Last May 20th, the presidential elections took place, silencing the rumors and demands of bourgeois opposition regarding their suspension and delay. The indifference on behalf of most of the population preceded the elections. Parliamentary and council representatives of the different states were also elected in the dispute, although these awoke even less interest from the people.
Statement of Unidad Socialista de los Trabajadores (UST, Socialist Unity of the Workers) before the May 20 presidential elections.
The process was marked by the lowest participation in a presidential election since 1958 (when the Perez-Jimenez dictatorship was overthrown).
Most of the population saw these elections, since their summoning, as Maduro and his administration’s maneuver to remain in office, where the opposition candidates running were accomplices validating the fraud. The dictatorial regime guaranteed the victory of the ruling party with the annulment of several important opposition parties (even small ones), the ineligibility of opposition leaders, the lack of impartiality of the National Electoral Council (CNE, Consejo Nacional Electoral) and the abuse of public resources by the ruling party. This last element was evident in elections themselves, but also in the patronage and blackmail system through the nation’s card (carnet de la patria), nation bonds, among others.
A part of the population understood that elections are not the way to solve the crisis. The solution needs the overthrow of Nicolas Maduro, which is impossible through elections with such characteristics. Besides, the government program of the opposition candidates would only worsen the misery situation of Venezuelan people and workers.
The Political Context before Elections
For some time, the country has been going through a political crisis, which deepened with the economic crisis. The political unity between the boli-bourgeoisie and the traditional bourgeoisie is broken.
The PSUV is Chavism and the boli-bourgeoisie’s main political apparatus. It is going through a crisis, expressed in the split of important traditional Chavist leaders, former ministers, the PDVSA ex-president (Rafael Ramírez) and ex-ambassadors. In the midst of conflicts, corruption scandals, accusations on both parts, and the arrests and imprisonments of ex-ministers and generals (like the former minister of economy and ex-military Rodríguez Torres and General Ramírez López). The most recent example of this crisis was the launching and inscription of the Movimiento Somos Venezuela (We are Venezuela Movement) as a pro-establishment political party, in the framework of the electoral pre-campaign. This new party became complementary and an electoral dispute of the PSUV (the Chavist votes).
There was also the candidacy of Reinaldo Quijada, ex-PSUV – Gran Polo Patriótico (GPP, Great Patriotic Pole), founder of the Middle Class Movement in 2002, with the proposal “to rescue Chavez’s legacy”.
For the bourgeois opposition, the panorama is equally harsh. They participated in the electoral process with deep divisions in their midst. There were four clearly defined sectors (without counting the minorities).
The MUD – Frente Amplio (the Frente Amplio includes the main employers’ federation of the country, FEDECAMATAS and the Catholic Church) with a policy to call for abstention to demand better electoral conditions and new elections by the end of the year.
There is another sector also calling for abstention, represented by María Corina Machado from Vente Venezuela and Antonio Ledezma from Alianza Bravo Pueblo. With the difference that instead of elections and conditions, they demand Maduro’s renunciation.
Among those who chose to participate in elections and run with candidates are Avanzada Progresista – Henri Falcón, the Un Nuevo Tiempo party, splinter groups from the MUD (like Alfonso Marquina from Primero Justicia, among others that called to vote) and the former general secretariat of the MUD Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba, among others. Also Javier Bertucci of Movimiento Esperanza para el Cambio. These two with the calling for a “National Unity Government” and neoliberal economic proposals with the dollarization of economy, the negotiation of debts with the IMF and the request for “humanitarian help”. We may also include here Luis Ratti, although this last one ended by withdrawing his candidacy and calling to vote for Falcon.
Finally, we had those directly calling for coup d’états, imperialist military intervention or of armies from the region. This is a minority sector mainly represented by the opposition living in Miami, Patricia Poleo, Alberto Franceschi, JJ Rendón, among others.
The Economic Scenario
These elections were summoned in the midst of the worst economic crisis in the recent history of the country. Hyperinflation, destroyed wages (in average $2 per month), basic food basket over 40 million Bs., and a basic family basket around 100 million Bs. per month ($44.4 and $111.11 each, according to the CENDAS information for April, taking the dollar value for the moment), with permanent food medicine shortages.
Most workers and people suffer daily desperation to find food or medicines, with high prices in food, tenths of people dying each day in hospitals, suffering calamities to bury their dead. With growing desperation due to the lack of cash to pay for transportation (the service is scarce and deteriorated) and to reach the workplaces. Or, to make the wage last, buying in cash, to lower the price.
These elements explain the absolute indifference of the masses before and during the electoral process.
The CNE lied with the Announcement of the Results
On May 20, around 10 pm, Tibisay Lucena of the CNE, announced that with 92% of the ballots counted, the first official bulletin of the results declared Nicolas Maduro the winner. The population showed disdain and disbelief smoothly. The next day (21/5) the total results were public.
According to these announcements, Nicolas Maduro had obtained 6,233,838 votes (68%), the main opposition candidate, Henri Falcon 1,925,239 votes (21%) and Javier Bertucci 925.042 votes, adding to a total of 9,368,035 valid votes in an electoral register with 20,527,571 people. This represented a 46% participation, thus a 54% abstention (over 11 million people).
However, analyses agencies like Meganálsis, linked to the bourgeois opposition, based on their own exit poll, stated that the final participation was only 3,594,040. This would imply a 17.32% participation, with 82.68% abstention (17,156,769 people).
The desolated voting centers of the main cities in the country and the opinion surveys of independent consultants, just as the statements of political leaders and the media, state the participation was little over 30% (which implies 70% abstention). Although the numbers of the bourgeois opposition MUD – Frente Amplio and their opinion agencies, the CNE numbers are clearly inflated and represent a lie.
This does not mean that Maduro did not obtain more votes than Falcon. He just did not obtain the number of votes claimed by the CNE. The number of voters was lower than the electoral entity claims.
Luis Emilion Rondon, the only rector of the CNE not linked to the ruling party (linked to the MUD), said, “I ratify, responsibly before the country, that Nicolas Maduro with all the use of state resources, cheating, frauds and irregularities, did not reach three million votes, despite all the irregularities. Therefore the event of last Sunday, May 20 is completely illegal, illegitimate and I do not recognize or endorse it.” (22/05/2018).
A Much weakened Government
However, if the numbers of the CNE were true, they show the great weakness of the government with the masses, exposing it as a government with strong popular rejection. On the contrary, Maduro and Chavism are attempting to show it as a “great electoral success”.
A 54% abstention as declared by the CNE, represents over 11 million voters that would be expressing their rejection to the government and the electoral process. Added to over 3 million who voted in the oppositions, it would result in over 14 million people rejecting Maduro, his government and regime. In a country with over 30 million people and 20 and a half million voters, it is a significant rejection ratio (70%). This worsens knowing that the CNE numbers are inflated and the abstention is consequently larger.
The National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB, Fuerzas Armadas Nacionales Bolivarianas) have been the main institution of Maduro’s dictatorial regime. The events and Maduro’s statements after election seem to demonstrate crises in these grounds.
On May 23, the incarceration of eleven officers of the FANB and the destitution of 1,777 soldiers of the Natonal Bolivarian Guard (GNB, Guardia Nacional Bolivariana) due to “indiscipline and abandonment of functions”. The next day, as he was taking his oath as elected President, Maduro made insistent callings to the loyalty of FANB officers and troops.
Afterwards, on 05/25/2018, in an act with FANB members, he ordered that all men in uniform had to sign a proclamation that guaranteed their loyalty. “… for the proclamation to be signed by each officer and each soldier” and he added, “… this is to deeply re-moralize, to reactivate the moral and ideological values… this shall be done up to the last command…”. Up to now, there have been 40 officers arrested.
We do not know the degree of the crisis, but all these facts seem to show that there is growing upheaval in the FANB. The journalist specialized in military business, Sebastiana Barraez said, “With the summoning of the Constituent Assembly, a break was generated that has not been solved. Now, with elections the situation is similar. Taking into account that this FAN saw with much distrust the calling to elections that were not transparent” (www.puntodecorte.com, 05/25/2018).
And she adds, “We have a crisis of such magnitude that it threatens to overflow. Thus, the President of the Republic may announce before June more radical changes in the military structure… It is not a coup d’état, the Armed Forces are weakening” (Idem).
Abstention reveals rejection to the government’s maneuver and evidences the complicity of opposition candidates
Evidently, the elements of bourgeois opposition organized in the MUD – Frente Amplio, are attempting to get some air and recover from their smear due to abstention. Claiming the merit of this political alternative having such high support rates in the past elections. In fact, they have stated that “since May 20, there is no time to lose” (Henrique Capriles Radonsky) or have made calls to reunite opposing forces.
This high abstention is far from expressing political recovery of the MUD – Frente Amplio, and it is far from expressing their political force. This was evidenced by the weak participation in the May 1 and May 16 demonstrations they summoned.
The high abstention rates reveal lack of trust in the fraudulent electoral process, in the entity that rules elections completely lacking impartiality, and in the electoral system as a whole. They evidence the enormous rejection of a government incapable of guaranteeing the toiling masses the satisfaction of the essential needs, which violates the most basic democratic freedoms, including the realization of free elections. It expresses the lack of trust in the political alternatives of existing bourgeois opposition, in their economic programs and measures. They prove that the masses do not see elections as a way to end crisis and it poses the hypothesis that they have chosen mobilization to solve the crisis.
Clearly, the discontent, the rejection of the government and popular rebellion expressed in abstention do not imply mechanically that there will be mobilizations. This possibility is posed, but there are obstacles to carry it out, among others the lack of a leadership that possesses the political trust to mobilize the masses.
In this sense, the building of a revolutionary left political reference to provide the mobilization process a revolutionary perspective, which seems very likely due to the accumulated anger, becomes a decisive element.
Abstention also evidenced the accomplice role of the opposing candidate, endorsing the fraudulent maneuver of the government to remain in office. Moments before announcing the ballot counting, opposition candidates made statements declaring themselves as losers (something never seen before in the electoral history of the country). They blamed their defeat on abstention and denounced the lack of electoral guarantees, which was evident before elections being summoned, and the violation of a guarantee agreement signed with the government. Just as the electoral felonies, which were repeated in the elections for the ANC, the Governors and City Halls. One has to ask the candidate why it would be different now.
Both Falcon and Betucci ended their statement by rejecting the electoral process, but not based on the unknown results, but based on the lack of mentioned guarantees. In fact, shortly afterwards, Bertucci changed his standing and said, “acknowledge the electoral results because they are clear.”
Falcon’s standing of disregarding the electoral process and demanding new elections in October is just a pose to hide his accomplice role in the maneuver and preserve himself politically. His demand locates him in a policy that the MUD – Frente Amplio already had before the electoral process.
Falcon seeks not to remain isolated politically. The fact he has not even called to mobilize for this supposed election reveals the farce. One could ask if he thinks to achieve this new calling through resources in the CNE and a TSJ, completely controlled by the government. Clearly, if he does not mobilize the masses to defend his demand, it would be proven that his posture is only a fraud to have a better position to negotiate his leadership among opposing sectors.
We reject Foreign and Imperialist Intervention
Just as they had announced, the USA government disregarded the electoral process, just as the European Union (EU) imperialist block. North American imperialism adopted a new set of sanctions against the Venezuela government and the EU is analyzing how to proceed in the same direction.
The semi-colonial countries that belong to the Lima Group, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru acted the same.
We denounce and reject the interference independent of the fraudulent and illegitimate Venezuelan electoral process.
Governments like Michael Temer (Brazil) who reached office without being elected, resulting from political maneuver and highly rejected by the people are hypocritical attempting to give lectures of democracy to Maduro.
The Donald Trump administration has no moral or political authority to question the lack of democracy in Venezuela, since they are the main ally of the Nazi-Zionist State of Israel regarding the genocide in Palestine, providing arms and resources. Besides, the USA throughout its history has supported and sustained dictatorships in the entire continent. Like Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay for 35 years, Pinochet in Chile for 16 years, just to name a few. Besides they have organized coup d’états and military interventions to impose dictatorships and puppet governments, to defend their interests around the globe. In other words, the “democratic spirit” of this country’s governments is questioned.
On their part, governments like Paraguay and Guatemala, which today question the lack of democracy in Venezuela, following the steps of the maximum North American authority, support Israel in genocide, and even transferred their embassies to Jerusalem.
Recently, the terrorist Posada Carriles died without doing time, protected by the USA despite having being proven guilty of blowing up a Cuban airplane in the 70s. This shows the double moral of the North American governments. Imperialism just wants to guarantee oil and raw material, just as unconditional support on their imperial policies (wars, interferences, plundering) in a government imposed by them.
Sanctions adopted by the Trump administration and those the EU and the Lima Group are planning to adopt, consist in forbidding new debts with Venezuela, forbidding to place more Venezuelan actions for debt guarantees, the blocking of employee and the nations’ accounts, among others, in the territories of these countries. This will tend to worsen the economic situation of the country. They are pressured to force the government to accelerate the application of the adjustment pack it has been applying and the handing in of the nation’s resources, which is already in progress through mixed enterprises, the Orinoco Mining Arc agreements and the payments of the foreign debt. Just as a transition towards a more trustworthy government for their interests, which minimizes the influence of the Russians and the Chinese in their “backyard”. The consequences of these measures will be mainly suffered by the workers and people of Venezuela, not the Maduro bourgeois government (affected to a certain extent), or the corrupt employees, the bankers and speculator entrepreneurs.
We reject this foreign intervention, on behalf of both imperialism and the puppet governments of the continent’s semi-colonial countries. We hold that only the workers and the people of Venezuela have the right to oust Maduro from office. In this sense, we only accept the help of the working class, the people and the social movements and fighters of the world, depending on previous agreements with Venezuelan workers.
Equally, we denounce and reject the actions of the opposing bourgeoisie and its lackeys, to manage, request and guarantee foreign intervention and economic and political sanctions against the country (before their incapability of earning the trust of the masses disillusioned by the lack of attention of the opposition to their daily hardships).
We also call the Venezuelan workers to the most categorical distrust in Maduro and his administration, which now appear as victims and advocates of anti-imperialist struggle. The expulsion of the two main diplomats of Venezuela in the USA in answer to the sanction of the government and the announcement of the consequent “painful hardships” only seek (as Chavez’s good disciple) to strengthen their damaged influence over Chavist rank and file. However, under this anti-imperialist, victim mask, they hide their responsibility for the current economic situation. Generated since the time of Chavez, and the handing in of the country to the oil transnationals (of Russia, China, France, Norway, USA, among others) and the mining resources (gold, coltan, etc.), without care for the damage to the environment and aggression to the natives.
What are the perspectives after May 20? What program should we raise?
The masses have expressed their rejection of the Maduro administration and the regime, just as of fraudulent electoral processes, blackmail, coaction and manipulation to vote for a government that starves them, uses repression and imposes misery. Just as the political proposals of the opposing bourgeoisie that does not represent the poor and working people. Unquestionably, this sets a way.
The economic crisis is far from being solved. The opposite is true. It is deepening and it will continue to act as gasoline on fire regarding the political crisis. The IMF, for example, speaks of a 15 percent drop on the GDP by the end of 2018, hyperinflation is calculated over 13000%, there is food, medicine and supply shortages and their prices increase daily, making wages vaporize constantly. None of these will be immediately solved and it marks a society set over a powder keg.
Struggles continue. Before the electoral process, there were demonstrations of health employees and university professors. In the days following elections, some conflicts emerged in several regions of the country. One cannot rule out that in the midst of this general unrest and the worsening of the situation, an ascent of worker struggles may re-emerge along with the popular struggles. Like it was pre-announced by the oil and cement trades in April. Or even a great scale social conflict. Evidently, all these are hypothesis.
We now have the challenge to build a political alternative to provide a leadership for these struggles, to strengthen them, which poses to unify them in the rank and file. It is necessary to promote rank and file meetings and assemblies in the work places, factories, hospitals, schools and universities, trade strikes, “cacerolazos” and road blockages. All to build the General Strike to oust the Maduro administration. For this, we must draw a program to pose the working class’s needs in the lead.
This program must part from slogans on the most felt needs of the working class, to help mobilization. In defense of wages, to fight hunger, for the end of dismissals and the reincorporation of all illegally dismissed in the public and private sectors. For no more political persecution in public jobs, free union elections in PDVSA and other public enterprises and bodies with outdated union leaderships, for the defense of the right to strike, and no more criminalization of protest. No more dismissals in private and public sectors for protesting in defense of their rights, in defense of union freedom and the basic democratic freedoms, freedom for political prisoners and those arrested for protesting.
Besides, we must advance in slogans to solve the country’s crisis in favor of the workers, like the non-payment of the foreign debt, to use the money to import food, medicines and all necessary supplies to overcome the emergency. For state monopoly of foreign trade, the nationalization of the banks, investment to recover the production capability of basic enterprises, for the end of the Orinoco Mining Arc agreement, for a mining exploitation plan discussed with communities, workers and natives. For a 100% national PDVSA, out with transnationals and mixed enterprises, for the nationalization under workers’ control of the food producing industry, all enterprise abandoned by the national or transnational patron must be nationalized under workers’ control. We must pose these and other slogans and patiently explain them among worker, social and popular activists and fighters.
Unidad Socialista de los Trabajadores (UST)
Venezuelan Section of the International Workers’ League (IWL-FI)