Wednesday, August 31, 2016

September 1, 2016 - A day of risk and danger in Venezuela.

The US backed opposition in Venezuela is taking a big gamble tomorrow morning by launching its "Takeover of Caracas" demonstration.

It's not a secret that Venezuela is in the grip of a rapidly deteriorating scenario of near run away inflation, serious shortages of medicine, medical supplies, food and personal hygiene items such as toilet paper. The government blames an economic war that it says is being waged by the United States and its Venezuelan oppositionist surrogates. Lots of people are saying that the situation is evidence that socialism is a failure.

I've been of the opinion that while Venezuela's leaders say that they are socialists (as also do some opposition groups) Venezuela is not and has not been a socialist republic. The main industry, petroleum extraction is owned by the government but (barely) functions with the participation of private enterprises such as Bechtel. The industry exists within a national and global market economy. While up until 2013, the time of much revered President Hugo Chavez' untimely death, Venezuela had been making strides in reducing poverty and economic inequality. Over the past three years that progress has been unraveling, and a government that has been in office for 16 years, ten of them boom time years cannot credibly blame all of the country's problems on a foreign power and domestic opposition. According to public opinion polls most Venezuelans reject this explanation and have little confidence in either the government or the US backed opposition.

Last December Venezuela had parliamentary elections in which the opposition coalition gained 56 percent of the popular vote and took control of the parliament ( National Assembly). Assembly President Henry Ramos promised that President Maduro would be out of office and the crisis would be on the road to solution in six months. Nothing of the sort happened. Venezuela's very liberal Constitution, a product of Hugo Chavez' leadership, allows for a citizen initiative to remove the President, but it has rules, procedures, deadlines. Because the opposition missed a deadline the recall vote if it takes place, will not result in a new election, but could result in the President being replaced by his Vice President. The opposition rejects this possible outcome and has called for a massive "Takeover of Caracas" to force a speed up of the process, although they have no program or candidates.

They're clearly playing with fire.

It's my deepest hope that things go peacefully in Caracas and throughout Venezuela. Whatever happens it must not become a pretext for more overt US intervention.