Facts speak for themselves: we are watching alarming news on children’s deaths by malnutrition. Entire families dying for intoxication due to proliferation of food retails of questionable origin and state of conservation. These deaths are nothing but an expression of the brutal crisis we live in. Today, in the Venezuela of the main oil reserves of the world, there is starvation.

By Workers’ Socialist Unity – UST, Venezuela.

 

Today, many people live eating leftovers and out of trash scavenging; cleaning workers are forced to beg to ‘complete’ their salaries; soup kitchens and retail workers are stealing food, not for business but to eat. According to the National Survey of Life Conditions 2016 (carried by the UCAB[1], the USB[2] and the UCV[3]), poverty surpassed 80% and the loss of weight reached 7kg average. Working class neighborhoods have become a “big market”; each neighbor sells batter, sugar, coffee, cigarettes, etc., to palliate misery.

Harvest or livestock stealing are affecting farming sectors. This cannot be covered up by the arrogant speeches of president Maduro, who seems to be living in a bubble. Shortage and starvation cannot be hidden by the Clap[4], as for a family this is enough for no more than a week. Furthermore, not all workers and popular sectors receive them monthly as they should. And it is not just starvation: health is destroyed; the lack of medicines is alarming, specially for chronic deaseses like cancer, VIH, hypertension, diabetes, renal dysfunction, etc. Some of those medications are being sold in Mercado Libre[5] at “international prices”, so 30 or 40 thousand Bolívares [US$50[6]]: a minimum wage!

According to the National Hospitals’ Survey, numbers are terrifying: regarding the diagnostic equipment, 89% of the X-Rays machines are not working, as well as 71% of the Ultrasound machines. 94% of the tomographs are out of order. Therefore, patients that need some of these tests have to pay between 50 thousands and 150 thousand Bolívares for an x-ray or a tomography. To worsen, 50% of the ORs are currently non-functional.

Education at all levels does not escape the crisis, either. Thousands of low resources children leave school to help their parents waiting in some in lines while parents wait in others,[7] or helping them selling things. Some others do go to school to eat – when school offers a meal, although there is a growing lack of food. University workers and professors are fighting for collective contracts and wages. Students of several states lost the student ticket [free mobility for students], and university kitchens no longer serve food. More and more professors resign to emigrate looking for better life conditions outside the country, leaving universities without experienced professors and researchers.

Pickets and blockades of streets are increasing in every community, demanding water, food and security.

A Growing Reactionary Policy

The social, economic crisis continues to deepen, and Nicolas Maduro does nothing but procrastinate. There is no measure to favor national production nor against the prices raise or corruption. Preferential dollars[8] continue to be destined to importations, and the people does not even know where it is going: why is there lack of goods, then?

Abuses and arbitrariness are the order of the day. Not only Maduro ignores democratic rights by delaying regional and local elections indefinitely; he also imposes the legalization of parties through an anti-democratic law that disregards the existence and rights of minorities, like this favoring the “status” parties which count with economic resources due to fundings by bourgeois sectors and even the State.

Elections in unions of national importance, like Sidor[9], INPSASEL[10] or the National Oil Workers’ Federation, where pro-government sectors have no condition to win, are suspended by the TSJ[11] and the CNE[12]. The same situation exists at Communal Councils level and co-government elections in the UCV. So the right of workers, students and communities of choosing their own leaders is being denied. Meanwhile, at the companies, workers continue to support abuses, persecution and layoffs by the bosses.

The “Economic War” Does Exist!

There is not one day without Nicolás Maduro or any of his Ministers making a festival of announcements on investments, Claps, Missions,[13] credits for youth, boosts to production, etc., etc. But reality is different: lines at bakery shops continue because bakers claim there is no more flour [to continue baking]. There are lines to get fuel. Only markets have no lines anymore because there are no regulated prices.

The so called “economic war” ended up to be real: it is a war of the government, in alliance with the “Bolibourgeoisie”[14] and his friends, traditional businessmen of the food and medicine importation industry, against the people! Today, despite the “anti-imperialist” speeches, Maduro flirts with Donald Trump and he even states “comrade Trump has offered me Claps and a good price” (Aporrea, 3.13.17). A mockery!

It is the government that is hitting us. The prices of Clap cashes (10, 12 and up to 14 thousand Bolívares) are much higher than its international cost (200 to 400 Bs. at DIPRO[15] rate), even considering the administrative, packaging and shipping costs. Where are the “fair prices”?

For each minimum wage increase for the workers there is an avalanche of prices increase that kills our salary. The situation is unbearable for workers. Of course, to the more affluent sectors the situation is not so bad. Products from Italy, Argentina, Brazil and even India are coming. But prices are too high for the modest popular wages. For the people, there is still lack and shortage.

The MUD is an Accomplice!

The MUD betrayed the expectations of hundred of thousand of Venezuelans who thought the opposition wanted a change of government. All its hype was nothing but maneuvers and blackmail to the government to negotiate a “transition”, via the Revoke Referendum. This is why the “pressure” was limited to demand a date for the referendum, through a major demonstration in September – controlled so it would not become a permanent mobilization that could question the negotiated transition from the basis, causing the fall of Maduro. With this, the MUD not only did a favor to the regime: it demobilized and demoralized the demonstrators, deepening like this its own crisis.

An Urgent Programme to Eat and Heal!

In front of this social catastrophe, the government is as cynical as to boast for paying thousands of millions of dollars and –specifically- the external debt to banks and funders. Shame on it!

We propose to struggle for some specific, immediate measures, to be able to eat and heal:

Immediate suspension of the external debt payment. Increase of general wages, adjustable to the inflation rate.

Stop increasing food, medicines and tickets’ prices! Companies’ prices control by workers!

Foundation of an Independent Commission to open a public investigation of the external debt, to investigate where the funds went to, who benefited, etc. Jail and expropriation of the ones responsible!

Basic food importation to palliate shortage. Importation of necessary medicines and reagents. Recovery and conditioning of hospitals.

Expropriation of food and pharmaceutical production companies that received preferential dollars and deviated the funds.

Repatriation of capitals and dollars sent abroad.

Reinvestment in agriculture production and the productive apparatus, controlled by workers.

Investigation of the situation of PDVSA.[16] Investment to recover production; 100% nationalization of Venezuelan Oil. Public hearing with participation and under control of workers of every engineering and construction project, specially the ones paid in currencies, and including the current U.N. ambassador, Rafael Ramírez (former Minister of Petroleum and former president of PDVSA). Destitution and jail for the corrupt ones.

 

Enough of this Government!

Enough! This government has to leave as a product of workers’ and popular sectors’ struggle. We need to unify struggles from below, with assemblies and meetings. Unity with teachers, professors and university workers fighting for their contracts; unity with fired workers and neighbors fighting for lack of water, food and for safety. Basically, with everyone blocking the streets that are not being heard. This unity is necessary to confront all government measures, to construct a general strike to make this government leave, and to impose a workers’ and popular government.

The MUD and the opposition keep on talking about “changing the economic model”, but their change is nothing but an adjustment much worse than the current one. The change is to privatize PDVSA and basic industries, with thousands and thousands of layoffs; to kill labor conquests. Their change is not democratic, and they will impose it through repression.

From the UST, we say real change will come from workers’ struggles and a workers’ government. In this frame, a National Constituent Assembly must be called, free and sovereign, to debate the true changes and the country that workers and the people need.

Let’s Build an Independent Political Alternative

Today more than ever, workers need to build a political alternative independent from the PSUV and the government as much as from the MUD and its accomplice opposition, concerned about alleged future elections to implement their equal or worse economic policies of misery and starvation for the working people. The UST participates of the Platform of People in Struggle and Critical Chavism, aiming to construct step by step a workers’, popular programme to end the crisis and in support of struggles, independent from businessmen and their parties.

It’s the workers, the real producers, that must rule!

We call all workers and their organizations to join us on this task.

 

Workers’ Socialist Unity – UST – International Workers’ League – FI.

ust-ve.blogspot                                                                         [email protected]

 ***

Translation: Sofia Ballack.

Notes:

[1] Catholic University Andrés Bello.

[2] Simón Bolívar University.

[3] Central University of Venezuela.

[4] Local Committees of Distribution and Production, a parallel system of goods distribution “door by door” implemented by the government in June 2016, after the long lines in the stores and supermarkets for products out of their reach –when there were any left– ended up in riots and physical confrontations by the population. [Translator Note]

[5] Mercado Libre is a Latin American website of non-regulated sell that follows the laws of supply and demand, with consensual prices between seller and buyer. [T.N.]

[6] Calculation made on parallel dollar –non-official dollar value–, with a relation of 1US$=3000$Bs approximately, that operates the daily Venezuelan economy. [T.N.]

[7] As mentioned before, due to shortage of food and medication and insufficiency of good distributed through the Claps, Venezuelan people has to make long lines (sometimes for days) at sumermarkets and stores to get some products of the basic basket. [T.N.]

[8] In opposition to the Parallel Dollar, the Preferential Dollar is another type of dollar of a 1US$=10$Bs relation, only available to businessmen and companies, and specifically destined to importations. [N.T.]

[9] Siderúrgica del Orinoco C.A. “Alfredo Maneiro”, most important steel complex in the country. [N.T.]

[10] National Institute of Labor Prevention, Health and Safety.

[11] Supreme Justice Court.

[12] National Electoral Council.

[13] National System of Missions – also known as Bolivarian Missions: series of social programs developed and implemented by Chavez in 2003. [N.T.]

[14] Bolivarian Bourgeoisie.

[15] Venezuela Revamps Currency Exchange System.

[16] Venezuelan Petroleum S.A.