venezuela: the cynical attitude of the opposition on crime

The horrendous assassination of three people in Caracas has been used by the opposition to Hugo Chavez as an excuse to start an offensive against the government. After the brutal murder of the Faddoul brothers and their driver by criminals, the opposition parties called demonstrations and protests. Although we cannot but be horrified by the terrible crime and that we all have the duty to denounce such acts and demand justice for the Faddoul brothers, we cannot but feel indignation for the political games the opposition is trying to play in exploiting this situation.

The anti-Chavez opposition warns about ‘social disintegration’ taking place in Venezuela and accuses the government of incompetence when it comes to guaranteeing the safety of its citizens. The opposition says the government is responsible for creating conditions in which criminals can act with impunity.

We have to say that it is good that the opposition finally recognises the existing social disintegration in Venezuela, especially since this is one of the lingering effects of their past political rule. A rule in the service of the Venezuelan employers aimed at intensifying the exploitation of the working class and poor. For decades, the latter suffered hunger, lack of adequate housing and lack of health care. Isn’t this violence, also? Everyday, children and young people die in the most downtrodden areas of this country; unfortunately, in the majority of cases, their plight does not make the pages of the newspapers.

200 peasants killed

Less than a week ago, organisations of the poor peasants and the landless organised held a march in Caracas denouncing the murder of more than 200 peasant leaders by death squads in the service of the big landowners. Unfortunately, they too die an anonymous death. From reading the press, you would not learn about the daily suffering in the countryside. This press who now wails like mad dogs, with the aim to make political capital for the opposition out of the latest crime wave.

Virgini Rivera, the Vice President of COPEI (a Christian democratic opposition party), accused the government of dismantling the police forces during the last 7 years of its rule. This accusation follows on from rumours that the kidnappers and killers of the Faddoul brothers were police officers or dressed up as police officers. This accusation comes from a party, which, in the past, had complete control over the police forces and used them to serve the direct interests of the Venezuelan ruling class. There are many stories to tell about the police being used to repress working class movements or even to assassinate leaders of the left or whatever other opposition movement which threatened their interests. Many of the leading officers in the police force stayed in their posts when Chavez came to power. We would only have to scratch at the surface of the thin layer of paint that covers up their unsavoury past as hired killers against the people.

Enrique Capriles, mayor of Baruta and a leading opposition figure, was even more outspoken about the killings of the Faddoul brothers. He hoped the deaths would "Move the consciousness of the military" so that they would withdraw their support for the government.

What could our friend Capriles be talking about? Another military coup? Let us remember that it took less than 24 hours during the last failed coup for members of the opposition to send out lists with the names of political, trade union, and community activists marked out to receive ‘special attention’.

A national leader of Accion Democratica (a social democratic party), Nelson Lara, claimed in the press that President Chavez is indirectly responsible for the 12,000 assassinations which occur yearly in Venezuela. Nelson Lara says it is Chavez who built a state associated with crime, a state which calls on criminals to enter politics. Maybe Nelson is referring to his old political allies who have now left Accion Democratica to take up seats on the government benches in the parliament.

Another opposition member, Roberto Smith, who represents an opposition party with more letters in the acronym than actual members, claims "The citizens have lost confidence in the institutions, fundamentally in the security services".

He forgets that Chavez won the presidential elections precisely because the majority of the people lost confidence in the political institutions, including the political parties of the opposition. And that part of the middle class voted for Chavez because they thought a man with a military background would put a stop to chaos, crime, and corruption.

We cannot claim, however, that the Chavez government carries no responsibility at all for the high level of crime and violence. This arises mainly as a result of its desire to look for compromise with the ruling class, who are primarily to blame for the miserable and insecure situation in the country.

Working class must lead struggle against crime

Chavez speaks of revolution and socialism but, unfortunately, does nothing to carry out a concrete socialist programme, which can end capitalism and all its vices. Regrettably, social insecurity, misery, poverty wages, and, of course, the crime these things breed, continue to exist at intolerable levels for the population. The insecurity in working class neighbourhoods is 100 times worse than it is for the ruling and higher middle class who live in gated communities, and who are surrounded by body guards.

The struggle against crime must be organised and headed by the working class and the masses. We cannot put our trust in the police, as was proven again by the latest experiences. For the masses to defend their neighbourhoods against crime it is necessary to create self-defence committees, including, where necessary, creating neighbourhood militias, used in the fight against insecurity, drug dealing, and crime. This can be carried out as an immediate measure on the condition that the committees and militias are democratically elected and under the control of the neighbourhoods. The local police force needs to come under the democratic control of the local community. This would be a first step towards its replacement with a popular security force, elected and controlled by the local communities and organisations of the working class.

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