August 1 2015
Efforts to undermine the government of the democratically elected president Nicolas Maduro continued in Venezuela on Friday (July 31) in Bolivar state with the looting of a supermarket warehouse and other shops in the south-eastern city of Ciudad Guayana. A fruit and vegetable worker died near the violence as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest, local media reported.
For some time now Latin American leaders have expressed their concern over the clear destabilization activities in Venezuela which came to a head early last year when right-wing violence captured some sections of the country and their actions given sensational and misleading publicity in the mainstream US press.
Regional blocs like ALBA and CELAC have condemned the Chile-style onslaught on Venezuela (and now Ecuador) expressing the desire to maintain the Havana, CELAC declaration which stated: “We declare Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace based on respect for the principles and rules of International Law, including the international instruments to which Member States are a party to, the Principles and Purposes of the United Nations Charter”.
Raul: Solidarity with President Maduro in the face of destabilization
On July 15, in his address at the closure of the National Assembly of People’s Power Eighth Legislature’s Fifth Period of Ordinary Sessions, Cuban President Raul Castro stated “I must reiterate our solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution and the government headed by President Nicolás Maduro, in the face of destabilization attempts and any act of external intervention. We were pleased to learn of the results of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s primary elections, while we are carefully following the dialogue underway between this country and the United States.”
Raul: We notice an imperialistic and oligarchic offensive
“We denounce the destabilization campaigns against the government of President Rafael Correa and the Citizen’s Revolution in Ecuador, to which we confirm Cuba’s solidarity . . . We notice that an imperialist and oligarchic offensive has been put into practice against Latin American revolutionary and progressive processes, which will be decisively confronted by our peoples.”
The record of the Chavista government in its effort to rid the country of poverty, to significantly reduce inequality and generally to improve the quality of life of the poor is commendable.
Venezuela: A remarkable reduction in poverty
According to Harvard Review of Latin America “Venezuela has seen a remarkable reduction in poverty since the first quarter of 2003. In the ensuing four years, from 2003 to 2007, the poverty rate was cut in half, from 54 percent of households to 27.5 percent. This is measured from the first half of 2003 to the first half of 2007. … Extreme poverty fell even more, by 70 percent—from 25.1 percent of households to 7.6 percent.
These poverty rates measure only cash income; … they do not include non-cash benefits to the poor such as access to health care or education.”
More recently, UN statistics showed that in 2012 Latin America led the world in poverty reduction and Venezuela led the region in this commendable achievement. And in March 2015, Alicia Barcena, executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), praised Venezuela for its efforts to eradicate poverty in the country. “What you are doing here, the concept of going out into the (low-income) neighborhoods, to the places where there is the most poverty, it is an excellent proposal that should be examined by other countries,” said Barcena.
UN praises Venezuela’s accomplishments in gender equality
Venezuela’s accomplishments under the Chavistas are not limited to poverty reduction. At the 59th United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva, Switzerland, chairperson Nicole Ameline praised Venezuela’s efforts and success in increasing gender equality.
According to 2013 data, 48 percent of positions employed by the Venezuelan state are currently occupied by women. Comparatively, only 16 percent of public office positions in the United States are held by women.
In addition, 55 percent of grassroots government, such as communes and communal councils, is led by women.
Among the presidential councils, a unique representational mechanism, 486 women’s organizations actively participate nationwide.
Over 675,000 houses handed over to the poor in the last four years in Venezuela
In Venezuela education and health is free for all citizens and, up to February 2015, the Venezuelan government had built and handed out 675,991 homes in the last four years, in the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission.
This Mission (GMVV) began in 2010 under the leadership of former President Hugo Chavez to provide homes for families affected and displaced by landslides from heavy rains. Since its introduction, the program expanded to resolve Venezuela’s housing deficit.
Through the program, families are provided with the houses – equipped with all appliances and furniture – and the titles to the property, free of cost.
The United Socialist Party of Venezuela keeps winning at the polls
Despite all this; in fact, because of all this development for the poor, there are those who would like to reverse the process started by Hugo Chavez. However, they have not been able to do so through the ballot as the ruling party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, has consistently won national elections since Chavez became President. In addition, they cannot claim that elections were rigged as, according to past US president Carter: “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world” said Carter.
Having failed consistently to remove the socialist government from office through elections, the local oligarchy, backed by imperialism, has resorted to destabilizing the country. One form of destabilization which, among others, was successfully used in Chile and Jamaica was to hoard basic consumer items like cooking oil, bread and flour and to blame the government for the shortages, price increases and general dislocation which this created.
The looting is politically motivated
Hence, we should fully understand when Venezuela’s state governor Francisco Rangel, from the ruling Socialist Party, said the looting was politically motivated. Rangel explained that a “gang” of 40 people on motorbikes fired their guns in the area and incited people to rob the shops. “A group of armed motorcyclists arrived and said they were going to loot certain establishments,” he told Venezuelan television station Globovision.
“I’m sure it wasn’t spontaneous but rather planned with a political motive.” The governor said more than two dozen people were arrested in connection with the looting and added that there was no excuse for the behaviour. “No one is starving,” he said.
Venezuela has been grappling with worsening shortages of basic goods like cooking oil and flour.
Maduro: The violence was premeditated
President Nicolas Maduro also maintained that the violence was premeditated and blamed the US for being behind it. Maduro said US General John Kelly, Marine Corps commander of the Southern Command, had predicted in February that there would be a “social implosion” in Venezuela in July.
The incident comes as Venezuela is facing shortages of key goods, with the government arguing that business sectors are causing most of the shortages in order to delegitimize the government and to make large profits.
Maduro said that he was sending the Liberation of the People Operative (OLP) to Bolivar state to catch those he blamed for the crime, which he described as “mercenary groups, paramilitaries, and infiltrators.”
He said that during the violence a publicly owned Yutong bus was also attacked, and he called on Venezuelans to be alert to “violent groups who try to provoke chaos in the country.”
According to the local newspaper El Correo del Caroni, Gustavo Patinez was shot 60 meters from the main site of looting. Four shops were looted and wrecked, and a cereal transport truck was also attacked.
Over the last two years, sectors of the Venezuelan opposition have organized violent blockades, known as “guarimbas.” The blockades saw 43 people killed last year. It also stopped food trucks from reaching populations and stopped people from getting to hospitals, schools, and work. Numerous public buses, bus stops, and food trucks have also been destroyed, usually by being set on fire.
Businesses also often force people to line up to buy basic foods, though organized communities have found that the lines are often unnecessary and add to a general feeling of insecurity, economic chaos, and distrust in the political stability of the country.