Venezuela has been in U.S. crosshairs since social democrat Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1998 by a massive outpouring of poor and working-class voters. His election marked an impressive victory over a much-hated, neoliberal regime of privatization and impoverishment, and his revolutionary rhetoric inspired hope for fundamental change.
Four years later, millions of these same voters filled the streets to overturn a U.S.-engineered coup intended to replace the president by force — and won!
Never before had U.S. imperialism suffered such a defeat at the hands of ordinary people in this hemisphere. But the price of victory has been high.
For the past 10 years, the U.S. — allied with a displaced, right-wing sector of the Venezuelan oligarchy — has savaged the country by inflicting one economic sanction after another.
In January 2019, this ongoing attempt to sabotage what Chavez called the Bolivarian Revolution took a serious turn when Juan Guaidó, speaker of the right-wing National Assembly, declared himself interim president after meeting with Vice President Pence — this despite the fact that Nicolás Maduro already held the position!
Now the Trump administration is attempting to provoke a military coup or a popular insurrection against President Maduro by creating a crisis over the delivery of so-called “humanitarian” aid. But many of the terrible conditions in Venezuela today can be laid at the feet of U.S. imperialism.
The Bolivarian Revolution. Chavez was elected on the promise to improve the lives of workers, the poor (especially women), and indigenous people. As long as the price of oil remained high, the standard of living in Venezuela rose as Chavez used government funds to provide food and housing subsidies, build schools, open health clinics, and pay basic wages for housework. After the reversal of the 2002 coup, he renationalized PDVSA, an enormous Venezuelan oil and gas company, and in 2006 he was re-elected with 63 percent of the vote.
Then the price of oil began to fall in 2008, and though it rebounded several times, it caused cutbacks in social programs and created economic turmoil.
Behind the crisis. It is estimated that Venezuela’s inflation rate will reach 10 million percent in 2019 as the government prints more and more money to deal with a growing economic crisis partially of its own making, and partially a product of U.S. sanctions.
First and foremost, the blame for the crisis lies with U.S. imperialism. It has frozen government funds in foreign banks and restricted trade, thereby denying Maduro’s administration the ability to buy food and medicine. It has continuously backed the still enormously rich Venezuelan oil magnates in hopes it can hand power back to this group so that U.S. oil companies can profit once again from the country’s vast reserves.
Most importantly, the Trump administration wants to deliver a decisive defeat to Venezuela’s working class and poor. What better example to the world that resistance to imperialism and efforts to build socialism are futile?
Still, Maduro shares responsibility for the current catastrophe. Instead of correcting the failures of the Bolivarian Revolution, he has grown rich while the people suffered.
Chavez declared the country socialist but paradoxically promised to transform capitalism with a constitution that enshrined private property. So, when he nationalized PDVSA, he paid the owners a fantastic sum; he also made billions in interest payments to local capitalists and international investors. In addition, Chavez bribed the military establishment which enriched itself through government contracts, embezzlement and fraud while the government borrowed heavily for social programs, leaving the country in tremendous debt. Above all, he did nothing to restructure the economy by nationalizing major industries under the control of workers.
In short, the social democratic Bolivarian Revolution has spent the last 17 years trying to appease an international capitalist system that wants it dead.
In the meantime, support for the revolution dwindled because people’s lives became more precarious. By the time Maduro was elected in 2013, lower voter turnout revealed the erosion. To make things worse, the government stepped up firing workers, breaking strikes, jailing dissidents, and the president became increasingly authoritarian, turning to the military for support against protesters and the U.S.
U.S. hands off Venezuela! Trump seized the opportunity in his recent State of the Union Address to denounce socialism in general and Venezuela in particular, displaying for all the world to see that anti-communism is still a major motivator for U.S. imperialism. In Venezuela, the goal is to clamp down on the Venezuelan people and bring their government back under the eagle’s wing so the entire country can be looted once again.
Trump apparently fails to grasp the enormous hypocrisy of the U.S. demanding “democratic” elections in Venezuela while at the same time fomenting a military coup. But not so the world. History teaches its own lessons. One of them arises from the 68 regime-change operations the U.S. has initiated since 1945 including several in Venezuela. None of these has ever been a selfless act based on brotherly love and spreading democracy.
Clearly it is not for the U.S. government to “solve” the problems of Venezuela. That job belongs to Venezuelan workers, indigenous people, peasants and the poor. They are the only force who have the interest of the majority at heart — because they are the majority.
• No coup or U.S. military invasion!
• End U.S. sabotage of the Venezuelan economy and interference in the country’s internal affairs.
• For workers’ ownership and control of state industries, foreign companies and joint enterprises.
• For a socialist Venezuela in a socialist world!