By Arnold August – Dec 12, 2020
“Venezuelan voters turn their backs on Chavismo after 17 years.” This was the international corporate media headline of choice five years ago after Chavismo lost the National Assembly elections. During the following five years, and since 2019 using the imposed National Assembly president figurehead of the then-elected Juan Guaidó, the US and its allies (including the European Union and the Lima group led by Canada and Colombia), carried out a ferocious hybrid war. The goal was to overthrow the Maduro government by any means necessary and convert Venezuela into a satellite of the US and the West.
However, according to the latest report of the National Electoral Council (CNE) of Venezuela, released December 8, the ruling Chavistas of the PSUV/GPP gained 91 per cent of seats in the National Assembly, or 253 of the 277 seats contested. Other parties: 11 seats for Democratic Action (AD), three for Avanzada Progresista (AP), three for El Cambio, two for Primero Venezuela, one for Copei and one for the Communist Party (PCV). The Chavistas won 69.43 per cent of the votes cast. Participation or voter turn-out was 30.50 per cent.
The hard-core extremist Trump-Guaidó forces could not win as they had five years ago, because they boycotted the National Assembly elections completely. The reason for this is painfully obvious: they knew their support for US sanctions and military intervention has left them completely discredited. The US-led game plan to disrupt the elections thus backfired, and the fact that the elections were held at all has strengthened Chavismo.
The participation rate on December 6 was 30.50 per cent. On the surface this may seem to represent a defeat, or even a refutation of the Chavismo. Yet the concerted effort by the US and its allies to provoke a major abstention rate of at least 80% did not go as planned. Franco-Argentinian Marco Teruggi, one of the most respected and consistent journalists on Venezuela, has provided a balanced assessment:
“[….] There was neither an 80% abstention, nor was the abstention the result of a call from Guaidó and Pompeo, but rather the result of a series of variables, such as, for example, the situation of prolonged economic difficulties in the framework of an economic blockade that, during 2020, took on even greater dimensions within the ‘maximum pressure’ deployed from the United States. The economic variable, with its consequent impact on discontent and exhaustion, was not the only explanation for the participation rate. Another reason can be found in a complex political conflict that generated an erosion among the population, where some sectors no longer feel represented in any of the existing political options.”
In dealing extensively with the low participation rate, Argentinian political analyst Atilio Boron also offers a balanced view. He confirms and elaborates on many points raised by Marco Teruggi. Firstly, he considers that “the plans of the subversive right and imperialism have been defeated, in a pyrrhic battle.” That being said, on the issue of the turn-out, he writes:
“Among the factors that had a negative impact on him not going to the polls en masse are undoubtedly the effects of the pandemic. This situation discourages leaving home, getting on public transport, queuing to vote, being in close proximity with strangers, and so on. Such deterrents cannot be underestimated. This, of course, does not remove the need to review the popular mobilization devices that were always so important in Chavismo and that give the impression of being in need of an urgent overhaul.”
According to Leonardo Flores of Code Pink, “migration is another factor that artificially reduced turnout. Only citizens who currently reside in the country can vote in legislative elections, but most who left in recent years still appear on voter rolls as living in Venezuela.”
In addition, December 6 reports from the ground by The Grayzone indicate that Guaidó was “running a COVID-19 scare campaign through messaging apps & spending all day telling Venezuelans to stay in their homes. Yet, 6.251 million Venezuelans went to the polls, irrespective for whom they voted. They are the heroes of this chapter in Venezuelan history.
Nevertheless, on December 10, President Nicolás Maduro declared in summing up the elections and he results that “There are many things to learn, modify, study and fathom”
A Reconfiguration in Venezuelan Politics
The election has also led to a reconfiguration in Venezuelan politics. The US have shot themselves in the foot. There are no longer any pro-US-Guaidó forces in the National Assembly. One of the American electoral observers in Venezuela, Margaret Flowers of People’s Dispatch, reports.
“We just met with candidates from the ‘Democratic Alliance [Alianza Democratica],’ the opposition parties in Venezuela who have been in negotiations with the Maduro government and who are participating in the National Assembly election this year despite US pressure to boycott them. They believe in peace, democracy and that Venezuelans can solve their problems by using the legal institutions.
In meeting with Venezuelan opposition leaders on 5 dec they stressed 2 huge problems: SANCTIONS and POLITICAL INTERFERENCE. There is unity on these points against USA and their puppets. pic.twitter.com/Wk31DPk4Vn
— rick sterling (@ricksterling99) December 7, 2020
One of the primary messages they want us to convey to people in the United States is that the extreme right-wing opposition of Juan Guaidó financed by the US does not have support in Venezuela. The extreme right is basically supported by wealthy Venezuelans who left the country. They want people to know that they represent the opposition in the country and they want diplomacy with the US, an end to the economic war and to have their sovereignty respected.
After the National Election tomorrow, the current National Assembly will no longer exist. Opposition members are concerned that despite that, the US government and its lackeys in Western Europe and Latin America will continue to support the US puppet Juan Guaidó to the detriment of the Venezuelan people.”
As we see below, they are right. In another report from Caracas, the common ground forged between Chavistas and the elected opposition is also illustrated:
In effect, after the elections, “the elected deputy to the National Assembly (AN) and national secretary general of the Partido Social Cristiano Copei, Juan Carlos Alvarado, assured on December 10 that despite not having obtained a majority of seats in the parliamentary elections of the 6D they are willing to work starting next January 5 [when the new Parliament resumes] with the other elected deputies.”
Trump-Trudeau Flailing Away While Arreaza Remains Calm
What has the US and Canadian reactions been to all this? It reflects desperation more than anything else. On December 6, while the elections were still in progress, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted:
“Venezuela’s electoral fraud has already been committed. The results announced by the illegitimate Maduro regime will not reflect the will of the Venezuelan people. What’s happening today is a fraud and a sham, not an election.”
Only hours later, Canadian Foreign Minister Champagne tweeted:
“Canada does not recognize the results of Venezuela’s December 6 electoral process because the process did not meet the minimum conditions for a free and fair exercise of democracy. Free and fair elections can only occur when democratic rights are fully respected. We continue to call for a peaceful democratic transition and for free and fair presidential elections. Canada will always stand with the people of Venezuela in their fight to restore democracy.”
The Trudeau government, always being in lockstep with the US, could not avoid the rapier wit of Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza:
“The ridicule syndrome under the Trump era is contagious. Now Canada also thinks its Venezuela’s electoral tribunal. They despise International Law. They don’t support elections and they want to restore democracy. We’re not ruled by a queen, nor by capital.”
It is no wonder that Arreaza is becoming a very popular politician in Canada, especially since the conference last August. However, the Trudeau government is floundering – again. In a previous article, as a prelude to the December 6 parliamentary elections, it was pointed out that “Guaidó’s standing in Venezuela is at rock bottom, but he has also seen much of his international support evaporate.” Nevertheless, Trudeau, rather than facing the grim reality, was desperately hanging on.
Is the Trump-Trudeau-Lima Group Showing Some Cracks?
Now, has the Trudeau government finally come to its senses as a result of the December 6 elections and the reconfiguration of the Venezuelan political landscape? Has it let go of the Lima group and Guaidó? Well, it may seem so. Like Pompeo, Trudeau’s foreign minister, did not mention the Lima group or Guaidó, which is a very telling first.
The Trudeau government is nevertheless trying desperately to resuscitate its failed regime-change policy. The aggressive Trump-Trudeau policy has ailed repeatedly and instead of uniting anti-Chavista forces, it has created a split. Guaidó is more isolated than ever and is virtually alone, not to mention no longer being an elected member of any government body whatsoever. Just by showing up at the polls, the electorate ratified a National Assembly that is for the first time 100 per cent opposed to the Guaidó-Trump-Trudeau interference and sanctions-prone coalition.
Nevertheless, on December 7, outgoing Secretary of State Pompeo caried on following the same tack: “The United States will continue to recognize Interim President Guaidó and the legitimate National Assembly.” Also on December 7, the Canadian government, suddenly remembering what they had earlier left out, issued a statement similar to Pompeo’s, but now in the name of the Lima group, rejecting the December 6 election results.
Yet, the Trudeau government does not seem to be embarrassed by the fact that among the Lima group countries, supposedly bringing democracy to Venezuela, there is crisis. In Peru itself. they are going through yet another political split with no president to speak of, Guatemala where protesters burned the Congress, Chile in the throes of violent repression against people demanding the ouster of Pinochet-era president Piñera and Colombia carrying out massacres and assassinations of social activists on a regular basis.
In their haste to get their act together, Trudeau and his Lima group, unlike Pompeo, did not mention Guaidó nor the previous National Assembly. Was this an oversight? Or does it reflect a split in the ranks of the Trump-led coalition? Did the already despised Trump administration go too far by making the ridiculous claim that the former National Assembly with Guaidó as its “President” still exists?
More Splits in Opposition: “Finished, Closed, Done”
It seems so, as there are yet other fissures in the opposition.
In a December 6 BBC interview, former opposition figure and twice presidential candidate against both Chávez and Maduro, Henrique Capriles said that:
“the opposition must continue on the electoral, rather than the violent path…. Guaidó and his Voluntad Popular party are “finished, closed, done’”.
Yet, Capriles agrees with sanctions, putting him at odds with the newly elected opposition candidates who oppose sanctions. According to a Reuters report “Guaidó’s press team declined to comment…. The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”
On December 9, two other opposition figures Ramos Allup and Julio Borges are reported to have “dissociated themselves from Guaidó, because the self-proclaimed [leader] has not wanted to distribute the royalties [from US oil revenue take-overs] that have been stolen.”
On December 9, the Organization of American States (OAS), based in Washington DC and controlled by the US, met virtually. An OAS resolution against Venezuela’s December 6 elections was presented by Brazil and supported by Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, the U.S., among others. However, the representatives of Argentina, Mexico, and Bolivia to the OAS did not vote in favour of the resolution that disregards Venezuela’s elections and calls for a transitional government.
Furthermore, in that OAS statement, while previously the OAS swore by Guaidó and acted as his virtual spokesperson, this time there is no mention at all of Guaidó. The OAS did however make “ an urgent call for the protection and physical security of the democratically elected members of the National Assembly [the old one which is effectively disbanded] to be guaranteed and for the safe return of those members of the opposition who are in exile.”
However, this also arrogantly pits the OAS against the newly elected National Assembly deputies which includes most of the opposition parties.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza remains calm, yet resolute in the spirit of the Bolivarian Revolution. Arreaza responded to the OAS in a December 9 tweet: “OAS is in its final stage!. Almagro has become its gravedigger. Venezuela does not believe in the OAS, even less so after what the OAS did in Bolivia, where it set the conditions for a coup. OAS is nothing!”
In the same manner, when the UK Embassy in Venezuela issued a statement rejecting the election results, Arreaza tweeted ¿Y? [in the sense of “so what”]. Mind your own business.
“Time for Canada to have an Independent Foreign Policy”
The obvious kowtowing, floundering and inconsistencies of the Trudeau government has not gone unnoticed by some members of the Canadian parliament, such as Niki Ashton of the New Democratic Party:
This tweet is embarrassing.
Time for Canada to have an independent foreign policy. Time for us to say no to imperialism in Latin America and elsewhere. Time to respect the will of the people. https://t.co/Kj3MBobeuc
— Niki Ashton (@nikiashton) December 7, 2020
There are other examples of similar social media chatter from MPs and social activists that reflect an important section of Canadian public opinion. However, the question remains, when and how can this opposition to Trudeau be brought up in Parliament and thus impact public opinion?
The reconfiguration of the Venezuelan National Assembly is part of the major geopolitical redrawing of Latin America. The December 6 victory comes on the heels of the ouster in October of the US-backed fascist coup in Bolivia being replaced with a government inspired by the once outlawed Evo Morales. In 2021, elections are slated for Ecuador, where the movement behind Rafael Correa is looking to win victory. In Venezuela, local and regional elections are scheduled to take place in 2021. In Brazil, Chile and Colombia, how long can right-wing governments hang on?
On all of these issues, the Trudeau government is clearly on the wrong side of history. Its scandalous behaviour towards Venezuela is just one part of its failing imperialist policy. As a faithful ally of the US, it clearly seeks North American hegemony over Latin America and Caribbean. The Trudeau government has not learned anything after its humiliating defeat in a bid for a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seat.
The Trudeau government counts on the COVID-19 crisis to muzzle all domestic discussion about its foreign policy. The Canadian corporate media follows its lead, desperately repeating the lies about Venezuela and any other state tin the world that finds itself in the crosshairs of US foreign policy, freely matched by that of the Canadian state. The need for an independent Canadian foreign policy has scarcely ever been greater.
Arnold August is a Canadian journalist and lecturer, the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion and Cuba–U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond. As a journalist, he collaborates with many websites in Latin America, Europe, North America and the Middle East. He is a contributor to Orinoco Tribune. His website: www.arnoldaugust.com