Editor’s note: This is a transcript of a video by Comrade Val about bougie myths about Venezuela.
1. A common misconception about Venezuela is that it is a Dictatorship under which there is no democracy.
23 elections have been held in Venezuela since 1998, which was the year when Hugo Chavez was elected president and democratized state departments. Part of the dictatorship trope imposed by the west and its allies on venezuela is that presidents are hand-picked by Chavez and that elections are rigged. Voting is not a legal requirement in Venezuela, however, Venezuela has one of the highest voting participation rates in the Americas, among Spanish-speaking countries and in the world, at 70% according to a poll by the survey organization Hinterlaces, as opposed to the US which had a lower voting rate of 58% during the 2018 elections and spain which had a turnout of 69% as of June 2016. Washington even admitted that Maduro received the majority of votes in the 2013 presidential election, refuting the narrative that he was handpicked in a “dictatorial” manner by former President Hugo Chavez.
Maduro won the 2013 election against opposing candidate Henrique Capriles by 1.49%, 80% of elegible voters voted during this election. Capriles had lost against Chavez in 2012, accused Chavez of electoral fraud and requested a complete audit of the 15 million cast ballots. The National Electoral Council (CNE) agreed to revising the ballots and concluded that there was no tampering with ballots throughout the election. During the election of Chavez, there was a voter turnout of over 63% and he won with 56% of the popular vote, including 20 of the 23 departments of Venezuela.
The first fingerprint electronic voting machine is also attributed to Venezuela, which virtually eliminates potential electoral fraud and also coincides with the anti-corruption campaign carried out by former president hugo chavez. Venezuela is also the first country in the world to utilize voting machines that print a receipt as proof that participating citizens voted.
The most up to date voting machines in Venezuela are the Smartmatic Auditable Election System by Smartmatic,which are 100% audible at each stage. The final vote count is confirmed via usage of the physical vouchers that voters submit to the receipt box, and then are electronically transmitted through a network disconnected from the internet to ensure that interference does not occur. The National Electoral Council has even invited the United Nations and Caricom to send representatives to observe the Venezuela voting procedure.
Even the imperialist Organization of American States (also known as OAS) released an observation report stating that the 1998 presidential elections were “clean, clear and transparent, and gave ample proof of the venezuela citizenry’s devotion to democracy.” even Former US President Jimmy Carter said “Of the 93 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”
2. Another misconception about venezuela is that the Chavez and Maduro administrations are to blame for the economic crisis that has erupted over the years
Washington makes the case that the US was helping to protect private sectors and the oil industry in Venezuela, however, this is not the case. The Venezuelan government cannot be criticized without taking into account the role that the US, Organisation of American States (OAS), Saudi Arabia, Israel and Colombia have played in sabotaging the Venezuelan government and economy, then using corporate media to blame Venezuela’s problems on Chavismo.
The issues that have had an impact on the Venezuelan economy are not caused by an alleged socialism, but relatively low oil prices and sabotage by violent right-winged opposition to Bolivarianism. In 2014, Saudi Arabia allied with the US and Israel to strategically flood the market with inexpensive oil— which resultantly drove the price of oil down from $110 to $28 per barrel, with the purpose of weakening opponents of said allied countries, whose economies are reliant on oil and natural gas exports, such as Venezuela. As a result of this course of action, the Venezuelan state budget has been significantly reduced, which has decimated the economy, and has produced a crisis in the funding of Venezuelan social programs which are in turn vital to the strengthening of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Additionally, private companies import the majority of food in Venezuela and ask for subsidized foreign currency from the government oil sales in order to accomplish that. Venezuela needs to find other sources of income since they can no longer depend on the now cheap oil sales. At the same time, ExxonMobil grants contracts to Guyana for infrastructure, drilling and storage with the intention of extracting the immense “Liza Project” located in maritime territory claimed by Venezuela.
The gist of the issues the US has with Venezuela is the fact that it is a socialist, anti-imperialist nation that aspires for economic independence sans intervention. 76% of Venezuelans oppose foreign intervention, according to surveys from the polling organization Hinterlaces.
Wikileaks also published a US diplomatic cable from 1978 which demonstrated US interest in Venezuelan oil. Wikileaks also published an excerpt from a 1988 declassified cable between the US state department and the US Embassy in Caracas, titled “US Goals, Objectives and Resource Management for Venezuela,” which showed that the main purpose of US Venezuela relations is to maintain Venezuela as a vital source of US petroleum imports and continue to pursue a feasible oil price position in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
In terms of economics, the U.N. confirmed that poverty rates in Venezuela were cut from 60 percent before 1998 (when Chavez was elected) to less than 30 percent by 2015, despite economic crises facilitated by rapidly-declining oil prices. Moreover, healthcare became socialized and available to all through the Barrio Adentro program under the Bolivarian Revolution.
As a result, health and life expectancy rates have risen. In June 2017, Maduro approved close to $19 million in funding for emergency services due to Tropical Storm Bret. Additionally, in April 2016, Venezuela implemented new electricity-saving mechanisms in response to a severe drought that significantly reduced the generating capacity of the country’s hydroelectric dams. The mechanisms were intended to decrease water levels in the Guri reservoir, which represents 70 percent of Venezuela’s electricity, among other measures the Maduro government has taken in order to provide to their population despite ongoing imperialist attacks and US sanctions that have decimated their country.
3. Another misconception people in the West often have about Venezuela is that the opposition is peaceful and democratic.
The Venezuelan opposition is led by a predominately white bourgeoisie, the US state department and its allies. the US state department has provided at least $49 million since 2009 in aid for Venezuelan right-wing opposition forces who have sparked violent protests and murders of innocent civilians with the hopes of removing the democratically elected President Maduro.
The US government has also provided $4.26 million for Venezuela through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2015 in order to fund organizations that engage in anti-government work.
Contrary to western narratives, these anti government protestors have a history of escalating to extreme forms of violence, such as their burning of Venezuelan youth Orlando Jose Figuera, who was stabbed and set on fire on May 20th of this year in the Altamira neighborhood of Caracas, one of the wealthiest regions of the capital, after the anti-government protestors suspected he was a chavista because he was Black.
80% of his body suffered burns and stab wounds as a result and he unfortunately died from this hate crime. This heinous act even drew the attention of Ernesto Vega, Venezuela’s Minister of Communication and Information, who issued a statement on his Twitter account following the death of Figuera, his statement is, as quoted: “Orlando Figuera, stabbed and burned alive by minds diseased by the hate in Altamira on May 20, just died of cardiopulmonary arrest,” he also elaborated that international mainstream media has failed to expose the opposition for how violent it truly is in its protests as opposed to “peaceful.”
These anti-bolivarian protestors are the same ones who called Chavez a monkey due to his African ancestry and who likened former US First Lady Michelle Obama to a gorilla for the same reason. They are not only counterrevolutionary, classist and violent, they are racist and anti-Black as well.
Mainstream media has also failed to expose the reactionary nature of prominent Venezuelan bourgeois opposition leaders such as Leopoldo Lopez, who are romanticized as heroes fallen victim to a brutal regime when the reality is quite the contrary.
Lopez is a wealthy white Venezuelan elite man who is directly descended from 19th century bourgeois liberator Simon Bolivar and Venezuela’s first president Cristobal Mendoza. He culminated his education in prestigious institutions in the US such as the Hun School of Princeton, which he attended alongside Saudi princes and the children of US Presidents and well known CEOS.
He was then admitted to Kenyon College followed by Harvard John F Kennedy School of Government. Some investigators speculate that he initiated a relationship with the CIA while at Kenyon. Lopez founded the group Primero Justicia while in school in 1992, which grew into a significant political party in right-wing Venezuelan politics.
Prior to becoming involved again in venezuelan politics after his return to the country in 1996, he became an analyst at the quasi-privatized venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) where he worked until 1999 and while he worked there, he and his mother illegally sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to Primero Justicia, which breaks Venezuela’s anti-corruption laws.
This act was not revealed until 2007 when an investigation conducted demonstrated what Lopez had done and banned him from obtaining political office titles for years. After culminating his job at PDVSA, he was elected mayor of the Chachao department of Caracas in 2000, which is one of the wealthiest provinces in Venezuela.
In 2002, Lopez started to regularly visit the headquarters of International Republican Institute (IRI) in Washington DC and meet with officials from the Bush administration.
The IRI makes up one third of the National Endowment for Democracy, which is a US government funded NGO that was chaired by John Mccain and that has played a role in numerous US-sanctioned regime changes.
Both the IRI and the National Democratic Institute have financed Lopez’s Primero Justicia party as well as his other party Voluntad Popular which he established in 2010. During his term as mayor of Chachao, Lopez participated in the 2002 US coup attempt against democratically elected president Hugo Chavez. The key role Lopez played in this coup attempt was in the illegal sequestration of former Minister of the Interior and Justice Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, along with engaging in violent attacks aimed at the Cuban Embassy in Caracas, which him and other violent counterrevolutionaries cut off water and electricity to and smashed windows and vehicles.
In 2007, Chavez forgave Lopez for his participation in the coup and prohibited him from holding political office from 2008 to 2014. Lopez has then tried to diasssociate himself from the 2002 coup attempt which was generally not well received by anyone including the Venezuelan opposition.
In 2014 Lopez’s lawyers tried to deny his involvement in the coup, but this was not successful as there was video evidence of him kidnapping Chacin and that his father, Leopoldo Lopez Gil, was a business leader who suspended the Venezuelan constitution that was provided by the fickle coup government.
As much as the west wants to pain venezuelan opposition as peaceful heroes and Maduro as a villain that needs to be taken down, neither is the actual case factually and Washington, the OAS and the CIA have all admited this in their own documents and statements, contradicting their corporate propaganda against these democratically elected regimes that serve the purpose to hide their true imperialist intentions.