Jan 21, 2019
Venezuela remains in an unprecedented crisis.
Falling prices in oil led directly to a drop in the standard of living, and scarcity in necessities like food, which are imported. Prices have soared – inflation reached 830,000% last year – literally strangling the population.
More than 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country, mostly to Colombia or Costa Rica. There they are targeted by the anti-immigrant parties of the right and the far-right. One refugee camp in Brazil was burnt last August.
This catastrophe did not come out of the blue.
From 1998 to 2012, the Chavez regime took advantage of the country’s oil wealth to substantially improve conditions for the poor – which worked so long as oil prices remained high. The so-called “21st Century Socialism” of Chavez only used oil exports as a revenue source, leaving intact the immense fortunes of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie.
The Venezuelan bourgeoisie used their fortunes to finance campaigns against Chavez’s successor, Maduro. These campaigns rallied a big part of the middle classes and a fraction of the popular layers of the population against the regime. The country almost descended into civil war last year. Rich Venezuelan business people continue to raise prices, when they are not conspiring to organize shortages.
The right-wing parties have made several failed coup attempts, with the backing of the United States. A section of the opposition has attempted to launch an armed insurrection – witness the attacks on barracks to steal arms, or the revelations in The New York Times in September that Donald Trump spoke to rebel military officers about organizing a coup. Up until now, the bourgeoisie has hesitated before this option, because Maduro still has a base among the poorest.
The poor know what a return to power of the right would mean for them. For the time being, the bourgeoisie considers strangling the poor using the economy to be less risky than finishing off the “Chavista” regime.
Venezuela’s terrible lesson is vital for the poor and workers all over the world: they cannot improve their lot without expropriating the wealthy. And they cannot count on a Chavez, or a Maduro, to do it.