Bloody Clashes Between Government and Opposition.
Repression, Media Blackout and Crossfire of Accusations.
The History of a Revolution that Never Happened.
By Sebastian Robles
The students, mostly opponents of the Maduro Chavista-government, called for the February 12th demonstrations in Venezuela to demand the following things: the release of three students recently arrested in other protests, the end of the official government order that prevented private newspapers from importing paper for their production and circulation, and against the insecurity and rampant inflation in the country. Venezuela´s reality is reflected in its figures and these numbers were fuel for protest: 20,000 annual murders with firearms, 56 % annual inflation recognized by the government although other sources estimate it’s at 75%. This inflation has liquefied wages where the parallel dollar now is trading at ten times the official rate. Even the best paid workers are receiving about 8 million bolivars for their work, a seemingly huge figure but in fact, does not cover the needs of a decent living standard.
The leaders of the bourgeois opposition to the government- Leopoldo Lopez, Maria Corina Machado and Mayor Antonio Ledezma- joined with others in the call for the demonstrations. These leaders insist on fighting in the streets and disagree with the orientation that so far has been set by Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate to the Venezuelan government, who has remained within the limits of the electoral competition. He is accused of being a ¨marquesiner¨ and of ¨lying to the people,¨ creating an illusion that a real victory is possible in ¨elections that are rigged and fraudulent.¨
One of the ideologues of this new strategy of forcing Maduro ¨to resign before he is thrown out¨ was advanced by Alberto Franceschi, a deserter from Trotskyism and a leader of the LIT (CI ), an international Trotskyist current he was associated with in Argentina in the 80s. He who was also one of the leaders, who together with Barragan and Mercedes Petit, provoked the explosion of the old MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo). When he returned to Venezuela, he inherited the largest commercial trucking company in the country upon his father’s death. During this trip, he likened Chavez to Perón, “a corrupt dictator,” the same terms used by the gorillas of the Libertadora. Franceschi was also the deputy of one of the bourgeois parties of his country.
Since then, he has become an influential landowner and has written a political manifesto denouncing the opposition as ¨puny.” He also has been pushing to change a purely electoral strategy to one of confrontation in the streets against the regime. According to his position, this should be done in conjunction with a sector of the army, the tougher sector of the opposition, and what he calls ¨the many self-summoned organizations.¨ The manifesto includes a program of action for a future transitional government.
Capriles responded to these positions: “Are we going to screw over a weak government like this? What is the solution or is there any? If you want to prevail over the existing power, you have to be stronger and this will not grow if you propose an exit to this situation that right now is leading nowhere.” But his arguments were not heard by much of the opposition to Maduro. The February 12th marches were massive in Caracas and a dozen other cities.
This not only surprised Capriles who sees this as an expression of his crumbling leadership, but the government itself estimated that the protest would only be a limited expression of discontent. He called the Chavista supporters to mobilize a countermarch to show his higher convening power but the Chavismo only managed a minimum mobilization. As a result, President Maduro felt he was losing control of the situation, particularly in the streets and he orderedmore crackdowns on protesters.
The National Guard, the police, paramilitary groups and the political police (which, according to reports, come not onlyfrom the opposition but also, are controlled by Cuban intelligence agents) moved chaotically and made an orgy of blood, beatings and imprisonment. At least 3 people were killed during the day, two student protesters and a police chief in plainclothes who belongs to a Chavista group.
At least another hundred people were injured in a fairly serious way, among them were protesters, police and bystanders. Exact figures are difficult to know because the government ordered a media blackout on all forms of information and reporting and banned the broadcasting of videos, photos and articles that reflected reality.
At the end of the day, Maduro ordered the arrest of a long list of protest leaders with Leopoldo Lopez topping the list and ordered raids on opposition offices. The opposition are being accused of ¨provoking public unrest, terrorism, incitement to violence¨ and of knowing in advance that there would be people getting killed. There is even talk of an agreement in this respect, with Capriles himself, who would not mind eliminating his political rivals.
At the same time, the President made a speech that was broadcast live on national television and radio claiming that this is a conspiracy organized by ¨Nazi fascists¨ from Miami and that the intention was to trigger a coup de etat. He also requested the solidarity of other Latin American governments. Cristina Kirchner and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa were the first to echo the complaints of Madura and expressed their support for him and the repression he launched.
A mistake that could be fatal to the Venezuelan government
The excessive repression showing the ferocity of gendarmes, police and paramilitary; the dead and wounded; the censorship of news and the announcement of arrests of opponents were not taken well among various sectors of Chavismo who also participated in the protests to fight for their daily needs.
To any objective or independent observer, it is clear that there is no ¨Nazi -fascist¨ activity in Venezuela for the simple fact that the bourgeois leaders – some conservative, others liberal and reactionary- do not subscribe to that ideology. More importantly, it is a historic fact that Nazi-fascism is a phenomenon unique to the imperialist countries where exaggerated nationalism, organized by finance capital, resorts to methods of civil war to destroy labor organizations and implement state corporatism.
Venezuela sits on the largest oil and gas reserves in Latin America but it is increasingly being delivered to Chinese, Brazilians and European multinational interests. Russia together with China are also a part of the oil business andare two of the suppliers of the gigantic arsenal of weapons that is equipping the country to impress their neighbors while adding more corruption and control in the armed forces.
The country imports everything except for oil, which is sold at the lowest prices in the world because they are subsidized within its borders. At present, there is a black market and shortages in food, durable goods, automotive parts, clothing and other items.
Chavez ruled for 14 years, from 1999 until his death in 2013 and he was then succeeded by Maduro, his right hand man. Chavez promised a ¨XXI Century Socialism¨ that resulted in an amalgam of old bourgeois political figures, military figures, Stalinists, union bureaucrats and eternal public functionaries.
Under the shadow of the state, a corrupt Bolibourgeoisie has been created dedicated to enriching themselves at the expense of the people. Moreover the government party, the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela ) with its Stalinist bureaucratic characteristics, has been crushing dissent and debate has become a luxury. For example, all the candidates down to the to municipal level, are elected only if they are approved by the government and by the President in particular. If they are not then they get revoked and displaced at will.
Of the promised revolution, what is left are just the shreds of economic aid to the poor, the subsidies, which are nowadays inadequate, and the short-range populist maneuvers like the selling of big screen TVs and ovens at bargain prices on the eve of elections.
All of this enabled the opposition to mobilize massively and aggressively for the February 12th demonstration. Manygroups devoted themselves to besiege government media and government institutions while the government was notable to put together a counter protest mobilization of its own. Within their own ranks there were many who marched with the dissidents and among the layers of supporters of both the Chavista government and party, there were many who protested against the inefficiency, disorder, corruption and opportunism of many public officials.
Outside of the Chavismo, there are revolutionary sectors, still small but increasing their influence in the unions, trying to build a socialist alternative in the midst of the harsh conditions of the present polarization. They seek to win the part of the Chavismo base who sincerely want a revolution worthy of the name, and are even seeking to win over part of the opposition led by the traditional bourgeoisie, but with popular and youth movement origins. Under the present circumstances, this task will be very difficult but very necessary.