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Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela.

Taking a Stand on Venezuela and Nicaragua.

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Left Should Stand with our Sisters and Brothers.

Recently Pablo Iglesias the leader of Podemos said after denying any financial links with Venezuela of his former admiration for  the President Hugo Chávez that,

I don’t agree with some of the things I said in the past. The current political and economic situation of Venezuela right now is dire. To rectify in politics is a good thing. (Creo que rectificar en política está bien)

13th of December. Podemos chief grilled in Senate over Venezuela financing links

Reuters today reports, The Venezuelan regime is gearing up to the end game: Maduro says Venezuela’s civil militia grows to 1.6 million members.

“We will arm the Bolivarian militia to the teeth,” Maduro said, without detailing how many of the militia members were actually armed. “An invading imperialist force may enter a part of our fatherland, but the imperialists should know that they will not leave here alive.”

Maduro is cosying up to the Turkish far-right President:

The Turkey-Venezuela mutual admiration society

Latin American country is increasingly isolated, but Ankara’s not joining in. 

The FT reports on the background:

The economy is shrinking but the country has so far refused to produce economic data on gross domestic product or inflation despite repeated requests and potentially a major default on Venezuela’s sovereign debt. The country’s inability to pay bondholders could lead to it losing over the next few months of one its main assets — the international trading company Citgo.

What should be one of the richest countries in Latin America, given its extensive oil and mineral resources from gold to bauxite and diamonds, is now one of the poorest.

Basic supplies and food are scarce and, as well as an exodus of talent, there is a growing refugee crisis as people try to escape to neighbouring countries such as Colombia and Brazil.

According to a recent paper from Brookings, there are already more than 3m Venezuelans living outside the country, including a million in Colombia. The exodus includes the desperately poor but also skilled workers and technicians on whom the economy depends. Within that group are many of those who built the state oil company PDVSA but are fleeing the corruption and mismanagement that now dominates the company.

What is left of the economy only keeps going as a result of loans from Russia, in return for which Moscow is being allowed to establish a military base in the country and cash-for-oil deals with the Chinese.

Human Rights Watch states,

Under the leadership of President Hugo Chávez and President Nicolás Maduro, the accumulation of power in the executive branch and erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, censor, and punish its critics. Severe shortages of medicines, medical supplies, and food have intensified since 2014, and weak government responses have undermined Venezuelans’ rights to health and food. Security forces have arbitrarily detained and tortured protesters, and raids in low-income communities have led to widespread allegations of abuse. Other persistent concerns include poor prison conditions and impunity for human rights abuses.

Another regime is also in crisis, and using repression to crush dissent, Nicaragua.

Harassment and persecution of the voices denouncing repression in Nicaragua

There is a pressing need for the international community to recognize the right to defend rights and to provide a safe space for defenders to do their work.

On Wednesday December 12 the National Assembly of Nicaragua voted to cancel the legal registration of Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH). After the announcement Vilma Nuñez, 80 years old, the president of CENIDH and one of the most recognized human rights defenders in the region declared “We have done our work with conviction and we will continue doing it until Nicaragua is really free”.

Just a week earlier I met Doña Vilma, as she is known, in Washington DC when she came with a delegation of human rights organizations from Nicaragua to participate in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and present their testimony about the continuous repression in the country.

Her strength and commitment to the protection of civic freedoms in her country are remarkable. However, her voice had a sadness tint when talking on how the situation continues to deteriorate in Nicaragua.

During the hearing the activists from Nicaragua provided updated information to the Commission on how the human rights crisis in Nicaragua has evolved and the serious consequences for people in the country.

The organizations denounced how the State of Nicaragua continues to discourage and punish social protest and political dissent, despite the incessant calls to terminate the violence.

The threats to civic space in Nicaragua are not new. Civil society in the country has been facing growing restrictions as political power has increasingly concentrated in recent years and civic space has become completely repressed.

However, the situation has worsened since April 2018 when proposed regressive changes to the social security system sparked widespread, mass protests across the country. The government violently repressed the demonstrations. Since that more than 300 people have been killed and more than 600 remain in detention.

Abuses and violations to civic space in Nicaragua vary from violent repression of social protest, violence against journalists and censorship of the media, and arrest and criminalization of activists to the introduction of restrictions to civic space through the legislative framework.

Despite these developments, as clear as a pikestaff, many on the British left continue to support these regimes.

Protests at a recent conference in solidarity with Latin America were not welcome

Watch this and weep.

It is time for solidarity with those oppressed by the regimes of Venezuela and Nicaragua.

It is also time for some senior Labour figures  to follow Pablo Iglesias and say, “To rectify in politics is a good thing.”

The magazine Labour Briefing has just carried this article on its web site:

The civil unrest and police violence that swept across Nicaragua earlier this year leaving over 300 people dead have been followed by a wave of state repression against human rights organisations and media outlets. Most shocking among these are the police raids on CENIDH, the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights, whose director is Vilma Núñez.

……

According to Amnesty International, most of the victims in the recent unrest were killed “at the hands of state agents.” Yet what happened is talked about in Nicaragua Solidarity circles abroad as if it were an internationally orchestrated coup against Ortega, thus justifying the brutality of the regime‘s response. The irony is that, as the Trump Administration ratchets up the rhetoric against Nicaragua, it is the self-serving actions of Ortega himself that leave the Nicaraguan Revolution less able to defend itself.

Some on the left understand this. Noam Chomsky has called for early elections. Pablo Iglesias of Podemos in Spain, and former Uruguayan President José Mujica have also been sharply critical of Ortega. None of these individuals are in the business of promoting US government interests. Rather, they understand that defending the gains of the Nicaraguan Revolution requires the orderly exit of the corrupt dynasty that has betrayed it. Others on the left should now speak up for the basic rights of Nicaraguans as a matter or urgency.

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Written by Andrew Coates

December 18, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Venezuela Hyperinflation at the One Million Mark as Maduro Regime Faces Breakdown. 

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Venezuela Hyperinflation Index Reaches the One Million Mark

…just two years ago, when we launched the Bloomberg Cafe Con Leche Index, a coffee cost 450 bolivars. Or that today’s price is the equivalent of almost one-fifth of the monthly minimum wage. Or that to buy a cup with the most common bill in circulation — the 100-bolivar note — you’d need to gather up a stack of 10,000 of them.

Libération 22nd of June, François-Xavier Gomez.

In Venezuela, the minimum wage has now been raised  to 1 dollar.

For the fourth time this year, President Nicolás Maduro has raised the minimum wage for Venezuelans. On the 1 st July it will pass to  million bolivars, against 1 million since 1 st May To this sum is added a monthly food voucher for a value of 2.2 million bolivars. On 1 st January, the minimum wage stood at 250,000 bolivares. The inflationary spiral that is devastating the country’s economy renders any attempt at conversion useless. The government keeps the figures of the price rises hidden from its own public, while external sources (World Bank or International Monetary Fund) put them  at 2,700% for 2017, with a forecast at 13,800% for this year.

These incredible  figures mean that a month’s minimum salary will buy you, ” deux bouteilles d’huile, ou un kilo de poulet, ou une douzaine d’œufs” two bottles of cooking oil, a kilo of chicken and a dozen eggs.

More than 120,000 Venezuelans have formerly asked for asylum in Peru alone – outnumbering those fleeing to the USA,  which is overwhelmed by the flood of refugees who total more than  353.000 of whom 16.000 are children. They have added to a country’s difficulties where already 60% work in the ‘informal’ economy.

The Maduro ‘Bolivarian revolutionaries’ – once the best known example of ‘populism’ claiming to be on the left and a central  inspiration for some European left leaders, such as the Spanish speaking Jean-luc Melechon (MÉLENCHON : “CHAVEZ, C’EST L’IDÉAL INÉPUISABLE DE L’ESPÉRANCE HUMANISTE, DE LA RÉVOLUTION“) – are trying to hold onto power through repression.

El estado de derecho está “virtualmente ausente” en Venezuela.(Noticias ONU).

Rule of law ‘virtually absent’ in Venezuela, UN report says. Government forces carry out killings with impunity.

Guardian 22nd of June,

Government security forces in Venezuela carry out unjustified killings without any apparent consequences, as the rule of law is “virtually absent” in the country, according to a new report by the United Nations.

The UN human rights office called on the government to bring perpetrators to justice and said it was sending its report to the international criminal court (ICC), whose prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation in February.

The report published on Friday cited “credible, shocking” accounts of extrajudicial killings of young men during crime-fighting operations in poor neighbourhoods conducted without arrest warrants. Security forces would tamper with the scene so that there appeared to have been an exchange of fire, it said.

“The failure to hold security forces accountable for such serious human rights violations suggests that the rule of law is virtually absent in Venezuela,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights. “The impunity must end.”

Perú, desbordado por la migración venezolana

El País 29th of June.

Más de 120.000 venezolanos han pedido asilo en el país andino, que ahora supera a Estados Unidos en número de solicitudes

In the left-leaning Vice Tommy Walters reported last week  on those who seek to deny these realities.

Why Are People on the UK Left Supporting Venezuela’s Authoritarian Regime?

Prominent Labour figures held a gathering in London to show their solidarity with a human-rights abusing government.

The obvious irony of denouncing other countries’ human rights records while simultaneously ignoring the Venezuelan government’s own crimes seemed to be lost on many. It would only have taken Williamson a second to find the numerous videos and reports from international human rights organisations documenting unlawful detentions and the repression of protesters in Venezuela. As the VSC builds closer links with UK trade unions, such as Unite and the Transport Workers Federation, the Venezuelan government continues to imprison its own union leaders.

Walters summarises,

Today, any remnants of the optimism of the deep social reforms of Maduro’s revolutionary predecessor Hugo Chávez are long gone, replaced by a successor who turns to violence and coercion to keep his citizens in line. Emblematic of this is the perpetual imprisonment of Leopoldo López, an opposition leader who is currently under house arrest, and has been described by Amnesty Internationalas “deprived of his freedom” in a “politically motivated attempt to silence dissent”. At the meeting, Amnesty International was widely discarded as being funded by “neo-liberals”, while the single mention of López dismissed him as an illegal provocateur “rightly convicted of fermenting street violence”.

To explain the dismal economic performance, the VSC blamed US imperialism, while ignoring the role of Chavez’s years of high borrowing and over-reliance on oil revenues. The Venezuelan economy had been contracting for four years before Trump imposed sanctions last year.

True to form the last few days have seen the Morning Star has rushed to defend the predatory clique running Venezuela in the name of ‘socialism’.

OLIVER VARGASresponds to an article by liberal hipsters Vice and its misrepresentation a recent Venezuela Solidarity Campaign event.”

Calling the above an “episode in red-baiting” the author flays around trying to find the cause of the economic difficulties of the country in the policies and actions of the comprador clique that’s taken over the mantle of left populism.

Nothing to do with them: it’s about:

The fact that the price of oil crashed almost overnight in the first year of Nicolas Maduro’s presidency is ignored.

The crippling sanctions are ignored. The siphoning of essential goods across the border by Colombian paramilitaries is ignored.

The distorting effects of currency speculation by international finance are ignored.

The economic impact of the wave of opposition riots, vandalism and blockades is ignored.

Maduro must have the healing powers of a living saint to keep people in monthly eggs and cooking oil, with a bit of poultry, in these conditions and after all these attacks!

With an airy wave of the calloused toiler’s hand Vargas dismisses reports (by the UN amongst others) about repression.

“Intimidation”, you’re having a laugh, “After all, Chavistas have been putting up with personal insults for much longer.”

The real problem is “pernicious terrorism that citizens have suffered at the hands of the opposition.”

With a call to order Vargas thunders:

Chavez represented the first successful defeat of the “end of history” and US triumphalism.

In those times of defeat for the left, Chavez built an economy that provided both significant GDP growth together with equality. He combined that with a thoroughly internationalist outlook that encouraged social movements around the world.

The huge changes in the country together with popular mobilisation mean that those who had been excluded from politics for 500 years were finally able to take leadership of their own country for the first time.

Maduro is the continuation of that legacy, though with an incredibly difficult external situation as the key factor separating them.

For all these reasons, I expect Chavez will pass into popular folklore as Che Guevara has done. Western writers may oppose that and the movement he represents but if they’re to write on it then it is incumbent on them to at least try to objectively understand why Maduro and the Bolivarian revolution still have the energetic support of the poor majority in Venezuela.

Human Rights Watch will disagree:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 29, 2018 at 5:08 pm

Skwawkbox Goes “undercover” in Venezuela and finds a Horn of Plenty in Supermarkets.

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Venezuela, March 2017, Queue for 2 Bags of Goods.

“If seeing is believing, then these simple, everyday scenes that would be familiar to anyone in a developed nation should be enough to cast serious doubt on the perception that the Establishment media seem eager for us to adopt.”

UNDERCOVER VIDEO SHOWS FULL SHELVES IN #VENEZUELA SUPERMARKETS

On Thursday the SKWAWKBOX published a first-hand account of the situation in Venezuela that challenges the prevailing portrayal and exposes the ugly reality of much of the opposition ‘protest’ as violent, even murderous and co-ordinated with ‘economic war’ on the socialist government to create the impression of a failed state.

A key part of the ‘failed state’ narrative is the claim of nationwide shortages in food and other key goods, as corporate and Establishment news attempts to convince that the socialist project has been a disaster.

That shortage-narrative has been raised by objectors to Thursday’s article as proof of the claims of the right-wing opposition.

As Thursday’s article showed, what shortages there are appear to have been manufactured by opposition-run monopoly corporations – but even those appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

For her Empire Files series, journalist Abby Martin filmed undercover in a series of Venezuelan supermarkets – and found something very different to what those watching BBC and other mainstream news would expect.

Skwawky reminds me of a certain Édouard Herriot (1872 – 1957) Parti Radical, and many times French PM) who remarked during a visit to Stalin’s Russia in 1933 that, the “Soviet Ukraine was “like a garden in full bloom”.

This is what Wikipedia has to say, Shortages in Venezuela.

Under the economic policy of the Nicolás Maduro government, greater shortages occurred due to the Venezuelan government’s policy of withholding United States dollars from importers with price controls.[6] Shortages are occurring in regulated products, such as milk, meat, coffee, rice, oil, precooked flour, butter prices and other basic necessities like toilet paper, personal hygiene products and medicines.[4][7][8] As a result of the shortages, Venezuelans must search for food, occasionally resorting to eating wild fruit or garbage, wait in lines for hours and sometimes settle without having certain products.

This is what Human Rights Watch says (2017 report),

Under the leadership of President Hugo Chávez and now President Nicolás Maduro, the accumulation of power in the executive branch and erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, persecute, and even criminally prosecute its critics.

Severe shortages of medicines, medical supplies, and food have intensified since 2014, and weak government responses have undermined Venezuelans’ rights to health and food. Protesters have been arbitrarily detained and subject to abuse by security forces.

Police and military raids in low-income and immigrant communities have led to widespread allegations of abuse.

Other persistent concerns include poor prison conditions, impunity for human rights violations, and continuous harassment by government officials of human rights defenders and independent media outlets.

Here is what the Morning Star said in July,

OVER 100,000 Venezuelans queued at the San Antonio del Tachira border crossing into Colombia over the weekend to buy foods and medicines that are in short supply at home.

It was the second weekend in a row that the socialist government has opened the border with Colombia, which was closed, as were all crossings, a year ago to obstruct smuggling.

Speculators were accused then of causing shortages by buying state-subsidised food and petrol in Venezuela and taking them to Colombia to be sold for far higher prices.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has played down talk of a humanitarian crisis, blaming his government’s political enemies and self-serving smugglers for shortages.

He dismissed as a “media show” televised images of 500 women pushing through the border checkpoint a few weeks ago claiming to be desperate to buy food.

Venezuelan state TV ran footage on Sunday of citizens returning from Colombia empty-handed, dissuaded by “price-gouging” and the threat of violence from their neighbours.

So Skwawkbox have been caught out spinning faubations yet again.

Any shortages are the fault of the ‘monopoly capitalists” and….well there are no “real” problems with food in supermarkets as a single video shows.

Perhaps one could ask who, with hyper-inflation, can afford to but anything.

Full marks for ‘undercover’ investigation into a Venezuelan supermarket though.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 12, 2017 at 10:51 am

Venezuela: For the Left is Defence of Maduro, Dialogue or Criticism, the Answer?

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Image result for maduro

Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun !

This was on Newsnight yesterday: Evan Davis speaks to Juan Andrés Mejía, founding member and National Director of one of the main Venezuelan opposition parties, Popular Will (Voluntad Popular, a “centrist social democratic party”).

This statement has caused controversy and there is little doubt that many critics of it do so in bad faith.

I will restrict comment to one point.

If Macron has indeed called for dialogue in Venezuela, his appeal has not been widely reported in the French media.

A search reveals that he suggested that he offered his services in the role of mediator.  France’s Macron pushes for mediation role in Venezuela  4th of August. The French language media is pretty near silent on this but you can find that, “La lettre écrite de la main d’Emmanuel Macron a été envoyée le 5 juillet à Nicolas Maduro” – a letter written by Emmanuel Macron was sent on the 5th of July to Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela : Macron a envoyé une lettre à Maduro pour tenter d’aider le pays à sortir de la crise).

I may well be proved wrong but Le Monde certainly has not found this story worthy of recent coverage and there was certainly no major “call today” as the Corbyn statement suggests: here.

We wait for a reply from Maduro to Macron.

But, silence, Mr 5,7% has spoken.*

George Galloway ridicules Venezuela dictatorship claims: ‘They’ve won more elections than anyone in history’.

George Galloway has rubbished the idea that Venezuela is sliding into dictatorship, saying the country’s Socialist regime has won more elections than any other regime in history.

The country’s constitution is to be redrawn following a recent election, and there are fears that President Nicolas Maduro will gain a raft of new powers – fears exacerbated by the recent arrest of two leading opposition activists.

Galloway told a caller that he was firmly opposed to dictatorship, saying “some of them work for a little while, none of them work for long,” while quoting Winston Churchill’s line that “democracy is the worst political system apart from all the others.”

Turning to the specific allegations against the Venezuelan regime, Galloway said “the government of Maduro, and before him Chavez, has won more elections than anybody in all of human history.

“If they’re dictators they’re the most elected dictators in the history of the world.”

George Galloway: Venezuela critics are just Blairites having a kick at Jeremy Corbyn.

Galloway said: “I keep hearing half-witted, uneducated pontificators who know nothing about the country, lecturing us on how Venezuela has taken such a wrong turn.

“When I heard the interview about it on this station, in this very studio room with Ken Livingstone, I realised we had to take a stand.

“What’s really going on here is not an attack on Maduro, who these pontificators had not heard of before last week, couldn’t identify his mug on a mugshot on a TV screen. This is another assault on Jeremy Corbyn.

“Labour MPs, many of them admirers of Tony Blair, many of them supporters of the Iraq War, many of whom abstained on a three-line whip to ask for an inquiry into the selling of deadly weapons to the putrid dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, are demanding that Corbyn denounce his erstwhile friends in Venezuela.

“It’s enough to make you sick.”

Galloway went on to suggest that, “if only Venezuela had hired one of Tony Blair’s PR machines in London town, they might be in a better place as far as the British mainstream media is concerned.

“If only Venezuela, when it adopted its new constitution in the last couple of days, had chosen the Saudi Arabian constitution, all the Western countries would have loved it and would have been queuing up to sell it weapons. Prince Charles might have done a sword dance with President Maduro.”

Turning to the cause of the current crisis, Galloway said it has been “fuelled by the United States, not in the last few weeks or months but since 1998.

“Nineteen years the United States government and its secret agents have been trying to overthrow the Venezuelan political protest.

 Skwawkbox can only agree, screaming yesterday that,

Rightist Labour MPs busted exploiting Venezuela for a shot at Corbyn.

As anyone who follows the news even tangentially will be well aware, the latest ‘weapon of mass desperation‘ used to attack Labour’s hugely-popular leader is a country. To feeble and flailing right-wing media and MPs, the complex troubles of a whole nation have been reduced to little more than a hammer to try to land a blow on Jeremy Corbyn.

But the new Venezuela APPG does little more than expose the motivations and lack of character of MPs who have joined it. Labour MPs Graham Jones, Angela Smith and John Spellar joined the group – but their former deputy leader spotted something interesting and called them out on it on Twitter.

Now this may well be true but when will people answer serious left-wing criticisms of the Venezuelan regime?

On the Venezuelan crisis

With the global fall in oil prices, Venezuela’s fifteen-year experiment in “petrol populism” seems to be winding to a close. Either the regime will collapse in short order, or it will maintain itself through increasingly bloody and repressive measures, as Maduro’s claim to represent the interests of the people grows even more tenuous. George Ciccariello-Maher, a seasoned apologist of Chavismo in the United States, writes in an article for Jacobin that the “enemies” are the ones who are out there “in the streets, burning and looting.” Socialists, he contends, should be supporting the recent state crackdown on the protesters, which has already left 130 or so dead.

One should read comrade Ross Wolfe’s full article on the Charnel-House, but this conclusion is important,

Socialists gain nothing by continuing to defend this bloated and incompetent regime. Even an oil-rich state like Venezuela cannot build “socialism in one country,” as the old Stalinist motto goes. Better to admit now what should have been obvious all along: Bolivarianism was a Revolution In Name Only, or #RINO for short (that acronym is still available, right?).

As Vincent Présumy puts it on his Blog carried by the highly respected French left site, Mediapart, in answer to those on the left who defend Maduro,

Ni l’expropriation du capital par les travailleurs organisés, ni la destruction de l’appareil d’Etat existant, n’ont jamais été à l’ordre-du-jour au Venezuela sous la direction de Chavez.

Neither the expropriation of capital by the organised workers, nor the destruction of the existing state apparatus, were ever on the cards in Venezuela under the Leadership of Chávez.

Présumy states,

La meilleure chose qui pourrait arriver au Venezuela, au contraire, serait une mobilisation indépendante de la classe ouvrière, des pauvres et des paysans, contre Maduro.

The best thing that could happen in Venezuela is, by contrast, an independent mobilisation of the working class, the poor and the peasantry, against Maduro.

Drawing to a conclusion he comments,

Le problème principal, à gauche et dans le mouvement ouvrier, est l’absence de mobilisation en défense du peuple vénézuélien et donc contre Maduro. Se répète l’expérience accablante et tragique de l’Ukraine et surtout de la Syrie.

The main problem on the left and in the workers’ movement, is the absence of a mobilisation in defence of the Venezuelan people, and therefore against Maduro. This is a repetition of the horrifying experience we saw with the Ukraine and above all with Syria.

 

A propos du Venezuela  7th of August,

*********

* 2017.  Manchester Gorton. Parliamentary constituency Galloway 5.7% , 2,615.

The Tragedy of Venezuela, Michael Roberts: How Should the Left Respond?

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The Morning Star reports,

LABOUR MP Graham Jones declares that he would have “gone further” than shadow foreign minister Liz McInnes’s criticism of Venezuela.

McInnes had urged “the government of Venezuela to recognise its responsibilities to protect human rights, free speech and the rule of law.”

She demanded a response to concerns expressed by the “international community” about supposed authoritarianism and very real hardships affecting Venezuela’s people. This is presumably the US-led “international community” rather than regional states such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba that have declared solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution.

Jones, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Venezuela, advised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that he must make a statement “at some point” and told frontbencher Chris Williamson that “he’s backing the wrong side.”

Several Labour MPs, including Corbyn, and many unions support the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, but Jones wants “everybody in the Labour Party (to) condemn the Venezuelan regime” for not looking after its citizens. His colleague Angela Smith asks Corbyn to condemn President Nicolas Maduro’s government as “a very serious threat to democracy in that country.”

If Williamson is on the “wrong side,” it follows that Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable and Tory MP Mark Pritchard, who all attacked Corbyn for his silence, while on holiday, over Venezuela, must be on the right side.

What would the Morning Star say about this?

Michael Roberts Blog

Blogging from a marxist economist

The tragedy of Venezuela

As the Maduro regime tries to impose its new Constituent Assembly as a rival or replacement of the existing Venezuelan Congress and arrests the leaders of the pro-capitalist opposition, the dire economic and social situation in the country continues to worsen.

According to the IMF, Venezuela’s GDP in 2017 is 35% below 2013 levels, or 40% in per capita terms. That is a significantly sharper contraction than during the 1929-1933 Great Depression in the US, when US GDP is estimated to have fallen 28%. It is slightly bigger than the decline in Russia (1990-1994), Cuba (1989-1993), and Albania (1989-1993), but smaller than that experienced by other former Soviet States at the time of transition, such as Georgia, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine, or war-torn countries such as Liberia (1993), Libya (2011), Rwanda (1994), Iran (1981), and, most recently, South Sudan.

So, on this measure, according to Ricardo Haussman, former chief economist of Inter-American Development Bank, Venezuela’s economic catastrophe dwarfs any in the history of the US, Western Europe or the rest of Latin America.

Back in 2013, I warned that the achievements of the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ under Chavez were seriously under threat.  Chavez had improved the conditions of the poorest with increased wages, social services and reduced inequality.  But these improvements were only possible within the confines of capitalist economy by using the revenues of oil exports at a time of very high global oil prices.  But oil prices started to mark time and have virtually halved in the last two years.

Oil exports fell by $2,200 per capita from 2012 to 2016, of which $1,500 was due to the decline in oil prices.  The Maduro government started to rack up huge foreign debts to try and sustain living standards.  Venezuela is now the world’s most indebted country. No country has a larger public external debt as a share of GDP or of exports, or faces higher debt service as a share of exports.

More,

The minimum wage – which in Venezuela is also the income of the median worker, owing to the large share of minimum-wage earners – declined by 75% (in constant prices) from May 2012 to May 2017.  Measured in the cheapest available calorie, the minimum wage declined from 52,854 calories per day to just 7,005 during the same period, a decline of 86.7% and insufficient to feed a family of five, assuming that all the income is spent to buy the cheapest calorie. With their minimum wage, Venezuelans could buy less than a fifth of the food that traditionally poorer Colombians could buy with theirs.

Income poverty increased from 48% in 2014 to 82% in 2016, according to a survey conducted by Venezuela’s three most prestigious universities. The same study found that 74% of Venezuelans involuntarily lost an average of 8.6 kilos (19 pounds) in weight. The Venezuelan Health Observatory reports a ten-fold increase in in-patient mortality and a 100-fold increase in the death of newborns in hospitals in 2016.

Importantly,

Before Chavez, most Venezuelans were desperately poor after a series of right-wing capitalist governments.  But now once again, under Maduro, this is the situation for the poor and the majority of the Venezuelan working class.  No wonder support for the Maduro government has subsided while the forces of reaction grow stronger.  While the majority struggle, many at the top of the Maduro government are as comfortable as the Venezuelan capitalists and their supporters who are trying to bring the government down.

The Maduro government is now relying increasingly not on the support of the working class but on the armed forces.  And the government looks after them well.  The military can buy in exclusive markets (for example, on military bases), have privileged access to loans and purchases of cars and departments, and have received substantial salary increases. They have also won lucrative contracts, exploiting exchange controls and subsidies, for example, selling cheap gasoline purchased in neighboring countries with huge profits.

As Rolando Asturita has pointed out in a series of posts.  the army has strong direct economic power, since the FANB directs and controls a whole series of companies: the bank BANFANB; AGROFANB, for agriculture; EMILTRA, transport; EMCOFANB, company communications systems of the FANB; TVFANB, an open digital TV channel; TECNOMAR, a mixed military technology projects company; FIMNP, an investment fund; CONSTRUFANB, constructor; CANCORFANB, Bolivarian Mixed Company; Water Tiuna, water bottling plant; And then there is CAMINPEG, the anonymous military, mining and oil and gas company.

Many of the Maduro government elite have used the economic crisis to their own personal benefit.  They have bought up government debt for rich returns, while at the same time ensuring that there is no default, all at the expense of falling living standards for the people who must pay this debt through taxes and foregone oil revenues.  Foreign exchange earmarked for the payment of foreign debt has been offset by the reduction of imports of food, medicines or essential industrial inputs.

Robert’s concludes,

What went wrong with the laudable aims of Chavismo? Could this tragedy been avoided? Well, yes, if the Chavista revolution had not stopped at less than halfway, leaving the economy still predominantly in the control of capital.  Instead, the Chavista and Maduro governments relied on high oil prices and huge oil reserves to reduce poverty, while failing to transform the economy through productive investment, state ownership and planning.  Between 1999 and 2012 the state had an income of $383bn from oil, due not only to the improvement in prices, but also to the increase in the royalties paid by the transnationals. However, this income was not used transform the productive sectors of the economy.  Yes, some was used to improve the living standards of the most impoverished masses. But there was no plan for investment and growth.  Venezuelan capital was allowed to get on with it – or not as the case may be.  Indeed, the share of industry in GDP fell from 18% of GDP in 1998 to 14% in 2012.

Now the right-wing ‘free marketeers’ tell us that this shows ‘socialism’ does not work and there is no escape from the rigors of the market.  But the history of the last ten years is not the failure of ‘socialism’ or planning, it is the failure to end the control of capital in a weak (an increasingly isolated) capitalist country with apparently only one asset, oil.  There was no investment in the people, their skills, no development of new industries and the raising of technology – that was left to the capitalist sector.  Contrast that with ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, albeit in the largest country and now economy in the world.

Just over a year ago, I argued in a post that, to save the aims of Chavismo, “it is probably too late, as the forces of reaction gain ground every day in the country.  It seems that we await only the decision of the army to change sides and oust the Chavistas.” 

 Left critics of Maduro:

Criticizing Venezuela from the Left. ANDRÉS FELIPE PARRA 30 May 2017  Open Democracy. 

Venezuela, increasingly, resembles today’s liberal democracies, where institutions are becoming formal appendages of the power of the markets and securitization. Español

Venezuela and the Left.

RAFAEL UZCÁTEGUI.  May the 3rd.

The human rights situation in Venezuela is getting worse. Fortunately, some on the Left are deciding to speak up. Español 

Just after the Sunday vote this declaration came out from a small Trotskyist group.

¡Contra el fraude constituyente redoblemos la movilización! ¡Fuera Maduro!  (Unidad Internacional de los Trabajadores – Cuarta Internacional).

El gobierno hambreador, corrupto y represivo de Maduro, consumó el pasado domingo un gigantesco fraude en alianza con el CNE.

Au Venezuela, ce sont les travailleurs qui ont le droit de dire à Maduro : dégage !  30th of July.

Against Venezuela’s authoritarian turn . May 3, 2017

On May 1, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro signed an executive order to form a Constituent National Assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution. Predictably, Maduro’s right-wing opponents howled about a lack of respect for democratic rights and procedures, which they themselves routinely violated in seeking the overthrow of Chavismo.

But many on the left see the latest move by the ruling Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV) to consolidate its power as a dangerous further lurch toward authoritarianism. Here, we reprint a March 29 statement by Marea Socialista , which joined the PSUV when it was founded in 2007 by the late President Huge Chávez, but left it in 2015 in protest of the course set for the party by Maduro. The statement by Marea Socialista’s National Operations Team was first published in Spanish at the Aporrea website and appears here in a version edited by Todd Chretien of the English translation published at the Portal de la Izquierda website.

How should the Labour Party respond?

Two Views:

Jeremy Corbyn will be on the right side of history – if he condemns Venezuela’s left-wing leaders. James Bloodworth. New Statesman

The country appears to be marching toward full-blown dictatorship.

The demand that a politician “condemn” something is usually an exercise in political performance. It typically has no measurable impact beyond a minor point scoring exercise. But calls for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to condemn the government in Venezuela are different in one important respect.

On seemingly good terms with the government of Nicolás Maduro, Corbyn’s words may actually carry weight in Venezuela. This is a matter of some importance when the country appears to be marching toward full-blown dictatorship.

…..

Demanding an apology from those who did not see the true nature of the Venezuelan government earlier on would be self-indulgent. It is also, for many, wildly hypocritical. Britain sells weapons to Saudi Arabia after all, another brutal dictatorship. Those getting on their high horse about Venezuela include admirers of Margaret Thatcher, whose relationship with Chilean tyrant Augusto Pinochet makes Corbyn’s relationship with the Venezuelan leadership look decidedly frosty.

Yet Corbyn, who engaged in a cordial conversation with President Maduro over the telephone in 2014 for the television show En Contacto con Maduro, arguably has it in his power to influence developments in Venezuela. However small his influence might be, he ought to be calling publicly for the release of the political prisoners López and Ledezma.

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn like to say that their man has always come down on the “right side of history”. If this is to mean anything at all, then it should also mean speaking out against the abuses committed by one’s own side.

 A different approach is offered here:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 4, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Ken Livingstone Goes Loudly Mad (Venezuela …)

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Ken Livingstone ‘s Adviser on Anti-Imperialism. 

Items today:

Ken Livingstone: Venezuela should have followed my economic advice.

Ken Livingstone gave an extraordinary interview on talkRADIO this morning, saying the country ignored his economic advice – and this folly is the root cause of its decline.

The former mayor of London also said America had played a major part in Venezuela’s crisis, that Hugo Chavez’s failure to kill the country’s oligarchs is a “problem”, and that Nicolas Maduro seemed a nice and fair men when he met him.

Livingstone spoke to Julia Hartley-Brewer this morning about the mounting crisis surrounding Maduro, which escalated further this week following the arrest of two leading opposition figures.

Livingstone told Julia Hartley-Brewer that he’d offered personal advice to Venezuela’s minister of finance, telling the country to move away from its economic dependence on oil.

But, Livingstone said, “he ignored my advice… and that’s one of their problems.”

He then went onto speak of this:

Ken Livingstone: Venezuela crisis caused by Chávez’s failure to kill oligarchs

Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London, has blamed the turmoil in Venezuela on Hugo Chávez’s unwillingness to execute “oligarchs” after he came to power.

Livingstone, who is suspended from the Labour party, also blamed the economic crisis in the country on the government’s failure to take his advice on investment in infrastructure, which he said would have reduced the Latin American state’s dependence on oil.

The former mayor, a longtime supporter of the late president Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro, said the socialist leader’s enemies wanted to restore their power.

One of the things that Chávez did when he came to power, he didn’t kill all the oligarchs. There was about 200 families who controlled about 80% of the wealth in Venezuela,” Livingstone told Talk Radio.

“He allowed them to live, to carry on. I suspect a lot of them are using their power and control over imports and exports to make it difficult and to undermine Maduro.”

The Newshounds of the influential Labour Party Marxists  state today (August the 3rd),

….unconfirmed reports in the party suggest that Ken Livingstone is facing a new investigation over his comments on the relationship between Zionist organisations and the German Nazi government in the early to mid-30s. The comrade remains suspended for statements he made about the limited cooperation between these two otherwise bitterly opposed forces; concretely over the immigration of Jews from Germany to Palestine.

More:  Livingstone’s ‘blasphemy’

Indications from reliable sources inside the Labour Party indicate that investigators will have a lot more on their plate after  the latest outbursts.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Venezuela, Honesty and the Left.

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Image result for resistance and repression in Venezuela

Time for the Left to Defend Human Rights in Venezuela.

Many people will have watched yesterday’s report on Venezuela on  the BBC  Newsnight.

It was deeply disturbing.

“In Venezuela, activists say the government is using torture and imprisonment without trial against those who oppose it – a claim the government denies. So who are the people hoping to overthrow President Maduro? Vladimir Hernandez reports.”

The programme showed evidence of repression that would shock all supporters of human rights.

I am not in a mood to listen to those who will try to cast doubt on the BBC report.

There are plenty of other reliable sources of information which confirm their facts begining with, La represión de Maduro se salda con al menos 36 muertos en un mes.  El País (May.

The Guardian reports today, “It takes a lot of courage’: Venezuelan protesters tell of rising police violence.As general strike begins, more than 100 have died and hundreds more arrested in anti-government protests since April. Spanish language media takes the same angle, Una huelga general endurece el pulso contra la Constituyente de Maduro. Tres muertos, 367 detenidos, calles desiertas y barricadas en el paro organizado por la oposición a una semana para la Asamblea Nacional Constituyente. El País (Today). The mass emigration of the population is also startling, Les Vénézuéliens s’exilent en masse vers la Colombie. (le Monde)

The splits inside the Chavista side (signaled in the Newsnight film) are well known: La procureure générale du Venezuela critique la répression de l’opposition.

Here is some more of the BBC coverage:

How is the left reacting?

First of all we have the Morning Star’s ‘reports’ which say nothing of state repression.

VENEZUELA’S right-wing opposition launched a 48-hour “civic strike” yesterday, calling on workers to stay at home in its latest campaign to derail plans to convene a new constituent assembly.

President Nicolas Maduro has confirmed that Sunday’s elections will go ahead to choose the members of the assembly, despite the Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) coalition’s three-month campaign of rioting which has led to hundreds of deaths.

The CTV union federation, which supported the 2002 coup against late president Hugo Chavez, said its 333,000 members would join the strike.

On Tuesday, Mr Maduro said Venezuela would “choose between peace and war, between the future or the past and between independence or colonialism.” He has said that the new constituent assembly will promote peace and reconciliation.

Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada has demanded answers from the US over “systematic” efforts to overthrow its elected government. He said there was a “campaign of intelligence operations at the highest level to overthrow the constitutional government of President Nicolas Maduro.”

The Foreign Ministry accused Washington of providing “finance and logistical support to the Venezuelan opposition as an integral part of its destabilising efforts against democracy.”

It also condemned former president Barack Obama for extending his 2015 decree designating Venezuela an “extraordinary threat to US national security” before leaving office in January.

It also attacked Mr Obama’s successor Donald Trump for additional sanctions imposed since he took office.

This is what Cuba said….

Cuban Communist Party second secretary Jose Ramon Machado denied claims Havana would mediate between the government and opposition.

He said it was up to the Venezuelan people and government to overcome their challenges “without foreign meddling in their internal affairs.

“Those who from the outside try to give lessons on democracy and human rights while encouraging coup-mongering violence and terrorism should take their hands off that nation.”

Counterpunch,

Time for the “International Left” to Take a Stand on Venezuela    July the 17th

Venezuela is heading towards an increasingly dangerous situation, in which open civil war could become a real possibility. So far over 100 people have been killed as a result of street protests, most of these deaths are the fault of the protesters themselves (to the extent that we know the cause). The possibility of civil war becomes more likely as long the international media obscure who is responsible for the violence and as long as the international left remains on the sidelines in this conflict and fails to show solidarity with the Bolivarian socialist movement in Venezuela.

 …

So, instead of silence, neutrality, or indecision from the international left in the current conflict in Venezuela, what is needed is active solidarity with the Bolivarian socialist movement. Such solidarity means vehemently opposing all efforts to overthrow the government of President Maduro during his current presidential term in office. Aside from the patent illegality that the Maduro government’s overthrow would represent, it would also be a literally deadly blow to Venezuela’s socialist movement and to the legacy of President Chávez. The international left does not even need to take a position on whether the proposed constitutional assembly or negotiations with the opposition is the best way to resolve the current crisis. That is really up to Venezuelans to decide. Opposing intervention and disseminating information on what is actually happening in Venezuela, though, are the two things where non-Venezuelans can play a constructive role.

Socialist Appeal (17th of July) continues in this vein,

Defeat reaction with revolution

The reactionary opposition represents the interests of the oligarchy (bankers, capitalists and landowners) and imperialism which stands behind them. If they were to take power they would launch a massive austerity package on the Venezuelan workers and the poor, with brutal cuts in public spending, the abolition of the Bolivarian social programs, the privatisation of social housing, the privatisation of expropriated companies, the privatisation of re-nationalised utilities, the abolition of the main rights and protections in the Labour Law, etc. At the same time, they would launch a political purge of all state institutions, ministries and state-owned companies and  an all out assault on democratic rights, unleashing a lynch mob against chavistas and their organisations.

For this reason we must oppose their reactionary campaign and stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan working people.

But,

As we have explained elsewhere, this does not mean giving support to the present policies of the Maduro government, which are ineffective in combatting reaction and by making constant concessions to the capitalist class undermine the social base of support of the Bolivarian movement. Even now, during the campaign for the Constituent Assembly elections, the so-called “patriotic businessmen” are advocating the privatisation of expropriated companies as well as the use of the Assembly to “strengthen private property rights”. This is the main plank of the campaign of Oscar Schemel, for instance, with the full backing of businessman and minister Perez Abad, which has been given ample time in all the state media. That road leads directly to disaster.

The only way to defend the conquests of the revolution is by unleashing the revolutionary self-activity and organisation of the masses of workers, peasants and the poor. An example of what is possible can be seen in the campaigns organised by groups like the Bolivar Zamora Revolutionary Current (which has organised Popular Defence Brigades) or the Alexis Vive Patriotic Force (which is calling for a new revolutionary leadership).

The offensive of the oligarchy must be defeated, but it can only be defeated by revolutionary means.

The duty of revolutionaries and consistent democrats internationally is to oppose the insurrectionary attempts of the reactionary opposition and defend the gains of the Bolivarian revolution. Taking a “neutral” position puts you objectively on the side of counter-revolution. We must wage a relentless campaign against the lies of the international media, to denounce our own imperialist governments which support reaction in Venezuela in the name of “democracy” and “human rights”. At the same time we must support and encourage those in Venezuela who are beginning to draw the correct revolutionary conclusions from this crisis: we cannot make half a revolution.

These might be fringe leftist groups but more seriously El Pais has accused Podemos of complicity with Maduro: Cómplices de Maduro (28th of July). That is, “guardan silencio, cuando no justifican a Maduro y acusan a la oposición de antidemocrática..” Podemos leaders have kept silent, when they are not justting Maduro and accusing the opposition of being antidemocratic.

Others are beginning to ask broader questions.

Being honest about Venezuela. Socialist Worker (USA, no relation these days to SW UK).

The world’s media, overwhelmingly hostile to the Bolivarian process, sneer at President Nicolás Maduro’s rhetoric while presenting the right-wing parties, which certainly launched this wave of violence, as defenders of democracy. This definition of democracy apparently allows whole populations to fall into poverty and illness, with nearly 100 people left to die in the streets.

Meanwhile, the international left has accepted the explanations government spokespersons offer, still believing that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Thus, when a helicopter attacked government buildings on June 28, some observers simply added the event to the catalog of right-wing violence.

It is, unsurprisingly, far more complicated than that.

Oscar Pérez, a retired officer of the state security services, piloted the helicopter. Pérez has close ties to ex-Interior Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres, whom Maduro dismissedin 2014. Torres, like the majority of the current cabinet and around half of Venezuela’s state governors, belongs to the military. He also leads one of a number of Chavista factions angling for power.

Behind a façade of governmental unity, another struggle is developing, but none of the groups are fighting to continue the revolutionary project or to reconstruct the mass movement that saved it after the attempted coup and the bosses’ strikes of 2002-3.

The opposition is also split into rival factions. Some advocate dialogue with the president, while others, especially the group that Leopoldo Lopez and his partner Liliana Tintori lead, almost certainly support the most violent street fighters. They aim not only to get rid of Maduro but also to destroy Chavismo itself.

Most Venezuelans know the major players on the right: they belong to the wealthiest and most powerful families, who controlled the economy until Chávez arrived. Since the first street barricades went up, Maduro has tried to work with representatives of these right-wing sectors. In 2014, for example, he called in Lorenzo Mendoza, head of the Polar multinational and one of the richest Venezuelans.

Gustavo Cisneros, another member of that exclusive clan, has remained untouched in the nearly 20 years of Chavismo. He recently claimed that Venezuela needs a Macri, referring to the militantly neoliberal Argentine president, who is currently working to dismantle that country’s public sector. Cisneros likely speaks from knowledge of the right’s strategic thinking.

As the economic and political crisis deepens, it’s become obvious that neither the government nor the opposition will offer any real solutions. While Maduro betrays the revolution by courting the bourgeoisie and sliding backwards into neoliberalism, right-wing forces have brought in violent mercenaries to try and disrupt the country even further. As these two groups struggle for power, ordinary Venezuelans are watching the gains of Chavismo slip away.

It must have been hard for the comrades of the ISO to say the above, but it needed to be said.

Nobody can accept the state version of what is happening in Venezuela, or its claim to ‘defend’ anything resembling socialism.

We have to defend human rights.

It is time for those in this country who are close to these issues to speak out.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 28, 2017 at 11:34 am