November 13 2016
Recently there have been a handful of moments where Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution looked like it was on the brink of being defeated. Vilified in the media and under attack from right-wing forces and their imperialist allies, even the staunchest supporters of the process initiated by Hugo Chavez over a decade-and-half ago wondered aloud if there would be a coup or a foreign military intervention.
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President Nicolas Maduro was dealt a very difficult hand after the sudden and tragic death of Chavez and the collapse of the price of oil which hit Venezuela hard — despite efforts to diversify the economy — the country was highly dependent on the income and cash that came from the sale of oil on the international market.
But the Bolivarian Revolution has endured and with the recent talks between the government and the opposition, it looks like things have taken a turn for the better, giving the government some breathing room.
Right wing obsession
Of course, the right wing — with its history of sabotage and its obsession to overthrow the progressive government — cannot be trusted and can renege on any and all agreements at any moment or come up with new efforts at sabotage, aided and abetted by U.S. imperialism, which has also been relentless in its battle to destroy Venezuela’s 21st century socialism.
This, however, does not negate the fact that the talks have far exceeded expectations and should be seen as a victory for the Maduro government and the Bolivarian Revolution.
Dialogue – a victory
While the government has certainly offered its share of concessions to the opposition, the fact that the talks are even happening at all should be seen as a victory for the revolution. For months the opposition refused to heed Maduro’s call to participate in dialogue.
Though the opposition insisted that talks be limited to political questions, with polls showing Venezuelans wanted politicians of all stripes to get on with fixing the country’s economic problems and leave the political games aside, they accepted that economic issues would form part of the talks.
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This too was a big win for the revolution, as the number one element undermining support for the government are the shortages of food, medicine, and basic products.
Sabotage against the Venezuelan economy
In the last round of talks, the government and the opposition coalition agreed to work together to “combat sabotage, boycott and aggression against the Venezuelan economy,” or what President Maduro has called an “economic war.”
By signing on to this agreement, the opposition has acknowledged that there is indeed an economic war afoot. Key leaders of the opposition consistently denied there was sabotage taking place, alleging instead that the shortages were entirely the fault of the government and their economic policy.
There should be no illusions that the right wing will suddenly end their economic sabotage, but the dialogue process has made it much more difficult for them to continue and justify their destructive course.
The two sides also agreed on a roadmap to “normalize the constitutional relations between the different powers of the state.”
National Electoral Council
The parties agreed to jointly name two new representatives to the National Electoral Council when the terms of two sitting members expire in December. With this, the right-wing coalition and their friends in the private media will no longer be able to claim that elections are rigged.
The deal also says that both parties will work to bring the National Assembly into compliance with a ruling by the Supreme Court.
The opposition-controlled parliament has been operating without legitimacy for months after they defied the Supreme Court, but the leadership steadfastly refused to acknowledge the ruling.
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The opposition overplayed its hand, believing itself to be the new dominant political force, they failed to act on their campaign commitments to address the economic crisis in the country, though now they deny they ever promised anything of the sort.
Playing political games
In the year that they’ve been in control of the legislative branch, they’ve done little actual legislating. Instead of proposing solutions, they set out to play political games, like the recall referendum to oust Maduro and the attempt at an amnesty to free what they call “political prisoners,” but in reality are people who were jailed for fomenting violence that led to real-life murders of Chavistas.
As a result of the talks, the opposition has now been forced to retreat from its game of brinkmanship.
Together these steps completely undermine accusations that the Maduro government is a “dictatorship.”
Perhaps most importantly, however, the talks have once again served to expose the deep divisions that exist in the right-wing opposition coalition.
They released a statement that the talks were going in “the right direction,” but parties within the coalition, such as the party of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, have come out against the talks.
Lopez’s party, Popular Will, slammed the dialogue process as “futile” and called for the National Assembly to restart an impeachment bid against Maduro.
It was the launch of the talks that led the parliament to abandon its bid to try to impeach the president and it is unlikely the parties that make up the coalition will be able to agree to relaunch this effort as long as the talks are ongoing.
The truth is the opposition, known as the Democratic Unity Roundtable, is united in name only. The coalition is made up of a dozen or so parties, many of which fiercely dislike and disagree with each other, limiting their ability to actually operate in concert and dramatically weakening their power.
Private media outlets have gone to great lengths to portray an image of a besieged but resilient opposition. But the situation the opposition finds itself in is a monster of their own creation.
If the opposition could have, they would have already ousted Maduro. But their ineptitude led them to pursue a number of failed strategies, including demanding the president’s resignation and later trying to reduce Maduro’s term in a flagrant violation of the constitution.
Even the constitutional mechanism to remove a sitting president appears to be off the table now with Henry Ramos Allup, head of the National Assembly, recently admitting that the effort to oust President Maduro via a recall referendum was effectively dead.
There are voices within the opposition, such as Maria Cornia Machado, that still want to try to hold the recall. Her frustration was palpable in a recent series of tweets, where she appeared to lament the fact that the moment to oust Maduro had escaped them.
Machado has threatened to call for more street protests if a date for the referendum isn’t set, as has opposition leader Henrique Capriles.
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However, the talks have also served to marginalize these elements of the opposition. There is widespread support for the ongoing dialogue, including from the United States government, which puts people like Lopez, Machado and Capriles out of step with their masters in Washington.
No widespread appetite for violent protests
More importantly, Venezuelans simply do not have the stomach for another round of violent protests like those seen in early 2014 that saw 43 people killed. Though some elements of the opposition’s base will heed the call for violence, there is no widespread appetite for the kinds of social clashes some elements of the opposition would like to see, including their failed attempts at the “taking of” Caracas and Venezuela in the past months.
Despite the ongoing economic challenges, a large segment of the Venezuelan population recalls life under right-wing governments and have no desire to go back to those days. They are hoping these talks will produce results so that the revolution can continue to move forward.
Within less than a month, the Maduro government has gone from being under attack to having the strategic advantage, that too should be understood as a clear victory for the Bolivarian Revolution.
In essence, the right wing and imperialist efforts to defeat the revolution in 2016 have failed.