Ten days after the violence that started on ’Youth Day’ a situation of high polarization and, in some parts of the country, violence continues. So far there have been 8 deaths as a result of the protests and many more injured.
Most days there are different marches of both the Government and the right wing opposition. At night numbers dwindle and the so called ’student faction’ of the right wing mount barricades and burn rubbish in different areas. In Caracas, this has mostly, but not exclusively, been confined to well off neighbourhoods that are in the hands of the opposition locally and often on a state level.
Altamira’s ’prestigious’ plaza, a long time favourite meeting place of the right wing, especially during the coup and bosses lock out period of 2002-2004, is looking a little worse for wear these days. The usually well maintained flowerbeds are trampled and rubbish and graffiti demanding ’freedom’ and the fall of the ’dictatorship’ line the streets. In some states the violence has been significantly worse, for example in Tachira state, which borders Colombia.
Arrest of Leopoldo Lopez
Right-wing supporters without direction
While many on the right have complained and spoken out against the ’violence’ generated as a consequent of the student protests and called for ’peace’, the images of tear gas along with the arrest of the reactionary Leopoldo Lopez has given the right, in general, a focal point. They call for the disarmament of the ’collectives’ that support the government whom they claim are responsible for the recent violence. Many supporters are calling for an end to crime among other things.
Despite these broad demands it couldn’t be clearer that the right wing remains without a unified leadership or plan about how to fulfil their objective of ousting Chavism, aside from marches and demonstrations. During his speech at the demonstration on 22 February, Capriles (right-wing MUD leader and opposition Presidential candidate in 2012 and 2013) pleaded with the youth to stay in the streets, fighting for a ’future’.
The on-going detention of Lopez, who like a martyr dramatically handed himself over to the National Guard in a clearly orchestrated show during the opposition march on 20 February, remains a point of contention for the government and the right and it is clear that negotiations regarding the charges are well underway.
The Government have dropped the charges of murder and terrorism, however other charges that could see him imprisoned for up to 10 years remain. The exact date of the hearing is yet to be confirmed; meanwhile he remains incarcerated in a military prison. The government have claimed that they negotiated with Lopez to take him into custody for his own protection, as there were sectors of the far right that wanted to assassinate him to start a coup.
As we mentioned in our last article, the arrest of Lopez and repression of protests could see the more moderate ’democratic’ right-wing under the leadership of Capriles be forced out onto the streets. Capriles has participated in many of the large demonstrations, but continues to distance himself from the student protests and the clearly prepared plan of Lopez, Machado and co to create chaos in the country with the hope that people would rise up against the Government.
Capriles continues to call for non-violence and peace and democracy, although he has called on supporters to convert the protests into a social movement. In a recent interview he stated that the right needed to adapt to appeal to all Venezuelans, especially the poor. He doesn’t, however, clarify exactly how he plans to do this or the tactics and strategy that may be used to do so.
Maduro and the imperialist threat
In recent days, three US diplomats have been expelled for their alleged role in the unrest. This is not of course the first time US diplomats have been expelled from Venezuela. However, the act has started a war of words by Maduro about the Obama Government’s intentions in Venezuela and on the other hand Obama and Kerry’s words about how ’democracies should behave’.
Correctly, Maduro has highlighted the hypocrisy of these statements and the role of US imperialism in Latin America. However, he has also called for ’dialogue’ between Kerry and Venezuelan Chancellor Elias Jaua to discuss the situation in Venezuela! The US remains the biggest importer of Venezuelan oil, which makes up 80% of the countries total revenue. While Chavism has at different times broken diplomatic ties with the US, the government is unlikely to go further than this.
Obama’s agenda in this moment is to secure the ongoing importation of oil. Undoubtedly Washington would be very happy to see the end of Chavism, but they are unlikely to publically support any kind of armed struggle or intervene militarily at this point in time. Aside from dealing with their own national economic and political disaster they know that any kind of intervention in Latin America would be extremely unpopular both nationally and internationally. Of course, support for the right in other ways is an obvious and timeworn tactic of imperialism. In recent days, Wikileaks have released documents relating to contact between the White House and Lopez.
Chavism calls for peace and unity
As the right have been mobilising, so to has Chavism. On 20 February, they used the signing of the new contract with PDVSA workers to mobilise hundreds of thousands on the streets. The women’s march of 22 February mobilised hundreds of thousands of supporters onto the streets calling for peace, non-violence and unity.
Maduro at times has spoken of the need for the state to intervene in the protests of the opposition students, which they have done at different moments with tear gas and water cannon, while at other times Maduro guarantees the right to peaceful protest and denies repression.
On the other hand, one of the PSUV Vice Presidents of the National Assembly, Blanca Eekhout , has come out and said that there will be ’no Arab Spring’ in Venezuela. In doing so she is emphasising that the government were opposed to the popular uprisings in many of the Arab countries dogged by repressive regimes (many of these regimes have trade agreements with Venezuela) and/ or the impression that a popular movement, which they clearly believe would come from a right wing perspective, would not be tolerated. Such talk should be of concern to revolutionaries also, who could meet tomorrow the repressive tactics used against the right wing today.
The PSUV leaders have recently met with their allies in the Gran Polo Patriotico (GPP) after a period of 6 months. Just a month ago, even the Communist Party of Venezuela publically stated that the GPP was not working due to the PSUV dominance and bureaucracy, but after an ’emergency’ 24 hour meeting to discuss the current situation, they have decided to put aside differences and even call for a new alliance, to support the Government 100% in the face of a new critical ’fascist’ threat.
We also believe that the situation is critical and the perspectives of a further degeneration into violent conflict are real. But it would be incorrect of revolutionaries both nationally and internationally to believe that all is necessary is to support Chavism. The perspective of reconciliation by Chavism with at least moderate sectors of the right is possible and will only lead to further attacks and defeats for the working class.
For these reason the working class, the poor and the revolutionary left must also struggle for their own representation, at these moments under a Left Front, to fight for a revolutionary program to end capitalism and implement socialism. Such a program must include the creation of defence committees to defeat the right, defence of the community councils as organising committees under the control and management of the communities and not the bureaucracy, for the immediate nationalisation of large industries and the financial sector under the control and management of the working class and poor.
This is the only way the right and capitalism as the root cause of crime; inflation, food scarcity and so on can be defeated.