By Francisco Dominguez – Jun 1, 2022
The world has been stunned by a double wonder: Bolivarian Venezuela’s political survival and its miraculous economic recovery: the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has reported that it expects the Venezuelan economy to grow for the first time since 2014, by 5 per cent, one of the highest in the region.
Venezuela’s rate of inflation has come down from something like 10 million per cent, as reported by CNBC in 2019, and described as the “biggest economic disaster in modern history” by the Washington Post in the same year, to 7.1 per cent in September 2021 and to an incredible 1.4 per cent in March 2022.
The March 2022 issue of the PSUV magazine Economia Politica y Revolucion reports that corn production, essential for arepas — Venezuela’s staple food — has increased by 60 per cent, rice 17 per cent, with an increase of non-oil exports of 76 per cent.
These developments are coupled with a strong export performance not only of oil, a sturdy revival of domestic consumption levels, abundance of the supply of all basic necessities, rise in the population’s standards of living, gradual and robust reconnection with the world economy — excepting the US — and a successful battle against the Covid-19 pandemic with one of the best performances in the region and the world — 5,716 deaths, that is, 20.1 per 100,000 inhabitants compared with 304.18 per 100,000 in the US.
All this within the context of the vicious US blockade involving over 600 nasty unilateral economic measures. Though Venezuela’s economy is recovering, it is still suffering from the consequences of US aggression since it still needs to address and reverse all the distortions caused by US sanctions.
President Nicolas Maduro’s confidence in Venezuela’s economic recovery is such that he took the decisions to condone the $70 million debt to St Vincent and the Grenadines, reduce half the size of the debt of other member countries of the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean (OCES), and restarted the agreement with the countries affiliated to PetroCaribe with a 35 per cent discount in the price of oil.
To reduce this simply to economic confidence, however, would be misplaced since it is driven by Venezuela’s revolutionary solidarity, inspired by Hugo Chavez’s political and ethical vision whose tradition President Maduro, leading the PSUV and the Bolivarian revolution, has maintained.
None of the above would have been possible without the solid support of the people of Venezuela, especially its productive sectors, namely workers and peasants — not as atomised masses supporting the government in resisting imperialist aggression, but as conscious and active citizens organised in their class institutions.
The resistance to imperialist aggression has strengthened the relationship of the mass organisations of the people (trade unions, peasant bodies, communitarian organisations, women, youth, and so forth) with the PSUV.
The party’s authority has immensely increased while simultaneously that of the right-wing parties, especially Juan Gauido’s wing, has massively weakened. At the December 2021 regional and municipal elections, the PSUV and its allies scored a sweeping victory by winning 20 out of 23 governorships and 213 mayoralties to 120 to various right-wing oppositions.
Thus, it beggars belief that preposterous and utterly false charges have been made accusing Maduro of leading a right-wing-leaning government. The Anti-Blockade Law (October 2020) and the Law of Special Economic Zones (April 2021) have been used as a battering ram to depict President Maduro as neoliberal.
Similar charges have been levelled against the government of Cuba for setting up the special economic zone in Mariel, but also against President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua for his strategy of the popular economy, depicted as a “brand of neoliberal developmentalism.”
Evo Morales also suffered similar criticisms as being committed to a neoliberal programme based on “fiscal austerity, low inflationary growth, inconsequential agrarian reform, low social spending, and alliances with transnational capital.”
The Anti-Blockade Law and the Law of Special Economic Zones stipulate the participation of private capital in the unavoidable readjustment of the productive apparatus, required to bring about the desperately needed economic recovery.
In the context of Venezuela’s economy having lost 99 per cent of its revenues because of US sanctions, it makes economic sense to draw and harness existing sources of capital, always under the aegis of the Bolivarian state, to generate productive activity, sources of employment, and value added, all aimed at improving the population’s living standards.
However, the positive results mentioned above ought not to be exclusively attributed to these special economic laws, but, more importantly, neither the Bolivarian government, President Maduro, or the PSUV at any point since the death of Hugo Chavez, have abandoned their commitment to social justice as a central ethical tenet that guides their politics and actions. In fact quite the opposite is the case.
Imperialist-driven isolation aimed at economic collapse of socialist revolutions is an axiomatic fact of history. Lenin himself was compelled to adopt the New Economic Policy caused by the catastrophic situation brought about by the economic, political and military aggression of 14 imperialist countries between 1918-21.
As a consequence of imperialist aggression, by 1921 the USSR faced famine, huge food queues in cities caused by acute shortages, a severe decline of energy supplies, multiple peasant revolts, military mutinies, strikes, hyperinflation, black market racketeering and the collapse of the value of the rouble. With all the contextual historic, political, and economic limitations of the comparison, Venezuela — subjected to sustained US economic warfare — has confronted a similar situation of potential collapse.
At any rate, no truly neoliberal policies anywhere in the world, from the US to Sri Lanka, implemented as an emergency package to deal with a severe economic crisis have ever produced an improvement in any country’s economic performance, rise in the standards of living, expansion of the self-organisation of the mass of the people (workers, peasants, women, youth, pensioners, and the poor in general) and greater political support for the government that implemented them.
This is obvious to even the most superficial observers of current affairs in Latin America who find it difficult to deny that it is neoliberal policies that lie at the heart of the catastrophic failure of domestic oligarchies in Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Honduras, Mexico, Argentina to consolidate their rule, a malaise that is currently hitting the narco-state of Colombia and fascist President Bolsonaro in Brazil hard.
Joe Biden’s desperation to obtain extra sources of oil supplies led him to send a US delegation to talk directly to President Maduro — a government the US does not recognise — on at least two occasions, which have resulted in a stronger reassertion of Venezuela’s national sovereignty and a massive vindication of Maduro’s legitimacy.
Thus far these peculiar encounters have produced a very mild easing of US sanctions but a strengthening of Caracas’s demand for the full lifting of all sanctions and a formal recognition of President Maduros’ democratically elected government.
Contrast this with Europe’s abject submissiveness to Washington’s diktats. Nevertheless, Washington remains committed to “regime change” in Venezuela and continues to recognise the obsolete 2015-elected National Assembly and Guaido as “the interim President of Venezuela” — both confirmed in an official State Department statement as recently as May this year.
With the strong economic recovery presided over and led by President Maduro’s government and the PSUV, the revolution has entered a phase of deepening the transition from a rentier, oil-export-based economy, to economic diversification and import-substitution, aimed at continuing the socialist transformation of state, society and economy.
All these objectives were reaffirmed at the PSUV’s fifth national congress, held with a vibrant atmosphere in March to coincide with the ninth anniversary of Chavez’s death.
In case there is any remaining doubt about the socialist direction of Bolivarian Venezuela, there are well over four million citizens organised in the people’s militia to assuage anybody’s misgivings.
Francisco Dominguez, a former refugee from Chile in the UK, is Head of the Centre for Brazilian and Latin American Studies at Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom.
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