Venezuela – the parliamentary road?

Paradigm Shift 4ZZZ fm 102.1 11 Jan 2019, Friday at Noon.
On Thursday 10 Jan 2019 Nicholas Maduro was inaugurated as Venezuela’s President after closely fought elections with much violence on the streets. Leaders from Cuba, Bolivia and Georgia attended the swearing-in ceremony.

Ian talks with Eulalia Reyes de Whitney who is the convenor of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network. Ian had fourteen issues he wished to address, they managed to cover five in a 40 minute live interview.

Central American states

  1. Presidential elections 2018
  2. US Embargo
  3. Violence on the streets
  4. The legacy of Hugo Chavez
  5. The parliamentary road

Elections in Venezuela
Eulalia has recently returned from her native country after an extended visit of 5 months. During her stay, Eulalia participated as an international observer in Venezuelan Presidential and regional elections. Eulalia presents eye-witness accounts of the situation in Venezuela today. She speaks of the resilience of its people facing a political crisis and U.S. economic embargoes on that country.

Despite the crisis in Venezuela, there is near silence in the mainstream media in Australia about the 2018 elections and, what coverage there is, aligns itself with reports from the Organisation of American states.

Typical coverage of Venezuelan crisis by Murdoch Press in Australia.

Eulalia Reyes is keen to invite people in Brisbane to discuss ways of solidarity with the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution.

Future Action
Eulalia made an open invitation to people to come to the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network at 1pm on Saturday 2 Feb 2019 at the Peace Centre in 102 McDonald Road Windsor. The meeting will discuss solidarity activities in 2019.

Playlist
Jumping Fences – Satellites
Harpes du Venezuela – El Pararillo
Ali Primera – Sangueo para el regreso

Paradigm Shift

In Venezuela President Maduro was inaugurated on Thursday 10 Jan 2019 after closely fought elections with much violence on the streets.

Ian talks with Eulalia Reyes de Whitney who is the convenor of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.

Eulalia has recently returned from her native country after an extended visit of 5 months. During her stay, Eulalia participated as an international observer in Venezuelan Presidential and regional elections. Eulalia presents eye-witness accounts of the situation in Venezuela today. She speaks of the resilience of its people facing a political crisis in that country.

Eulalia is keen to invite people in Brisbane to discuss ways of solidarity with the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution.

Eulalia made an open invitation to people to come to the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network at 1pm on Saturday 2 Feb 2019 at the Peace Centre in 102 McDonald Road Windsor. The meeting will discuss solidarity activities in 2019.

Playlist

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4 responses to “Venezuela – the parliamentary road?

  1. Open letter to ABC and Guardian newspaper.

    Dear Editors,

    I am writing to you to express my dismay at your coverage of Venezuela in recent years. I feel that in most instances your coverage has been superficial, generally negative and ignored what was arguably the most significant world Social and Political event of the last 20 years.

    Now, when there is extreme danger of yet another US backed coup, and the potential for bloodshed that creates, I would have hoped that your coverage would have been more honest.

    The election of Hugo Chavez in 1998, heralded a string of social reforms. Chavez encountered a very capitalist neo liberal economy and one that was unwilling to change. The 30 percent who claimed descendancy from the conquistadors were generally upper and middle class and the 70 percent, the Mestizo, (mixed blood) descendants of slaves and the native Amerindians were lower class, and it is no surprise that these numbers coincided with the rates of poverty.

    Chavez, always non violent, was very careful not to cause conflict as he embarked on a programme of social reform. He left government departments and universities in place while he used the government oil revenues, to create alternate systems designed to empower the poor, this included free health and education, including tertiary, subsidised housing and Communal Councils.

    These were very successful and despite the hiccup of the US inspired coup in 2002, by the time of his untimely death, poverty levels were down to around 20 percent, an incredible achievement, but generally not touted as such in the western press. Further in 2006 Venezuela was declared fully literate, one of the few South American countries to achieve this goal.

    Very significant was the oil for doctors programme which brought thousands of Cuban doctors into the Barrios, so for the first time people in poverty had access to free 24 hour health care. At the same time thousands of Venezuelan youths were sent to medical schools in Cuba to eventually replace those doctors. As an aside, I see very little about the Cuban Overseas Doctors Programme on your media.

    The Law of communal councils passed in 2006, gave small communities, numbering only in the hundreds of people, direct access to federal funding for projects within their communities. The projects I saw included free meals for the abuelos ( grandparents), replacement of vitrified clay sewerage pipes with PVC, and construction of a new seniors drop in centre incorporating medical specialist visiting rooms. I note that about 70% of the project leaders were women.

    Further there were extensive purchases of unused land off the large landowners to distribute to the campesinos, who were encouraged and assisted to use organic farming methods and reduce the country’s reliance on imported food.

    The empowerment of the poor and and especially of women was a feature.

    But the US wasn’t happy. After the failed coup they launched embargoes and a massive trade, economic, diplomatic social media and media war against the Socialist government, this was aided and abetted by the industrial and media billionaires who opposed Chavez. And don’t forget, Venezuela has always been a capitalist country having a Socialist revolution.

    Sadly this war, this evil war, is ongoing and it is a mark of the strength of the government and the people who support the government, that they have not succumbed. The currency has been destabilised by the introduction of a black, alternate economy funded by massive amounts of $US. At the same artificially created food shortages were designed to impact the poorest and the US employed Columbian paramilitaries to assassinate leading politicians and campesinos.
    The US trade war, and its consequences have been almost totally ignored by your organisations, but this is what has created the present day situation. Make no mistake, the war inside the country has been the middle and upper classes attacking the poor and this is the cause of almost all the violence. The government employed police forces have been very restrained in their response.

    The hope for Venezuela now is that the supporters of Chavisma can continue to mobilise to defeat the current coup attempt. Maduro is the democratically elected president, under an electoral system known for its fairness, and transparency, and has the support of the poor and the military.

    I hope that your organisations can improve your reporting re Venezuela. The oil reserves give this whole situation a “last days of Iraq” feeling and we know where that led. The Iraq body count is now estimated to be 2.4 million and still rising. But where is your analysis of this?

    I note that something very important has happened in this country, nowhere else has made such incredible social advances while operating in such a constrained environment. This needs to be lauded, not diminished.

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  2. For those of you searching for a more balanced coverage of the escalating Venezuelan crisis, here are a couple of interesting articles:

    First by the first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/venezuela-us-sanctions-united-nations-oil-pdvsa-a8748201.html

    Then by a former Foreign Minister in the Chavez government, and more recently chief of staff to Maduro:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/05/juan-guaido-venezuela-maduro

    A more extended article by him is in Le Monde Diplomatique, always a useful and rounded analysis of world events, I think.

    https://mondediplo.com/2018/12/07venezuela

    It is a tragedy that both major parties in Australia are supporting the US sanctions and intervention in Venezuelan politics

    Ross.

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  3. CICD’s Alternative News

    My name’s Andrew and I have with me Bevan Ramsden, a long time activist for peace and Australian independence. Our subject today is America’s war on Venezuela; a war which commenced in 1999 and is presently being waged by what could be termed, “sanctions of mass destruction”. On 23rd January, President Trump announced that the US would recognise an opposition politician Juan Guaido as the President rather than the incumbent President Nicholas Maduro. The Australian Government has, as usual, echoed this US announcement.

    Bevan, How do you view the situation in Venezuela?
    BR: To understand this situation we have to go back a few years to the popular election of the socialist-leaning President, Hugo Chavez. Chavez was determined to use the country’s oil revenues to improve the lives of the people rather than enrich a handful of local and foreign, mainly US, corporate interests as had previously been the case. These improvements included free healthcare, free education, increased pensions, subsidised food and the construction of housing and other facilities for the poor. President Chavez’s reforms turned Venezuela into the wealthiest society in Latin America with the best income equality.
    He commenced nationalisation of the oil industry in 2007, and shortly afterwards US corporate giants Exxon-Mobil and Conoco-Phillips quit the country.

    Andrew: What is the scale of Venezuela’s oil and gas reserves?
    BR: It is my understanding that Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, larger than Saudi Arabia, and the fourth largest gas reserves.
    Andrew: How did the United States react to the election of Hugo Chavez?
    BR: From the moment Hugo Chavez became President in 1999, the United States has been trying to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist government by means of sanctions, coup attempts and funding of opposition parties. Hugo Chavez died of cancer in 2013 where upon Nicholas Maduro was elected President on a platform of continuing the Bolivarian socialist revolution initiated by his predecessor.
    Over the past five years American sanctions have cut Venezuela off from most financial markets causing a huge loss of oil income and resulting in Venezuela suffering a reduction of living standards worse than that of any country in recorded Latin American history.
    Alfred De Zayas, the United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur, recommended in September last year, that the International Criminal Court investigate the economic sanctions against Venezuela because these may constitute a crime against humanity perpetrated by the United States.

    Andrew: I understand that Alfred De Zayas visited Venezuela to see for himself the impact of sanctions on the Venezuelan people. What else did he say in this regard ?
    BR: He said that America’s aim in Venezuela is to “crush this government and bring in a neo-liberal government that is going to privatise everything and is going to sell out. “ He further said that, “ a lot of trans-national corporations stand to gain enormous profits and the United States is driven by the trans-national corporations”.

    Andrew: The Australian mass media is saying that the policies of President Maduro are causing great hardship to the Venezuelan people and are leading the country to ruin. Media reports speak of massive and growing opposition to the Venezuelan Government. Do you believe these reports are true.
    Bevan: It is undoubtedly true that the Venezuelan people are suffering great hardship and the country is facing serious economic difficulties, but I disagree with the mass media on the causes of this hardship. There is no doubt in my mind, that the United States economic sanctions are the prime cause of this mass suffering and I agree with the United Nations Rapporteur that these sanctions constitute crimes against humanity. Of course this situation has resulted in the stirring up of resentment against the Venezuelan government which is precisely the intent of the United States in imposing the sanctions. The first weapon of choice by the US government is a soft coup to change the government, and economic sanctions and recognition of an opposition figure, Juan Guaido as president over-riding the incumbent, is part of their strategy.

    Andrew: Bevan there have been news reports showing thousands of Venezuelans demonstrating against the government and in favour of this opposition figure Juan Guaido. What do say about that ?
    Bevan: As I have said, that is predictable considering the serious impact of United States sanctions on their economy. However, what is not given the same level of publicity is the hundreds of thousands who came out in support of the current President Maduro and to condemn the United States imposed sanctions and interference in their country.

    Andrew: Bevan the US likes to claim its interventions in countries such as Iraq, Libya and Venezuela are motivated by concern for human rights and democracy. Would it not be the case that oil is the major factor given Venezuela determination to retain control of its massive reserves of this highly strategic commodity ?
    Bevan: I think control and exploitation of oil was and is the basis for US interference in these countries you have mentioned including, currently, Venezuela. Oil is a very strategic commodity and the US knows that to the extent that it can exercise control over oil internationally and deny access to oil reserves by its perceived enemies, then it gains a strategic advantage. The US oil corporations, who exercise considerable influence over the US government, see oil exploitation in solely in terms of profit; big profit. And due to the petro-dollar agreement made with Saudi Arabia by the US in 1971, the US dollar gains international strength from this oil backing enabling it to become the world’s de-facto reserve currency. It is surely no coincidence that following President Maduro announcement in September, 2017 that Venezuela would conduct its oil sales in the Chinese yuan instead of US dollars that, President Trump announced a new round of crippling sanctions.

    Andrew: What do we know about Juan Guairdo ? Why has the US anointed him as Venezuela’s Acting President rather than other better known and more popular, opposition figures ?
    Bevan: Before January, 23rd this year only one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaido, who is a member of a marginal far right party known as popular will, which has been backed by the US for years and known for perpetrating acts of gruesome street violence. After a single phone call from US Vice President Mike Pence, Guaido proclaimed himself acting President. The United States then set about gaining support for Guaido from the UK, France Germany and predictably, Australia. Most Venezuelans reject the agenda of Guairdo and his party because they know it could lead to US military intervention and war. Our media reports fail to mention that Guairdo with other members of his Party have been trained in Washington in techniques of destabilisation and regime change.

    Andrew: Bevan, Elliot Abrams has been recently appointed as the US Special Representative for Venzuela. What do we know about him ?
    Bevan: Abrams was deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration and was instrumental in Middle East policy at the time, including supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
    Abrams has had a long and controversial history in Latin America. He was one of the Reagan administration’s fiercest advocates of armed support for Nicaraguan rebels and thus became caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal. He pleaded guilty to having lied to Congress about this Iran-Contra affair which was the worst scandal of the Reagan era. Though he was later pardoned by George Bush Senior. Abrams lied about the mass killings in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua carried out by US trained forces, the worst mass killings in recent Latin American history. “This crisis in Venezuela is deep and difficult and dangerous, and I can’t wait to get to work on it,” Abrams said in brief remarks to reporters after his appointment as US Special Representative for Venezuela.

    Andrew: Bevan what do you think Australia’s foreign policy position should be in regards to Venezuela ?
    Bevan: Whatever we may think about the policies of the current Venezuelan Government of President Maduro, they are the internal affairs of a sovereign country and Australia has no business following the US lead and interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs. In fact foreign interference such as economic sanctions which cause severe economic hardship and promote internal instability are at the heart of Venezuela’s problems. I think Australia’s should promote a policy of “hands off Venezuela, call for an end economic sanctions by the US and allow the people of Venezuela to settle their own internal affairs free of foreign interference.

    Andrew: Thanks Bevan for giving us this insight into this Venezualan Crisis which we expect will call for further comment as the situation develops. You have been listening to Alternative News presented by the Campaign for International Cooperation and Disarmament. If you have questions or comments regarding this program please send them to Romina Beitseen at peacecentre@cicd.org.au or phone:03 9663 3677

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  4. The power grab of the right’s Juan Guaidó is brazenly unconstitutionaL
    No matter how you slice it, an attempted coup is underway in Venezuela. Here are the basics: On Wednesday, Juan Guaidó, a relatively unknown second-string politician from the right-wing Popular Will party, simply declared himself acting president. Guaidó was not elected president—Nicolás Maduro was, in May of last year in a vote that the opposition might have won had they not boycotted it. Guaidó was elected to the opposition-controlled National Assembly, recently assuming the Assembly presidency through an informal power-sharing agreement among the opposition’s political parties. One poll even suggests that as recently as a week ago, more than 80 percent of Venezuelans had no idea who Guaidó even was.

    So call it what you want: attempted regime change, a putsch, a “soft” coup—the military hasn’t supported it—just don’t call it constitutional. The opposition strategy is based on Article 233 of the Constitution, which grants the National Assembly the power to declare a president’s “abandonment” of the office. Of course, the kicker is that Maduro hasn’t done anything of the sort, and only the Supreme Court can disqualify sitting presidents. Despite cries of dictatorship, the opposition did win the last election they contested—taking over the Assembly in late 2015 and using their platform to try and overthrow Maduro.

    When the Assembly insisted on seating legislators charged with election fraud, the Supreme Court declared the legislature in contempt, and we have since seen a tit-for-tat standoff between the legislature and judiciary. To break the deadlock, Maduro called elections to a National Constituent Assembly, as Article 348 of the Constitution empowers him to do. The opposition boycotted those elections, citing unfair electoral conditions, and handed victory to Chavismo. When Maduro was up for reelection last year, most again refused to participate.

    Despite Guaidó’s brazenly unconstitutional power grab, right-wing governments across Latin America and beyond have recognized him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. In a video released last week, US Vice President Mike Pence, in terrible Spanish, preemptively expressed the Trump regime’s support for Venezuela’s opposition forces, effectively urging them to act. This is no surprise; Trump has made no secret of his hostility toward Maduro, and his meetings with disloyal Venezuelan military officers have been well-documented.

    If this all sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve seen it before: The Venezuelan opposition is no stranger to coups, like the brief, US-backed ouster of Hugo Chávez in 2002, or the political violence it has unleashed in the streets continuously since 2013. And it didn’t start with Trump, either: As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton supported a 2009 coup in Honduras that unleashed terror and helped spark a migrant exodus. The United States has since overseen a rightward shift across the hemisphere, whether through elections in Argentina, Guatemala, and Chile, or so-called “soft” coups in Paraguay and Brazil. The latter paved the way for the recent election of Jair Bolsonaro, an open admirer of Brazil’s bloody military dictatorship who celebrated Guaidó’s attempted coup in the name of democracy.

    It’s clear that Trump cares about as much about everyday Venezuelans as he cares about the migrant families at the border—his sanction regime has thrown the Venezuelan economy into a tailspin and heaped suffering upon the poorest. But while establishment Democrats hyperventilate over Russian meddling in US elections, it is doubtful that many will say a word about this far more direct and dangerous attempt at regime change.

    In the coming days, the diplomatic standoff will prove decisive. In response to Trump and Pence’s overt meddling, Maduro broke off relations with the United States and has expelled American diplomats. Trump, however, has refused to recognize Maduro’s authority to do so, and while it would be understandable for Venezuela to detain the diplomatic staff in response, this would give Trump the pretext he needs for a “military option,” which he has threatened in the past. Among Venezuelans, Trump’s endorsement will likely do Guaidó more harm than good, making it perfectly clear that he is the candidate of empire.

    For the time being, as this standoff deepens, things will only get worse for those who always bear the brunt: the poorest Venezuelans; those who, while deeply frustrated with their government, aren’t likely to trade their hard-won democracy for an unconstitutional coup.
    George Ciccariello-Maher

    George Ciccariello-Maher is a visiting scholar at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics and author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution (2013) and Building the Commune: Radical Democracy in Venezuela (2016).

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