FightBack! Friday, 25 January 2019 Alex Grant
Working hand-in-hand with the Trump administration, the Canadian government has been at the forefront of the attempt to artificially install Venezuela National Assembly president Juan Guaido as president. The Trudeau regime has the temerity of declaring Venezuela a dictatorship at the same time as it sells Saudi Arabia $15-billion in arms. Utilizing the mass media they are attempting to fool the population into supporting another right wing coup in Latin America. But increasingly people are seeing through the lies and hypocrisy.
For two decades US imperialism has been doing everything in its power to organize a coup against the democratic wishes of the people of Venezuela. The reason for this was the revolutionary process sparked off by the election of Hugo Chavez that redirected Venezuela’s oil wealth away from US oil corporations and a local oligarchy, and towards social programs, healthcare and education, for the benefit of Venezuela’s poor. A 2002 US-backed military coup was defeated by the movement of the masses, and in the following years there was an oil lockout, a recall referendum, and ongoing economic sabotage, but each of these were defeated. The present coup attempt is a continuation of this decades-long struggle to regain control of Venezuelan oil wealth for imperialist interests, and not due to any “humanitarian” concern for democracy by Canada and the USA.
While Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland was denouncing Venezuelan president Maduro as a dictator, she missed the irony that she was standing right next to Brazilian far-right demagogue Jair Bolsonaro. Those telling lies have a tendency to try and paint their opponents with their own crimes. Establishment mouthpieces and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation journalists have accused Venezuela of banning the right wing opposition from the May 2018 presidential election. This is an outright fabrication. However, it is a incontrovertible fact that Bolsonaro only won the Brazilian presidency after the most popular candidate, Lula da Silva, was illegitimately banned from the ballot, jailed on trumped up charges and even gagged from making any statement on the election. Despite this the Canadian regime had no problem congratulating Bolsonaro on his victory, and the CBC even ran a piece on how Canadian business can profit from the new autocratic regime in Brazil!
Venezuela’s opposition, of which Guaido is the newest figure head, is far from peaceful and democratic. In 2017 they initiated a series of violent street protests while calling for a presidential election. During these protests they murdered dark-skinned Chavista supporter Orlando Figuera by setting him on fire. Prominent oppositionist Maria Corina Machado has recently issued a death threat against Venezuelan president Maduro, saying that if he wants to save his life he must leave office now. The political basis of the opposition is crystal clear for all to see as they have issued a transition plan that is based on mass privatization, the “opening up” of the oil industry to foreign multinationals and an attack on workers’ rights.
The opposition’s 2017 violent street protests failed and led to them becoming more discredited in the eyes of the population. From calling for an early presidential election they turned to a tactic of boycott knowing that they were heading for a defeat. There was no ban, and any government or media spokesperson saying so is telling lies. In fact there were three opposition candidates standing against Maduro, one being prominent oppositionist, Henri Falcon, who gained 21% of the vote. This was against the direction of the US and Canadian regimes which were directing the opposition to play a longer game to prepare a coup when the timing was better. They directed foreign monitors to stay away as they did not want their lie of a “rigged election” to be revealed. However observers, including former Spanish president Zapatero, did not report any major irregularities. Even taking into account the high level of abstention, Maduro won the support of 31% of the electorate, a figure higher than that of Trump (less than 25%), or Trudeau (26%).The election was held by the same electoral commission, using the same methods, as the 2015 National Assembly election that returned a majority for the opposition. This is a modern version of the medieval drowning test for witchcraft. If the Bolivarians sink, the election is fair, if they float the election is rigged!
No leftist, or even democrat, should support this US-Canadian backed coup. The indecent haste by which the Canadian government, and the Trump administration, issued their support has shown that this was all planned long in advance. It has been revealed that Freeland discussed with Guaido two weeks before he illegitimately declared himself president. But the Trump administration has a serious public relations problem and is widely despised by people of every nationality. So the less ugly face of Canada is wheeled out to give more legitimacy to the power grab. Some have characterized this as Canada being the lap dog of US imperialism. However, the reality is that Canada is one of the largest foreign investors in Latin America, both in oil and mineral extraction and banking. For example, Canadian owned Scotiabank (aka “The Bank of Nova Scotia”) is a major player in most South American countries. Canada is perfectly capable of acting to defend its own imperialist profits without needing an impetus from the USA.
In response to a question of how he can attack Maduro while recognizing Bolsonaro, Canadian prime minister Trudeau deflected saying that the Maduro government was responsible for “a humanitarian crisis the likes of which South America has not seen in a long time, leading to mass exodus, an extreme number of refugees fleeing all across South America.” Trudeau has hypocritically forgotten the caravan of refugees from Honduras who are escaping the repercussions of the 2009 US/Canada backed coup and the rigged 2017 election. Incidentally, Honduras is also part of the cabal of countries supporting the Venezuelan coup attempt. These politicians do not care about democracy, all they care about is the profits they can extract with the aid of right wing regimes.
Those who oppose the coup in Venezuela are immediately accused of backing the Maduro government and the economic crisis in the country. The reality is that there is no need to support Maduro in order to oppose this pro imperialist, pro privatization, anti worker coup that would make everything worse. Just ask the people of Honduras or Haiti who have suffered the most recent coup plots. But there are real problems in Venezuela. There are significant food shortages and hyperinflation. A major cause of the crisis has been the US and Canadian sanctions, combined with economic sabotage by the opposition linked oligarchy that still controls the economy. The low price of oil on the global market has exacerbated all the contradictions in Venezuela.
However, the Maduro government has proven unable to deal with the very serious economic crisis. His policies of compromises and concessions with the oligarchy and imperialists have failed. Rather than expropriating the saboteurs, and putting control of the economy in the hands of the working class, Maduro keeps on appealing to them to invest. This weakness invites further aggression and does nothing to solve the problems in Venezuela. There is no socialism in Venezuela, as the main levers of the economy remain in private hands and the workers do not control production. However, the reforms gained by the workers during the Chavez years are intolerable to the oligarchy and imperialists, so there is also no functioning capitalist economy. This half-way-house is the worst of both worlds.
The Venezuelan Marxists of Lucha de Clases do not support the policies of the Maduro government and did not vote for him in the presidential elections. At the same time they are crystal clear in their opposition to the ongoing imperialist coup attempt. They argue that this can only be effective combated by revolutionary means and by harnessing the revolutionary enthusiasm of workers, peasants and the poor. The Venezuelan Marxists have said that: “The only way to combat the reactionary coup is on the basis of the revolutionary energy of the working class and the poor peasantry. Militias must be set up in every neighbourhood, community and factory. Factories should be taken over and placed under worker control. Latifundia should be occupied and defended with Popular Defense Brigades, which already exist in different states of the country.” It is absolutely vital to defeat the coup that would destroy all the gains of the past and would make the Venezuelan working people pay a heavy price for having dared to challenge the power of the oligarchy.
The notion that Donald Trump is somehow a champion of democracy is laughable. Voter suppression and gerrymandering are rife in the US electoral system. The US Senate is massively unrepresentative with small states having the same number of senators as the millions living in California. The electoral rules actively discriminate against third party candidates. Politics is a game where he who has the most billionaires wins. And Donald Trump didn’t even win the majority of votes in a contest where half the voters do not turn up. The democratic legitimacy of the US regime is non-existent. Trump even made apologies for the Saudi Arabian murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Canada is not much better, but is far more hypocritical. The “progressive” Trudeau government likes to present a pro worker democratic face that apologizes for past oppression of indigenous communities. Despite this they have broken their promise of democratic reform. They have broken their promise to respect collective bargaining and have repeatedly removed the democratic right to strike (most recently against postal workers). They have broken their promise to respect first nations and have repeatedly violated native sovereignty over oil and gas pipelines. Canada still has a hereditary feudal monarch as head of state, and in the recent past the representative of her Britannic Royal Majesty has even shut down parliament in order to save the government from a vote of no confidence! The above is all combined with their support of autocratic regimes abroad. We have absolutely nothing positive to learn from so-called Canadian or American “democracy”.
It is the job of every socialist, indeed every democrat, to oppose this imperialist coup in Venezuela. By struggling against the oppressors of the Venezuelan people we also struggle against our own oppressors at home. We say, “Hands off Venezuela! For internationalism and workers’ democracy!”