It is immensely frustrating to be unable to fully illustrate the rage and fury I feel while watching and listening to the grotesquely biased and prejudice dripping drivel which has risen like steam off a freshly laid tonne of manure from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky News and all the American so-called news programmes in relation to Venezuela in the last few days. We have an American encouraged, financed and orchestrated coup taking place before our very eyes in Venezuela and all we get is a truckload of tripe from those entrusted with the job of news coverage.
It is a disgraceful, illegal and immoral power grab on behalf of the rich and powerful and ordinary folk are fed nothing but darkness and bullshit by the medium of TV which is supposed to illuminate and educate. The newspapers are unsurprisingly just as bad including the ‘liberal’ ones like the Guardian and Washington Post which have long lost their claim to independence and are now mere manipulated mouthpieces of the wealthy elites.
The great crime the people of Venezuela committed was the rejection of neo-liberal economic solutions to the huge problems of poverty, ignorance and illiteracy which haunted a country so rich in oil reserves that its people should have been living like kings not struggling to survive like paupers. After years of broken promises from the government of Carlos Andrez Perez, elected in 1989 on a largely anti-cuts and anti-Washington programme, the people embraced the former army paratrooper and avowed socialist Hugo Chavez. He condemned the unnecessary poverty and rampant corruption and nepotism in a country so rich in oil reserves. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. Hence the interest of America in Venezuela’s internal affairs and government policies.
Against all the odds Chavez won the 1998 Presidential election and declared he would build a new constitution for the country which guaranteed rights to health, education and a fair share of the country’s vast wealth. Drawing inspiration from the great 19th century champion of independence, Simon Bolivar, who led wars of liberation from Spanish colonial rule all across South America, Chavez adopted his name and spirit for his movement of change in Venezuela and the new constitution was to be the constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Although assuming power in an oil rich nation Chavez inherited huge social, economic and political problems. The rich owners of the media across Venezuela despised him. America encouraged and financed opposition forces to try and oust him by any means, including violence. Only three years into his Presidency and grappling with US attempts to de-stabilise the economy Chavez was briefly arrested by elements within the army still loyal to the former regime and placed under lock and key for two days in 2002. He had dared to nationalise the Venezuelan oil company to start serving the needs of the country instead of the greed of the Venezuelan rich. The US was furious and urged malcontents within the country to illegally depose him. As word of this coup spread tens of thousands from the poorest areas of Venezuela, known as the barrios, descended onto the streets surrounding the Presidential residence to chant for Chavez and demand his release.
The situation was like a tinder box and sporadic clashes between those opposed to Chavez and those loyal to him and their new constitution broke out across the Venezuelan capital Caracas. Fortunately the army rank and file were appalled that their elected President had been arrested and they rose up in defiance of weak generals and forcibly confronted the disloyal elements and over-powered them with the support of the masses behind them. Chavez was freed and immediately denounced the forces that were behind the attempted coup and their supporters within Washington and the CIA. That was April 2002.
In the months that followed tension remained very high across Venezuela as America continued to register its discontent at a government in an oil rich nation declaring its intention to actually tackle poverty instead of continuing to serve the wealthy. Economic sanctions were imposed and America sought to isolate Venezuela. Chavez ignored the threats and built strong relations with socialist Cuba and the left regime of Evo Morales in Bolivia.
When I visited Caracas in October 2003 security surrounding Chavez was still very high. Several threats against his life had been made and rich and powerful forces within Venezuela and within America did not hide their hatred for him and their willingness to go to any lengths to remove him. Democracy and the will of the people mean nothing to those whose years of wealth and greed make them think they have an inalienable right to rule.
I attended a Chavismo rally in the centre of Caracas attended by around a thousand supporters. It was an incredible event as the details of the venue had only been released via secure outlets at a couple of hours’ notice. Our interpreter translated the rousing speech that Chavez made and his natural charisma and honest integrity oozed from his pores. He was in the midst of fighting an opposition led campaign to secure enough signatures to force a referendum on whether he should be re-called as President. He was confident they would win that battle but the fact outside forces were involved was underlined by Chavez. I was an elected socialist Member of the Scottish Parliament at the time and wanted to interview Chavez. It nearly happened but another security scare in the city prevented it. I did however get the chance to warmly clasp his hand and say ‘solidarity from Scotland’ before he left the hall.
Over the next few days I interviewed the Vice-President of Venezuela, Jose-Vicente Rangel, and visited several of the large housing schemes, barrios, which surround Caracas high in the hills. I met people enthusiastic for Chavez and the changes he was trying to deliver. Chavez had won election in 1998, been re-elected in 2000 as part of the country wide endorsement of the new constitution and was now facing a vitriolic campaign to have him ousted via a referendum in between elections, a mechanism he himself had supported as part of the new constitution.
I left Venezuela convinced that Chavez and the Bolivarian Movement for change was the real deal with massive popular support but I feared another Chile was underway. In 1973 the popular socialist President, Salvador Allende, was only three years into his elected term and was implementing radical policies to tackle poverty when he was murdered alongside thousands of others in a US organised and brutal military coup that installed the brute General Pinochet.
The powerful opposition forces secured enough signatures to trigger the referendum on re-calling Chavez, 20% of the electorate was required, but in August 2004 he convincingly won the vote with 60% rejecting the re-call in an unusually high turnout of 70% of the electorate. Presidential elections normally average between 50 – 55% turnouts. However the Presidential election of December 2006 again surpassed normal participation rates as 74% of Venezuelans used their vote and 63% of them chose Chavez.
During these years a working class bus driver turned trade union leader from a poor part of Western Caracas was elected to the newly formed National Assembly in Venezuela and rose rapidly within the Chavez government to hold major posts, including Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice-President. That man was Nicolas Maduro and he was a close comrade of Hugo Chavez. After winning a 4th Presidential term of office in 2012 the cancer that had gripped his pelvic area in 2011 returned with a vengeance and claimed the life of Hugo Chavez prematurely in early March 2013. He was only 58 years of age. Nicolas Maduro assumed office until a Presidential election was arranged for April and he won with 51% of the vote.
This short background of living and real democracy within Venezuela is essential to understanding what is unfolding there today. Chavez and his United Socialist Party inherited a country where 43% of the population lived in poverty and 17% suffered from extreme poverty in 1999. A truly disgraceful state of affairs in a country so rich in natural oil reserves. Only 6 million children attended school and illiteracy was prevalent within the poorer areas of the country.
By 2018 poverty had been reduced from 43% to 26%, on a par with the poverty levels in Scotland and across England and Wales. Extreme poverty had been halved from 17% to less than 7%. The number of children attending school more than doubled from 6 million to 13 million. Illiteracy was eradicated with over 1.5 million being taught to read and write. College attendance increased fourfold while infant mortality was slashed by 50% through radically improved health care.
These major advances in health, education and economic well-being have been delivered through the Bolivarian Government programmes called ‘Missions’. Over two dozen Missions were established to drive forward improvements in all aspects of life in Venezuela. Mission Sucre was dedicated to improving access to higher education; Mission Barrio Adentro (inside the neighbourhood) was formed to improve all round healthcare for the poor; Mission Musica was designed to teach youngsters how to play musical instruments and help many to pursue careers in music. Over 300,000 children are currently enrolled in over 500 orchestras across the country; Mission Corazon Adentro (heart within) promotes development of arts and culture while Mission Viviendas is a massive construction programme to build quality housing for the poor. By 2018 over 1.6 million new homes had been built and handed over to poorer families via Mission Viviendas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEcW6UgDRrw&feature=youtu.be .
These social programmes under the socialist governments of Chavez and now Maduro are delivering real and fundamental improvements to the lives of ordinary Venezuelan citizens. As well as a halving of infant mortality life expectancy for adults has improved from 71 to 75, higher than in many parts of Scotland.
Most of the money to pay for these advances has come from Venezuela’s oil revenues. Unfortunately there has been a significant drop in oil prices since 2008 and another worsening of the situation in 2014. That coupled with the nefarious activities of America in trade and currency dealings with Venezuela has presented severe challenges to the Maduro government. The US uses its economic might on the world stage as a weapon of terror to impose its will.
Currency manipulations, trading barriers and economic sanctions are the equivalent of Exocet missiles, drone strikes and carpet bombing to the imperialist ambitions of the US. They seek to wreak havoc, chaos and fear through economic measures in the same way they do with bombs.
In 2017 elections to a new Constituent Assembly were held in Venezuela. The right wing opposition forces first called for such elections then issued a call for them to be boycotted. Over 40% of Venezuela’s eligible adult voters still took part in the election, 8 million adults. A large majority of those elected are pro-the aims of the Bolivarian revolution and defenders of the democratically agreed constitution.
A Presidential election was held in May of 2018 and Nicolas Maduro secured over 6.2 million votes as the candidate of the United Socialist Party. His nearest challenger won 1.9 million votes and the third placed candidate secured just under a million votes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Venezuelan_presidential_election.
Venezuela has a population of 30 million. Of the eligible voters 46% participated in that vote last May and 67.8% of them voted for Maduro. The other candidates were a guy called Henri Falcon representing the Progressive Advance party and an independent called Javier Bertucci.
You may be a little confused here. You may ask about a guy called Juan Guaido. How many votes did he receive last May? That would be an interesting question because a few days ago he stood at a rally in Caracas and declared himself the President of Venezuela. The point is he never stood as a Presidential candidate last May and has never stood as a Presidential candidate in his life. But hey why let silly details like actually being elected or even standing for election get in the way of a coup attempt when you have the backing of a lunatic in the Oval office in America who got there with almost three million less votes than his opponent?
The situation regarding Venezuela would be farcical if it was not so serious. A guy without a shred of democratic legitimacy announces himself the new President and baw-heid Trump immediately recognises him. That was, of course, the predetermined plan all along. The US has engineered as much economic chaos within Venezuela as it can and financed and organised the opposition groups to take to the streets to demand change. They used to demand elections but they keep losing them so now they want to just ignore the ballot box.
It is disgraceful and disgusting yet the world’s hired liars in the nodding dog media dutifully report the situation without an ounce of context or inch of doubt about foreign nations recognising an unelected puppet as a new President over the head of the one elected with over 6.2 million votes only 8 months ago.
President Maduro deserves support from every person on the planet who believes in democracy. You don’t have to be a socialist to support him just a democrat. If his election last year can be so easily ignored and unjustly denounced as illegitimate we really are entering a dangerous stage in world history. You expect the fascist president in Brazil to oppose Maduro and the criminally inept and outrageously out of his depth President of America. But how dare Jeremy Hunt declare British support for this guy Guaido. Who asked us and when? He has no right to speak for Britain on this issue.
Mendacious Macron in France also had the sheer brass neck to Tweet support for Guaido and applauds the courageous demonstrators of the opposition for demonstrating against Maduro. What an arse he is. If they start wearing yellow vests will he still support them or call for riot police and water canon to crush them in Caracas the way he is doing in Paris?
These idiots question the legitimacy of Maduro’s election last May. The guy won a fair and square election involving over nine million voters on a 46% turnout. Trump won an election with 2.9 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton and only a 55% turnout. While former investment banker Macron sits on a record low approval rating of only 23% https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-politics-poll/french-president-macrons-popularity-slumps-to-record-low-in-poll-idUSKCN1LM0B6 and the brutal suppression of protests against his cuts programme in France but pontificates to Maduro about legitimacy. He even claimed to speak for Europe on the Venezuela question https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNsgpRcgyY8. He doesn’t even speak for France let alone Europe.
I implore each and every individual who reads this column to protest what Trump, May, Hunt, Macron and others are doing regarding Venezuela. They are trying to engineer and support an illegal and immoral overthrow of a legitimately elected government and if they do it there they will be emboldened to do it anywhere. The Maduro government was elected to address the problems in Venezuela. They don’t need or want unhelpful and undemocratic interference from other sovereign nations. Visit and express your support for Venezuela via the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign https://www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk/ and the Hands off Venezuela campaign https://www.handsoffvenezuela.org/. It’s the very least we can do.
The whole situation could get worse and result in armed confrontations and even a civil war. That is what America is prepared for. They don’t give a damn about ordinary folk in Venezuela and if their concern was for the removal of undemocratic tyrants then why are they still in bed with Saudi Arabia? Perhaps if Maduro withdraws the right to vote from women in Venezuela and starts be-heading protesters and political opponents Trump and America will consider him legitimate after all. Say it loud and say it clear – Yankee Go Home. Get your bloody hands out of Venezuela.