Venezuela’s Chavistas rally as the elections approach

By Francisco Dominguez for The Morning Star

The start of the election campaign period in Venezuela was almost axiomatically followed by a mass unity mobilisation of Chavista forces, a messy crisis of leadership and candidacy for the right-wing opposition and the announcement by the US of the imposition of more sanctions against the country’s main revenue earner: the oil industry.

The Chavista movement is fielding incumbent President Nicolas Maduro, while the various opposition currents have, thus far, nearly 10 candidates), with the US (and therefore the EU bureaucracy) supporting extreme-right candidate Edmundo Gonzalez Urrutia.

The Chavista forces staged an impressive mobilisation for International Workers’ Day on May 1, in tumultuous and large rallies in Venezuela’s key cities. So far, rallies held by the extreme right in support of Gonzalez have been rather small and have not covered as much of the country’s geography as the Chavista demos.

As Gonzalez has attended only one of these rallies (in an interview he said he has no intention to attend any), the main speaker has been extreme-right politician Maria Corina Machado, who has addressed supporters by holding a poster of Gonzalez while she speaks.

The main themes of the right’s campaign, echoed by the US and EU political Establishments, are about the need to vigorously mobilise to defeat and oust the Maduro government (for which they say this election is a historic opportunity); and, inescapably, they are making noises that the election may be rigged.

Conversely, Chavismo’s main themes for the coming elections, as in the last 25 years, are more social progress and more democracy, despite a quarter of a century of US-led and US-financed destabilisation.

The latter has included coups d’etat, long periods of street violence that have even involved burning people alive, US recognition of “interim president” Juan Guaido, illegal confiscation of huge amounts of Venezuelan assets (including 31 tons of gold by Britain), mercenary attacks, blocking the importation of food and medicines, assassination attempts against the president and, more recently, a heavy US military presence in Guyana (apparently with several US bases) aggressively interfering in the territorial dispute of the Caribbean nation with Venezuela.

At the May 1 rally, President Maduro made important announcements about what his government will implement in the coming period.

The first, given the economy’s recovery, is to increase the minimum wage to $130 starting from May 2024. This is a long way from $380 in 2008 when Venezuela’s revenues were $65,000 million, which, thanks to US sanctions, went down to a mere $700m.

At the May 1 rally, Venezuela’s labour movement launched a campaign of signatures to demand: “Biden, lift the sanctions now.”

President Maduro has also instigated a special Bill at the national assembly presented by Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez, by which employers in the private sector would make a monthly contribution to protect pensions, justified on the merits of the current economic growth which has been agreed in talks with them.

In addition to the 4.9 million homes built by the housing programme, Maduro has legislated to issue low-interest loans for the working class, aiming to build two million more houses in the next six years.

He also stated that through the Homeland System, workers will be able to apply to go on holidays in the state-run Venetur hotels in Morrocoy, Margarita, La Orchila, Canaima, the Gran Sabana, Merida and other holiday resorts at solidarity prices payable as comfortably as possible. This decision was the result of consultation with the CSBT (Venezuela’s TUC).

And for good measure, and in line with the ethics of the Bolivarian revolution, on May 9 Maduro announced that, as part of the programme, “women, economically independent subjects,” 41,000 loans were issued to female small entrepreneurs.

In the effort to reduce the gender pay gap, over 222,225 women’s committees have been established by women in Venezuela, thus massively enhancing women’s role in the country’s participatory democracy.

At the rally the president reported that despite the gigantic financial difficulties created by US sanctions, “CLAP” boxes (Comite Local de Abastecimiento y Produccio, which provide food and necessities) now reach 7.6 million families and that 97 per cent of their content is domestically produced; that fish output has increased by 67 per cent, and that oil output is expected to reach 1.2 million barrels a day by the end of 2024.

Furthermore, Venezuela has the lowest inflation rate in 14 years and going down further (an estimated accumulated 30 per cent between January and April ), and tax collection for the same period has increased a record 78 per cent more ($3.1 billion) than in the same period the previous year — most of which will go to social expenditure. All the above, despite the new US sanctions causing $2bn in losses.

Maduro also laid out the key strategic tasks of his government: intensify the struggle to get all the sanctions unconditionally lifted and continue the country’s economic recovery aiming for the minimum wage to be $380 again.

As is well known, Venezuela has the best election system in the world. President Maduro and Chavismo have already indicated they will accept the results. Not accepting the results, as the US-funded opposition has done for the last two decades, implies resorting to violence, as they have done repeatedly.

Our solidarity must be intensified to condemn and reject any attempt by the extreme right to engage in violence. All participants must accept the election results whatever they might be. The will of the people of Venezuela must be respected.