Venezuela: Right-wing intensifies street violence
The right-wing campaign of violence and terror has accelerated in the lead up to the July 30 Constituent Assembly elections in Venezuela. They fascist-style tactics aimed at maximizing the harm to the public and public property, combined with the targeted killings of supporters of the revolution – worker and peasant leaders, students and soldiers. According to Telesur at least 94 people have been killed since the new wave of opposition-led street violence began in early April. In addition to those killed, over 1200 have been injured. A majority of the victims have been people who were not participating in any protest. The violence has also been aimed against public infrastructure in general: schools, hospitals, popular markets, food shortage deposits, electricity infrastructure, public transport, and government institutions.
The strategy is the use of street violence to sow political instability and economic sabotage to demoralize and demobilize the base of support for the revolution and the overall population. Internationally, the corporate media runs a campaign to paint Venezuela as a ‘failed state’ and the government as a ‘dictatorship’ against the people.
Economic sabotage has been a weapon of the counter-revolution in Venezuela, used against the government of President Hugo Chavez during the oil-lockout of 2002-2003, to this day. The economic impact of the decline in global oil prices, has been intensified through a brutal campaign of deliberate and protracted economic sabotage that has included induced shortages and spiraling inflation, as a consequence of the manipulation of the illegal exchange rate. Workers have taken strike action against companies such as General Motors, for deliberately slowing down production, to sabotage the economy. The government also points out that the price of Venezuela’s debt has been increased by international finance institutions, despite the country fulfilling all its financial commitments.
The opposition, however, would be insignificant without active and committed support from the U.S. government. According to a 2007 U.S. strategic document leaked by former CIA-whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, Venezuela was seen as the main adversary of the United States in the Western Hemisphere. Since at least 2009 the U.S. Department of State has budgeted at least US$49 million in total to support right-wing opposition forces in Venezuela. U.S. government funds have now become a mainstay of the U.S. State Department congressional budget for foreign operations. In May the Trump administration slapped sanctions against Venezuela’s Supreme Court judges, freezing any money they have in U.S. banks, making it illegal for U.S. citizens to conduct any transactions with them and prohibiting them from getting visas to travel to the United States. The U.S. government is predictably silent on the widespread violence of the right-wing opposition groups that they fund.
The Maduro government is attempting to find political means to resolve the crisis through the establishment of a Constituent Assembly which has been designed to strengthen the voices at the grassroots and the population as a whole. The establishment of the assembly, also referred to as the “assembly for peace”, was announced by the Maduro government on May Day this year. The aims are threefold -- to break the deadlock between the government, the congress and the judiciary, to end the violence and restore peace in the streets and to give working people greater power in decision making.
The election campaign for the assembly began on July 9. Around 6000 candidates will stand for 545 seats. These include 364 territorial seats based on municipalities and state capitals, 173 sectoral seats and 8 seats for indigenous communities with the selection of candidates based on indigenous traditions. The government states that the sectoral seats, elected by the various sectors including students, pensioners, campesinos, fishers, the communal councils and workers, is an attempt to go beyond representative democracy and integrate mechanisms of direct democracy. The workers will have the largest representation of all the sectors – 79 seats divided between 9 industries and areas of employment. The opposition has claimed that this form of direct democracy is unconstitutional, but their real concern seems to be the lack of support for the right wing, amongst the popular sectors.
* Reihana Mohideen is the coordinator of the Philippines Venezuela Solidarity Network (Phil-Ven-Sol).