The crisis in Venezuela is occupying a huge space in the media around the world. As the situation worsens, especially in regards to the brutal social crisis in the country, the differences between “Chavistas” and those opposed to the Maduro regime also intensify.
By Gabriel Huland.
The vast majority of the world left stands in the political field of Maduro, against an alleged external interference perpetrated by international powers against the Caribbean country. In the Spanish State, important figures of the left, such as Pablo Iglesias and Juan Carlos Monedero, have published texts in which, to a greater or lesser extent, they try to convince their readers that at this moment a coup attempt is taking place, to destabilize the country and ultimately overthrow Maduro and impose a series of setbacks to the “conquests” of the Bolivarian revolution. However, by making a minimal contrast with reality, we see that this speech has neither head nor tail, but this is not the purpose of this text.
We note that Venezuela is to some extent isolated in the international community. Both the U.N. and various countries and world leaders have rejected the recent elections for the Constituent Assembly composed almost completely of politicians loyal to Maduro. This is not a rejection of Maduro’s regime as such but to the newly formed Constituent Assembly. The “international community” is concerned, above all, with the destabilization of the country, which is one of the world’s leading oil producers. Most of the world’s leaders are not betting on Maduro’s fall but on the negotiation between the two sectors.
Venezuela is fairly well integrated with the world economy. Neither Chávez nor Maduro have made any break with the economic order that could serve as a model for other countries. It is well known that Venezuela has lived basically from oil revenue, in the recent years.
However, one of the regimes that openly support Maduro and sympathizes with Chavismo is Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator who has been in power since 2000, when he succeeded his father, Hafez al-Assad, who in turn had already been in power for about four decades in Syria.Since 2011, Bashar al-Assad confronts with iron and fire, deadly weapons, and bombs the strong social revolution (transformed into civil war years ago) that broke out in his country for demands for freedom and social justice. He has been committing brutal war crimes that would astound many dictators. Explosive casks randomly launched against civilian areas, arbitrary detentions, the expulsion of entire populations from their cities, the use of chemical weapons, torture and periodic violations, among other terrible forms of repression.
Assad and Maduro have shown, on several occasions, great displays of mutual affection. Just as Assad and Chavez had done at the time. On one of the last occasions that the presidents of Venezuela and Syria talked on the phone, in January of this year, Maduro congratulated Bashar al-Assad for the “great advances obtained in the war against terrorism.” Bashar al-Assad, in turn, was fully in solidarity with Venezuela “in its fight against attempts by foreign powers to destabilize and weaken the country.”
It is also known that Venezuela has sent, on several occasions, “Bolivarian Republic” vessels loaded with oil to Syria, as a token of the excellent relations between the two countries and their unconditional support for Assad in his fight against “terrorist groups financed by foreign powers”.
The Syrian community in Venezuela is about two million people and enjoys political and social prestige and influence. Some of its members were ministers during the presidencies of Hugo Chávez. Venezuela also maintains a privileged relationship with Iran, one of the greatest supporters of Assad in his war against the Syrian revolution, and nowadays the country that, together with Russia, really dictates the rules to Assad.
The discourse of external interference
It is not a coincidence that both Maduro and Assad use the same discourse, that of “external interference,” to justify the repressive escalation that they carry or carried out in their respective countries. Both governments faced similar situations. Both in Syria and in Venezuela, popular peaceful protests broke out for better living conditions and more democratic rights. The creation of a fictitious external enemy was the best way to justify the repression.
It is true that there are important differences between the regimes in both countries. In Syria, the protests took place during the so-called “Arab Spring” and rapidly spread throughout the country, with the formation of local committees, like this becoming a veritable social revolution.In Venezuela, the right-wing opposition, fully aligned with the U.S. interests, plays an important role in “controlling” the protests and keeping them within “acceptable” limits for capitalism and liberal representative democracy. The MUD does not want a revolution.
However, the Venezuelan and Syrian governments share several socio-political features that are worth remembering. Both are “nationalist” regimes that use a rhetoric full of concepts such as “Homeland,” “nation,” and “people.”
We can characterize the Syrian regime as a dictatorship. The Venezuelan regime is not yet a “classic” dictatorship, but it is heading in that direction. Maduro increasingly tries to control power authoritatively and passes increasingly repressive laws. The last measure announced was a jail sentence of up to 25 years for those who go out to protest.
Maduro’s recent statement that “what had not been obtained with the ballot box” would be “taken with weapons” is a small sample of how far he intends to go to stay in power.
Assad’s stance at the beginning of the protests in Syria, in 2011, was very similar. He never recognized activists opposed to his government. The opposition was never accepted, and its members were sent to prison or exile. Maduro does the same thing.
The discourse of external interference, generally used by dictatorships that are threatened by social protests, has been adopted by part of the left to justify its support to alleged “progressive,” “anti-imperialist,” or even “socialist” regimes.
One part of the groups that make use of this binary and simplistic rhetoric, which divides the world between “good” and “bad,” is directly linked to the “Castro-Chavismo” apparatus. Another part, unfortunately, has its origin in the old Communist parties financed by the ex U.S.S.R. and they have distanced themselves so much from social struggles (they only worry about electing parliamentarians) that they always analyze the reality from a political-party-electoral perspective (the political superstructure), without giving importance to what really happens at the base of society with the majority of the population, especially with the more impoverished segments of the working class.
In Venezuela, they only see Chavismo and the MUD. Thus they ‘prefer’ Chavismo, because the MUD is ‘the right’. In Syria, they only see Assad and the “Islamist extremists,” and so they prefer Assad.
If the objective is the electoral dispute, this dualistic logic may even work because elections are a terrain full of illusions and false consciences. However, if the goal is social transformation, this way of analyzing reality is useless.