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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 14, No. 52, 7 December 2015

In this Issue:

Red Alert

Venezuelan National Assembly elections hotly contested but perhaps more so externally

By Umsebenzi Online Field Work

Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday 6 December 2015; 23:10 (South Africa, Monday 7 December 2015; 5:40 CAT

Venezuelans have on Sunday 6 December 2015 cast their votes in the country's crucial national assembly elections. They are now waiting for the results which could be known in hours' time.

On Saturday 5 December 2015 Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who looked confident addressed the media and elections observer missions, including several former presidents and high profile politicians from across the world. This at a press conference and welcoming ceremony for the observers held at the Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela's capital.

President Maduro urged former South American Presidents to engage with opposition parties to accept the outcome of the elections no matter which way they go. He stated that Venezuela's revolutionary movement, comprising of the 5.7 million member strong United Socialist Party of Venezuela which he is leading and an array of other left and socialist parties and social movements, including the Communist Party of Venezuela, long accepted the will of the people.

Showing Venezuela's constitution, President Maduro asserted that his movement and government respects, and is in the first place the product of the will of the people. He contrasted this belief in democracy to a failed 2002 coup d'état (undemocratic change of government) staged by a line-up of opposition forces. A trade union strike in the petroleum industry was decreed, he recounted, and then the strike was redirected toward the Presidential Palace and used to stage the failed coup.

In this same hall, President Maduro said, the coup leaders sworn themselves. But they were afraid of Simon Bolivar as many still are (Bolivar is the founder of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the country's national hero) even though he is long dead, he said. The coup leaders removed Bolivar's portrait, the one behind me, he pointed at it on the wall. They hid it somewhere in the basement, he said. One of the first things they were then to do was to remove the name Bolivarian from the full name of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, he said. It was through the will of the people, he stressed, that the coup was defeated. That is how it failed, said President Maduro.

"We do not want any further violence in our country because we have experienced it before. We know what that means. Some people say if we lose we will go ‘back' to the streets. There is no need for us to do that. We have been in the streets talking to, working together and campaigning with our people. We will not abandon them by disappearing away from them simply because of an election results. Whatever they say from the election, we will respect it. We will accept the results no matter what the outcome is because we have faith in our people and democracy": he said.

He said: "There were 19 elections including major referendums held in this country since our current constitution was adopted in 1999. This is the extent to which we are committed to democracy. Our democratic state is not made up by some institutions away from the people. On the contrary, through this participatory democracy and their direct involvement in democratic decision-making the people are very much an important arm of our state".

The build-up to the Venezuelan national assembly elections revealed an extra-heavy contestation both in the country and outside. The United States and Western European media lined up behind the opposition in many ways and for a long time. This was the view echoed by concerned members of the public in the streets, further saying they do not trust those and privately owned local media that according to them either serve or are controlled by those who are backing the opposition. Rather, they prefer their own active citizen and community media.

United States and Western European media are seen by these concerned citizens as having declared the opposition the winner in advance using what they refer to as "the so-called surveys" - which suggest the opposition will win the elections. This was a cause for serious concern and risked fuelling internal destabilisation in a country with the world's largest oil reserves - what the United States and its European allies are seen as interests in.

One of the citizens said some of the former bosses in the petroleum company that has now been transferred in national hands under-priced oil when they were in charge before then, this as part of corrupt activities including selling oil as if they were selling bitumen. This benefited the United States and some of its European allies, he claimed. He said it was after progressive changes were adopted under former President Hugo Chavez and they were removed that the 2002 petroleum strike, leading to a failed coup, was co-ordinated. 

But the other reason why the elections proved to be a challenge is that oil prices have been falling - as a result of the post-2008 international capitalist system crisis that remains persistent. This weighs heavily on Venezuela, a country which derives much of its national revenue from oil.

In addition, there are fundamental economic transformation issues that Venezuela, like South Africa and many other developing countries is yet to address. With the production of a wide range of many consumer, and basic, goods and services in private, and often foreign, hands, the Venezuelan economy is vulnerable to many forms of production- and exchange-related attacks. It is some of these attacks, according to one citizen, that have led to shortages in certain products.

Umsebenzi Online Field Work, reporting from Caracas, Venezuela


Umsebenzi Online is the online voice of the South African working class