Venezuela: speaking up to say the truth

By Atilio Boron May 24, 2017 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Alainet — In various recent works, different analysts and observers of Latin American political life have reproached intellectuals and militants on the left for their silence on what is happening in Venezuela. That silence, they say, only reinforces the worst features of the government of Nicolas Maduro. This strategy was used a few weeks ago by a noted Venezuelan intellectual, Edgardo Lander, and more recently, in a special production of Pagina/12, it was reiterated by two colleagues from Argentina: Roberto Gargarella and Maristella Svampa. [1] No one could be more in agreement than the author of these notes on the need to speak about what really is happening in Venezuela. In the footsteps of the founders of historical materialism Gramsci said, with complete reason, that “the truth is always revolutionary”. And the maxim of the founder of the PCI [T.N.: the Communist Party of Italy] is more important today than ever before, when the postmodern virus has instituted “post-truth” as a criterion of truth, opening the door to so many twisting’s and mystifications as might occur to precisely those who care to hide behind a curtain of sophisms and falsehoods what is taking place in our societies – and very especially in Venezuela – and, in this way, to favor the plans of the counter-revolution underway. Unfortunately the good intentions of Gargarella and Svampa to speak about Venezuela and say what is taking place there end in frustration. And it is thus because in their note they do not talk about what is truly occurring in that country but rather reproduce with small variations the story that the opposition has constructed to say what it needs to have said about what is occurring in Venezuela. That narrative trap, which knowingly disfigures the reality to promote its restorationist agenda, has counted on the inestimable help of the eternal social and political agents of reaction, that never make mistakes when choosing friends and enemies: the hegemonic media at a world level (commonly known as: “the free press”), the guard-dogs of the capitalist order; the international right directed, with money from the United States, by Jose M. Aznar y Alvaro Uribe and all their paraphernalia of sold-out politicians and journalists and rented think-tanks, and as though the foregoing were not enough, supported as well by the government of the United States since the birth of the Bolivarian Revolution. Therefore, it is no surprise to confirm that in the three or four pages written by these authors, numerous errors accumulate both in their appreciation and in noticeably missing elements. We begin with these.

Missing Elements

The first missing element: the government of the United States. An analysis of any country of the America’s which does not mention, even once – we do not say analyze, but at least mention – the government of the United States and imperialism is incurably erroneous. From there, a correct analysis of the situation could never emerge. It is an error so serious and irreparable – obliterated nevertheless by the prejudice which forms the dominant paradigm of the contemporary social sciences – like that committed by an astronomer who in analyzing the solar system omits any mention or analysis of the role of Jupiter in the overall dynamic of the system, simply omitting the fact that its mass is equivalent to almost two-and-a-half times the total sum of all the other planets that make up the system. What would we say about our astronomer? That despite his good intentions he does not have anything serious to say, and moreover, that he cannot have anything serious to say, because this analysis has sidestepped the principal factor. Not the only one which matters but yes the most important. At this stage of the twenty-first century I dispense with the need to explain, what is so well-known, what imperialism is and how it acts in what its agents and spokesmen pleasantly [lovingly] characterize as “our back yard”. What contemporary capitalism has done is exacerbate its imperialist character to the point of its being unspeakable and not just in Latin America. Recall the lesson suffered by the Greek people when they “mistakenly” rejected the brutal adjustment program proposed by the troika in Europe, an “error” which was corrected in a meeting behind closed doors in Brussels; or the gigantic fine which the French bank Paribas had to pay for transgressing a law of the U.S. Congress which penalized any banking institution in the world, whether based in the United States or not, that meddled in commercial relations between Iran, Sudan, Cuba and the rest of the world. This says that the law of the United States is the law of the world. Or the almost one thousand military bases which the United States has across the entire world, absolutely the only case in history. That is an empire, from Rome up until today. And the hegemonic center of the empire is the United States, “the indispensable nation” for maintaining capitalism alive on the face of the earth. Of course its theoreticians and strategists prefer to avoid the term imperialist because of its disagreeable smell, but the reality of imperialism cannot be hidden and because of that they take great pains to refer to it with more likeable names. The experts at the Pentagon and the Department of State, the CIA and Council on National Security prefer to speak of “primacy”, “superiority” and, the more audacious, of “hegemony” because they are aware that words like empire and imperialism are indigestible for the delicate stomach of U.S. public opinion. The euphemism can play with the words and attempt to cloud how the thing is seen, but it stays there. It is not by chance that one of the most incisive strategists of the empire, Zbigniew Brzezinski, begins his more recent book on the current situation of the United States in the international system with a surprising section dedicated to the “declining longevity of empires”, a tacit assumption that the United States is one, since if not, the reason for which this author immerses himself in a discussion which is marginal to the objective of his work cannot be understood.[2] From the foregoing, it follows that empires – although they call themselves, as in the case of the United States, “leader of the free world”, or talk of “American supremacy” – forge a radically asymmetrical relationship with countries subjected to their jurisdiction and which are controlled by various means. The corollary of this imperial logic is that Washington always plays a role, greater or lesser according to the circumstances and the nature of the countries, in the political processes of the subordinated countries, especially when, as in the case of Venezuela, the nation rests on the largest proven reserves of petroleum on the planet, and is situated on the Great Caribbean Basin which the US military believes is the internal sea of the United States. Only if the White House and its agencies were populated with idiots or with completely irresponsible individuals, ignorant of US national interests, could the US government be indifferent and remain on the margin of what is happening in Venezuela. Latin American history in the last two centuries, from the Munro Doctrine (1823) forward, offers hundreds of examples of this constant intervention of US foreign policy toward our countries. An intervention which runs from a discrete but effective political monitor to a military coup and military invasion, as proven by the cases of Panama and the Dominican Republic, amongst many others. That today they might have forgotten Venezuela and not be interested in the outcome of its crisis is absolutely unbelievable. Nevertheless, something so fundamental as this passes incredibly unperceived in the article by Gargarella y Svampa and therefore in the drama that unfolds in that country it is assumed that the United States does not play any role. Just this would be enough to dispose of the article, as incapable of offering a realistic vision of things. But this is not the only missing element; there is another. In analyzing the crisis and the antagonisms which enervate Venezuela, only the government of the Bolivarian Revolution is discussed. It is a very curious analysis because various conjectures and interpretations are put forward about the very serious institutional conflict but only one of the parties to the confrontation appears. The other, the opposition, is a ghost or a shadow which never manages to be visualized. Not one word about the genesis and formation of the opposition and its main personalities; about the coup d’état which they led in April of 2002; nothing on the petroleum strike at the end of 2002 thru to the first months of 2003; not even one word about the bloody “guarimbas” [violent protests] of February 2014. Nothing about the leader and instigator of the seditious “exit” plan, mister Leopoldo Lopez, of whom it is said he is a “political prisoner” when in reality he is an “imprisoned politician” for having made an apologia for the violence, instigated murders, burning of public buildings, looting of stores, and producer of enormous damages to public and private property. There is no mention, for example, that if Lopez had done in the United States what he did in Venezuela he would have been condemned, at a minimum, to life without parole, and probably capital punishment. Venezuelan justice, by comparison, the same which is discredited by calling it “Chavista”, was so benign that it condemned him to just 13 years and 9 months of prison. Nothing is said either about leaders of the opposition that refuse to dialogue or agree anything with the government. That its main leaders travel to the United States to persuade the government of that country to invade their own and bring down the constitutional President Nicolas Maduro. Or that Julio Borges – the president of the illegitimate National Assembly, who resists calling a new election to replace the three deputies that were fraudulently incorporated in that Assembly – meets with Admiral Kurt Tidd, chief of the Southern Command, to request him to invade their country, with the spilling of blood, that he and his accomplices of the opposition, know this would produce. In sum, the note written under the malicious influence of the opposition “story” falls into extremisms: there is a villain (Maduro) and good guy (the opposition) which is not discussed, nor is its trajectory examined. Poor, very poor, as political analysis.


And to finish I will present a review of a few specific errors, too many for such a brief text. 1. Democracy is a regime in which “we can mutually hear each other”, our authors say. It should be thus but in Venezuela it is not so, by fault of the government. But, just a moment: where is this wonderful “mutual hearing” produced? Was is produced between Hillary and Trump, or between Macron and Le Pen, or between Rajoy and Pablo Iglesias? Is this not too angelic an interpretation of what democracy is really as an expression of social struggle? 2. It is said that the “loss of the electoral majority by the Chavistas generated a non-recognition response with authoritarian roots on the part of Maduro.” But how can they ignore that the Chavistas accepted without a protest the two elections in which they were defeated, out of a total of 19? The right, by comparison, did not accept even once that they had lost. If there is someone who never recognized the electoral superiority of the Chavistas it was the opposition. After their victory in the National Assembly (AN) elections of December 2015 their leaders tossed aside all the institutionality of the state and proclaimed in full voice that the mission of the AN would not be to convert itself into one of the powers of the state, but simply to achieve “operation exit” for Maduro. Inevitably, this declaration of war by one of the powers of the state against the executive hardened the stance of the ruling party, as has also occurred in the various countries where at some time conflict has arisen between the Legislature and the Executive Power. 3. The Executive did not deny recognition of the National Assembly elected in December 2015. It just denounced that three deputies had been fraudulently elected, as was proven unquestionably. With this in view, the National Electoral Council (CNE) requested the National Assembly to revoke the designation of these deputies, made in spite of their spurious origin, a move which the AN President, Henry Allup Ramos, rejected and instead ratified the integration of the three disputed members. The CNE demanded that the AN call for new elections to replace the three imposters, since otherwise, that body would become illegal due to the fraudulent access of three of its members, as was established in a sentence of the Supreme Constitutional Tribunal (TSC). By not doing this the AN would fall into contempt of court and its actions would be incurably null. What did the AN do? Not only did they not recognize the sentence of the CNE but also that of the highest judicial body of Venezuela. And so, who does not recognize whom? I remind our authors that in Argentina a similar situation developed (although not so serious) when during the years of Menem and the crucial vote of the Chamber of Deputies to privatize the state company State Gas, an individual from outside that body sat on a bench and raised his hand approving the project. When the fake deputy was discovered by journalists covering the vote, its result was declared incurably null, and some time later, with the deputies legally qualified to vote, they proceeded to hold a new vote. Following the reasoning of Gargarella and Svampa, in Argentina they should have taken as valid the first vote, which constitutes an absolutely unacceptable principal in that country, as in Venezuela. 4. The referendum to revoke the president was not blocked by a decision of the government but for serious procedural errors of the opposition, who registered children, deceased people, falsified signatures, etcetera. There are laws, regulations, dispositions to be fulfilled. It is not a question of putting whatever name, a signature and done. And what is more, in spite of warnings from the government, they initiated the revoking procedure when the time limit had expired. In an expression of good will the government requested that the CNE nevertheless consider the request of the opposition. But with the errors of form and substance mentioned above, the request for a referendum had to be discounted. Whose fault is that? 5. A failed self-coup by the Executive? Please! The Executive needed the authorization of the AN to seal a cooperation agreement between PDVSA [T.N. the national petroleum company] and a foreign company for the exploitation of petroleum in the Orinoco Strip. It was and is a question of national interest, which contributes to public welfare because the petroleum revenues turn into active social policies. For example, the article which we are criticizing should recognize that the Bolivarian government delivered in little more than four years more than one and a half million homes, an absolute record in Latin American history and, probably, worldwide. The NA, seeking to paralyze the government to bring it down, failed to meet and fell into the transgression characterized by the Bolivarian Constitution as “unconstitutional parliamentary omission”. It is prescribed that, in cases such as this, the Constitutional Panel of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), can, as established by the Constitution of 1999, take on certain attributions of the AN and authorize or validate certain actions of the Executive. Did the TSJ go too far in appropriating the attributions of the AN? Without doubt. But when informed of the fact by the Attorney General the “dictator” Maduro urged the TSJ to reverse the temporary assumption of AN attributions and things returned to normal.[3] Clearly there was a failed coup d’état, and it was when the AN declared in January of this year that President Maduro had abandoned his post and presidential elections should be called immediately. In whatever country this is called “sedition”: an attempt to break the current institutional order and push its authorities to the sidelines of the law and our authors know that. Just imagine the scandal which would be produced in the United States, or even in Argentina, if the Congress were to emit a law of this kind. 6. Growing institutional repression? Something strange must be happening in Venezuela for the majority of victims to be, as in February 2014, Chavistas or police personnel or persons not connected to the conflict (like the woman who was killed by members of the “democratic opposition” throwing a plastic bottle full of frozen water from a high building). If the government of Maduro can be reproached for something it has been its excessive restraint in the application of all the repressive force of the state against those who take the streets by force to burn children’s hospitals, loot stores and beat persons who are not in solidarity with their violent acts. The map of violent incidents and protests demonstrates that these are produced without doubt, in almost all cases, in the 19 municipalities controlled by the opposition, and that the troublemakers count on the protection of the municipal authorities and their police. And furthermore, 60 percent of the victims of the violence are people who were not participating in the demonstrations, and another portion is made up of deaths of the Bolivarian security forces. And faced with this, what do Gargarella and Svampa propose? That the government sit with its arms crossed while armed bands destroy the country, kill the innocent and commit all classes of outrage? Please, where have they seen such a thing! What was it that so many federal and state governments did in their much-admired United States faced with much less violent demonstrations of Afro-Americans in the time of struggle for civil rights or during the great demonstrations against the war in Vietnam? Recall the repressive brutality of the police and the National Guard of the United States in that time, and compare that with the police without firearms who safeguard the tranquility and order of Venezuela with teargas and water cannons. Is it possible that they are not aware of something so fundamental? And what is more, who brought the Colombian paramilitary to Venezuela? The Chavistas or their opponents, allies of Alvaro Uribe? They ought to explore this question. 7. Shortages? Yes, of course, programmed shortages because Venezuela subsidizes food and medicine, something which its neighbours do not do.So mafia networks deal in contraband of goods produced in Venezuela, which are a lot, but which are smuggled to neighbouring countries, above all Colombia, with the open complicity of Bogota. The main problem of Venezuela is not that it is not producing; it has come along producing more and more, although a small number of essential items (bread flour, coffee, sugar, etcetera) are produced by big oligopolies which manage the supply in tune with the electoral calendar and the ups-and-downs of opposition struggles to create malaise in the population, as was done in the Chile of Allende.[4] Furthermore, a good part of what is produced is exported illegally, via contraband, out of the country, almost always to Colombia. A medicine which in Venezuela costs one dollar is sold at five in Colombia; a litre of gasoline which is worth one cent in Venezuela is sold for over a dollar in Colombia, to the pleasure of the Colombian government which should help to fight this scourge, something which of course it does not do precisely because their six military bases in the hands of the armed forces of the United States are there to accelerate the collapse of the Bolivarian Revolution. And the “economic war” is one of its instruments. 8. Corruption? Yes, but in that, there are government officials and also members of the opposition. What is this talking of the corrupt without talking of the corruptors? It is a reflection of old liberal thought that maintains that the state, any state, is the sphere of corruption while the market is the field of virtue, sacrifice and innovation. That someone might believe in this little story at this stage of history does not cease to be amazing. Except that it is in times as “interesting” as these (Eric Hobsbawm) that a phenomenal socio-genetic mutation has been produced by virtue of which there are the corrupt without there being corruptors; the first are in the state, the second are in civil society. Obviously, in the note which we are analyzing only the first are spoken of. The others are angels. 9. An increasingly illegitimate and authoritarian regime? Undoubtedly the chaos provoked by a pitiless “economic war”, a brutal diplomatic offensive (with a person of the lowest levels like Luis Almagro carrying the baton for this coup-making gang from the OAS), a systematic attack by the big media, the condemnation of discredited and failed ex-presidents of Latin America, who sank their countries into poverty, dependence and neglect, and the ever-present pressure from Washington (recall Barrack Obama’s Executive Order) cannot but erode the legitimacy of a government, of any government. But still with all that, the opposition fears the electoral power of the Chavistas. With respect to its authoritarianism, how can one deny that the opposition to this peculiar “dictatorship” of Maduro makes and unmakes at its will? They control at their whim the mainstream media and spread as many lies as suit their mood 24 hours a day and practice “media terrorism” without any scruples; they abandon their institutional responsibility and paralyse the National Assembly without its being dissolved by the Executive or the mandates of its members revoked; its leaders leave the country to invite U.S. leaders and the empire to invade Venezuela and bring down the legitimate government or to bad-mouth the Bolivarian government to third countries; its leaders undertake campaigns supporting whatever presidential candidate from the extreme right competes for a presidential post in Latin America, and so on successively. Despite this they do not suffer the least bother. Are there prisoners? Of course: but not for demonstrating in the streets, speaking, offering opinions, defaming, conspiring against the nation, but rather for instigating violence and executing all manner of vandalism. What kind of authoritarianism is this? Given that many take pleasure in talking about the “dictatorship” of Maduro, I only ask that they tell me what opponent could have done all this under the governments of Videla, Pinochet, Garrastazu Medici, Stroessner, Somoza and company. 10. “The unconditional support of the left for Chavism” is criticized. But what do they expect, that we support the destitution offensive dictated by the United States and executed by the local peons? Between imperialism and a government, however deficient or imperfect it may be, are we being asked to opt for the Southern Command, for Madam Liliana Ayalde (author of the soft coups in Paraguay and Brazil and now number two in the Southern Command), for the unpresentable opposition leadership of Venezuela? Is that what they are asking of us? The reply is: we would never commit such an unforgiveable mistake! Those whose prejudices and obstinacy in ranting against the Bolivarian Revolution – whose good moves greatly exceed their bad – end up supporting the violent insurrectionist strategy of the empire and its local agents will sink with dishonor into the annals of history, covered in mud and blood. And there will be no sophisms, nor complicated, pseudo-theoretical arguments capable of rescuing them from such an ignoble place. 11. “No one should die for thinking differently”, we are told. Correct. But those who are dying for thinking differently are the Chavistas and ordinary Venezuelans who did not participate in any demonstration. In fact, those who killed 43 people in February of 2014 and many others in the current offensive have been, mainly, the seditious opposition. Those who could die for thinking differently are the Chavista’s, not the authors of the counter-revolution. 12. In concluding their article, Gargarella and Svampa say that we must understand “those we are facing are not our enemies but those who do not think like us, but in what matters they are the same as us: dignified human beings, who think and feel and suffer and get excited, and deserve, like ourselves, equal consideration and respect.” This pseudo humanism, although it warms our hearts thinking of universal fraternity, when it comes down to the current conjuncture in Venezuela, is a line of thought that does not have the least empirical basis. And not just in this country. Those who amputated the hands of Victor Jara and then murdered him in cold blood in Chile, were these people like us? The Argentine military that raped pregnant women, that tortured them by introducing broken glass bottles into their vaginas, that stole their children and then threw them from a plane into the sea; were they like us? The death squads that devastated so many countries of the region, were these people like us? And those who in today’s Venezuela are recruiting paramilitaries and the down-and-out to burn hospitals, to string up wires to decapitate unaware motorcyclists, to throw Molotov cocktails against police that do not carry fire-arms, to destroy all that they find in their path, and to pummel with blows the neighbours who want to cross through the guarimba [T.N. violent protest] to go to work or buy food; these people, are they the same as us? A tremendous mistake. How can you defend a society against such calculated attacks? By reciting seven Ave Maria’s or by unleashing onto them – the violent ones, not the peaceable and minority sectors of the opposition – all the repressive force of the state? I will finish by saying that that line of thought, that beautiful exhortation to universal fraternity and humanism – that evokes dear figures such as Erasmus of Rotterdam, Thomas Moore and Immanuel Kant – ends up being bad philosophy, worse theology and terrible sociology when those ethical principles are transferred without mediation to the clay and blood of current Venezuela. It is impossible to understand the subjects of the counter-revolution and its agents with these beautiful categories. I am absolutely certain that Gargarella and Svampa, equally with the author of these lines, would never commit anything like the horrors described above. Or as do Julio Borges, President of the National Assembly, Lilian Tintori, Henry Allup Ramos or Maria Corina Machado, people who try to persuade the Southern Command to invade Venezuela on the pretext of the “humanitarian crisis” which they in good measure have created. All of these are people with an incurable perversity and they are not the same as ourselves. Nor are they the same as the Chavista people who have survived so many malevolent intentions with abnegation and heroism. Nor are they the same as the enormous majority of the Chavista leadership, which tries to govern a country that the opposition has tried to make ungovernable with the dreadful purpose of retaking power and using it to favor the interests that for centuries subjugated Venezuela. Speak of Venezuela? Yes, of course, but saying the truth.Translated by Don Lee for ALAI.

Dr. Atilio A. Boron, Director of the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación Floreal Gorini (PLED), Buenos Aires, Argentina. Premio Libertador al Pensamiento Crítico 2013. Twitter: Facebook:


[1] The dossier is available at

and also includes two brief notes by Modesto Guerrero and the author of this work.

[2] Cf. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Strategic Vision. America and the Crisis of Global Power (New York: Basic Books, 2012).

[3]Recall that the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that in April of 2002 there was no “coup d’état” against Chavez but rather a miraculous “vacuum of power” was produced. The “Chavista dictatorship” did not object the scandalous sentence of the TSJ and nor did it dissolve the body. [4] On the theme of “economic war” the hard facts which Pascualina Cursio cites in her magnificent book demolish the opposition argument. See La mano visible del Mercado. Guerra económica en Venezuela (Caracas: MinCl, 2017)