On 20 May, Venezuela held presidential elections, with Nicolás Maduro standing as a candidate for a second six-year term in office. His party, the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) is totally committed to the principle of the redistribution of national wealth in favour of the poor and under-privileged – a policy that it has pursued unswervingly throughout the years it has been in government, be it under Hugo Chávez until his death or under his successor Nicolás Maduro.
Obviously, this policy is a total anathema to the ‘international community’, ie, the monopolist multi-billionaire moneybags who control the governments and media of the imperialist countries but whose appetite for ever greater profit can never be sated. This is why the PSUV governments and their respective leaders have been under constant attack, threatened by attempted coups, attacked by an internal comprador opposition heavily financed by imperialism, and subjected to swingeing economic sanctions.
In addition to that, the inherent and unavoidable ills of capitalism (in particular the 2008 economic crisis and its aftermath) have attacked with unprecedented ferocity, so that the price of Venezuela’s principal export, oil (whose proceeds of sale have helped underpin the extensive measures taken to improve the wellbeing of the people), has plunged catastrophically on the international market.
All this has led to deteriorating economic conditions for the people of Venezuela, which imperialism and its comprador hangers-on had hoped would turn the Venezuelan masses against the PSUV and Nicolás Maduro. But as it happens, and as the polls were predicting, Maduro was returned to the presidential office with a massive two-thirds plus of the vote.
Although voting and abstention figures show that the economic hardships have had a demoralising effect on a small minority of the population, the majority have shown the indomitable revolutionary spirit to vote in the interests of their proletarian class rather than as directed by the bourgeois media that predominate in Venezuela.
It is generally well understood by the Venezuelan electorate that the response to economic difficulties “advocated by all wings of the opposition (and … [having] the backing of imperialism), is a brutal adjustment plan, including cuts to social and state spending, lifting of subsidies, abolition of subsidised food parcels, privatisation of state-owned companies and natural resources and mass layoffs in public and private sector companies.
“That would be a complete disaster for working people and would be accompanied by a clamp-down on democratic rights.” (Maduro wins presidential election, despite imperialist meddling – what next? by Jorge Martín, Venezuelanalysis, 22 May 2018)
Allegations of electoral fraud
Frustrated by the electoral defeat of the candidates preferred by imperialism – a defeat the polls had been consistently predicting – the imperialists and their toadies proclaimed that the presidential election was fraudulent before it had even taken place: “with opposition figures more discredited than ever, the US decided to pre-emptively unrecognise the vote, simply because an opposition victory is far from guaranteed.” (US State Department no longer wants elections in Venezuela by Ricardo Vaz, Investig’action, 6 March 2018)
The Times reported: “The powerhouse economies of Latin America have issued a ‘last call’ for President Maduro to suspend flawed elections in Venezuela this weekend or face crippling regional isolation.” (Cancel Venezuela vote or face sanctions, Maduro told by Stephen Gibbs, The Times, 16 May 2018)
Who are the Lima Group that issued the above call? Essentially, they are a group of countries run by comprador regimes, including Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Santa Lucia, Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala, plus imperialist Canada, ie, “an ad-hoc gang of right-wing, Latin-American governments, set up to issue statements in line with US imperialist policy when they cannot get a majority at the Organisation of American States (OAS) and other official bodies.” (Jorge Martín, op cit)
Not so long ago, Maduro was being excoriated for not holding elections, despite being under no constitutional obligation to do so. That was because imperialism judged that its minions had a fighting chance of winning. But now, when the opposition has no chance of success, elections are in advance denounced as fraudulent. Venezuela is damned if it holds elections and damned if it doesn’t; clearly, an election is only valid in the eyes of the bourgeois media if the imperialist-favoured candidate wins.
As for the election being ‘fraudulent’, this, in Venezuela (unlike in the US) is impossible: “Venezuela actually has one of the most transparent and fraud-proof election systems in the world. It developed such a system precisely because of the country’s pre-1998 experience with rampant fraud, which led to the development of an exceptionally secure voting system …
“It is a dual balloting system, in which paper ballots and electronic ballots are both cast and compared against one another. Also, every step of the process, from the voter registry, to the voting machines, to the fingerprint scanners, to the tabulation systems are thoroughly audited by election observers from all political parties. All of this makes Venezuela’s voting system far more secure and fraud-proof than practically any other voting system in the world. (Venezuela’s highly unusual presidential election by Greg Wilpert, Venezuelanalysis, 17 May 2018)
It is not possible to vote in Venezuela without having one’s fingerprint scanned to ensure it fits with one’s voter registration particulars, which will also confirm that the person has not already voted. The vote is electronically recorded, while at the same time the voter is handed a paper record of how they have voted that they can check before placing the paper record in a ballot box.
Ballot box votes are counted and totals must tally with the electronic voting tallies. The voting system is not connected to the internet and therefore cannot be hacked – not by the government and not by any of its opponents!
In fact, no less a person than José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, former Spanish prime minister, who acted as an international observer, gave positive feedback about the presidential elections, saying: “I do not have any doubt about the voting process. It is an advanced automatic voting system.”
The sanctions weapon
Furious at being rejected by the electorate, the Venezuelan opposition has actually been calling on US imperialism to extend further the sanctions against Venezuela that are having such a dire effect on the wellbeing of the masses, thereby ensuring that they lose even more support than they have already lost because of the terrorist tactics they were using not so long ago.
The Financial Times was among other bourgeois media reporting with smug satisfaction how the Venezuelan people are suffering as a result of sanctions: “Inflation, which has stalked the nation like a bloodhound for years, has finally dug in its fangs. It is now hyperinflation. Last year, consumer prices rose 2,500 percent, by far the highest rate in the world. This year, they are expected to soar 13,000 percent.
“When I first came in late 2016, there were 3,000 bolívares to the dollar at the black-market rate, the only rate that bears any relation to reality in this increasingly surreal economy. Today, there are close to 1m. Shopkeepers and their customers are having to think on their feet as prices change from day to day …
“Venezuelan salaries have plummeted in real terms. The monthly minimum wage is now … less than three dollars …
“Venezuelans need a genuine solution; crippling price rises are pushing more people into poverty and prompting thousands to flee the country.” (Trust is the new currency in the surreal Venezuelan economy by Gideon Long, Financial Times, 28 May 2018)
Unsurprisingly, the bourgeois media universally blame Maduro’s economic policies – most notable for redistribution of wealth in favour of the poor – for this disastrous situation. But, one might well ask, if Maduro’s economic policies are so totally incompetent, where is the need to impose crippling sanctions on Venezuela with a view to bringing about Maduro’s overthrow?
The truth is that President Maduro’s economic policies in themselves are damaging only to the interests of imperialism and its local comprador hangers-on. Now that international oil prices are once more rising, it is only the US sanctions that are responsible for hurting the interests of the Venezuelan masses.
There is such a high level of popular understanding of this in Venezuela that Foreign Policy, a magazine that is very much a mouthpiece of the more enlightened representatives of US imperialism, has been urging the US government to abandon the big stick approach in favour of a distribution of carrots that might be more effective in persuading the Venezuelan masses to turn their backs on their PSUV benefactors.
“Extensive academic research has shown that economic sanctions are rarely effective …
“Ninety-five percent of Venezuela’s export revenue comes from oil sold by the state-owned oil company. Cutting off the government’s access to dollars will leave the economy without the hard currency needed to pay for imports of food and medicine. Starving the Venezuelan economy of its foreign currency earnings risks turning the country’s current humanitarian crisis into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe.
“That’s what began to happen in 2017. Last year, Venezuela’s export revenues rose from $28bn to $32bn, buoyed by the recovery in world oil prices. Under normal conditions, a rise in a country’s exports would leave it with more resources to pay for its imports. But in the Venezuelan case, imports fell by 31 percent during the same year.
“The reason is that the country lost access to international financial markets. Unable to roll over its debt, it was forced to build up huge external surpluses to continue servicing that debt in a desperate attempt to avoid a default. Meanwhile, creditors threatened to seize the Venezuelan government’s remaining revenue sources if the country defaulted, including refineries located abroad and payments for oil shipments.
“US economic sanctions have stopped Venezuela from issuing new debt and blocked attempts to restructure its existing debt obligations. Major financial institutions have delayed the processing of all financial transfers from Venezuelan entities, significantly hampering the ability of Venezuelan companies to do business in the United States …
“Ever since the Vietnam war, most American policymakers have understood that foreign policy is not just about outgunning your opponent but also about winning the hearts and minds of the people. But 56 percent of Venezuelans oppose US financial sanctions; only 32 percent support them. When it comes to foreign military intervention in Venezuela, 57 percent of those surveyed were opposed …
“Venezuelans have good reason to be concerned that ordinary people will ultimately pay the price for sanctions. Recent data show that in the two months after Trump imposed financial sanctions, imports tumbled an additional 24 percent, deepening the scarcity of basic goods and lending credibility to the government’s argument that US policies are directly harming Venezuelans.
“Instead of undermining Maduro, sanctions are making it increasingly difficult for the country’s opposition to convince voters that the welfare of Venezuelans – rather than driving Maduro from power – is its real priority. It is not the first time the opposition has made this mistake.
“Back in 2002, opponents of then-President Chávez called for a massive strike in the country’s oil sector. The strike brought oil production to a standstill and caused a double-digit recession in an attempt to get Chávez to resign. This event single-handedly convinced Venezuelans that they could not trust a political movement that was willing to destroy the economy in order to attain power. In a recall referendum held two years later, voters resoundingly backed Chávez.” (Why more sanctions won’t help Venezuela by Francisco Rodríguez, Foreign Policy, 12 January 2018)
And voters today continue therefore to support his successor, Nicolás Maduro.
Maduro victory recognised by Russia and China
We are pleased to report that President Maduro’s victory was greeted with enthusiasm by both Russia and China. Indeed, Alexander Schetinin, director of the Latin-American department of the foreign ministry noted that Russia is often accused of meddling in other countries’ elections but in Venezuela’s case “some countries” have meddled indiscriminately – and we all know to which country in particular he was referring.
We leave the final observation to the renowned Argentinean footballer, Diego Maradona, who declared: “I’m very glad Maduro didn’t lose, because the United States would have taken over everything, just like they’re doing in Argentina.”