CHICAGO — After a right wing victory in Venezuela’s recent legislative elections, the Bolivarian Revolution is entering a critical moment, says Jesús Rodriguez Espinoza, Consul General of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for Chicago.
At the same time, he adds, the recent right-wing victory offers an opportunity to “deepen” the Revolution by taking a self-critical look at current strategic and tactical orientation and strengthening mass outreach and “people power” at the local level.
Rodriguez joined People’s World and the Communist Party USA in a December webinar for a national online presentation and discussion of the legislative elections held in Venezuela on Dec. 6.
Presentation and discussion during the webinar ranged over the causes and implications of right wing’s strong showing, as well as how progressive forces are organizing to resist the assault on Bolivarian institutions when the new National Assembly takes power on Jan. 5.
Rodriguez identified several causes for the electoral setback. Insufficient ideological and communication work and poor voter turnout among PSUV/’Chavista’ forces were certainly contributing factors, he said, but the most significant cause was the international economic and ideological campaign waged against the Bolivarian Revolution.
The Venezuelan economy is currently in a state of deep crisis, with inflation at 62 percent and rising. Rock-bottom oil prices have hit the nation’s petroleum-based economy especially hard, as have smuggling and black market currency trading.
Smugglers buy up goods in Venezuela, where government subsidies make necessary items available to low-income households, then resell those goods at market prices in Brazil and Colombia.
The government of Venezuela also subsidizes importers of vital goods like food and medical supplies by giving them access to U.S. dollars at a highly favorable exchange rate. Profiteers falsify import records to get dollars, then resell those dollars on the black market at a massive profit to Venezuelans anxious to move their assets to a steadier currency.
Some voters reacted to currency devaluation and shortages of goods by turning against the current PSUV majority. Tellingly, though, formerly scarce goods began reappearing on store shelves immediately after the opposition victory.
Mr. Rodriguez qualified smuggling and the creation of artificial shortages as an act of “economic war,” a war fought in tandem with an international media campaign to discredit the Bolivarian Republic by portraying it as a dictatorship or failed state.
The irony, he noted, is that the very fact of an electoral loss by the ruling party demonstrates how unfounded those accusations are.
The implications of this setback for the Bolivarian forces are far-reaching. The MUD [Mesa de Unidad Democrática], a coalition of right-wing parties backed by the United States government and transnational corporate interests, now holds a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
They are almost certain to use that majority to attack the monumental gains in social welfare, economic justice, and popular sovereignty made in the 16 years since the election of Hugo Chavez and the adoption of the Bolivarian constitution.
Moreover, the two-thirds majority has a special constitutional status that allows the MUD to initiate large-scale political changes, including declaring President Nicolas Maduro derelict in his duties and convoking a constituent assembly to rewrite the nation’s constitution.
Rodriguez was careful, however, to warn webinar participants against excessive pessimism.
In the first place, he said, the election – free, fair, and with 70 percent participation – is in itself a victory. Venezuela is a multi-party democracy whose Bolivarian Constitution contains a strong system of checks and balances to prevent any one branch of government from ruling unilaterally.
It gives the PSUV and its allies an opportunity to assess both the mass ideological work and the economic decision-making of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Moreover, analysis of electoral results shows that the position of the PSUV is stronger than its number of Assembly seats suggests. Though the PSUV won only 4 provinces, it retains significant strength in much of the country, with the MUD winning decisive victories primarily in urban areas.
Overall vote totals show that the MUD garnered only slightly more votes in these elections than in the closely contested presidential election of 2013. It was not the growth of the right, but the disaffection of the left, that shifted power in the National Assembly.
Finally, the MUD’s two-thirds majority is based on a fragile coalition of parties from center to extreme right, while the PSUV remains the largest single party in the National Assembly.
For Mr. Rodriguez, these results point to the necessity of taking a critical look at both the mass ideological work and the economic decision-making of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Major conflicts about the future of the Bolivarian project are on the horizon, he says, and the best way forward is to “deepen” the revolution by expanding the role of the Communal Councils and pushing for even more grassroots democracy.
For opportunities to participate in online discussions like the one with Mr. Rodriguez, like Peoples World on Facebook, follow us on Twitter at @PeoplesWorld, and sign up for our email list!