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Venezuela! The Unfolding on December 6. Printer friendly page Print This
By Les Blough in Venezuela. Axis of Logic
Axis of Logic
Wednesday, Dec 2, 2015

Venezuela's National Assembly in session

The battle for control of the National Assembly (parliament) is coming down home stretch here in Venezuela with the elections in only 4 days on Sunday, December 6. On the side of the Bolivarian Revolution, the Chavista political parties have never been more unified and Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), the opposition’s “unity party”, is as fractured as ever with infighting among their party factions and individual right wing members and non-members. It’s always been the case that what unites the opposition is their hatred for anything related to or produced by the Chavista government, their love for life in the United States based upon their Cable TV and Miami-bred fantasies and the dreams of individuals to be first in position to receive the fruits of a neoliberal takeover. The polls taken in the leadup to the current elections are “all over the place” and really, tell us nothing about what will be the actual results as their “scientific” methods are spurious; and on both sides of the political spectrum, left to right, have their own political agendas. One such example is their claim that President Maduro has only a 20-24 percent approval rating, published over the last several months in the corporate media. One has to live here and see the immense support for Maduro by the masses to see the absurdity of this falsehood. On the other hand, polls showing that Maduro has an extremely high approval rating must also be taken with a grain of salt. So we ignore the polls and examine other criteria, not to make predictions but to try to understand undercurrents and trends leading up to the elections.  These are some of the factors that we believe will influence voters on December 6:

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Opposition

Lack of a plan for the nation: The opposition, funded and advised by the US State Department, has never presented a cogent plan for the nation and their election campaigns this time are no exception. Campaigns of opposition candidates consist of street rallies and  promotions on radio and television, and supporters gathering to hear their speeches across the country. But they primarily depend upon:

Media Attacks: Systematic, personal and national attacks by the opposition fed to the international media on the Maduro government and current Chavista-controlled National Assembly have increased with each passing year. These attacks parrot the tried and tired, for the most part false accusations by Washington, their European allies, HRW and other NGO's. They almost always center around accusations of government corruption, drug trafficking, human rights violations and inept economic policies.

Economic War & Sabotage: Years of sabotage of the infrastructure and food distribution, the latter creating long lines in the marketplace for specific key products and services, continue. These consist of selected foods which disappear from the shelves and magically reappear after a few
A "cola" or queue at Supermercado Unicasa in La Victoria, waiting for a large delivery of milk which had been hard to find for several weeks. (photo: Axis of Logic)
weeks or a couple months; personal hygiene and household products; delivery of kitchen gas; electrical outages; interruption of telephone and internet services, smuggling of subsidized products into Colombia for profit, worker strikes and more. The timing of sabotage for the upcoming elections were felt here in this city of La Victoria, an hour west of Caracas, population 300,000. For a period of about 6 months, March – August, we lost only lost electricity for 3-4 short periods. But beginning in September, electrical outages have been almost daily. Likewise, the lines at supermarkets were reduced to small pockets of people waiting for the delivery of an item to be delivered that day. Since the beginning of November some of the lines are enormous, waiting for a delivery of corn flour, laundry detergent, milk, shampoo and other products. Yesterday, I observed two lines leading to one of the 4 big supermarket chains here, each about two blocks long. When all is said and done, these US-opposition tactics are designed to make daily life miserable or at least difficult, intending to grind down the will of the people. Their hope is to either:

  • cause people to blame the government for corruption, incompetence and inefficiency; or,

  • show their power and cause people who don't blame the government to conclude that the Maduro government simply cannot stop them. Can't stop them, so they might as well give up.

Story: A recent sabotage of health care services in a Caracas hospital became very personal. A friend of mine currently requires double hip replacements. A friendly and compassionate medical doctor in Caracas organized the surgery, obtaining funding for the two protheses and operation. Dates for the surgery have been rescheduled three times. Each time, my friend must travel in considerable pain for about 2 hours in a bus or car to the Caracas hospital for surgery. Each time he was admitted for surgery to take place two days later. Each time the surgery was canceled and he was sent back home because, while the surgeons were all set to go, certain medical professionals required for the surgery organized a wildcat strike and refused to assist in any surgeries at the hospital. While they are paid well, they ostensibly strike for higher wages. But these actions like many others are timed for the month or two prior to the December elections.

Economic War: The ongoing economic war causing hyper inflation with rocketing retail prices, putting many non-subsidized products out of reach for the average Venezuelan family. I’ve seen prices of many products, when they are available, rise tenfold over the last few months. This is done by means of the “black market dollar” (BMD). The problems in the Venezuelan economy are very complex due to the attack on the economy; but here, we will reduce it to its simplest expression.

Each day, foreign websites based in Miami (e.g. Dolar Today), publish the price of the dollar against the bolivar at radically increased rates from one day to the next. Then the retailers (most significant businesses, supermarket chains, pharmacies, etc. are owned by opposition members) base their prices on that invented, arbitrary exchange rate for two reasons: 1. greed & profit, 2. to gouge the consumer, making products unaffordable and placing blame on the government.

Those who publish the BMD rate do so from fiat with no scientific basis and no more personal investment than hitting a few keys on their computers each day, falsely devaluing the bolivar and providing retailers a mark for increasing their prices. The government responds by increasing minimum wages and benefits accordingly which, of course, feeds inflation. The opposition blames the BMD system on the lack of legal dollars made available by the government, which is partially true. But when the government issued preferential (low cost) dollars liberally, the opposition had several schemes to strip the economy of many millions of dollars each year, creating capital flight. Publishing the BMD rate is illegal in Venezuela but the government has great difficulty combating this system because it’s published on foreign websites. The Maduro government has taken extraordinary measures to combat this system in the economic war with some success but I’ve often compared it to the “whack-a-mole” game in which one sinister method is defeated only to have to two other schemes appear.

The Fifth column: Attacks by workers within government-run public institutions have special significance and value for the opposition because it’s much easier to use them to blame the government for incompetence and inefficiency. After moving to live in Venezuela eight years ago, I admit that I had some exciting impressions about the Bolivarian Revolution based only on what I had read in the alternative media. However, the thing that surprised me most after living here was to discover the amount of power the opposition actually wields, especially in the private sector, but also within government institutions.

When former President Chavez was first elected in 1998-99 he inherited many thousands of opposition members who worked in PDVSA (National Petroleum Company), Corpolec (National Electricity Company), Sidor (Venezuela’s only steel plant), public and private schools and universities, hospitals and health care clinics, transportation, the food distribution system, police departments and other public institutions. While many opposition have left employment through attrition (retirements & resignations), many others still enter to operate inside. So, for example, a “government worker” in Corpolec has many opportunities and the technical skills to sabotage the electrical grid, cutting electricity for a town or swaths of a city. Many have been caught doing this, prosecuted and jailed, but this kind of secret sabotage is hard to stop, especially when the culprit is overseen by a corrupt supervisor.

Violence: It’s widely known that in 2014 the organized street violence  killed and wounded many people, damaged public infrastructure (schools, universities, government buildings, health care clinics). They were known as “the Guarimbas,” organized and incited by leaders of the opposition like Leopoldo Lopez who has been convicted in a long series of trials of inciting a violent insurrection masked as “student protests.” Lopez is now serving a 14 year sentence in prison with foreign media, the OAS, Washington and HRW claiming that he suffers in jail as a political prisoner. We have seen little of that during this election year as government intel and security services have made significant gains to prevent paid mercenaries from causing mayhem in the streets. This year’s violence has mainly consisted of attacks on a public buildings, electrical substations and transformers blown up in series, and attacks on public transportation with few injuries reported. 

3 of the 8 student buses burned by a remote control incendiary bomb at Bolivarian University here in La Victoria last year (photo: Axis of Logic)

A recent assassination: A more recent act of violence (November 25) was the murder of Luis Manuel Diaz, an opposition party leader and regional secretary of the Democratic Action Party. Diaz was killed with a gunshot to the head on stage at an opposition campaign rally in Guarico State. Lilian Tintori, wife of the convicted Leopoldo Lopez who was also at the rally, was quick to blame government agents. Immediately, the Democratic Action party leader, Henry Ramos Allup, said Diaz had been shot dead by "armed PSUV gangs" from a vehicle but when challenged in his assertion, he corrected it to say that a single gunman approached the stage and shot Diaz. A chorus of opposition leaders joined in blaming, “militias supporting the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).” These assertions were quickly followed by a number of opposition leaders who claimed that they had been violently attacked recently, but without injury and without prior reports of the alleged attacks in the media. The anti-government campaign followed internationally, with the corporate media joining in and the US Embassy in Caracas and US controlled Organization of American States accusing the Maduro government on cue, with the OAS calling for the December elections to be suspended. Rather picture perfect. But bearing witness to the powerful political forces and popular support enjoyed by the Chavistas, it’s very difficult to see what they could gain by assassinating a lower tier member of this opposition party.

Meanwhile, President Maduro, slammed efforts to politicize the murder and stated that a thorough investigation is underway. Since then, Venezuelan authorities identified Oscar de Jesús Noguera Hernández, a member of “El Maloni,” a criminal gang as a prime suspect.

Oscar de Jesús
Noguera Hernández
Analysis and Ultimas Noticias (an opposition newspaper) reported that authorities are seeking Hernández’s arrest. El Maloni is an offshoot of a paramilitary group, “Los Picures", which amounts to a mafia-like control of organized crime in Guárico state, the location of Luis Manuel Diaz’ murder. Venezuela Analysis reported, “Also known as 'El Pipi', Hernández is considered one of the best marksmen of the criminal outfit and is believed to have carried out the killing with a .9mm handgun. The same weapon is suspected to have been used in another homicide in Altagracia de Orituco, Guarico, on October 9.” Upon further investigation, in addition to holding the position of regional secretary in the Democratic Action political party, Luis Manuel Diaz was also a trade union leader (alias “La Crema,”) with alleged links to the criminal gang, “Los Plateados.” Los Plateados is reported to be in a turf war with Los Picures for control of the local oil and construction unions in Guárico State. That turf war includes a fight for control over the allocation of jobs at the “William Lara” thermoelectric plant located in Altagracia de Orituco, Guarico where Diaz was a union leader. Of course, all of this in-depth information is painted over by the opposition and western media with accusations of government intrigues.

Strengths and Weaknesses of pro-government political parties.

The formidable organization and unity of the PSUV and GPP: The highly organized Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela PSUV) and Gran Polo Patriótico, (The Great Patriotic Pole or GPP), unites 35,000 revolutionary movements and collectives.

Grassroots support in a participatory democracy: The energy of the Bolivarian Revolution is palpable among the people in grassroots support for parliamentary candidates in the street. That support can be seen throughout the country from one day to the next in spontaneous street demonstrations and massive turnouts for a candidate’s political campaign. The size and energy of these crowds are reminiscent of the early years of the revolution when millions flooded the streets to see former President Chavez deliver his powerful messages of socialism, revolution, national sovereignty and anti-imperialism. President Maduro’s action and speeches have maintained and increased that vitality since Chavez left us on March 5, 2013.

President Maduro driving a bus on the campaign trail for PSUV candidates in Maracaibo last Sunday.
Last Sunday, friends and I watched a Chavista campaign march in Maracaibo, Zulia State (opposition territory), with President Maduro speaking to the crowd through an audio system while slowly driving a Trans Maracaibo Bus through the city, led, followed, and surrounded by thousands. I remarked that he’s still the only Bus Driver Head of State in the world as those around me laughed with approval. Another responded as the crowds surged to lay their hands on the bus or reach through the window to touch his hand, “Look at him, he’s like Jesus with the people only wanting to touch him. But remember, he only has a 20 percent approval rating!” – and another uproar of laughter.

In Tamara Pearson's teleSUR interview on October 1, National Assembly Deputy Blanca Eekhout, described some of the strengths of the PSUV party:

"The premise in these elections is the strengthening of people power, that is our strategy ..."

She believes the PSUV's strengths heading into the elections are its capacity for debate, which she argued was the main reason behind the huge participation in its primaries in June. Three million people turned out, a very high rate for an internal party election, and in the context of two years of economic war that has plagued the country.

"We have the strength of debate and the participation of women and youth. The challenge we face, is this economic war. We have fought it so hard, guaranteeing food (through government missions) and closing the border (to crack down on smuggling). But despite everything that we have done, the opposition has been able to generate big difficulties, sabotaging our currency," the legislator said.

"We are in a stage of developing our productive forces, through the communal councils and planning, in order to achieve socialism in the economy. It’s a huge challenge and it means cultural and pragmatic changes, so it’s our main task. It may be a weakness now, but it will become a gigantic strength. The right wing want to demotivate us – paramilitary violence attacks on the popular sectors and three of our comrades were killed. That's part of the terrorist actions to generate demobilization, but we are accustomed to struggle and we'll do this, we'll fight the demotivation," she said.

Here in La Victoria last week, Rosa Leone, a PSUV incumbent candidate from the State of Aragua was received by thousands of cheering supporters along the streets in Central La Victoria and outlying suburbs. Turnouts for these grassroots demonstrations and political campaigns are broadcast daily from countrysides, pueblos and cities across the country by a vast network of community radio stations and public television. However, the opposition claims, with an air of sophistication, to have a “silent majority” who are not expressing themselves in crude, loud marches and demonstrations as the Chavistas do in the street. Who knows?

Social Media and the Arts: In a powerful presentation of grassroots support for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) published on Venezuela Analysis titled, Chavistas Launch Campaign to Reclaim Revolution, images are presented by revolutionaries from all walks of life:

“Venezuela’s grassroots are rallying around a new self-managed campaign, which relies on graphic design and social media participation to highlight the enduring vitality of the Bolivarian process as a struggle to build power from below in the leadup to December parliamentary elections. Brought forth in September from a Creative Laboratory which included participants from Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Colombia, the campaign flooded social media last week with evocative designs of anatomical hearts and veins intertwining across the continent, recalling Eduardo Galeano’s history, ‘The Open Veins of Latin America.’ Colorful portraits adorned with messages highlighting revolutionary goals such as Latin American integration and communal production are equally popular. Colorful portraits adorned with messages highlighting revolutionary goals such as Latin American integration and communal production are equally popular.

“Rodrigo Acosta, a Chilean muralist now living in Merida (Venezuela) and one of the campaign organizers told that the autonomous and non-profit campaign represents “an urgent call” to “raise the flags that many of us have let fell, due to the campaign of demoralization from the right, and the economic crisis which affects us all.”

Axis of Logic readers are encouraged to visit the Venezuela Analysis website to see and feel the beauty and energy of these artworks that have taken on a life of their own, now spreading throughout the social media.

Another possible telling factor about the elections is that the opposition refuses to sign the document stating that they will accept the election results published by the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council CNE) before the elections. Some Chavistas argue that if they are as certain of victory as they claim to be, why not? Also, refusal to sign acceptance of the results leaves them room to cry fraud when they lose. Moreover, when an opposition member, a mayor, governor or parliamentarian, does enjoy an electoral victory they reject the results, claiming that they won by a much wider margin than that reported by the CNE. Some Chavistas also argue that if their opponents are so sure they can win on their own merits, why resort to desperate measures like sabotage, violence and spreading wild rumors of drug and human trafficking by Diosdado Cabello, President of National Assembly, top military commanders, and even President Maduro; or the absurd US sting operation, kidnapping and arresting 2 men in Haiti, falsely claiming they are nephews of Celia Flores’ (Maduro’s wife) to tarnish her image in the international media. It’s as pathetic as the US retaliation against Russia, using the IAAF and WADA to accuse Moscow of “state sponsored doping program” or responsibility for the terrorist attacks in Paris.     


Considering all the factors discussed above, it's impossible to predict the results of Sunday's elections. We conclude with mixed impressions that hopefully will show why this is so.

We will be surprised if the Venezuelan opposition gains control of the National Assembly, although it remains a possibility. There are 1300 opposition candidates competing for 167 deputy seats. Many of these entered the ring outside MUD so the opposition is splintered. Despite that, in the voting booth, members of the opposition will vote for the devil as long as the candidate opposes the government. By comparison, Chavismo as an organized political force has never been more unified. The sense among Chavistas among our circles is mixed. After being subjected to a year of economic attacks and sabotage, some are discouraged and yet others are more determined than ever to defend the revolution.

The following images, borrowed from Venezuela Analysis, provide details about the election, the powers and the limits of the National Assembly

The opposition may gain some additional seats but, again, we think it unlikely they will gain control. Opposition candidates who lose their bid for election will reject the results and continue with the same post-election formula - sabotage of infrastructure, food hoarding, etc., punctuated with a dramatic event now and then. Traditionally, the opposition has always been strongest in the large urban centers while Chavismo has ruled in the countryside, towns and smaller cities. We suspect that rank and file members of the opposition are more certain of victory, as their leaders have led them to believe, but that the leaders are less so. Moreover, judging from their energy and numbers in the marches and PSUV campaigns, the Chavista population doesn’t appear to have fallen into the trap of overconfidence and complacency. Many are indeed worried, well aware of what they have to lose.

Biography, Essays
and Poetry by Les Blough

© Copyright 2015 by 

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