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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Strengths and Weaknesses of pro-government political
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.
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:
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.
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