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Venezuela: The significance of Chavismo's regional elections victory

 

 

Jim McIlroy, Steve Ellner, Dario Azzellini and Ricardo Vaz dissect Venezuela’s October 15 regional election results and its significance for the Bolivarian Revolution.

 

Venezuela election result a blow to right-wing opposition, Trump

 

By Jim McIlroy

 

Green Left Weekly — The United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) victory in the October 15 elections for state governors is a major blow to the country’s right-wing opposition, as well as to its backers in Washington and Europe.

 

The victory also marks a significant step forward in the struggle to defend the gains of the almost two decade-long pro-poor Bolivarian Revolution, spearheaded by late former President Hugo Chavez.

 

According to results released by the National Electoral Council (CNE), the PSUV, led by President Nicolas Maduro, won 18 of 23 state governorships in the nationwide elections (compared to the 20 it won in the 2012 elections).

 

Overall, the PSUV lost five states it previously held but picking up three that were held by the opposition. The widely expected swing to the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) failed to materialise.

 

CNE President Tibisay Lucena announced on election night that 61.14% of Venezuela's 18-million-strong electorate had participated in the vote, the second-highest participation rate for any regional elections in the country.

 

Reporting on the elections for Venezueanalysis.com the following day, Lucas Koerner wrote: "The result defied forecasts of high abstention fuelled by the current economic crisis, as well as polls showing dissatisfaction with the leadership of both the government and political opposition."

 

"The PSUV won 54% of the total vote, marking a significant recovery since the ruling party's landslide defeat in the 2015 parliamentary elections when it garnered only 43.7% of the vote. “The pro-government upswing follows on the heels of the July 30 National Constituent Assembly (ANC) elections, which saw over eight million people turn out to vote amid deadly opposition protests and escalating US pressure."

 

The success of the ANC elections, in the face of condemnation by Western leaders and the international corporate media, as well as violent protests by semi-fascist sections of the Venezuelan opposition, was a turning point in the class war being fought out in Venezuela at present.

 

It represented a declaration by ordinary Venezuelan people that they are willing to stand up and defend the social gains of the Bolivarian Revolution, which include free health care, education, public housing, social welfare and a deep process of people’s empowerment through active grassroots participation in decision-making.

 

It was also a further move in the direction of Chavez's goal of building a bottom-up "communal state" based on grassroots democracy and people’s participation, in opposition to the existing capitalist state bureaucracy.

 

The future of Venezuela's popular revolution, which has transformed the country by empowering the poor and beginning the process of transitioning towards what Chavez called "21st century socialism" had been imperilled by an all-out offensive led by Venezuela’s oligarchy and its international backers, particularly the US and Organization of American States secretary general Luis Almagro.

 

The offensive was carried out in co-ordination with the international corporate media which unleashed a ferocious campaign of fake news against the Maduro government internationally.

 

This offensive falsely branded the Venezuelan government as a "dictatorship," and led to escalating sanctions and even threats of direct military intervention from US President Donald Trump.

 

This international imperialist offensive against Venezuela is the latest, and perhaps most crucial, phase in a drive by world capitalism to turn back the so-called "Pink Tide" of progressive governments and social movement mobilisations in Latin America.

 

In recent years, left-of-centre governments in Paraguay, Brazil and Honduras have been overthrown via so-called constitutional coups.

 

Washington and its allies hope that by bringing down the Maduro government, they can strike a decisive blow against the popular mobilisations that have resulted in significant progressive changes in Latin America over the last 20 years.

 

The results of the October 15 elections in Venezuela have dealt a serious setback to this counter-revolutionary offensive.

 

However, while this reversal in electoral fortunes for the PSUV and the Chavista movement are important, it can only be temporary unless the popular forces in Venezuela regroup and launch a radical renovation of the revolutionary process that has made Venezuela the leading force of the Latin American revolution in the 21st century.

 

Strong measures to restructure and restabilise the economy, and a rebirth of the communal councils, communes and social missions which uniquely define the Bolivarian Revolution, are essential if the counter-revolution is to be decisively defeated. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan right wing and Western imperialism are preparing to strike back.

 

The MUD is crying foul and disputing the elections results, despite having no credible evidence of electoral fraud. The Trump administration is warning of increased sanctions against Venezuela following the elections, as is the European Union and Canada.

 

Any threat to Venezuela – military, political or economic – by the US and its Western allies must be strongly opposed with all the strength we can muster.

 

This is a vital question of international solidarity, in the interests not only of the Venezuelan and Latin American people, but the world labour and progressive movement.

 

Left and progressive forces around the world must redouble their efforts to defend the Venezuelan people and their Bolivarian Revolution in this time of acute need.

 

We must work hard to seek the broadest possible alliances in this mission, to expose the continuing campaign of lies and distortions directed against Venezuela, and to demand that our governments respect the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people and their democratically elected government.

 

[Jim McIlroy is a national co-convenor of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.]

 

The devil is in the details: the campaign against the economic war and corruption in Venezuela

 

By Steve Ellner

 

Steve Ellner's Blog — The resounding Chavista victory in the October 15 gubernatorial elections provides a golden opportunity to take bold measures to overcome shortcomings even while risking clashes with powerful individuals or groups. One important failure is the scant evidence that the Nicolas Maduro government has presented to the Venezuelan public to document the economic war being waged against Venezuela and its efforts to combat corruption, speculation and contraband. It is not enough for Maduro and other leaders to decry the machinations of adversaries and to repeatedly claim that Venezuela is a victim of an “economic war.” For the claim to be convincing, the government needs to reveal the specifics as to how the war is being waged and who the actors and accomplices are, and to expose their modus operandi.

 

There is no doubt in my mind that the economic war waged by national and international actors to a great extent accounts for the nation’s pressing economic problems. One just needs to consider glaring facts, extrapolate and use a bit of common sense. Venezuela’s Chamber of Commerce (Fedecámaras), after spearheading the April 2002 coup attempt, created scarcities in a second attempt to oust Chávez beginning in December of that year – and that was even before he declared himself a socialist. Then consider the twice-issued Obama decree declaring Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security, followed by Trump’s threats of military intervention and his financial sanctions against the Venezuelan oil industry. These pronouncements sent signals to the private sector to pull out of Venezuela. The effects of the pronouncements on private investment are undoubtedly more pronounced than when the IMF rejects a funding request from a third-world country.

 

There are only two interpretations of the significance of these aggressive postures by two U.S. presidents. Or they constitute nothing more than bluster with no real effect on the ground, or they have very real repercussions and/or reflect other clandestine or behind-the-scenes actions. There is no doubt in my mind, that the latter hypothesis is the closest to reality. Put another way: There is a relationship between the visible efforts by powerful actors, such as U.S. presidents, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and his ilk, the corporate media, etc., to discredit the Venezuelan government and the decision of GM, Clorox, Kimberly Clark, numerous airlines, etc. to pull out of Venezuela. In short, there is a political motive behind the investment decisions of international capital as well as local capital (such as Alimentos Polar which produces in Colombia and Texas what they previously produced in Venezuela).

 

Many Venezuelans do not appreciate the impact of this economic war and some are actually skeptical that it exists at all. Maduro and other Chavista leaders are partially responsible for this failure to grasp the intensity and effectiveness of the politically-inspired economic war. Maduro, following in Chávez’s footsteps, puts the accent mark on his government’s positive achievements and in effect downplays the hardships that people are facing on a daily basis. Such a communication strategy has its pros and cons. But regardless of how much he plays up government achievement in a moment of great difficulties, Maduro needs to provide concrete evidence to back his claim of the existence of an “economic war” since otherwise the term becomes a hollow phrase.

 

An example of this communication shortcoming is the failure to refute the explanations of numerous airlines over recent months to suspend flights to Venezuela. Delta, United, Lufthansa, Avianca, Iberia, Aeromexico and AeroArgentina have pulled out of Venezuela, while American has canceled many of its flights including those to New York. The airlines offer completely different explanations for their decision and none of them are convincing. American says that it is because of insecurity, but if that is the reason why have they not eliminated all flights? Furthermore, I have seen personally the routine ground transportation of the airline crews in special vehicles from Maiquetía to a neighboring hotel with no appearance of danger at all. Another argument, that the government owes the airlines money, is not at all convincing either. The debt stems from the period when Venezuelans could purchase tickets in bolívares and the government was supposed to convert the bolívares into dollars for the airlines, but that practice was ended about three years ago. So why did the airlines choose the period of heightened political conflict manifested by the guarimba protests in 2017 to discontinue flights?

 

In August, National Constituent Assembly (ANC) deputy Jacobo Torres delivered a speech in which he referred to the suspension of flights as an example of the economic war. Chavista leaders, however, have to refute the justifications presented by the airlines, one by one. Calling this part of the “economic war” – which indeed it is – is not enough. Airport talk among travelers typically blames Maduro for the difficulties incurred by passengers, rather than the airlines. Specific information is what is needed. The devil is in the details.

 

Another example of the explanatory shortcoming is the problem of the absence of circulating currency. This has been nothing less than an ordeal for the entire nation cutting across class lines. People wait on long lines in and outside of banks and usually are able to withdraw only 10,000 bolivares or less per day. That is the equivalent of less than 50 U.S. cents. I have conducted an unofficial survey of explanations offered by Chavista sympathizers. The fact that different theories are floating around regarding the cause of the shortage of bills, and that even Chavistas are unclear as to what is happening, is clear evidence of a communication problem on the part of the government.

 

One unexpected bright spot is the anti-corruption efforts of recently appointed Attorney General Tarek William Saab in what he is calling a “crusade". Importantly, he has the backing of Maduro as well as the state infrastructure including different police forces. On various occasions the Attorney General has addressed the nation presenting details of important state functionaries as well as businesspeople and in some cases members of state security forces who have been arrested. He presents names of the culprits and details of their operations as well as his own efforts. For instance, today (October 18) he indicated that a bank account has been opened in one of the state banks where the bills that were confiscated are being deposited. The explicitness of Saab’s presentations contrasts with operations in the past, in which names and other details of the accused were not presented. Apparently the government acquiesced to Fedecámaras’ insistence that businesspeople accused of wrongdoing should be considered innocent until a judge’s verdict indicates the contrary.

 

Following the Chavista electoral victory on October 15, Chavista leaders have begun to talk of a reactivation (“reimpulso”) and renovation of the Chavista movement and the need for elected officials to be more in tune with the people and more open to criticism. These calls were expressed in the ANC’s session of accreditation of elected governors on October 18. ANC president Delcy Rodríguez, elected governor of Lara Carmen Melendez and elected governor of Miranda Héctor Rodríguez all articulated this message. To be effective, the renovation has to include a new type of discourse which bypasses empty generalizations and stresses the specific, concrete aspects of the problems effecting people’s daily lives and the specific actions that are being taken to alleviate those problems.

 

Analysis of regional elections in Venezuela

 

By Dario Azzellini

 

Chavismo won 18 out of 23 regional governments, the opposition won 5. The governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and allied parties won in the states of Amazonas, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Bolívar, Carabobo, Cojedes, Delta Amacuro, Falcon, Guarico, Lara, Miranda, Monagas, Sucre, Trujillo, Yaracuy, and Vargas. The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) alliance won 5 states: the Democratic Action (AD) party won Anzoátegui, Merida, Nueva Esparta, and Táchira; Primero Justicia won the strategic oil-rich northwestern border state of Zulia. While the results for 22 states were announced a few hours after polls closed, the votes in Bolívar were recounted due to the small margin between winner Justo Noguera Petri of the government forces coalition and the opposition candidate Andres Velasquez. Petri finally won with 276,655 votes, while the MUD-candidate gathered 275,184 votes.

 

According to the National Electoral Council (CNE) 61.14 percent of Venezuela’s 18 million electorate participated in the regional elections, the second highest voter turnout in regional elections after the 65.45 percent turnout in 2008. The PSUV and allies won 54% of the total vote on a national level, marking an important recovery since their huge defeat in the 2015 parliamentary elections when they won only 40.8% of the vote. The right-wing opposition coalition MUD won 45% of the vote.

 

In the 2015 parliamentary elections, participation had been 75%. While the PSUV has more or less maintained their electorate in absolute numbers, the opposition lost 2.2 million votes relative to 2015.

 

In the regional elections of 2012 government parties won 20 out of 23 regions. But most media and polls were expecting them to lose much more states than they did. The economic crisis since 2014, the violent opposition protests causing 140 deaths, US pressure and the international economic and financial boycott of Venezuela, high inflation, scarcity of food, medicine and other basic goods (due to speculation, smuggling, high prices, intentional economic boycott, but also to corruption, government mismanagement and failure in economic and financial policies) had reduced popular support for the government significantly and some political sectors and former Chavista politicians had withdrawn their support for the Maduro government while discontent was widespread. But polls predicting opposition victory in almost all states six months ago began shifting rapidly towards a Chavista victory over the past 2-3 months.

 

What happened?

 

- First it is important to state that there is no evidence of fraud, as some opposition politicians claim and many international media and politicians suggest. Venezuela has an electronic voting system and the vote is also printed so that there can be a manual recount. The correct functioning of the electoral machines was checked and approved by representatives of the opposition before the elections. The electoral system asks for a manual audit of 54.4% of the votes, nevertheless president Maduro called on the electoral council to carry out a “100 percent audit” of all paper ballots from Sunday’s vote. International observers were present during the elections and confirmed that there was no evidence of fraud or even of the possibility of fraud.

 

- The strategy of the opposition to spread violence and terror on the streets alienated a good part of its own electorate, especially because barricades and violence were concentrated very much in the opposition’s strongholds and neighborhoods. Entire neighborhoods were literally taken hostage by violent groups that made it impossible for residents to live a normal life. And the longer the violent protests lasted, the more they were taken over by gangs and groups forcing people to pay when they wanted to pass the barricades to go to work or buy groceries. Finally, the strategy did not show the expected result of bringing down the Maduro government.

 

- The opposition is divided. The radical factions of the opposition did not agree with participating in regional elections and called for a boycott.

 

- The July 30 National Constituent Assembly (ANC) elections, with a turnout of over eight million people, brought back peace and put back on the offensive the Chavista rank and file after years of paralysis, desperation and defensive acting. The opposition called for a boycott of the ANC elections, and then said there had been a massive fraud and that participation was much lower than the government said. It refused to recognize the results. Nevertheless, it seems they know the turnout was as high as the government announced: after the ANC elections they immediately stopped the violent mobilization to topple the government and a majority of the opposition agreed to participate in the regional elections, something they would not have done if they really believed that the government had lost almost all its support and that its overthrow was imminent.

 

- The elections for the ANC proved to be a good idea, even if I think the way they happened was not as good: public debate was not broad enough and the electoral machine of the PSUV imposed the party candidates without leaving much space for radical Chavista and social movement candidates. Nevertheless, the ANC-elections reinvigorated rank and file Chavismo that had been paralyzed over the past few years in order not to provoke violent confrontation with the opposition mobilization. With the call for the ANC elections, and since then, movements, rank and file activists from different sectors (neighborhoods, women/feminists, communes, peasants, workers, ecologists etc.) have once again started meeting, discussing, mobilizing, and pressuring with and around the ANC. The widespread feeling of desperation, of not being able to do anything, the feeling of having to hide one’s Chavista identity, was blown away. The ANC also brought back to Chavismo many rank and file supporters that had stopped supporting government Chavismo in the past. I have several of them as Facebook friends, for example workers from Bolivar’s heavy industries, who had turned their backs on government Chavismo because of corruption and the missed opportunity to transform the heavy industries sector, who suddenly started mobilizing for the ANC.

 

The result is also problematic for the government. To have lost Zulia, Táchira and Merida puts it in a difficult situation. The three states in the northwest, bordering Colombia, are the entry door for paramilitarism, and the main corridor for the smuggling and extraction of Venezuelan subsidized food and gasoline. The three states are also the base for a possible “half-moon” strategy formulated by some sectors of the opposition in the past: to follow a secessionist strategy and declare a parallel government. Zulia is also the region with a majority of oil fields. After having lost the option of winning easily through elections, the opposition will also be less inclined to negotiate with the government and instead try to mobilize more international support for the economic and financial strangulation and international isolation of Venezuela. The US, Canada, the EU and the right-wing governments in Latin America are very likely to follow and support these calls by extreme right-wing opposition sectors in Venezuela.

 

Despite important victories in some key states, the opposition MUD alliance refused to recognize the electoral results

 

– but accepts its own victories

 

– and accuses the government of fraud. MUD campaign leader Gerardo Blyde rejected the outcome and said it was “not reliable.” He accused the government of having provoked the opposition defeat criticizing that the CNE for relocating 334 voting centers, mainly because they were in opposition areas and targeted by violence during the elections to the ANC, and noting that some withdrawn opposition candidates were still listed on the ballots. The accusations are ridiculous, the relocation was announced weeks ago and done for a good reason. Moreover, transport was installed to bring voters to new election sites. And many people from poor neighborhoods have had to travel miles without organized transport in all the past elections and they voted. The opposition never complained about it. The fact that some opposition candidates were still listed on the ballots was simply due to the fact that they missed the due date to officially withdraw.

 

Some opposition candidates also admitted their defeat, such as Henri Falcón, former governor of Lara, who lost by a 17-point margin to his PSUV challenger Carmen Melendez. And the Carabobo opposition candidate also recognized his defeat. The former opposition governor of Delta Amacuro, who did not run again for office, blamed the opposition, their divisions and their choice of candidate, for having lost the elections. And AD leader Henry Ramos Allup, a main player in the opposition alliance, especially now that his party has 4 of the 5 opposition governors, called on aggressive right-wing secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro to stop giving external advise to the Venezuelan opposition.

 

The result is a huge victory for Chavismo and puts it in a position of strength - after having been for 3 years against the wall. The economic and political crisis had pushed the government to reduce participation, rely on centralization and top down decisions, and open up to transnational capital. The government now has to urgently deal with the economic and financial situation, combat corruption effectively, democratize the PSUV and go back to the participative politics that marked the Chávez era, by again strengthening communes and community councils and going back to support workers control and self-management. If the government does not do this it seems unlikely that it will be able to repeat their victory in the presidential elections in 2018.

 

Venezuela Regional Elections: chavismo triumphant, opposition in disarray and media in denial

 

By Ricardo Vaz

 

Investig'Action — As the President of the Venezuelan Electoral Commission (CNE) read the results from the regional elections that took place on Sunday, October 15, one could feel the agony in the editorial rooms of mainstream media outlets. Chavismo had just won 18 out of 23[1] governorships, a result that, according to them, could not have happened. International observers praised the electoral process and opposition claims of fraud, while uncritically echoed by the media, do not have a leg to stand on.

 

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) had a tremendous victory in these elections. Among the three quarters of the governorships secured, some were quite significant. Hector Rodríguez, a young and charismatic chavista leader, won the governorship of Miranda state back from the opposition. Miranda includes part of Caracas and was the main hotspot of opposition violence in recent months. Another example was Chávez’s home state of Barinas which also saw some unrest in recent months. Chávez’s younger brother Argenis was the candidate and the state was successfully held by the PSUV.

 

The opposition lost all three governorships won in 2012 (Miranda, Amazonas and Lara) and won five others (Anzoátegui, Mérida, Nueva Esparta, Táchira and Zulia), with three of them being on the border with Colombia and raising some fears of increased paramilitary activity. Overall participation was 61%, compared to 54% five years ago, and the PSUV had 54% of the vote, some 5.6M votes. This marked a complete reversal from the legislative elections of 2015. It showed that chavismo’s core support remains very strong, and that, due to its less than coherent actions, it was the opposition that failed to mobilise its supporters.

 

The media reaction was one for the history books. Having not paid much attention to these elections, the run-up had just the same recycled narrative: “if the elections are free and fair, the opposition will win by a landslide”. Once the results came out, rather than look to understand them and figure out what had gone wrong in their predictions, the media simply went down the rabbit hole. According to their biased narrative and historically inaccurate polls, this simply was not possible.

 

The evidence to back this impossibility was also less than convincing. There were the usual unsubstantiated, or easily disproved, claims of “fraud” (more on that later). The New York Times added the very scientific claim that “turnout appeared to be lower”, while Reuters, with its ever decreasing credibility, went further and talked about voters being forced to vote at gunpoint. Several analysts were paraded to claim that this result was not possible, some even argued it was “inconceivable”. It seems like these journalists and analysts have violated one of the cardinal rules of (information) trafficking: don’t get high on your own supply. Simply put, they have started believing too much in their own propaganda.

 

A resounding defeat for the Venezuelan opposition

 

Let us look at the actions of the US-backed Venezuelan opposition in the recent past. First they kicked off a wave of street violence in April that left more than 100 dead (most of them caused by opposition violence). With the media propaganda in overdrive they claimed they were on the verge of “tumbling the dictatorship”. But barring a few isolated occasions, the violence never spread far beyond the opposition strongholds, mainly in eastern Caracas.

 

After Maduro proposed the Constituent Assembly, the opposition refused to participate and claimed that they would stop it from taking place. They even staged their own “referendum” to reject the Constituent Assembly and call for intervention of the armed forces. But in what was a massive chavista show of strength, as well as a rejection of opposition violence, more than 8M people voted on July 30th. All the opposition, and the media, could do was claim that the figure was false, based on shoddy exit polls and unsubstantiated claims from Smartmatic[2]. These elections and the swearing in of the Constituent Assembly effectively brought peace to the streets.

 

So after all the talk of tumbling the dictatorship and demanding that Maduro step down, the opposition turned to their supporters, and with a straight face asked them to go out and vote in the regional elections. Some of the more hardline factions refused to take part (and are now chiding the leadership for having done so) but most of the opposition parties carried on with the absurd discourse of “voting against the dictatorship”. In the end the absurdity caught up to them and the result was a resounding defeat. And then, like clockwork, the opposition claimed the results were fraudulent. Frankly, what else was left for them to do? They can send the defeated candidates to Washington DC and continue forming their “government in exile”.[3]

 

Fraudulent “fraud” claims

 

If the media coverage of Venezuela had any vestige of honesty, articles would explain how the voting works, so that this “fraud” allegations can be put into context. In a nutshell, voters mark their vote in a machine, a paper ballot is printed, and if this matches the electronic vote, they deposit the paper ballot in a box. After the voting is completed, an audit is conducted in 54.4% of the voting centres, randomly selected. This consists of tallying up the paper ballots and seeing if they match, up to a very small margin, against the electronic tally. This ensures that statistically the results are pretty much final, and that is what the CNE President Tibisay Lucena means when she says the results are “irreversible”.

 

Chavista, opposition and international monitors take part in pre-voting checks, are present at voting centres during the day, and they are also present during this audit. At the end of this process they sign an act (acta). So it is very hard to claim there was actual electoral fraud. In fact, defeated opposition candidate in Miranda, Carlos Ocariz, said himself that he had the acts and that was not the problem. Therefore it is ridiculous for France and the US State Dept. to claim there is anything wrong with the tabulation process.

 

The main “fraud” complaint in the media were that over 200 voting centres (out of 13.500) had been relocated away from areas where the opposition is strongest and into traditionally pro-government areas. What, conveniently, was left unsaid, is that these were centres that could not open for the Constituent Assembly elections because of opposition violence, which makes the CNE’s security concerns more than justified.

 

There were also protests that opposition candidates that had lost a (contentious) primary vote were left on the ballot, with the CNE arguing that the requests to remove them from the ballot were not filed on time. But looking at the results, all the contests were virtually two-horse races, with hardly any votes for third-placed candidates and with the winner taking over 50% of the vote, so any consequence of this was negligible (with the possible exception of Bolívar).

 

Another complaint was that some of the voting centres did not open on time. But given that, even after polls close at 6PM, everyone who is standing in line still gets to vote, this complaint does not hold water. All in all, the Venezuelan opposition, their sponsors, and the media, would have the world believe the elections were fraudulent because middle-class voters did not want to wait in line and much less see poor people on their way to vote.

 

The road ahead

 

It is hard to see where the Venezuelan opposition can go from here, with signs of in-fighting already clear. With their “doomsday cult” behaviour they are unlikely to have any success in reactivating the street violence, and thus their fate rests essentially on what the US empire can do. They will be hoping that (more) sanctions can inflict enough pain on the Venezuelan people to give them a chance of winning the presidential election next year. The most fanatical ones might hope that Trump follows through on the threats of military intervention.

 

One thing they can count on is the unwavering, unconditional support from the mainstream media. While opposition voters and supporters may use their memory and call out the inconsistencies and contradictions, no such thing is to be expected from the media. They will keep echoing claims that there was fraud in these elections, that the turnout on July 30 was inflated, and continue to milk the story of the former prosecutor who goes around saying she has proof of corruption involving high government officials. As with everything that can be used against the Bolivarian government, no evidence is ever needed.

 

As for chavismo, it is unquestionable that the two most recent electoral showings have been tremendous victories. Western analysts time and again fail to grasp the vitality of the Bolivarian Revolution, and belittle chavistas either as brainwashed zealots or people who simply fear losing their benefits[4]. The reality is that, even through a deep economic war/crisis that has hit them hard, and regardless of what the leadership should have done differently, the Venezuelan poor and working-class still see this project as their own, one in which they are actors and not just spectators.

 

Maduro’s term has arguably seen chavismo playing defence all the time, with an economic war, a steep drop in oil prices, two incarnations of guarimba violence and constant international pressure and sanctions. Fresh off this electoral win and with the Constituent Assembly in place, it is imperative that chavismo seizes the moment to radicalise, to go on the offensive, with a year to go until the presidential elections. The support that it has retained through this storm should not be taken for granted, and there is now a window to fight corruption, increase working-class control in the economy, increase the influence of the communes, etc. This is not just a matter of keeping the grassroots involved, this is how the economic war will be won, this is how socialism will be built.

 

Notes

 

(1) The initial results were only final for 22 out of the 23 states. In the southern state of Bolívar the PSUV candidate was later confirmed to be the winner in a tight contest.

 

(2) Smartmatic, the company responsible for the software in the voting machines, claimed that “without any doubt” the turnout had been inflated by at least 1M votes. The claim was rejected by Venezuelan electoral authorities because the company does not have access to electoral data. Several solidarity organisations delivered a letter to Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica on September 8 demanding that the company either present evidence for its claims or issue an apology. There has been no response to this day.

 

(3) Right on cue, Maria Corina Machado has urged the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which has been in contempt of court since mid-2016, to nominate new electoral authorities. One hopes there is enough office space in OAS headquarters in Washington DC.

 

(4) If only they had a deep and mature political understanding such as the opposition and their “we do not want to be Cuba” slogans…

 

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