Venezuela: A fraudulent Constituent Assembly amid hunger of the people

By Miguel Sorans*

Originally published by La

Beset by massive protests across the country, and after a savage repression that has taken 40 dead and more than 350 injured, Nicolás Maduro convenes a fraudulent Constituent Assembly. It intends to perpetuate itself in the power to continue turning the screws on the people. While they continue paying the foreign debt, hunger grows. There is no bread. Salaries are between US$30 and US$50. Maduro’s government is not left-wing, it is anti-workers. The bosses’ opposition of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) is no solution either. We must continue mobilising until we bring Maduro down and prepare a political alternative of class independence.

There is something that helps to define what happens in Venezuela and what the Chavista government of Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is. One gets up on a Sunday morning and goes to the bakery on the street corner to buy bread and they say “no bread” and “there is not going to be any”. And nothing else. But that’s not just Sundays, it happens every day. This is Venezuela. Previously there was no toilet paper, but no bread is something else. This is hunger. It is the number one democratic right that Maduro does not meet. For months now it has been an odyssey for millions to get bread and flour to make the “arepas” (tortillas). This is why most people hate Maduro and his government. This is the basis of the growth of popular rebellion. In addition to suppressing and impeding freedom of expression or the right to protest, Maduro does not guarantee bread, food or medicines. It is the time that those who from the left still pretend to defend this regime take notice of what is happening. The bread is lacking not because of an alleged “economic war”. Food is missing because they continue to pay the debt (in 2016 US$18 billion were paid and this year US$17 billion more would be paid) and the deals with the oil multinationals continue.

The farce of the Constituent Assembly

In a last-ditch effort, amid the seriousness of the political and social crisis, Maduro comes out to convene an alleged National Constituent Assembly. As our sister party, the Partido Socialismo y Libertad (Socialist and Freedom Party, PSL) denounces, the Constituent Assembly is fraudulent because a part of its 500 members will be designated by organisations controlled by the government and another in “territorial elections” that nobody knows what it means. Maduro launches this manoeuvre to try to give himself time amid the growth of the massive mobilisations that are putting him against the ropes. And on the other hand, with the tale of “participatory and proactive democracy”, Maduro seeks to perpetuate itself in power and not to convene the presidential elections that are scheduled for 2018.

Related article:Maduro holds on to power with repressive measures

His goal is to consolidate, more and more, a totalitarian regime with the “single party” model. The government and the regime of Maduro are consolidating like a bourgeois Stalinism. This is a repressive government that calls itself socialist and anti-imperialist but rules for the entrepreneurs and the multinationals. This is why the central slogan, not the only one, to end this situation is to promote the mobilisation for “Out with Maduro”.

A democratic popular rebellion has begun

The dispute is on the streets. For over a month mass mobilisations against the government have begun and are growing in Caracas and throughout the country. These mobilisations go beyond the calls made by the bosses’ opposition of MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable). Popular sectors of the neighbourhoods and communities that were the social base of Chavismo have been joining in all the cities of the country. This rebellion takes various forms — marches, “cacerolazos” (banging of pots and pans), cutting off streets and freeway with barricades, the march of women, and even generalised looting, which shows the despair of wide fringes. That is why it is totally wrong to interpret that “they are marches of the MUD” and of the “right”. Even the MUD had to convene them pressured from its own rank and file. In Caracas, there have been demonstrations in popular neighbourhoods like El Valle, Coche, 23 de Enero, Baruta and the 5 de Julio neighbourhood in Petare. In Valencia, Carabobo state, in the last week there has been a widespread uprising in the south of the city, very popular and working-class. There have been looting and violent clashes with the police in neighbourhoods such as La Isabelica, San Blas, Los Cedros, Guayos, Tocuyito, among others. This has been repeated in the states of Táchira, Mérida, Maracaibo, Barquisimeto, etc. The National Bolivarian Police (PNB) and the Bolivarian National Guard (GBN) along with the paramilitary “collectives” were responsible for the repression. With a balance so far of 40 dead, mostly young, more than 350 injured and hundreds of detainees. These detainees are being sent to military courts accused of “terrorists”. The student youth and the youth of popular neighbourhoods have great prominence. They make their own self-defence with medieval-style shields and barricades in the neighbourhoods and in the streets. The urban marches, even those summoned by the MUD, begin to be attended by independent sectors that see them as a channel to act against Maduro. In Maracay, for example, a group of young people participated with a sign saying “Neither MUD Nor PSUV, We are the ones below who we come for the ones above”. The revolutionary militants of the PSL are participating in this whole process of popular rebellion, carrying their own slogans and fliers.

The fissures in Chavismo and the fight by “Out with Maduro”

The persistence of popular mobilisation is provoking fissures in the heart of Chavismo that are still incipient but may grow. The main one remains Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz who again differentiated herself from the government. “We cannot demand peaceful and lawful behaviour of citizens if the state makes decisions that are not in accordance with the law”, she said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Another who took distance was Gustavo Dudamel, the well-known conductor of the National Children’s Youth Orchestra, a Chavista sympathiser, who repudiated the repression. The same happened with the son of Chavista leader Tarek Williams Saab, former governor of Anzoátegui and present Ombudsman. Sports figures like the prominent baseball players Jesus Aguilar, Eduardo Perez and Robinson Chirinos also expressed their repudiation.

The fight for the fall of Maduro is open. As the PSL points out, “the solution does not go through a government of the MUD and its parties. They represent the old bosses and pro-Yankee policy. (…) That is why they do not repudiate Maduro’s adjustment package, nor do they oppose the continued payment of the foreign debt. That is why they also do not clearly call for Maduro to leave, and use the mobilisation, imposed by popular pressure, to seek a new negotiation behind the backs of the people and youth, as they did in 2016 with the frustrated dialogue”.

The struggle for the “Out with Maduro” and his government poses the strategic struggle for a Workers’ Government to carry out a worker’s and popular emergency economic plan, as our comrades in the PSL put it.

That is why together with the mobilisation it is necessary to continue promoting the formation of an alternative political pole with the sectors that break with Chavismo by the left. And to continue promoting the popular mobilisation until the fall of Maduro to advance towards the substantive changes that the Venezuelan workers and people need.


*Miguel Sorans is a leading member of Izquierda Socialista (Argentina) and the International Workers’s Unity-Fourth International (IWI-FI)