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TOPSHOT - A Venezuelan opposition demonstrator waves a flag at the riot police in a clash during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 8, 2017. Venezuela's opposition mobilized Monday in fresh street protests against President Nicolas Maduro's efforts to reform the constitution in a deadly political crisis. Supporters of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) gathered in eastern Caracas to march to the education ministry under the slogan "No to the dictatorship." / AFP PHOTO / FEDERICO PARRA (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)

The crisis that hits the country is far from being over, on the contrary, it continues to worsen, the government of  Nicolás Maduro has been unable to resolve it in favor of the workers; its measures to confront it have consisted in unloading brutal austerity measures against the workers and poor people, increasing their sufferings and making the situation unbearable, such economic crisis worsens the political crisis. It is increasingly evident that any alternate solution to the crisis includes the need to organize the struggle to overthrow the government.

By: Leonardo Arantes

07/01/2019

More than five months have passed since, following instructions from the US Department of State, Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself interim president of the republic, within the framework of a strategy that sought to divide the Armed Forces, and of which the continental right governments were a part of. Prior to the act of self-proclamation these governments integrated to the so-called Group of Lima had declared their condemnation of the maduro dictatorship. It is evident that in this period of time this strategy has been experiencing a notable decline.

The brutal crisis suffered by millions of Venezuelans, evidenced by the atrocious hunger, low wages, unusable public services, shortage of cash and medicine, among other calamities, created false expectations from the masses in this strategy proposed by a bourgeois and pro-imperialist leadership, as enemy of the workers and the poor people as the dictatorial government of Maduro.

But the proven incapacity of that political leadership to propose an exit to the economic crisis in favor of the workers (its class character prevents it), its inconsistency in the confrontation with the government, its tendency to secret negotiations  (for their particular interests), the frustration of the expectations of desperate masses and, more recently, the failed coup plot on April 30, have caused these expectations to dissipate.

Meanwhile, Maduro continues to dispatch from Miraflores, and the workers and poor people feel the severity of a crisis that is worsening, not foreseeing solutions for their endless problems.

From Unidad Socialista de los Trabajadores , we have been emphatic  in affirming that workers must organize independently to defeat the government, expelling Maduro from it, the slogan Out with Maduro, has been one of the main axes of our policy; and that independence to which we refer means that in this struggle we should not place any political trust in the bourgeois leadership of Juan Guaidó or imperialism and its lackeys on the continental right  (Bolsonaro, Duque, Piñera and others …), who in their countries impose austerity measures that unload the weight of the crisis on workers. We warn not to trust their “humanitarian” pretensions and we reject their sanctions against the country, as well as the retention of resources, actions that do nothing but aggravate the sufferings of  Venezuelan workers. That’s why another axis of our policy is: No to Imperialist Intervention , No confidence in Guaidó.

The Political Crisis Continues, Government and Opposition Seek Legitimacy

The political crisis continues to advance and worsen, the government discredit is enormous, some polls show a rejection that exceeds 90%, the failure of the bourgeois opposition strategy  to which we referred earlier has also increased and accelerated the discrediting of this political leadership, although it still arouses expectations in significant sectors of the Venezuelan population.

In this framework they intend to rearrange themselves with the secret Norway dialogues , conversations that, like the previous ones, don’t include the  population and will not bring any benefit to working people. With it the government seeks to buy time and the bourgeois opposition to give the impression that it is doing something to confront the government.

The political leadership headed by Guaidó now tries to press and reposition itself calling for a march for July 5 (day of the commemoration of the signing of the country’s independence act) that will probably lack mass (or at least it will not have the numbers like January 23 when they reached their peak of popularity), the government will surely respond with a counter-march to try to bring coerced public officials and state workers. Additionally, the government disseminated a story, publicizing an alleged attack against President Maduro, First Lady Cilia Flores and the First Vice President of the PSUV and president of the National Constituent Assembly ANC Diosdado Cabello, this in order to reinforce its internal front .

The truth is that the regime crisis is huge and aggravated by the economic and social crisis that is far from resolved, desertions such as Manuel Cristopher Figuera ( national head of intelligence service SEBIN),after the April 30 failed military coup , show that there are significant fractures within the government, recently there was a meeting between a sector of the PSUV and its deputies (its representatives in the National Assembly (AN) elected in 2015), its speculated that they would be discussing the possibility of returning to Parliament, agreeing on the formation of a new National Electoral Council (CNE) and calling elections, this being part of the Norwegian agreements. This sector of the PSUV, would be willing to “sacrifice” Maduro in order to preserve their political and economic privileges.

Ungovernability is obvious in the country, most public institutions are paralyzed or semi-paralyzed for lack of basic implements to work, so are the state companies, doing any process is a true nightmare and cannot be done without paying a bribe, corruption is notable at all levels of government, merchants (large and small), transporters, businessmen (both boliburgueses and opponents), bankers and military speculate, commit abuses and amass fortunes under the most complete impunity (guaranteed by the military, police officers and directors of institutions).

The Economic and Social Crisis Continues Hurting Us

Since August 20, 2018, when the “Economic Recovery and Stimulus Plan” was launched, the government asked for 90 days to begin to see its positive effects, far from improving, the situation worsened, in reality that time lapse wasn’t necessary to begin to feel its harmful effects.

The mega devaluations implemented by the government destroyed the salary more than it already was, from the $ 30 ( official dollar)  at the time of the plan’s launch , today it stands at just $ 5.3 (7.6 $ if we include the food bonus that has no wage relation), hyperinflation has accelerated which means a new jump in prices, some products appeared on the shelves and are like museums pieces because with the prohibitive prices they cannot be acquired , corn flour for example costs 1.5 and up to $ 2,  a dollar or more for a kilo of rice, an average chicken can cost about $ 4, a pair of shoes of average quality costs about $ 30 (good quality over $ 100).

All this against a minimum wage as the aforementioned that is accrued by the majority of the population.The food basket amounts to 1,924,265 BS., and the basic basket is 2,491,159 BS., $ 274.90 and $355.88  respectively (data from the CENDAS of April 2019). There is no medicine and the few that are available are sold at exorbitant prices, electricity crisis is not overcome, thousands of neighborhoods and communities across the country suffer from lack of water, continued shortages of cash, people and families have to make long lines, kilometers (where they spend all day) to fill the gas tank of the vehicle, or wait for weeks to replenish a gas cylinder, because there is no gas and gas is scarce in a country with huge oil reserves.

Regarding gasoline, the problem tends to worsen due to the fact that production continues to plummet, of one million barrels per day of gasoline that were produced in previous years ,today less than one hundred thousand are produced. In response to the gas shortage problem , the government applied the magical and classic solution of increasing service prices  (similar to  what Guaido’s so-called Plan País proposes ; faced with bankruptcy of services, privatizing them and increasing their cost to make them profitable), increasing the price of a 10 kilo cylinder (the most common among workers and poor population in the country) from 50 BS to 3500 BS (an increase of 7000%), similar increases were made in all other presentations (18, 27 and 45 kilos).

When in Crisis, Adjust. The 2792 Memorandum

The “Economic Recovery and Stimulus Plan” was the beginning of the formal application of an adjustment program that the government had been applying slowly, but firmly. This plan, similar to Guaido’s  Plan País (and in preparation  to a possible government of the bourgeois opposition) includes devaluations, re-privatizations, higher tax burdens for those who earn less and tax exemption for businessmen , and allows the latter to change working conditions, lay off workers and eliminate collective contracts .

The official dollar since then has been repeatedly devalued taking it to levels similar to the parallel dollar, which ruined the government’s argument of holding the “criminal dollar” responsible for the crisis, and this has had the effect that we have already seen of wage destruction.

Today, Venezuela is the cheapest labor in the continent and perhaps in the world. In cities such as Cumaná and Valencia, companies such as the Fextun cannery and the Abastos Bicentenario chain, respectively, have been handed over to private consortiums, the Venetur hotel chain was re-privatized, cases like these are repeated throughout the country, including in the oil sector and plans to move forward in other sectors We also have the case of the income tax exoneration to transnational companies, while taxes for the population increased (retroactive tax paid by the worker and final consumer) by four points, from 12 to 16%.

All this is being applied by Maduro’s government as an adjustment package, but it is also contemplated in Guaido’s Plan Pais,  under the disguise of “Exchange Discipline, support Private Initiative, Reform and Fiscal Discipline”.

But the adjustment does not stop there, it also includes tariff adjustments such as the aforementioned gas and the one decreed for gasoline (which has not been carried out due to technical incapacity, although because of scarcity  it has been applied even harder than decreed), telephone and internet rates have already been adjusted and will continue increasing progressively, adjustments are also foreseen in electricity and water.But what is most serious is what has been applied in state and private companies through the implementation of Memorandum 2792, dated October 11, 2018, an instrument designed by the Presidency  and the Ministry of Planning, to be subscribed and applied by the Ministry of Labor, through which  public and private companies are free to modify working conditions, lay offs  and eliminate collective contracts (“Cuts to public spending and stimulus to private investment” as expressed in Plan Pais).

Through the application of this mechanism dozens of clauses of collective agreements of state enterprises and public sector bodies have been eliminated or modified, ending or diminishing benefits and achievements of workers in this sector, but they have also “suspended” hundreds of workers from private companies who are sent home with no expected date of return to their work, with closed plants and peers accruing salaries of a dollar and a half monthly in some cases and without enjoying any contractual benefit , ignoring all labor legislation in the country both in spirit and in  norm , all based on said memorandum, specifically in its articles 3 and 4. As victims of this instrument in the public and  private sector, we find educators, healthcare workers, Caracas Metro, PDVSA, Firestone, Chrysler (Valencia), Modelo Hipermercado (Maracay), Alimentos Polar , Toyota (Cumaná), Coca Cola, among others. 

Workers in Struggle Emerges

In the midst of this alarming situation and partly as a result of it “Workers in Struggle”has emerged, as a space that seeks to unify and independently organize workers struggles. The capitulation of the leadership of Interseccional de los Trabajadores de venezuela (ITV) to a pro-patronal and pro-imperialist political leadership like that of Guaidó, making this organization their union arm, made it impossible for sectors that claim independent mobilization of the workers as a tool of political struggle to remain within their framework , that is why we constitute and are building this new space for the unification and organization of struggles.From the UST we have expressed our willingness and our calls to organize the fight to overthrow the government , to defeat the employer’s adjustment and also against imperialist intervention, we are willing to collaborate in this space to contribute in its advance, both at the street mobilizations level, as in the programmatic and political discussion. Our call is to trade unions, union centrals, prevention delegates, activists, workers in conflicts to approach this space to help build it and support ongoing struggles. 

Organize the Struggle to Bring Down the Government! Out with Maduro!

Unidad Socialista de Los Trabajadores (UST)Venezuelan Section of the International Workers League (LIT-CI)