renewed sense of commitment with the Bolivarian Process. Hypothesizing serves us little in the larger scheme of Venezuela’s future.

The growing divide between the Venezuelan grassroots and global left is not only discouraging but systematically intentional.

The international media barrage with all its exaggerations, misleading headlines and largely unfounded coverage has been critical to building one of the greatest imperialist and interventionist offensives in Latin America and the Caribbean. A similar case in this hemisphere may only be said for the historically racist isolation of Haiti and the distance between the global left and the popular movements carrying on more than 200 years of revolutionary process on the island.

As the impeachment process in Brazil against Dilma Rousseff is underway, it’s necessary to redraw our shared political lines to defend Venezuelan, Latin American and ultimately oppressed nations’ sovereignty and defeat capitalism’s steadfast determination to persevere no matter what.

What the world needs is for Venezuelans to face this trying time head on and win. A coup for Venezuela would mark what promises to be an already challenging era for our political generation as this chapter of great revolutionary fiesta winds down and we are charged with the real task of building other worlds different than our present.

Venezuelans already embarked on a path to achieve the nearly impossible. Seventeen years is not nearly enough to identify, create and consolidate viable economic alternatives as well as cultural and structural shifts in society. Seventeen years is not nearly enough to decolonize and undo over 500 years of imperialism, colonization and devastation.

International solidarity needs to be ready on September 1st to accompany the Venezuelan people and defend their revolutionary process.
Reprinted from

Venezuelan Opposition unlikely to secure recall referendum fefore year's end

Venezuela as an oppressive failed state is really very far from what's happening on the ground

Real News interview by Sharmini Peries with Steve Ellner

SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

Earlier this week, Venezuela's national electoral council, known as the CNE, announced that the presidential recall referendum will be proceeding to the next phase, and outlined a timeline for the rest of the process. According to the electoral authority, the next step is to collect 20 percent of the registered voters' signatures in three days. This process can now take place in late October, meaning that if it is successful, a recall referendum won't happen until three months later in late January. According to Venezuela's constitution, if the recall happens after January 10 in the last two months of the president's term, this means that the vice president, someone whom the current president Maduro appointed, would take over as president.

Joining us now to discuss the situation in Venezuela is Steve Ellner. Steve has taught at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz in Venezuela since 1977. He's the author and editor of a number of books on Venezuela, and the most recent, Latin America's Radical Left: Challenges and Complexities of Political Power. He joins us today from Barcelona, Venezuela. Steve, so good to have you with us.

STEVE ELLNER: Good to be on the program.

PERIES: So finally the national electoral council outlined the timeline for the recall referendum, and dashed the opposition's hopes that it might still take place within the year in order to hold a presidential election before the last two years of the president's term. What has the opposition's reaction been to the CNE's declaration?

ELLNER: Well, the opposition claims that the procedure for the recall, the requirements for the 20 percent of the registered vote, vote signatures, that it is feasible to carry out the process in the course of this year. That it isn't necessary to wait until next year. And the difference is very important, because if the recall election is held after January 10, then if Maduro loses that recall, then he will step down and the vice president, Aristobulo Isturiz, will become president for the rest of the term, the two years that remains in the presidential term, so that the opposition will not have the option of being able to come to power in these next two years.

The Chavistas state that the opposition made a mistake, that they didn't concentrate on the effort, on the recall effort. They didn't collect the votes that they needed to initiate the process until three months after the beginning of the year, until late March. They waited because they themselves were divided. There were currents in the opposition that didn't want to have anything to do with the recall, and they favored other courses of action, so that as a result of divisions within the opposition and as a result of some errors in collecting those signatures, the 1 percent that they collected that initiated the process, as a result this whole process has been held up.

PERIES: Right. And government is also saying that the petition for the recall was submitted too late, and this petition also included countless forged signatures. What is your interpretation of what actually happened?

ELLNER: You know, you talk about Cabello, who's really the second key person in Chavista government, in Chavista command, stated the other day that the Chavistas don't want the recall to take place this year. That is their position. Of course, that really isn't any secret. It's obvious that they don't want it. And they have the right to insist on a close revision of the signatures that have been collected, because as you've mentioned, there are so many irregularities. For instance, there were over 10,000 signatures of deceased people.

There were several thousand signatures of people who are underage, and therefore cannot vote, and their signature does not count. There were a number of signatures of prisoners, when in fact there was no collection of signatures within the jail system in Venezuela.

So because of these mistakes on the part of the opposition, Diosdado Cabello stated, well, the Chavistas are just taking advantage of the situation. They are insisting on something that they have a right to insist on, and that is that these signatures be reviewed and that that in itself is slowing down the process. And as you mentioned, the opposition did wait too long in order to initiate the process. Instead of doing it at the beginning of the year, on January 1, they waited three months. And as a result, there just isn't enough time this year for that recall election to be held.

PERIES: And now on top of all the internal strife that's going on, 15 countries of the Organization of American States just issued a statement urging the Venezuelan authorities to organize the recall referendum as soon as possible, and it was signed by 15 countries, as I said, including the U.S., Canada, Colombia, Argentina, and Brazil, all countries that are leaning right, aligned with the United States. What do you make of this, and do you think the international pressure will make any difference with regard to what's happening in the internal electoral procedures in Venezuela? From what I understand the procedures are very clearly spelled out in terms of recall referendums.

ELLNER: Right. There's no question about it, that there is a fundamental change in the correlation of forces politically, ideologically speaking, in Latin America over the last year. Elections have been held in countries like Peru, Argentina. There have been what some people are calling a soft coup that just took place in Brazil, that took place in Paraguay a couple years ago, that also took place in Honduras. And that has really changed things in terms of Venezuela's position within the context.

You know, Chavez played a key role in promoting Latin American [unity], and that coincided with a period of [inaud.] for the [inaud.] countries, Argentina, Brazil, to Ecuador, Bolivia, et cetera. El Salvador is a third example. And as a result I keep promoting [inaud.] Latin American community outside of the OAS. Just Latin American nations. This was the case with [inaud.], it was the case with Unasur, which takes in just South America. And so that the OAS, which some claim has been, is dominated by the United States and always has been, was undermined.

Now the situation has changed, and what is somewhat ironic is that the countries whose legitimacy has been most questioned are the countries that are at the forefront of this effort to ostracize Venezuela. Specifically in the case of Mercosur. Venezuela should assume the provisional presidency of Mercosur, which is done on an occasional basis. And it's Paraguy that has really been objecting to that. But you know, the government of Paraguay came to power in what some consider to be a soft coup. The same thing with the case of Brazil. Argentina took a more moderate position, at least at first.

So there's no question about it, that Venezuela is finding itself somewhat isolated within Latin America, and the efforts that were made by Chavez to promote unity basically involving the more radical leftist governments, such as Brazil, such as [livia], Ecuador, in Venezuela, and the more moderate leftist governments such as Argentina under the Kirchners, and Brazil, and Paraguay, but also trying to rein in non-leftist governments like that of Colombia. And I know the situation's totally different. And this manifests itself every day in condemnations of Venezuela, resolutions pointing to violation of human rights in Venezuela, and I think that that really has to be analyzed.

PERIES: Steve, you're a longtime follower and you've been living in Venezuela and have been a part of sort of the political analysis of Venezuela for a long time now. When you think about what's happening now in the moment that Venezuela is in, President Chavez faced similar kinds of pressures prior to the coup that took place in Venezuela against him. And so if you, if you think about the continental pressure, the pressure in terms of the oil industry and havoc and so on that led to the coup against him, are conditions repeating itself here?

ELLNER: Well, I would say that to a certain extent there are similarities, in the sense that Venezuela was politically, ideologically isolated at the time in 2002. But you know, consider the fact that during the coup, the coup that took place for two days in April of 2002, the Latin American community, even though there wasn't any leftist presence in Latin America at the time, nevertheless condemned the coup. And if any country was isolated it was the United States. The United States with, as a result of the efforts of Otto Reich under the Bush administration, attempted to convince other Latin American countries to recognize the de facto government of Pedro Carmona. And the rest of Latin America, with just one or two exceptions, refused to do so.

So in a sense, the situation now for Maduro is even more difficult, because he's not getting the support. He's facing the hostility of countries that, of governments that have just come to power, and are committed to a right-wing agenda in terms of economic policy, and have been pretty hostile to the position of the Maduro government within the community of nations, within the community of Latin American nations.

PERIES: Right. And then of course the OAS issuing these kinds of statements also smacked of what happened just prior to the coup that took place against President Chavez. Finally, I want to ask you, Steve, one of the things that we keep seeing in the international media repeated again and again is about the crisis and the turmoil that Venezuela is going through in terms of the ability to feed its people and find basic goods and services, and with the fallen oil prices and government not having as much revenue as it did. It is having a difficult time providing some of the services and goods that was provided for the people in the prior era of the Chavista governments. How are you feeling the crunch, as they say, on the ground? I mean, you're living there. How is it to actually live there right now under these pressures?

ELLNER: Well, it's not easy. It's not easy. And what the media, what the U.S. media, states about the situation, the economic situation, in Venezuela certainly reflects what is happening. On the other hand, there are exaggerations. I would say that one of the things the media does is to juxtapose the economic difficulties, which are undeniable, and the political situation in terms of violation of human rights, which is highly exaggerated. That's another issue, which I won't go into.

But that is, you know, it--the statements that are coming out of the media leave the impression that you have a failed state in Venezuela. And that is, that is hardly the case. The government is not a failed state government. It's taking measures, they're not completely successful, but they've alleviated the situation to a certain extent. And in addition to that, the image of a failed state with regard to repression and that kind of thing is really very far from what's happening on the ground.

But with regard to the shortages, you have a dual-tier situation in which you have long lines, people wait on long lines for hours and hours to get goods, to purchase goods, at highly-subsidized prices. Now, it's the poor people for the most part that do that, and the middle class end up purchasing goods either in legal commercial establishments that sell goods higher than the regulated price, so the middle class pays more without having to wait in line, or they purchase the goods in the informal economy, whose prices are even higher.

So they have a triple-tier situation in which goods are available to a certain extent, but prices are not uniform.

PERIES: All right, Steve, I thank you so much for joining us today, and we'll be keeping an eye on this situation with the referendum, and I hope you can join us again. Thank you.

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