Venezuela: Socialist trade unionist on the Constituent Assembly and recent terrorist attack on military base

August 9, 2017 — 
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Interview with Stalin Perez Borges, activist with LUCHAS (United League of Chavista Socialists) and member of the Consultative Council of the Bolivarian Socialist Workers’ Central (CBST), conducted by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal How is the situation in Venezuela following the July 30 vote for the National Constituent Assembly (ANC)? What did the 8 million votes cast during the election represent? Did this vote in some way alter the existing balance of forces? And what do you say about those that have cried “fraud” regarding the voter turnout? Immediately following the vote, we saw a week of relative calm in terms of street violence - though not in terms of the economic war - as the opposition tried to come to terms with Chavismo’s massive presence on July 30, something they never expected due to their persistence state of denial. But this sentiment began to change once the ANC was sworn in on August 4 and began taking its first measures on August 5. They have once again gone back to a position of wanting to unleash a storm. First, they unleashed the demons, causing great damage to the purchasing power of workers’ wages through their speculation and the rise in the rate of the parallel dollar via their website “DolarToday”. Now the opposition have responded with a commando-style attack on the 41st Armoured Brigade at Fort Paramacay, located in the city of Valencia, and escaping with a cache of weapons. They are once again hoping to stir up violence on the streets of various cities. The 8 million plus people that participated in the elections for the ANC represented a response by the popular masses to those that want to drown the country in violence, even to the point of fratricide; to those for whom compatriots killing each other is not enough and aspire and even call for a foreign military intervention. July 30 was also a tsunami within the ranks of Chavismo that propelled even those who are unhappy with the government to participate and send a message to the domestic and international right that we have not yet surrendered to imperialism nor are we willing to kneel before the neoliberal plans that the politicians and economists of the so-called Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) have prepared for us. The millions of irreducible chavista votes could have been more if not for the fact that the right wing implemented trancazos (road blocks) in residential areas and streets, in an attempt to sabotage the election for the ANC. But even despite this, the result has led to a recuperation of confidence as a social force, and provided a glimpse of the possibility for Chavismo to once again be able to call itself the majority. At a minimum, July 30 means it possible - if we are able to overcome this economic chaos and correct other errors in the short-term - to recuperate hegemony within the grassroots. This is a problem and challenge for the political leadership of Chavismo, which is very sectarian and whose management of government has been clumsy, inefficient and corrupt in terms of deal with basic problems. This is what has to be overcome from the ANC. Those that are still talking about fraud are the same ones that have always opposed the Bolivarian process, Chavez and Chavismo. They are the same people who were behind the April 11, 2002 coup; the same people that organised the bosses strike and oil lockout in December 2002-February 2003; the same people that have never recognised the results of the 17 elections that Chavismo has won in the last 18 years and only recognised the results of the one election and one referendum that they won. It was to be expected that they were never going to recognise the results of the ANC elections because they did not participate and because they can’t understand how, in a context where there is so much criticism towards the Nicolas Maduro government and where they tried everything, including the impossible, to make sure no one came out to vote, there could be 8 million people that participated. Unfortunately, a number of former ministers that served in Chavez’s cabinet and other ex-Chavistas have, in part due to inertia, followed this same logic of the right. They also swore it was a fraud, and even went as far as to refer to the results announced by the National Electoral Council (CNE) on July 30 as a “mega fraud”. Some of them have started to change their tune slightly, saying that they merely have some doubts about the results. What is your opinion of the ANC, its composition and first steps, given it has begun meeting and taken its first decisions, including the destitution of Attorney General Luisa Ortega and declaring that its mandate will last for two year? Does it represent a further step in the consolidation of power by the government or the opening up of a space for deepening the revolution? Of the 20 constituent assemblies that have occurred in our republican history, this is the one with the broadest popular representation. This can be seen in the fact that there are 79 representatives from the working class, 28 pensioners, 24 from the Communes and Communal Councils, 8 from the campesino and fishers sector, 8 from indigenous communities, and 5 from among people with disabilities. Combined with the 5 business owners representatives and the 364 territorial representatives - one from each municipality, with the exception of municipalities covering capital cities that will have 2 representatives and Libertador municipality (Caracas) which will have 7 - means that there is no question as to the high level of popular representation. What has been questioned is the manner in which candidates were selected in their social sectors and municipalities. This was not done in the most democratic and participatory manner. However it is irrefutable that there is a large representation of workers and popular sectors, though this, in and off itself, is no guarantee per se that the revolutionary objectives of reversing the currently grave and risky political and economic situation and transcending this statist and bureaucratic capitalism will be achieved. If the workers’ representatives and those from the other popular sectors do not express their own personality and political independence; if they are not irreverent in the face of the current leaders and end up simply being controlled by the bureaucracy - the same bureaucracy that has run ministries and state institutions and is responsible for getting us into this political, economic, social crisis – then it won’t matter where they come from or how long they have been active on the left. That is why the challenge for the ANC is to give that “strike at the helm” [which former president Hugo Chavez referred to after his October 2012 presidential election in one of his last speeches] to the left, as expressed in a recent joint statement signed by a group of revolutionary organisations and individuals from various countries. From the moment I became convinced of the possibilities that the ANC could open up, I said that its challenge would be the same one we have faced until now, and which since October 2012 Maduro has been unable to navigate through, that is, strike at the helm and advance towards a Communal state. I have no doubts that the team proposed in the first plenary by Diosdado Cabello to preside over the ANC is a good one. But I don’t agree - and I would have made my position know in the plenary is I was a constituent assembly representative - that the first decision the ANC took, again a proposal by Diosdado, should have been to immediately sack the Attorney General when there are other urgent problems. I believe that the first and most urgent task is dealing with the economic crisis, which worsened exponentially in the days leading up to the first sitting of the ANC, and the scandalous rise in the rate of the parallel dollar. We all know the consequence of this action, which is as criminal as assassinating a number of humble citizens in a meeting; we all know who is responsible for this and we all know what instruments they use for this purpose. And the second task is the naming of a Truth Commission, which did occur, but not in the way it deserved to be done, as it is a momentous event. Given the importance of its task, which is to put an end to the violence, the commission should have been named in an event with real impact and broad media coverage to show the world its real intentions, which beyond demonstrating who is responsible for the violence that has occurred to date (which has to be done), is fundamentally about ending the violence. From the outset it should have involved individuals from outside the ANC and not identified with Chavismo, to give it the necessary weight and send the kind of message of dialogue that it requires to achieve its aims. But instead it was put forward as simply one more commission, independent of the fact that it will be presided over by Delcy Rodriguez, the head of the ANC. The removal of the Attorney General only merited an exhortation to the Supreme Court Tribunal (TSJ), where there is already a pending case against Ortega, that this body make an immediate decision on the issue. This was the ideal mechanism for putting Ortega on trial and allowing her the right to a defence, a right that is guaranteed to her and all citizens in the current Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The Attorney General should have stood trial and been removed from her post, but we need to prove and demonstrate her failures, as evident as they are, for example when it comes to exceeding the limits of her functions, and above all, the accusation against her of crimes of omission. It’s true that we have to put an end to impunity, but it is also true that we have to put an end to the abuse and excesses of power. The ANC, from its first sitting until its mandate ends, has to guarantee due process, like the wife of Cesar, independently of the fact that it has plenipotentiary powers. The two-year duration of functions that the ANC gave itself, more than an abuse, is another example of disregarding appearances and another imprudence, similar to the manner in which they removed the Attorney General. I believe, for example, that they could have proposed a duration of 8 or 9 months, while anticipating in the resolution, in the text, that its mandate could be extend to up to two years if the existing crisis and sabotage promoted by the fascist opposition impeded the free functioning of the ANC. This would have been a different and justifiable way to do it, rather than simply declaring a two-year mandate all in one go. The duration of the ANC raises the question of what other possible intentions might be behind this decision; of what cards those that today politically control the ANC might have up their sleeves. You yourself Fred, in your question, reflect this doubt, when you ask about the significance of this two-year term. You ask: “Does it represent a further step in the consolidation of power by the government or the opening up of a space for deepening the revolution?” Given that the majority of people have as a dogma the belief that faced with an unknown situation it is best to “think the worst and you won’t be disappointed”, it is likely that the 58% that did not participate in the July 30 elections and even a sector of those that did, will already be thinking of outrageous scenarios, simply because the ANC will be in session for two years. I don’t think we need two years to adopt the measures needed to deepen the revolution. These measures have to be adopted now, even if we don’t have to implement them all at the same time. What can you tell us about the attack on a military base in Valencia, the city where you live. This was a calculated action that was planned from its main operational centre, the US. The official that led the action was hiding out there in Miami. He has been trained by the intelligence services of the empire. And of course, it was carried out in coordination with the more right-wing political organisations within the MUD, possible with Popular Will (VP), Leopoldo Lopez’s political party. They sought to use this commando attack to give the appearance of a military insurrection or of being part of a coup or a conspiracy involving various components of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and other state security forces. First and above all, they are hoping to boost the morale of those that are accompanying them, participating in the insurrectional foci of the guarimbas [term used to refer to violent street protests], trancazos and other forms of violent protests. The July 30 results created a feeling of resentment to the fact that their “heroic” days of “resistance” had not had the desired effect of turning people against the ANC; on the contrary, it was one of the reasons why so many people came out on July 30, thinking that the ANC could be the mechanism for putting an end to the violence. As soon as they heard about the attack on Fort Paramacay, they called for new trancazos in every city, but the few that occurred had very poor turnout. A second thing we have to take into account is that July 30 has given wind to those sectors within the opposition that would prefer to try and reach some kind of agreement with the government rather than continue generating violence and creating discontent within their own base. Even in the empire, there are now sectors and institutions that are resigning themselves to having to enter into negotiations with the government rather than pursue a further radicalisation and economic blockade against the government, as some high-level US government figures have talked about, including President Donald Trump. The radical sectors that want nothing to do with Chavismo, and instead what to exterminate it through violence, were the first to disseminate and praise news of the commando assault on the 41st Armoured Brigade Paramacay in Valencia, Carabobo state, one of them being US Senator Marco Rubio, or “Narco” Rubio as Diosdado Cabello calls him. This military assault was a signal to these promoters and financiers of the “Resistance” that their strategy is still a viable option. And third, and with this I’ll wrap up my hypothesis, the military assault carried out in the early hours of August 6 in Valencia was also an attempted to create an event that could generate or raise the possibility of future insurrectional actions within the FANB, that are better organised and prepared across various brigades and barracks, with the intention of provoking a coup or fracturing the institution that until now the opposition has had the most difficulty penetrating. This is perhaps a topic for a future interview.