By Alison Bodine – Jan 3, 2021
The people of Venezuela have dealt another decisive blow against U.S. domination in Latin America. On December 6, 2020, more than 6.2 million Venezuelans voted for a new National Assembly in what was Venezuela’s 25th election in the 21 years since the Bolivarian revolution began. Despite being under massive pressure from the U.S.-led war on Venezuela and the COVID-19 pandemic, the people of Venezuela went to the polls and delivered the National Assembly back into the service of the Bolivarian revolution.
As reported by the National Electoral Council, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which is the political party of the revolutionary government of Venezuela, won 69% of the votes — and 253 out of 277 seats in the assembly. The opposition party Acción Democrática, who received 7% of the votes and 11 seats, followed in second place, far behind. In total, there were 107 political parties represented in the election by more than 14,000 candidates. 98 of these political parties identify themselves as members of Venezuela’s opposition, meaning that they do not support the government of President Nicolás Maduro. Sectors of Venezuela’s pro-U.S., violent opposition, including the so-called “interim President,” of Venezuela Juan Guaidó, boycotted the election.
Contrary to what has been reported in mainstream capitalist media, the international and national election observers confirmed that the December 6, 2020 National Assembly election was democratic, free and fair. Over 1,500 international election observers witnessed the December 6 election. This included Council of Latin American Electoral Experts and several former heads of state including Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain.
Non-governmental human rights organization SURES was appointed by the National Electoral Council (a branch of Venezuela’s government that oversees elections), as the National electoral observers. As SURES states in their final report, “it is necessary to conclude that the people who participated in the electoral process exercised their human right to vote universally, freely, informed, secretly, without any coercion and under conditions of equality.”
The International Observation Committee has also presented their findings, which included, “an increased citizen confidence in political organizations and candidates,” as reported by Venezuelanalysis.
It is not surprising, however, that none of this information graced the pages of the Washington Post, the New York Times, any major Canadian media, or the major television networks in the U.S. and Canada. The United States government and their allies, bent on maintaining their supremacy in Latin America, declared the Dec 6 elections in Venezuela “illegitimate,” before they even began.
Question: “Democracy for Whom?” the U.S., and Venezuela Elections
Voter turnout was 31%, which is a victory considering the exceedingly difficult conditions imposed on Venezuela by the pandemic as well as the U.S. led war, sanctions, and sabotage.
In their Bulletin №231, released following the elections, the PSUV correctly noted that for the U.S. government and their allies, “it would not be enough for 100% of the voters registered in the Permanent Electoral Registry to vote… because the legitimacy is not questioned in the legal arena, it is raised eminently in the political one. Their plan is to destroy the revolution, fragment the country and distribute it among the imperialist transnational corporations to recolonize the continent, and they will not cease their perverse plans against Venezuela and its revolutionary and Bolivarian government.”
Venezuela’s National Assembly elections were called by the government based on the five-year election cycle established by the Constitution. Knowing this, the United States government, and their allies, including the government of Canada, did not waste any time in their campaign of sabotage and interference in Venezuela’s democratic process. In addition to the economic and financial blockade, threats of war and attempted invasions, military exercises funding the violent pro-U.S. opposition, and other such attacks, the U.S. government and their allies launched a targeted campaign meant to deter people in Venezuela from voting.
In March 2020 right-wing counterrevolutionaries calling themselves the “Venezuelan Patriotic Front” burned down a warehouse containing 50,000 electronic voting machines. This attack was reminiscent of other attacks on voting machines and equipment carried out by the violent U.S.- backed opposition between 2014–2017.
The Lima Group—a collection of right-wing governments in Latin America spear-headed by the government of Canada—released a statement in October announcing that they “Renew their support of President Juan Guaidó and the National Assembly as legitimate and democratically elected authorities and highlight their evident will and commitment to contribute to the democratic transition, led by Venezuelans themselves, as the only way to achieve institutional, economic and social reconstruction in Venezuela.” Far from original, this statement continues to parrot the Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela, released in March by the U.S. State Department wherein the United States government openly offers to provide the people of Venezuela relief from the economic war in exchange for the overthrow of President Maduro.
The day before the election, the Virtual Embassy of the United States in Venezuela (the verified account name includes the word “virtual” because the U.S. does not have an Embassy in Venezuela) sent a tweet advising people in Venezuela how to report allegations of fraud and encouraging people in Venezuela not to vote.
On top of this arrogant interference, people in Venezuela also went to the polls under the stress of the U.S. blockade of Venezuela. This illegal and inhumane policy is being wielded against the people of Venezuela as a form of collective punishment for choosing to break free from U.S. domination.
The United States, Canada, the European Union, and Switzerland have all imposed sanctions aiming to coerce the people of Venezuela into overthrowing the democratically elected government of President Maduro and reverse the gains of the Bolivarian revolutionary process.
Beginning with President Obama in 2015, when Venezuela was declared a “threat to U.S. national security,” the U.S. government has unleashed a brutal regime of sanctions against Venezuela through Congressional laws, Executive Orders, and 300 administrative measures. These sanctions make it virtually impossible for Venezuela to conduct typical business transactions, cutting Venezuela off from food, medicines, and numerous other basic goods, machinery and technology. They have also enabled the theft of billions of dollars from Venezuela. This includes funds which have been frozen in bank accounts throughout the United States and Europe, and exceptions have not been made for those being transferred for the payment of lifesaving medicines.
The Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) has estimated that these sanctions on Venezuela killed 40,000 people between 2017–2018 alone. Since that time, the stranglehold of the United States on the Venezuelan economy has grown tighter.
On December 6, the people of Venezuela mobilized for the election and cast their votes knowing that the sanctions and war against Venezuela would continue, and perhaps even worsen. However, they also did so knowing the importance of defending their sovereignty and self-determination by once again defying the orders coming from Washington DC.
Viva Bolivia! Viva Venezuela! Failure of US and imperialist Intervention in Latin America
On October 18, 2020, the people of Bolivia secured a resounding victory against a violent U.S.-backed coup d’état that removed President Evo Morales almost one year earlier. On this day, the heroic people of Bolivia elected Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) as the President and Vice President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
This great victory was due to the courageous resistance of the people of Bolivia. By electing a progressive leftist government, the mainly poor Indigenous Bolivians who believed in the revolutionary ideals and leadership of MAS and Evo Morales reversed the tremendous effort of the United States to destroy the progressive process in Bolivia. Without the heroic resistance of Bolivia’s oppressed people and working class to the right-wing coup government and their resistance to imperialism, this victory would not have been possible.
However, it should also not be forgotten that the continuation of the Bolivarian revolution, its dynamic and its impact was also driving factor of keeping the anti-imperialist movement strong and resilient in Bolivia. The resistance of the Bolivarian revolutionary people of Venezuela to U.S. domination maintains and nourishes the anti-imperialist spirit in Bolivia and Latin America. In this sense, it is like a resonating core of resistance and defense against U.S. aggression. The successful continuity of two decades of the Venezuelan Bolivarian revolutionary process has turned Venezuela into the backbone of the Latin American anti-imperialist and revolutionary movement.
We have seen how, over the last few years, the United States and their right-wing allies have consolidated some of their forces in Latin America, for example with the election of Bolsonaro in Brazil in 2018. However, the victory in Bolivia has reminded poor, working and oppressed people around the world that this reactionary backlash was just a pause. The progressive and revolutionary movement in Latin America has continued, and even with a partial setback the United States and their imperialist allies cannot win.
Throughout Latin America poor masses, the working class and young people are rising in response to the deepening crisis imposed upon them by U.S. imperialist domination and neo-Liberal governments. Over the past two years, the landscape is shifting, and one can observe how people are moving to the left in South America, whether in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.
It is also significant that since the beginning of the Bolivarian revolutionary process until today, the United States has failed to isolate Venezuela from the rest of the world. Despite the inhuman and criminal unilateral sanctions imposed on them, Venezuela continues to have economic and cooperative relationships with other developing countries, especially those that have also been targeted by the U.S. government. This too, demonstrates to the rest of poor, working and oppressed people in Latin America that there is a possibility for continued development without relying on the United States, the World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Although the severe impact of the U.S. economic war on Venezuela cannot be completely mitigated, there are several examples of the ways that the government of Venezuela has lessoned the impact on the people of Venezuela.
For example, the Russian Vaccine Sputnik V is undergoing phase 3 trials in Venezuela today. Venezuela has received more than 274 tons of medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment from China to assist in their struggle against the pandemic. Venezuela and Cuba have also continued to expand their cooperation, especially though the presence of Cuban doctors in Venezuela that have contributed to the development of Venezuela’s free and universal healthcare system.
Since May 2020, Iran has also been sending tankers of gasoline to relieve the severe shortages in Venezuela brought on by U.S. sanctions aimed at destroying Venezuela’s oil industry. Ten tankers are currently on their way to Venezuela, following three that arrived in October.
In this way, the people of Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolutionary government are breaking the economic sanctions by expanding friendship with other nations, especially those that are also facing severe U.S. sanctions themselves. They learned many good lessons from the example of revolutionary Cuba. With the belief and practice of revolutionary internationalism and cooperation with oppressed nations and countries, revolutionary socialist Cuba set an example for a successful anti-imperialist struggle. For whomever is interested in fighting Yankee imperialism, the example of the people of Cuba, Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolutionary process shows that this is possible, that there is an alternative to staying under the domination and pressure of the United States.
Build the Movement in Solidarity with Venezuela Today and Tomorrow
The blow that the people of Venezuela have dealt to the domination of the United States and their imperialist allies in Latin America also gives a boost to those fighting against the war at home. Poor, working and oppressed people within the “belly of the beast,” are in a better position to fight for their rights when the beast is wounded. On February 19, 2019 the Foreign Minister of Venezuela Jorge Arreaza tweeted “the time and resources that these imperialist gentlemen spend on Bolivarian Venezuela can only mean one thing: like 200 years ago, today we are also at the geopolitical epicenter of the multipolar world in the making #HandsOffVenezuela.”
Anti-imperialists and fighters for liberation have a sense of the accuracy of Arreaza’s analysis. However, it is also good that we take this further, that we understand Venezuela not just as the epicentre, but also the critical point for the anti-imperialist movement in Latin America. The success and progress of the whole anti-imperialist, anti-Yankee domination movement in Latin America is dependent on the resistance of the people of Venezuela. The continuation of the Bolivarian revolutionary process is a necessity for the road to freedom in Latin America.
Thus, defending Venezuela is a central task for anti-imperialists and anyone who believes that a better and just world is not only necessary, but possible. We must see with clarity that standing for Venezuela’s sovereignty and self-determination is not a question of defending progressive causes, the left or socialists. Let’s not get distracted. The continuity of the Bolivarian revolutionary process is the critical point for revolution and counter-revolution in Latin America and it is directly related to defending a new movement of working and oppressed people in Latin America. Anyone who believes that defeating imperialism in Latin America is an essential task will support Venezuela.
There is no doubt that the new U.S. Biden Administration understands this just as well as President Trump’s. When the new Venezuelan National Assembly takes office on January 5, 2020 they will cement the victory of the December 6 elections and begin to further the Bolivarian revolutionary process.
As people living in the United States and Canada, and around the world, we must also take on a new responsibility and redouble our efforts to end the U.S. blockade and war on Venezuela!
In the words of Comandante Hugo Chavez “Let the dogs of the empire bark, that’s their job; ours is to battle to achieve the true liberation of our people.”
Featured image: Rally for the Parliamentary elections in Nueva Esparta, Venezuela. The signs read “Enough of the Blockade! Vote 6D [in reference to the election date of December 6]” and “Vote! Ven — We go forward together!”
Alison Bodine is a social justice activist, author and researcher in Vancouver, Canada. She is the Chair of Vancouver's antiwar coalition, Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO). Alison is also on the Editorial Board of the Fire This Time Newspaper. @alisoncolette