By Francisco Dominguez – Jan 1, 2022
With house 4,400,000 handed over on December 29 to another happy family President Nicolas Maduro gave tangible confirmation that 2022 was a positive year for Bolivarian Venezuela. Between 1999 and 2010 Venezuela’s government built 593,198 and for the 2011-2015 period 701,250 more, making a total of 1,294,448 new houses for the poor.
This means 3,105,552 houses were built between 2015-2022, double the amount built in the preceding 1999-2015 period in half the number of years. The latter period coincides both, exactly with the years when US and European Union (EU) sanctions rained over the Venezuelan economy, which led to a 99 percent fall in oil revenues, and almost exactly with the presidencies of Nicolas Maduro (2013-2022). Due to US economic warfare, between 2014 and 2021 Venezuela underwent an accumulated negative growth rate of –123,4% (Balance Preliminar de las Economías de América Latina y el Caribe, CEPAL, 2022, p. 144).
The impressive success of the housing programme symbolises both, resistance to imperialist aggression, and a continuation of Chavez’s ethos: people’s needs are a top priority. Any suggestion that president Maduro represents a neoliberal break from Chavismo is either malicious (as posited by the mainstream media), doctrinaire nonsense, or both.
A decisive achievement in the domestic sphere is the remarkable recovery of the Venezuelan economy that, not only has managed to bring inflation down from 1.5 million percent to single monthly digits, but also a no less remarkable rate of economic growth for 2022 that international institutions (ECLAC among them) calculate to be between 5 to 20%, the highest in Latin America. Nevertheless, US economic warfare created distortions that have not yet been completely overcome nor have the problems associated with an economy overspecialized in the export of oil to the detriment and neglect of just about everything else.
In comparison to 2021, there has been a hefty increase in exports; in domestic economic commercial activity with thousands of new small, medium sized private, cooperative and communal enterprises being established; substantial growth in manufacturing; and about 90 percent self sufficiency on food, among the most important indexes. The recovery led the government to prioritise social needs in the budget for the 2023 fiscal year in which 77,1 percent is devoted to social expenditure (health 23% and education 20%) that was almost unanimously approved by the National Assembly (with only one vote against). And President Maduro extended the law of labour security –for the third time – for two years until 31st December 2024, which means workers cannot be sacked, demoted or transferred without a justified reason and authorised by the Labour Inspectorate (what a neoliberal, huh!).
The economic revival is vigorous. Dozens of international airlines that had stopped flights to Venezuela have now restarted; trade with many countries have either resumed or intensified (China, Russia, Iran Turkiye, India, Portugal, the Caribbean, African nations and many more). The European Union de-recognised Juan Guaido as ‘interim president’; sent an observation mission to the November 2021 elections; plus a flood of European countries have appointed ambassadors to Caracas (the latest, in December 2022, Spain, appointed an ambassador after two years without representation). President Maduro has also received the credentials of ambassadors from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Latin America, and has also welcomed delegations from the US government. Thus, US’ economic efforts notwithstanding, Venezuela is no longer isolated politically or economically.
The exception to this normalisation of relations with president Maduro’s government is the United States. The US State Dept. does not have an ambassador in Caracas, James Storey – sworn in on 4th December 2020 –, to represent them before the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela operates from the US embassy to Venezuela located in Bogota. Donald Trump unleashed the non-recognition of president Maduro in 2019, a strategy that has been defeated and that, after the election of Gustavo Petro as Colombia’s president (June 2022), has utterly collapsed.
The US and its accomplices (primarily the EU) recognised Juan Guaido instead, however, the decision (30th December 2022) of the fictitious opposition-run National Assembly – whose mandate ended in 2020 – to abolish Guaido’s ‘interim presidency’, dissolve his ‘government’ and appoint an executive commission to ‘administer’ Venezuela’s foreign assets, has brought the farcical ‘legal fig-leaf’ of ‘president’ Guaido to a farcical end. When Biden’s request for oil to president Maduro is added to the picture, US policy towards Bolivarian Venezuela is an utter mess.
Gustavo Petro’s election substantially diminished the continuous threatening economic, political and more especially, military pressure (the US has ten military bases in Colombia) against Venezuela, emanating from Colombia’s far right governments (1998-2022). It led both, to the full normalisation of economic and political relations with Venezuela and, the strengthening of the peace process in Colombia. Furthermore, in 2022 Venezuela’s National Guard seized tons of drugs, dozens of laboratories plus 118 clandestine airstrips were destroyed, 45 aircraft involved in drug trafficking were downed, and Colombian narco-paramilitary gangs were robustly dismantled.
Petro allowed Venezuela to recover the chemical company Monomeros that had been illegally confiscated by Guaido’s ‘government’ with the complicity of Ivan Duque’s administration. Recovering Monomeros has made Venezuela’s quest to recover all its illegally retained or confiscated assets (about US$40 billion) by the US and the EU, a tangible possibility. This applies especially to the UK Tory government that, unlike the EU, continues to recognise Guaido as ‘interim president’ based on which it has refused to return 32 tons of Venezuelan gold in custody in the Bank of England. This means to redouble the campaign for the return of the gold to its rightful owners: the state and people of Venezuela.
The political context in the region from 2018 has been dominated by the election of left wing presidents in Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Honduras, Colombia and Brazil that, complexities notwithstanding, have moved the region’s political gravity to the left. They all oppose and have condemned the use of sanctions against nations and peoples in Latin America. Furthermore, the US-led Lima Group in the Organization of American States, set up in 2017 with the single objective of bringing about ‘regime change’ in Venezuela, is defunct. All conditions, therefore, exist for the region to support Venezuelan initiatives to recover its illegally retained resources through bodies such as CELAC. These governments may also support Venezuela in its battle to get diplomat Alex Saab free. Both tasks are yet to be accomplished and about which the solidarity movement must continue to vigorously campaign.
The biggest achievement, after the economic recovery and the generalised recognition of president Maduro as the real and only government in Venezuela, has been the agreements with various strands of the opposition including the extreme right. These agreements commit them to abandon the US-led insurrectionary strategy to oust the government by a violent coup de main and instead embrace the electoral route. That is, president Maduro’s approach to engage in constructive dialogue has been successful: there is peace and tranquillity in Venezuela and unlike the two previous decades, the bulk of the opposition is not involved in efforts aimed at the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government.
These are auspicious signs and though the thaw between Bolivarian Venezuela, the US and the right wing oppositions is to be welcome, the latter two cannot be trusted. The solidarity movement must remain vigilant and redouble its activities. Thankfully, Bolivarian Venezuela is based on Chavez’s civil-military alliance and on participatory democracy that relies on the mobilisation of grassroots organisations. In his end of the year message, president Maduro proudly reported that through democratic elections, 70 percent of the leaderships of these grassroots mass organisations had been renewed. Thus Bolivarian Venezuela is not only economically and politically strengthened but has droves of fresh leaderships to face the challenges ahead.
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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