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Struggle in the PSUV -- `If the people don't stand firm, the right will screw it up!'
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Venezuela: Big stakes in November elections
By Kiraz Janicke & Federico Fuentes
Caracas, June 1, 2008 -- Following the December 2 constitutional reform referendum defeat — the first for the forces of the Bolivarian revolution since the election of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 1998 — and facing popular discontent at the problems holding back the advance of the process of change, the pro-revolution forces face a big challenge in securing an overwhelming victory in the November regional elections in order not to lose ground to the US-backed opposition.
Chavez, who described the upcoming regional elections as “the most
important in Venezuelan history”, outlined what is at stake: “Imagine
if the opposition groups managed to win the mayor of the Capital
District, the mayor of Caracas, the state of Miranda, the state of
Carabobo, Zulia, Tachira, Anzoategui … the next step would be war,
because they would come for me, once again we would be in the same
situation as April 11" he said in reference to the April 2002 US-backed
coup against the Chavez government.
Chavez’s list was no coincidence. Apart from being some of the most
strategic states in terms of population and economic strength, they are
also. along with Aragua, Lara, Merida and Nueva Esparta, states where
the opposition won a majority in the constitutional reform referendum.
If repeated in November, it could see the number of Chavista governors
reduced from 21 out of 23 to 14.
Such a result would provide a strengthened opposition with a launching
pad to intensify its campaign to remove Chavez through a recall
referendum in 2010 — or through more violent means.
In this context, the democratic primaries held by the
5.7-million-strong United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) on June
1, to choose candidates for the November 23 regional elections for
mayors and governors, are crucial for re-engaging and revitalising the
grassroots of the Chavista movement to push the revolution forward.
In the 2004 regional elections the Chavista alliance — at that time
predominately comprised of the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR —
Chavez’s then-party that has dissolved into the PSUV), Homeland For All
(PPT), Podemos and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) along with
smaller organisations — won 20 of the 22 governorships up for election
along with the mayor of the Capital District.
The Chavistas also won an overwhelming majority of the municipalities, as commentators talked of an electoral map painted red.
Opposition forces, demoralised by their crushing loss in the recall
referendum on Chavez’s presidency in August 2004 and claiming fraud
(although there was no evidence) and in large part abstained from the
regional elections in November.
This time the situation is not as favourable for the revolutionary
forces. Boosted by its victory in the December referendum, a recycled
opposition — presenting itself as removed from the old, discredited
parties — is attempting to run a united campaign (although public
clashes over seats in opposition strongholds are increasing) and can
count on a re-mobilised and confident supporter base.
They will also count on more moderate sectors from the Chavista
camp that have broken with the revolution since 2004 as the process of
change has radicalised — such as the social democratic Podemos. In
2004, Podemos was won two governorships.
The revolutionary forces were then in a period of ascendancy,
having defeated three attempts to depose Chavez — April 2002 coup,
December 2002-January 2003 bosses lockout and the 2004 recall
referendum. Today the mood is different.
Discontent, demoralisation and demobilisation have impacted on the
popular forces, as many blame bureaucracy and corruption for sabotaging
the revolutionary process — undermining both the social gains and
blocking genuine popular power.
Venezuela’s elite opposition, backed by US imperialism, has been
increasing its orientation toward the poor majority that make up
Chavez’s support base — adopting a populist discourse, such as “we want
to improve the missoins” (the government-funded social programs that
are helping solve the problems of the poor) and “build more houses for
It is seeking to take advantage of discontent to infiltrate the barrios
through what it calls “popular networks”, which according to
US-Venezuelan lawyer Eva Golinger, recieve money from the US
government-funded USAID. These networks work to spread rumours, promote
divisions among Chavistas and mobilise people against the government.
It can be expected that the opposition will employ the same tactics
in the lead up to the elections that worked for them in the
constitutional reform referendum, such as extra-parliamentary
destabilisation — including violent protests and economic sabotage —
combined with a virulent campaign of media manipulation and lies to
create a climate of crisis and ungovernability.
A renewed offensive by US imperialism to isolate the Chavez
government internationally is adding to the internal pressure. The US
has attempted to link the Chavez government with “terrorism” based on
the supposed documents found on the laptops retrieved from the site of
the illegal military assault by Colombia (the US’s key ally in the
region)on a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Venezuela has categorically rejected the allegations.
Despite claims by the US and Colombian governments that an Interpol
investigation into the laptop backs up the charges, the Interpol report
states on page 9 that, “The verification of the eight seized FARC
computer exhibits by Interpol does not imply the validation of the
accuracy of the user files, the validation of any country’s
interpretation of the user files or the validation of the source of the
In addition, the US navy has decided to reactivate, after 58 years,
its Fourth Fleet to patrol Latin American waters, and on May 16,
Colombian troops were intercepted inside the Venezuelan border. On May
17, a US warplane was caught violating Venezuelan airspace.
On top of all this, internal divisions between the “endogenous”
(internal) right-wing of Chavismo, which doesn’t want to break with
capitalism, and the more radical grassroots pushing the deepen the
process of change and especially extend direct democracy to empower the
poor are becoming increasingly exposed.
Since its was launched last year, the PSUV has become a
battleground between these sectors, reflecting the conflicting class
interests within the Bolivarian movement. This dynamic is playing out
in the primary elections.
While the June 1 internal elections, which are open to all members
of the PSUV, represent an historic landmark in the Bolivarian
revolution — for the first time allowing the grassroots to participate
in the selection of candidates — struggles over the form and content of
this process have not been absent.
Sources within the PSUV told Green Left Weekly that it
was the rank and file, who in a general assembly on May 9, forced the
national leadership to back down from an initial proposal whereby the
local PSUV battalions would be able to suggest names that would then be
tallied in order to come up with a list of 15, from which the national
leadership would select the final candidate.
Under the alternative compromise proposal, which was approved, if
no candidates receives either 50% plus one votes or a margin of more
than 15% above the next candidate, then the national leadership, in
consultation with Chavez, will select the candidate from the top three.
Importantly, Chavez announced that all the results of the internal
elections will be made publicly available in order to allow greater
transparency, and in doing so reversed a previous decision by the
national leadership to keep the results secret.
A key example of the internal struggle is the controversy that
erupted following the exclusion of the popular mayor of Torres
Municipality, Julio Chavez (no relation to the president), from the
list of pre-candidate nominations for governor of the state of Lara.
Sections of the national leadership had attempted to pressure Julio
to stand down in favour of more conservative candidate Henri Falcon.
Even though the mayor rejected the proposal, he was excluded from the
list of pre-candidates released by the national leadership.
This prompted a rebellion among rank-and-file PSUV members in Lara,
who saw Julio’s exclusion as a bureaucratic attempt by the national
executive to override internal democracy and impose a candidate from
Hundreds of PSUV members mobilised spontaneously and surrounded the
party’s regional headquarters on May 29 and 30, and in a play on
Julio’s surname, chanted the famous slogan celebrating the defeat of
the coup; “Uh ah, Chavez no se va! (Chavez is not going).
The PSUV national executive was forced to back down and
reincorporated Julio onto the list of pre-candidates for governor of
Lara. The president, who has repeatedly called for candidates to be
selected democratically, telephoned the mayor directly to assure him
that the situation had been corrected.
Julio, loathed by opposition sectors and particularly local
business elites, is extremely popular among the poor for being the only
mayor in Venezuela to have transferred control of the majority of the
municipal budget directly to organised communities, and for
implementing a process of radical transformation and democratisation of
the entire governance system of his municipality.
The intervention by Chavez in defence of democracy, like his
decision to nationalise the Sidor steel plant on April 9 after a long
workers struggle there and the subsequent sacking of the right-wing
labour minister, has boosted the morale of the rank and file.
Chavez has also pressured sectors tempted to flout the democratic
decision of the party and stand as candidates outside of the PSUV:
“Those that do not accept the results will be morally pulverised by the
“What is important” Chavez argued, “is that we come out more united
after June 1.” For this to happen, the mass participation of the ranks
in the elections will be vital for consolidating the pro-revolution
forces in the lead up to the regional elections.
Also key to the success of the Chavista forces is the strengthening
of the Patriotic Alliance, which unites the PSUV with smaller
pro-Chavez groups that haven’t joined the new party, such as the PPT
However, frictions have emerged as the smaller parties have raised
concerns about their exclusion from discussions on candidates and the
platform on which to contest the elections.
With the PSUV still in formation and with important internal
divisions, a yet to be solidified alliance with other groups and a
significant layer of revolutionary activists who for a variety of
reasons chose to remain outside the parties, there will be a serious
need to push forward mobilise the broadest layers of the popular
Chavez has already called on each active member of the PSUV to work
at mobilising a further five people — recalling the successful
grassroots mobilising strategy used to win the 2004 recall referendum.
[Kiraz Janicke and Federico Fuentes are members of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau. They are both featured speakers at the Resistance national conference in Sydney, June 27-29. Visit http://resistance.org.au for more information and to register.]
From International News, Green Left Weekly issue #753 4 June 2008.
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2.5 Million venezuelans participate in candidate selection of the United Socialist Party
Caracas, June 2, 2008, (venezuelanalysis.com) – In a massive show of
support for the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), on
Sunday, some 2.5 million party members participated in an historic
process of electing candidates for the upcoming regional elections in
November. Polling was extended to 9 pm in the majority of states as
thousands of PSUV members queued to exercise their right to vote in the
elections which were monitored by the National Electoral Council (CNE).
“It doubled our initial expectations, the participation has been
massive, much more than what we had hoped for,” PSUV national executive
member Vanessa Davies announced to a press conference at 11:30 pm
“We are happy and proud of our members. We have complied with the
requirements of elections by the grassroots. We have followed through
with the people and the Constitution,” she added.
The Bolivarian Constitution adopted through popular referendum in 1999
requires all political parties to hold democratic elections for
leadership positions and candidates. So far the PSUV is the only
political party in Venezuela to meet this requirement.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who cast his vote at the Manuel
Antonio Fajardo Technical School in Barrio 23 de Enero, classified the
PSUV elections as “truly historic” and “without precedent in the
political history of Venezuela.”
“This internal process has impacted on the entire country and the
collective morale… It is a grand example of how to construct true
democracy, with debates and discussion, with some problems, but a great
capacity to overcome these,” Chavez said.
He called on “all political parties, in the revolutionary camp as well
as in the opposition and any other political movement,” to follow the
example of the PSUV. “Follow the example, in order to comply with the
constitution and with what the people want,” he said.
However, the president argued, a revolutionary party cannot have
winning elections as its only objective, “The objective is to ensure
the permanence and advance of the revolution.”
In this sense Chavez called for a “war to death” against corruption,
against cronyism, bureaucratism and inefficiency and for the re-launch
of the Socialist Plan, which he initiated at the beginning of 2007.
“We need mayors and governors who will undertake the task, together
with the people, to work for the construction of socialism from
below…on every street corner, every municipality, in every state,” he
Those pre-candidates who obtained at least 50 percent plus one votes,
or 15 percent more votes than the second highest pre-candidate, passed
over to automatically be the official PSUV candidates in the regional
The results released by the CNE showed those candidates automatically
elected include, Aristobulo Istúriz in the Capital District of Greater
Caracas, with 94.47% of the votes, Tarek William Saab in Anzoátegui,
(48.79%), Rafael Isea in Aragua, (64.51%), Adán Chávez (the President’s
brother) in Barinas, (90.88%), Francisco Rangel Gómez in Bolívar,
(47.3% - above Manuel Arciniega, who obtained 19.29%), Mario Silva
García in Carabobo, (61.15%), Estela Mariña in Falcón, (48.51% - above
Melvin López Hidalgo with 28.41%)
Henry Falcón with 73% also defeated Julio Chavez (21%) in Lara, Marcos
Díaz Orellana won in Mérida, (60.67%), Diosdado Cabello in Miranda,
(81.97%), Giancarlo Di Martino in Zulia, (58.58%), Jorge Luis García
Carneiro in Vargas, (40,26% - above Freddy Bernal with 20.61%), José
Gregorio Briceño in Monagas (62.87%), and Lizeta Hernández in Delta
Amacuro with (49.87- above Amado Heredia with 21.96%).
With less than 60 percent of the votes scrutinized, Wilmar Castro
Soteldo appears to have won in Portuguesa, (52.21%), Jorge Rodríguez in
the municipality of Libertador, (74.2%) and Jesse Chacón in the
municipality of Sucre, (82.64%).
In line with a decision by a national assembly of PSUV delegates on May
9, in those eight states where no pre-candidate achieved a majority or
the required winning margin, the national leadership of the PSUV will
select a candidate from the top three based on a range of criteria,
including “revolutionary commitment” and “ethics.” The results of these
deliberations are expected to be released before Thursday.
In Nueva Esparta the top three pre-candidates were Alexis Navarro,
William Fariñas and Arnaldo Cogorno; in Tachira - Leonardo Salcedo,
José Gregorio Vielma Mora and Francisco Arias Cardenas;Yaracuy - Julio
César León, Braulio Alvarez and José León Gutiérrez; Trujillo -
Octaviano Mejía, Hugo Cabezas and William Martorelly; Apure -
Jesus Alberto Aguilarte, Cristóbal Jiménez and Wilfredo González;
Cojedes - José Gonzalo Mujica, Teodoro Bolívar and Ramón Peralta;
Guarico - Willian Lara, Lenny Manuitt and Juan Montenegro and in Sucre
- Enrique José Maestre, Felix Rodríguez, and Yonny Patiño.
As thousands of PSUV members celebrated Sunday night in Cuartel San
Carlos in Caracas, Jorge Rodríguez warned the opposition and “the
lackeys of imperialism here in Venezuela” that they had better get
ready for the November elections because, “We’re going all out to win
the local and regional spaces.”
Poll: Chavez Supported by 57% of Venezuelans
According to the results of a recent survey by private
opposition-oriented polling firm, Keller & Associates, the
pro-Chavez movement counts on 57% support nationally. The same poll
showed 28% support for a united opposition.
The results were announced by journalist José Vicente Rangel on Sunday
during his weekly program “José Vicente Today” on private television
Keller & Associates is a firm with a “known anti-Chavez position,” Rangel said.
Other surveys carried out by the same firm over the past week indicate
that support for “Chavismo” is growing throughout the whole country,
while support for opposition is declining he added.
United Socialist Party of Venezuela Presents Final Candidate List for Regional Elections
Caracas, June 5, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The United Socialist
Party of Venezuela (PSUV) announced its full list of candidates
Wednesday, for the upcoming state and local elections on November 23,
based on the outcome of internal elections on June 1 in which some 2.5
million members of the party went to the polls to choose candidates for
22 governors and 328 mayors.
Under the regulations adopted by a national assembly of PSUV delegates,
those pre-candidates who obtained at least 50 percent plus one votes,
or 15 percent more votes than the next highest pre-candidate, were
automatically nominated as party candidates. In those cases where none
of the pre-candidates met the requirements, the national leadership
selected the candidate out of the top three pre-candidates. In 8 states
and 134 municipalities, none of the pre-candidates met the requirement
for automatic nomination.
National Assembly President Cilia Flores, speaking on behalf of the
PSUV national leadership, announced those candidates selected for the
contested states and municipalities.
In the state of Apure, Jesús Alberto Aguilarte Gámez was selected; in
Cojedes: Teodoro Venancio Bolívar Caballer; in Guárico: Willian Rafael
Lara; Nueva Esparta: William Ramón Fariñas; Sucre: Enrique José
Maestre; Táchira: Leonardo Alí Salcedo Ramírez; Trujillo: Hugo César
Cabezas Bracamonte; and for Yaracuy: Julio César León Heredia.
The full results of the PSUV’s internal elections for governors and
mayors can be found on the National Electoral Council’s (CNE) website, www.cne.gob.ve
While the internal party nomination process, which was monitored by 62
international observers, in large part occurred in a climate of
normality, polling was marred in some instances by reports of some
pre-candidates wielding undue influence in order to determine the
outcome of the vote.
For instance, a dispute has flared up in Guarico, where the current
governor Eduardo Manuitt, has rejected the selection of William Lara as
the gubernatorial candidate, arguing “it is necessary to look for a
candidate of consensus…evidently William Lara does not represent this.”
Lara, who obtained 43.01% of the vote, narrowly beat Lenny Manuitt,
daughter of the governor and deputy in the legislative council in that
state, who obtained 40.01%, according to the CNE, indicating a margin
of only 2,484 votes between them.
Eduardo Manuitt, who is under investigation for assaulting a mayor,
claims that he was not allowed place observers in the polling booths.
However, an anonymous PSUV member told venezuelanalysis.com that the
Manuitts had carried out a “dirty campaign”, including the distribution
of free household appliances, in an effort to influence the vote.
It was also reported in January this year that Manuitt ordered local
police to physically break up a PSUV meeting during which the majority
of members were alleged to have supported Lara’s candidacy for governor.
Meanwhile, in the state of Falcón, grassroots PSUV activists have
alleged that intimidation and vote buying was used in the campaign of
candidate-elect Estela Mariña Montilla, wife of the current governor
Willam Montilla, who openly supported the opposition military coup
against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002.
According to a June 4 article in Venezuelan daily El Nacional, PSUV
activists in the state of Bolivar, where incumbent governor Francisco
Rangel Gomez (associated with the right-wing of “Chavismo”), won the
party pre-selection, have also made allegations of fraud, including the
theft of 1,300 ballots.
Despite these problems, Luis Mora, a PSUV member in Sucre municipality
in the state of Miranda, argued that the elections on June 1 were an
“exercise in participatory democracy.”
He pointed out that the PSUV was the only political party in Venezuela
to meet the constitutional requirement to hold internal elections for
candidacies and national leadership positions and called on the
opposition parties to follow the example of the PSUV.
Thus far, all opposition parties have refused to hold internal elections.
The opposition has also criticised the PSUV internal elections process
arguing that public institutions such as the CNE and state television
station VTV were utilised.
William Lara, head of the PSUV’s electoral commission, countered that
the party had been billed 17 million bolivars by the CNE for
facilitating the elections and that it is paying it back in instalments.
Tibisay Lucena, president of the CNE, reiterated the constitutional
requirement to hold elections and assured that the national electoral
body is willing to facilitate internal elections for all political
Communications and Information Minister Andrés Izarra also responded,
saying all political parties could make use of the state media within
the framework of the constitution. VTV would be willing to broadcast
internal debates and elections of opposition parties he assured.
However, Izarra considered it unlikely that the opposition parties
would take up the offer “because they don’t have the strength or
support to carry out a democratic election like this.”
Despite this assertion, Izarra repeated the call for the opposition to
follow the example of the PSUV and allow their members to participate.
“We have seen that the members of Democratic Action are calling for
participation…Members of Democratic Action: liberate yourselves from
the yoke of Henry Ramos Allup! [Unelected leader of AD] Liberate
yourselves! Participate! Hold primaries! Elect your nacional
leadership!” he said.
Source URL: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/