Socialist Worker

Right mobilises in Venezuela as left wing president faces crisis

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2553

President Nicolas Maduro and supporters

President Nicolas Maduro and supporters


For the second time in three years mass, violent protests by the right wing have provoked a political crisis in Venezuela.

At least 29 people have been killed. President Nicolas Maduro, the heir to Hugo Chavez, has responded with plans to rewrite the constitution, while the vengeful old elite and their imperialist sponsors exploit economic chaos.

Venezuela’s economy, centred on oil exports, has been in a tailspin since the collapse in world oil prices in 2014.

Inflation stands at 400 percent, and the national debt is rocketing towards bankruptcy.

For ordinary people this means severe shortages of essentials.

But the right wing opposition can only make things worse. Its protests have consisted of roadblocks, setting fires and smashing public buildings, street fighting and even assassinations of government loyalists.

Its leaders are the political heirs to those who staged the failed coup against Chavez in 2002 and the “Caracazo” massacre of protesters in 1989.

Right wing Venezuelan journalist Hugo Prieto hinted at their agenda in the New York Times newspaper. He wrote that “the alternative would be a military intervention to install a national unity government”.

US president Donald Trump said he would look into wide-ranging sanctions on Venezuela’s economy. The US currently has sanctions on some individual Venezuelan politicians and firms.

Sanctions would make the suffering of ordinary Venezuelans even worse. And it could pave the way to a revival of US power in a region it once dominated through client dictatorships.

Mobilisations 

There have been large pro-government demonstrations too. But these come alongside reports of mobilisations from poorer, historically pro-Chavez, areas joining the opposition movement.

The right and its US allies are the enemies of ordinary people across the continent. But Maduro has few answers to the crisis.

A 60 percent minimum wage increase announced on May Day sounds impressive, but means little in the face of hyper-inflation and the black market.

His main strategy has been to rely more on the army and repression. He has put troops on the streets, arbitrarily jailed people without trial, and hired paramilitary terror groups.

Maduro has now announced a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.

This is his last legal trump card since the right won a majority in parliament in 2015. The attorney general also blocked his attempt to suspend parliament last month.

Maduro has said that the assembly will be “made up of workers” with up to half its 500 members chosen “by the working class”. It is likely to be formed in a way that allows it to be dominated by his supporters and give him more powers.

Much of the international media have reported Venezuela’s troubles with glee—“proof” that socialism doesn’t work.

Writers for websites such as Conservative Home have tried to use Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Chavez as a way to attack Labour.

But under Chavez and Maduro Venezuela’s economy remained dominated by capitalist competition and the chaos of the market—and particularly the global oil market. This meant they compromised with capital and demoralised their own supporters.

The problem in Venezuela was not too much socialism—but not enough.


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