May 28, 2018
Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez’s successor, was re-elected president of Venezuela on May 20th, defeating Henri Falcon, the candidate of a right-wing party who was initially predicted to win.
The rest of the right-wing parties boycotted the election. Voter turnout was low, with only 46% of the potential 20.5 million voters participating in the election, ten percent less than the ruling party hoped. This is much less than previous turnouts: 63.4 percent in 1998, the first time Chavez was elected; 74.7 percent in 2006; and 80.5 percent in 2012. In the first presidential election after Chavez’s death, in 2013, about 80 percent voted again, and Maduro got 7.5 million votes.
This time, he got just 5.8 million votes, against 1.8 million for his main opponent. That is, he won only 28 percent of the total potential electorate. Maduro paid at the polls for the difficulties the population has faced since the steep fall in the price of oil, Venezuela’s main source of income, plus the effects of the embargo imposed by the U.S.
The commentators in the media here reflect the point of view of the local right wing, and behind it, the Latin American and U.S. capitalist classes that are behind all the Venezuelan right’s maneuvers. They all hope that Maduro will face the same fate recently suffered by Lula in Brazil.
Some commentators deplore the authoritarian character of the regime and also the situation of the population. The sharp decline in the price of oil has made it difficult if not impossible to find many basic products and medicines. In reality, though, these commentators mock the situation faced by the Venezuelan population.
Since Chavez took power, the local right wing, the Venezuelan bosses, and Washington have all had one goal: to remove Chavez and his party from power. They have tried many ways of doing this, including two coups that failed, and a series of electoral referendums that Chavez could win when the price of oil allowed him to distribute some of Venezuela’s income to the poorer parts of the population.
The Venezuelan right, the bosses, and Washington want to take back the power to grab all the wealth of the country. The accusations of incompetence leveled against Chavez’s followers can only lead in one direction: to reinstate the old order of things, when the capitalists and petty bourgeoisie divided up the country’s oil income among themselves.
The most narrow-minded commentators also want to see in Venezuela the umpteenth failure of socialism. But the followers of Hugo Chavez are no more socialists than was Obama when he pretended to put in place a system of universal health care. Socialism doesn’t just consist of a few policies favorable to the population, as precious as these might be. It means that the workers exercise power directly. They overthrow private property in the means of production, and the power of the capitalists. These are things the followers of Chavez have not done. In trying to find a path between local capital and the multinationals, they have chosen to play this society’s game, rather than seeking to overthrow it.
The Venezuelan right, the bosses, and Washington remain on the offensive. The U.S. has declared that it is going to make the embargo even stiffer. But the elections of May 20 showed that many ordinary people distrust these demagogues and continue to support Maduro.