Feb 4, 2019
On January 23, Venezuela commemorated the fall of a military dictator, Marcos Perez Jimenez, overthrown in 1958 by a popular uprising. This year, there were two separate parades in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital: one for the supporters of the regime of president Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez’s successor, and the other for his opponents. And that was the day chosen by the president of the national assembly, Juan Guaido, to proclaim himself president of Venezuela.
Guaido, an engineer for 35 years, is at the head of the right-wing opposition because the more experienced leaders are under house arrest or have fled the country under threat of arrest, mostly for corruption. This party leading the opposition is called “Popular Will,” but it should be named Will of the Bourgeoisie, because it represents the interests of the businesspeople, large and medium-sized, who, after 20 years, want to overthrow the regime of Chavez and Maduro.
No surprise: a few minutes after he declared, Guaido got the support of Trump and the right-wing governments of Latin America. The European leaders got in on this meddling in Venezuela’s government. All these big supporters of democracy find a deputy who proclaimed himself president more democratic than Maduro, who won the May 2018 election with 30 percent of all the voters who were eligible voting for him (he won 67.8% of the vote, with 46% turnout).
But the next day, January 24, the Minister of Defense, General Padrino, star of the general staff, gave his support to the Maduro regime: a reminder that it is necessary to deal with the army.
The right-wing opposition has once again resumed the offensive, with the support of U.S. imperialism, as it has done each time the Chavez or Maduro regimes have faced a crisis. In order to find a way to bring the army over to its side, the opposition has proposed an amnesty for soldiers who rally to it.
They are wooing the army in part because it controls the base of the economy, and above all the oil, which represents 96% of Venezuela’s exports. Because it controls the border, it also takes its part of all the trade with neighboring countries. For now, the army has judged that it is still profitable to support the regime of Maduro. But the threat of a U.S. blockade could make it change its mind.
General Padrino also declared, “the devil is in the barracks.” Because the situation of the higher ranks, who continue to prosper under Maduro, is not at all comparable with that of the ordinary soldiers and their families, who have the same difficulties as the rest of the population. The inflation rate has already reached one million percent, and it could go up ten-fold in 2019! There is a reason three million people have left the country, that workers are demanding that wages be fixed to prices, and that soldiers are deserting.
And some of those who have appreciated the regime’s policy of redistributing oil revenues to the ordinary population have now turned away from the regime, because of the extreme difficulties that have hit the country since the fall in the price of oil. Some of these imagine that the return of the right to power might save them. It is an illusion, because this would mean a return to the time when the bourgeoisie and those near to it took all the oil income for themselves.
The opposition reproaches the supporters of Maduro for not getting the economy off of its dependence on oil exports, for not having diversified industry and for having wasted a real chance when the price of oil soared. But Chavez and Maduro did not invent Venezuela’s oil dependency – they inherited it. If Chavez had stayed an obscure army officer and if the right and left politicians had continued to govern the country, they would have found themselves in a similar situation when the price of oil crashed.
The crisis that is hitting Venezuela is above all caused by the capitalist system that speculates on everything, including primary materials like oil. Neither Chavez nor Maduro tried to attack this system. When they were in a strong position, they were satisfied to maintain the status quo with the bourgeoisie.
In the past, the workers and the ordinary layers of the population have mobilized to stop the politicians closest to the bourgeoisie when they tried to seize back power, like in the two coup attempts of 2002. This mobilization saved the Chavez government and allowed it to take control of the country’s oil industry. The workers still have the force to stop the return of the jumble of politicians whose discredit opened the path to power for Chavez 20 years ago. And also to impose on the regime the demands of the working class, indispensable for their survival.