Venezuela. Between speculation and predictions about the end of Chavism

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In about 50 days, the new members of the Venezuelan National Assembly will be elected, with highly uncertain results and with a country preparing for the electoral confrontation between the opposition’s metaphor of disaster and the perfect victory that the ruling party proclaims, in its slogan of consolidation of the Bolivarian process. And revolutionary, or so they say.

By Aram Aharonian / ALAI AMLATINA / The Dawn / October 16, 2015

 

If a serious analysis of the coming elections in Venezuela attempted, it should begin by looking at the data from nearly twenty previous elections —since the ones held 17 years ago when Hugo Chavez first became president—, surveys and opinion polls, analysis of the capacity for mass mobilization of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Spanish: Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV) and the Democratic Unity Roundtable (Spanish: Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD), among others.

 

One can not keep from considering the delicate economic situation, along with shortages and long lines to go to the market, which for foreign analysts accounts for a “foreseeable” “punishment vote” against the government of Nicolas Maduro, and an expected majority for the opposition. But we’re talking about Venezuela, a country where everyone, Bolivarian and anti-Chavez, miss the leadership of Hugo Chavez. The problem exists and we must recognize the responsibility that rests with the government, which prefers to emphasize on the “economic war” that, however, can not be the only culprit.

 

And, as if internal conflict was not enough, the greatest enemy wants to help destabilization by promoting two boundary disputes: with Guyana —for the Esequibo territory— and with Colombia —for smuggling and for the export of its internal economic problems but most of all that of security: hitmen and paramilitaries.

 

Tibisay Lucena, President of the National Electoral Council, warned that there is a conspiracy against the organism, a denouncement that recurs every election year, and of a menace that not always arises from internal forces. This time, it was the Secretary of State, John Kerry, who was pointed at, and more aggressive ones are to come, says Editor of the Últimas Noticias newspaper, Eleazar Díaz Rangel.

 

It’s no fun queuing up to eight hours to get food or medicines. The lines are orderly and the shortage is due not only to “bachaqueo” (contraband to the other side of the common border, of over 2,200 kilometers, where products sell for a bigger amount of dollars). Products at government-regulated prices are scarce, and also there are products imported to the (cheap) official rate. Controls have not been effective and the exchange rate gap is monumental.

On the border with Colombia, 66 Venezuelan military who were complicated in these criminal actions were arrested, and other groups continue to operate. Meanwhile, three successive attacks on state facilities in less than one week, evidence that the radical opposition’s plans will continue until election day. And probably after that.

 

The metaphor of disaster

 

This is the pre-election scenario in Venezuela, where the opposition builds its discourse and strategy around the metaphor of disaster, that it manages to impose thanks to its broadcasting through every television show, newspaper coverage, radio or web portal.

 

“Metaphors, as an allegorical element —sociologist Maryclen Stelling explains—, manifest something that is not necessarily explicitly stated, but is sensed and understood by association with concepts and experiences”. Therefore, words such as landslide, earthquake, tsunami, storms, erosion, are reinterpreted by being assigned a new context.

 

In response, the opposition push words like reconstruction, recovery, reactivation, collecting the debris, rescuing… all in order to overcome the alleged disaster. The opposition seeks solidarity (expressed in a vote) around the disaster. The last step before taking the step forward… into the abyss.

 

A victory of the government or the people?

 

Meanwhile, the ruling party insists on a “perfect victory”, “popular union to defend the country (…) and clear the way”. That is Maduro’s message: “No victories are predestined, we must set them up and then enjoy them”. “We need a great political victory (…) to clear the way” and ensure peace in the country.

 

Many Chavist leaders —in general driven away by the madurismo of the government— point out that criticism and self-criticism to the inner of the Bolivarian process has declined, has almost disappeared.

 

“This election is not going to be won by simple inertia, simply because Chavism is present. It requires a very vigorous and dynamic action by the government and accompanying political forces” said Alí Rodríguez, former Foreign Minister, former Minister of Energy, former Secretary General of UNASUR and current ambassador to Cuba. But it seems that the inertia is only accompanied by silence.

 

That is why they speak of a “popular victory”, of popular power that emerges from the communes were awareness of the need to preserve the undeniable achievements of Chavez is still breathing, and not from the government or the electoral machinery of the weakened Great Patriotic Pole.

 

The opposition party MUD say they will win the parliamentary elections (a way to protect themselves, as they have done since 2004, in order to denounce there was fraud after a defeat), and therefore, first of all they should present the proposals that will be raised in case they win. The media that are on their side, for example, are against adjustments such as the one on gasoline, often express in favor of Guyana and are opposed to the peace agreement in Colombia. Could this be the political agenda of the MUD in the Assembly?

 

An end to Chavism?

 

Chavez, along with his top advisers, created a national project, which eventually led to a project of society beyond capitalism and gained hegemony thanks to his leadership and strategic capacity. After his death, an internal rupture occurred, even within the cabinet of Maduro, while pressures from the European social democracy, from large transnational financial groups and from the Vatican intensify in order to end the Chavist revolution.

 

And so, contradictory reports on economic policy pile up as the President announced the need to adjust the prices of gasoline, the urgency of a tax revolution, the development controls prices… that remain as mere proclamations.

 

Today, the economy is in the hands of Brigadier General Marco Torres, Minister of Economy, Finance and Public Bank and chairman of the State Bank of Venezuela, who announced the establishment of workshops with major financial companies in the world such as JP Morgan, to invite them to invest in the country, which has not resulted in a political opening. But Maduro —who insists on repeating announcements— urged to radicalize the revolution, something which, one would assume, would involve moving towards a model with greater worker participation and the strengthening of popular participation.

 

Analyst Manuel Azuaje said that “groups that are part of government have clashed at key issues such as the direction of economic policy”. “The passing of Chavez produces the dissolution of hegemony in the government project, his absence causes these groups to enter into a direct confrontation, without any of them achieving hegemony. Thereby the vacuum continues”.

 

“This lack of consensus, or of convictions, has been used by the vernacular right in alliance with imperialism in order to intensify its strategies and make the country collapse. Maduro has repeatedly taken decisions to reverse measures that once elicited important criticisms and disagreements among the Chavist base, such as stopping the project of a seed law that opened the doors to GMOs, preventing the disappearance of the El Maizal commune and repealing the proposed opening of new coal mines.

“But the fact is that some in the government are committed to a program of economic openings, and some others listen to popular demands and make decisions that reflect the spirit of Chavez. The return to the past is not an option nor a withdrawal strategy (…), it is time to recognize the fundamental allies and support them to achieve a defeat of all those who want to throw away what has been conquered”, said Azuaje.

 

Futurology

 

There are two possible scenarios: one where the PSUV wins the majority of elected deputies; and another where the opposition takes most. The 51 Parliamentarians that are elected would be distributed accordingly. The decision would be in the circuits, in relation to which it is more difficult to forecast only from global inclinations.

 

An “even” result would create a high voltage that would be further stimulated by allegations of fraud; there would be attempted violence and actions outside the legal framework that could be ended with a defeat of the “insurgents”, but with harmful side effects for the country.

 

If the opposition obtains most Members of Parliament, it would have to appoint the president of the Assembly, which would lead to an objective situation of cohabitation. This could simultaneously involve agreements and friction which could be progressively resolved with a view to the elections of governors at the end of 2016, recognizes Leopoldo Puchi, political scientist and supporter of the opposition.

 

If the situation stumbles and drifts toward a strong confrontation between powers next year, surely the exhaust valve would be a referendum in 2016 or early 2017. This scenario would accelerate if the opposition obtained two thirds of the unicameral Assembly in December, which today seems to be more of a wishful thought.

 

What can not be ruled out is that either a government or an opposition victory will raise the voltage, and therefore we have to begin dealing with it immediately, because the economic problems, the hub of everything that happens, require a program of measures between December and January. And, at the political level, dialogue is an irreplaceable instrument.

 

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