Contributed by Joe Montero
Venezuela has just gone through an election for a new Constituent Assembly. This is a newbody, designed to lift discussion about the country’s future and bring about the peace, put forward by
government led by Nicolás Maduro.
Regardless of the merits or otherwise of the claim, at the very least, it should be acknowledged that the voters were asked and encouraged to cast their verdict.
A sticking point is that the Constituent Assembly would have the power not to change the constitution. The truth is that it will only have the power to make recommendation that will then have to be put a referendum. A clear guideline has been set, based on what has been called the “nine lines of work, which are
- Achieve peace, isolate the violent, reaffirm the values of justice and accountability.
- Perfect and broaden the Venezuelan economic system, to design or install a new post-petroleum economic system
- Include within the Constitution all of the Missions and Grand Missions established by Comandante Chávez and the Revolution, among them those focused on housing, education, health, and culture.
- Strengthen the functioning of the justice, security, and citizen protection system.
- Promote new forms of participation.
- Advance the defense of national sovereignty.
- Promote cultural identity and the country’s new spirituality.
- Guarantee youth a future.
- Show concern for the survival of life on the planet.
Despite the ‘official opposition’ boycott, 6,100 candidates stood for 456 positions, representing Venezuela’s different social sectors. Not all were government Maduro supporters.
Forty-three international observers and electoral experts oversaw the vote and have declared the result legitimate. The have also appealed for the will of the people of Venezuela to be respected.
In a statement the observers said,
“the Venezuelan people have made their case for peace despite threats and interventionist actions from the United States as well as their associates and allies.”
They also said that Venezuelans “have concurred in a civic and peaceful manner to exercise their right to vote in a free, universal, direct, and secret election as expressed in Article 63 of the Bolivarian Constitution.”
Much of the media coverage outside Venezuela has chosen to ignore all this and only put out the story provided by statements coming from the opposition. The line here is that this is about a dictator, working to consolidate his absolute power. However, perhaps the media should consider talking to some of the residents of Venezuela for an actual account of what’s been happening. Due to the dictator’s control, it wouldn’t be easy for the media to do that. Maybe one day, someone will create a book detailing all of the things that were going on in Venezuela. They could use one of the self publishing companies in their local area to get the book out to people who want to know what was actually happening. Often, people who were actually there are the most reliable.
The vote for Constituent Assembly is for representatives of social sectors, in addition to representing electorates. This means that workers, peasants women, youth and students will have their own representatives. Provision has been made to also include representatives for indigenous people, Afro-Venezuelans and the disabled. The opposition also objects to social sector representation.
Video from TeleSur
The reality is that the opposition’s support base is concentrated and does not spread across all sectors, especially working class and poor communities. This put it at a disadvantage and has a lot to do with the decision for a boycott.
Trawling through the reporting, shows wholesale unverified reporting, relying on uncritical repetition of media releases from this opposition. There is a lack of proper investigation. Only one story gets out and anything getting in its way is effectively censored by the major media outlets.
For instance, the unrealistic claim that 70 percent of the electorate supported their boycott and stayed away from the polls has been peddled widely. On this basis, the election process was labeled a fraud by the White House and sanctions on the South American country are being stepped up.
What is not mentioned is that the figure comes from a survey of intention conducted by the opposition, before the election. Any fair-minded person would accept that this is not the actual voting figure and needs to be verified against other evidence in any case.
Official figures of the count show that over 41 percent of the population voted. It may be short of a full turnout. But it was the highest turnout at any election for the past 18 years. Higher than when the collective opposition won a majority in the Congress in 2015.
Given the context in which the election occurred, this was a respectable turnout.
Video from TeleSur
For months, the opposition had been waging an openly violent and armed campaign in the streets to prevent the ballot from taking place. Perceived opponents have been hunted down by gangs. Bombs have been used. Warehouses storing much medicines and food have been burnt down. Schools hospitals and small businesses have also bee nattacked. Some individuals have even been dragged down in the streets, beaten up, had petrol poured over them and set alight. These actions only make sense as means to induce fear in the population, warning that anyone showing any sympathy for the government will be dealt with.
Where is the evidence for these acts? It happens that the opposition films much of what it does for internal circulation. It is another weapon of fear.
A man is set on and burnt alive
Police and the National Guard have been targets as well.
Video From VOE
Opposition bomb targets National Guard and is filmed by opposition supporters
Most of those who have died over the recent months have not been opposition supporters, but supporters of the government.
On election day, the bombing and violence continued, augmented by roadblocks aimed at preventing voters from getting to the polls. This has been firmed by those carrying out the acts as well.
The evidence is freely available on the Internet. There are also some journalists on the ground, prepared to go past the script and carry out some independent investigation. They reveal a very different reality.
Major news services do not want to know about any of this and show that they are willingly partisan and lending themselves as a mouthpiece for a brutal political movement.
The White House has used the fictional story to denounce the election as a fraud and is using it, to step up sanctions against Venezuela. The European Union is acting similarly and the usual suspects are following like the proverbial conga line.
To get a grip on why this is happening it is useful to understand the psyche of the major anti-Maduro forces. Many of them are of the old elite of wealthy landowners, associated tycoons and generals that had once monopolised control through brutality. They bled the country to maintain a luxurious lifestyle and kept the bulk of the population in abject poverty.
The rise of Chavez toppled the old regime and its former members have been fighting to return to the glory days ever since. This, in a nutshell, is the backdrop to what is going on in Venezuela today.
This caste of former elite of tin pot dictators is now being paraded as the champion of democracy. These gentlemen steeped by tradition in a hatred for those who they regard as socially inferior, don’t have to go far to justify brutality. They have been practicing it for generations, against those they regard as somewhat less than human, which happens to be most of the population of Venezuela.
People like this are not given support because of their democratic credentials. It is given, because in the first place, they suit the geopolitical ambitions of the giver. The United States power brokers regard Latin America as an American sphere of influence and see the Venezuelan challenge to this as intolerable. Furthermore, American interests have lost control over Venezuelan oil and other resources the profit that had been made from a cozy arrangement with the old regime.
Restoration of the former rulers would remove the thorn, and help to restore American dominance over the continent. Material and political support is based on this premise.
Imagine if a foreign country provided this sort of help to an American political force to topple the American government. Would the response be low key or hard hitting? To ask the question is to answer it.
If the United States has a right to be free of foreign interference (as is being suggested over the allegation aimed at Russia), it surely must apply to other countries as well. American exceptionalism is a hypocritical notion that smacks of the same elitism as its Venezuelan friends.
The Venezuelan opposition has made no secret that central to their return to power strategy has been a foreign military invasion and has consistently pressed the point with Washington. The difficulty is that world reaction would be harsh and a weapons of mass destruction type argument is needed as a counter.
The best argument would be that of a failed state and the logical way to get there would be though a process of destabilisation. The strategy is clear. Create a climate of fear. Take advantage of the serious economic difficulties. Blame the government for both and justify all means to get rid of it.
There are some real issues that the Maduro government needs to address and it may not be a perfect government. This however, is another issue. There are other critics, having their own take on how to deal with the political situation and economic crisis. The difference is that they do not rely on suing terror as a political weapon, or on foreign support.
It is undeniable that there still is popular support for Maduro and his government within the broad population. The evidence for this is the scale of participation in a wide range of initiatives. While crowds supporting the opposition have been out on the streets, even bigger ones have been out there standing up for the other side.
Is the proposal for a constituent assembly a move to dictatorship or an extension of democracy? One would think that the creation of a body that the creation of a body more representative of the population and ensures one person one vote, looks like the latter. Perhaps this is precisely what the problem is.