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Venezuela: Chavism and the Right call for 'peace' amid polarisation
On 12 February, three people (two right-wing supporters and one government supporter) were killed in Caracas and dozens injured and arrested in the protests and demonstrations that took place around Venezuela to commemorate the annual 'Youth Day'.
Since then tensions have escalated and violence continues. So far eight people have died as a result of the protests and many more have been injured.
Some right-wing leaders have stated it is a 'popular' protest, which represents the majority of Venezuelans. But the right wing represents class interests that are alien to the majority of Venezuelans.
There have been hundreds of protests in the last year about housing, crime, for collective contracts, to name a few.
Additionally there have been occupations of factories and calls by workers for the government to nationalise the factories and give the workers control and management.
Gabriela Sanchez, Socialismo Revolutionario (CWI Venezuela)
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 Caracas this has mostly, but not exclusively, been confined to well-off neighbourhoods that are in the hands of the opposition.
In Caracas, Altamira's 'prestigious' plaza, a long time favourite meeting place of the right wing, especially during the coup and bosses' lock-out of 2002-2004, is looking a little worse for wear.
The usually well-maintained flowerbeds are trampled. Rubbish and graffiti demanding 'freedom' and the fall of the 'dictatorship' cover the streets.
In some states the violence has been significantly worse, for example in Tachira state, which borders Colombia.
While many on the Right have complained and spoken out against the violence generated as a consequence of the student protests and called for peace, images showing the use of tear gas and depicting the arrest of the reactionary opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez have given much of the Right a point of focus.
The Right calls for the disarmament of the collectives that support the government, who they claim are responsible for the recent violence.
Many of the Right's supporters attempt to make a broader appeal by calling for an end to crime among other issues.
However, it couldn't be clearer that the right wing remains without a unified direction or plan about how they will take forward their objective of ousting Chavism, besides demonstrations.
Lopez, attempting to make himself a martyr, dramatically handed himself over to the National Guard in a clearly orchestrated show during the opposition march on 20 February.
His ongoing detention 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 has dropped the charges of murder and terrorism, but other charges that could see him imprisoned for up to ten years remain.
The exact date of the hearing is yet to be confirmed. The government has claimed to have 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.
The arrest of Lopez and repression of protests could see the more moderate 'democratic' Right under the leadership of Capriles, the Right's candidate in the 2012 and 2013 general elections, be forced out onto the street.
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 and others to create chaos in the country with the hope people will rise up against the government.
Capriles continues to call for non-violence, 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.
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 ejected from Venezuela.
However the act has started a war of words between President Maduro about the Obama government's intentions in Venezuela and, on the other hand, Obama and John Kerry in the US 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 country's total revenue.
Obama's agenda at 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 publicly support any kind of armed struggle or intervene militarily.
Aside from dealing with their own national economic and political problems they know that any kind of intervention in Latin America would be extremely unpopular both nationally and internationally.
As the Right has been mobilising, so too has Chavism. On 20 February they used the signing of the new contract with workers at the state oil company PDVSA to mobilise hundreds of thousands on the streets.
Maduro has spoken of the need for the state to intervene in the protests of the opposition students, which it has done with tear gas and water cannon, while also claiming to guarantee the right to peaceful protest and denying repression.
On the other hand one of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela - the governing party) 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 was opposed to the popular uprising in many of the Arab countries dogged by repressive regimes (many of these regimes have trade agreements with Venezuela).
It also indicates that a popular movement, which they clearly believe would come from a right-wing perspective, would not be tolerated.
Such talk should be opposed by revolutionaries who could tomorrow be faced with the repressive tactics used against the Right today.
The PSUV leaders have recently met with their partners in the electoral alliance Gran Polo Patriotico (GPP) after a period of six months of not meeting.
Just a month ago the Communist Party of Venezuela publicly 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, the Communist Party has decided to put aside differences and even calls for a new alliance to support the government 100% in the face of a new "fascist" threat.
The situation remains critical and the perspectives for a further degeneration into violent conflict are real.
It would also be incorrect for revolutionaries both nationally and internationally to believe that all that is necessary is to support Chavism.
The reconciliation by Chavism with at least moderate sectors of the Right is possible.
For these reasons the working class, the poor and the revolutionary left must also struggle for their own mass representation, at this time most likely under a left front, to fight for a revolutionary programme to end capitalism and implement socialism.
This is the only way the Right, and capitalism as the root cause of crime, inflation, food scarcity and so on, can be defeated and the Venezuelan revolution be defended.
- For further analysis of events in Venezuela, read 'An analysis of 12F' at www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 26 February 2014:
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