As we write these lines, Washington are ramping up their orchestrated efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government.
Earlier this week (as Jorge Martin explains in this article), the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared himself as "president in charge" at a street rally. He was immediately recognised as the "legitimate president" of Venezuela by Trump in the USA and Bolsonaro in Brazil, and by Canada, Colombia and the Organisation of American States.
The US has threatened President Maduro, instructing him to resign and calling on the army to intervene to force him out. Maduro has broken diplomatic and political relations with the US and given their diplomatic staff 72h to leave the country. But the imperialists are refusing to listen to anyone but their own puppets.
It is clear that they are now going for broke, attempting to carry out regime change in Venezuela. There is no other way of describing this: it a coup attempt.
We say: Hands off Venezuela! The Venezuelan people should chose their own president, not the White House.
The labour movement in Britain must respond to oppose this imperialist intervention and show solidarity with the masses in Venezuela. To start, Jeremy Corbyn should condemn this coup attempt, which has been supported by Theresa May and her Tory government.
We call on all our supporters to raise this as an urgent issue inside Labour and trade union meetings. Below is a model motion that should be moved in local Labour parties, Momentum groups, and trade union branches.
The fight against imperialism is a fight for socialism - in Venezuela, in Britain, and internationally.
Join the Hands Off Venezuela campaign next week to demonstrate against the imperialist coup and to discuss the way forward for the Bolivarian Revolution:
- Monday 28th January, 4.30pm - Demonstrate against the coup - outside Downing Street - Facebook event
- Wednesday 30th January, 7pm - Hands Off Venezuela! Oppose the imperialist coup! - central London venue TBC - Facebook event
This meeting notes that:
- On 23 January, the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, appointed himself “president in charge” of the country;
- Nicolás Maduro remains the democratically elected president of Venezuela, having won the 2018 presidential election by a large margin;
- The National Assembly remains in contempt of court after a 2016 ruling declared that the election of 3 MPs from Amazonas was null due to election fraud;
- Article 233 of the Constitution, which is being invoked by the opposition in the National Assembly who support Guaidó’s claim to the presidency, relies on a “permanent absence of the president”, which is clearly not the present situation. Even if this were the case, the vice president ought to take on the office of the presidency;
- Guaidó’s anti-democratic and unconstitutional manoeuvre is being backed by major powers across the Western hemisphere, including Trump in the US, Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government in Brazil, and Theresa May.
This meeting further notes that:
- Following the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998, the workers and poor of Venezuela achieved significant advances in healthcare, housing, education and workers’ rights;
- The Bolivarian Revolution has been opposed every step of the way by the forces of international imperialism and a right-wing opposition in Venezuela who seek to defend the power and wealth of the oligarchs. These opposition forces have at times aligned themselves with fascist gangs, and have employed a range of violent means – including political assassinations, intimidation, and a US-backed military coup in 2002 – to undermine Venezuelan democracy;
- Should the right-wing opposition come to power it will immediately embark on a savage campaign of cuts and attacks on the working class, using violent repression wherever necessary, as evidenced by the conduct of opposition figures in the bloody ‘Caracazo’ massacre in 1989;
- The current crisis of the Venezuelan economy, which began with the steep fall in oil prices in 2014, has been greatly exacerbated by deliberate sabotage on the part of the oligarchy, and economic sanctions by the US, combined with the Maduro government’s inability to put the ownership and control of the Venezuelan economy in the hands of the working class;
- Notwithstanding this fact, for much of the past twenty years, the working class and poor of Venezuela have mobilised repeatedly – at the ballot box and in the street – to defend the gains of the revolution.
This meeting resolves that:
- We are in total opposition to the imperialist coup being carried out in Venezuela;
- We condemn the attempt by the UK government to legitimate the coup in Venezuela by recognising Guaidó as president;
- We demand that the Bank of England immediately hands over the Venezuelan gold it is withholding worth $550 million;
- We call on the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn to reject the ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela;
- We extend our solidarity and friendship to those Venezuelans involved in opposing Guaidó’s coup attempt, and who are seeking to bring the revolutionary process to a successful and satisfactory conclusion and we call on the British Labour and trade union movement to do the same;
- We believe that such a resolution can only be achieved by the energetic expropriation of the oligarchy, who continue to control most of the Venezuelan economy, by the Venezuelan working people;
- We further believe that the future of the struggle of the Venezuelan people for liberation can only be secured by the victory of socialist forces elsewhere, most especially in the US itself, which is the strongest bastion of capitalist reaction in the world.
Statement from Lucha de Clases - IMT Venezuela
By Lucha de Clases, published on 23 January 2019
A coup d'état is underway in Venezuela, promoted by imperialism and its lackeys of the Lima cartel, and executed by its puppets in the opposition. On 23 January, the coup entered into a higher phase of its execution when deputy Guaido took an oath as “president in charge of the republic”.
The White House's response did not wait. Almost as though it was timed with the execution of the plan, they have declared on Twitter that:
President @realDonaldTrump has officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 23, 2019
Similarly, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Colonies of the USA (OAS), Almagro, has come out in favour of the coup plotters, in addition to having recognised the day before the appointment made by the National Assembly of an “ambassador” to this body.
In the face of imperialist interference, President Maduro announced the breakdown of relations with the US government, and gave their diplomatic staff 72 hours to leave the country. To which the puppet “president” Guaidó has responded with a statement in which he calls "all the diplomatic mission heads" to "continue operating in Venezuela":
#Comunicado para todas las Embajadas presentes en Venezuela.— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) January 23, 2019
Responsablemente les digo que somos una nación soberana y seguiremos manteniendo las relaciones diplomáticas con todos los países del mundo.
Seguimos firmes en retomar el Orden Constitucional. pic.twitter.com/XODgm9rFbB
In so doing, he calls for an escalation in imperialist interference.
Marco Rubio, known for being a staunch enemy of the Bolivarian Revolution, has also come out to bark his support for the coup, calling for the expulsion of Venezuelan diplomats and to recognise those designated by their puppet president.
Lucha de Clases, the Venezuelan section of the International Marxist Tendency, has clearly indicated that we are against the policies of the Maduro government because class conciliation does nothing more than unload the burden of the crisis on the backs of working people, asphyxiates the revolutionary initiative of the masses, gives away conquests of the revolution and paves the way for the victory of reaction.
At the same time, we make clear our categorical rejection of the coup d'état promoted by the Trump-Bolsonaro-Almagro axis and its lackeys of the Lima cartel. The coming to power of the reactionary opposition supported by imperialism would mean a disaster for the poor people and the workers from an economic, social, political and democratic point of view. We cannot fool ourselves with that. The “transition plan” drafted by the national assembly speaks openly of privatising all the nationalised companies, mass dismissals in the public sector and in general a clearly anti-worker and pro-business policy.
Oppose the imperialist backed coup!
The only way to combat the reactionary coup is on the basis of the revolutionary energy of the working class and the poor peasantry. Militias must be set up in every neighbourhood, community and factory. Factories should be taken over and placed under worker control. Latifundia should be occupied and defended with Popular Defense Brigades, which already exist in different states of the country.
To fight the coup, the bankers and businessmen who finance it should have their economic power taken away. Expropriate all the large companies and multinationals involved in the coup. There must be occupations of all the paralysed and semi-paralysed companies to put them to work under workers’ control on the basis of a democratic plan of production, to satisfy the needs of the majority. Enough of concessions to the capitalists: we demand the expropriation of banking, large companies and large landed estates under workers' control, and that of the organised peasant communities.
The task of combating the coup goes hand in hand with the resolution of the pressing needs of the working people, which can only be done by putting an end to the policy of pacts, negotiations and concessions to the bourgeoisie organising the coup, and enacting policies that put the interests of the majority of the working people above all else.
This is no time for doubts. Imperialism, which has been attacking the people of Venezuela through economic sanctions and financial blockades, has upped the ante and entered into a decisive phase of its coup plan. For this reason, we call on the peoples of the world, the workers and the youth, to mobilise against the reactionary, imperialist coup d'état, by carrying out acts of protest in the embassies and consulates of the USA and Canada in all countries.
Hands off Venezuela!
Expropriate the bourgeoisie!
Yankees Go Home!
By Jorge Martin, published on 23 January 2019
The ongoing attempt by Washington and the reactionary Venezuelan opposition to remove President Maduro will reach a key stage today [23 January]. The opposition have called for mass protests and Mike Pence issued a public statement giving the green light for “regime change”. As we have explained before, in Venezuela, there is an ongoing attempt to remove president Maduro through a military coup instigated by Trump, Bolsonaro, Macri and Almagro.
On 10 January, the opposition-dominated National Assembly refused to recognise Maduro as president, calling him a "usurper", and has said it is the only legitimate power in the country. The opposition is hinting at the president of the NA, Juan Guaidó, becoming the country's interim president. Guaidó has called on the army to recognise him as such and break with the democratically elected Maduro.
The US has talked openly of a "transition to democracy", and the National Assembly (which is in contempt of court since 2016) has passed a "law" saying that any army officers who break with the "dictator" will be given a full amnesty. The Supreme Court has now declared these decisions of the NA null and void.
A foiled mutiny
On Monday 21 January, early in the morning, there was a mutiny of a number of National Guard officers, who were later disarmed and arrested. They attacked a couple of National Guard posts with the aim of obtaining weapons. This could be just a one-off incident or a reflection of a more widespread mood of discontent within the armed forces. It is to be noted that the mutineers were mainly low-ranking officers and from the National Guard, not the main body of the army. The government has reported that the guardsmen involved were intending to hand over their weapons to members of the opposition Voluntad Popular party.
The stand-off with the guardsmen took place in Cotiza, a working-class barrio in the north of Caracas. Some of the local residents came out to protest against the government and set up burning barricades. Even if you factor in that opposition activists would have been actively promoting such protests, there are many genuine grievances in these and many other working-class areas, which have suffered the worst of the economic crisis. Particularly, many areas of Caracas have faced long periods of water cut-offs.
In the evening of the same day, there were protests, banging of pots and pans and burning barricades against the government in a number of places in Caracas. While the numbers involved were relatively small, significantly they mainly took place in working-class communities in the west of Caracas, which are traditional chavista strongholds, including in Carapita (Antímano), in barrios, in the areas of El Limón and Ciudad Caribia, on the road to La Guaria, etc.
If this means that the reactionary opposition is starting to connect with the grievances of working-class communities about water cut-offs, hyperinflation, low wages, etc., it would be a dangerous turning point. It remains to be seen if that is the case. The truth is that, since the last round of violent opposition protests, when they attempted to overthrow the government in 2017, the situation has only worsened in terms of the living conditions of working people and the poor. This is also impacted the lower ranks of the military, who face the same conditions. On top of that, since 2017, the government has made repeated promises to solve the economic situation, all of which have been broken. This has had dented confidence in the government’s ability amongst the ranks of chavismo.
Mass opposition demonstrations today
The opposition has called for mass demonstrations today, 23 January, on the anniversary of the overthrow of the Perez Jiménez dictatorship in 1958. They are concentrating all their forces on this call. The aim is clear: to have a show of strength, which will bring the army to breaking point and force it to intervene to remove Maduro.
Is that all? Perhaps not. Yesterday a number of people were arrested in Zulia in possession of weapons and military uniforms. The idea that the opposition or sections of it want to provoke an armed incident, which would justify or trigger a coup, is very feasible. This is, after all, what served as a prelude for the coup in April 2002, when snipers fired on opposition and pro-government demonstrators alike. The opposition blamed the government for “opening fire on unarmed demonstrators”, which was the cue for the military coup.
A statement yesterday by US Senator Marco Rubio (the leader of the most belligerent section of the US establishment against Cuba and Venezuela) seems to give credence to this scenario. He talked about plans by Venezuelan secret service SEBIN to fire upon opposition demonstrators:
As the good people of Venezuela make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say: estamos con ustedes. We are with you. We stand with you, and we will stay with you until Democracy is restored and you reclaim your birthright of Libertad. pic.twitter.com/ThzIAqBoRn— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 22, 2019
He is making it clear that the sole aim of this protests is the removal of the elected president and that the US will stand by those carrying out the plan (in fact, the US is a component part of the plotting). This is a scandalous state of affairs. Washington is openly giving instructions for the removal of a government in another sovereign country.
These are not just words. The US is seriously considering stepping up the economic sanctions that are strangling the Venezuelan economy. It might even implement a full oil embargo, which would cripple the government.
Death threats and imperialist meddling
The leader of the most extreme faction of the Venezuelan opposition, María Corina Machado, yesterday said that "if Maduro wants to preserve his life he needs to recognise his time is up":
This is a direct death threat, which reveals the real character of the “democratic” opposition that counts on the full backing of the US and the EU.
The situation is therefore quite serious. It is clear that Washington and the reactionary opposition now see a window of opportunity and are prepared to go on the offensive until they achieve their main aim: the removal of Maduro one way or another. On the other hand, the EU has made an appeal for negotiations between the government and the opposition in order to solve the crisis. Let us not be fooled. Both Washington and Brussels want the same thing: to remove the president of the country by unconstitutional means. They might have slight differences about the methods, but they agree on the fundamentals.
The economic situation has deteriorated since the last coup attempt in 2017, coupled with the weight of a series of unfulfilled promises by the government to sort out the economic situation. Additionally, the government has used repression against workers struggling for rights and conditions. Most recently the protests of Agropatria workers in Cagua were met with repression by the national guard, and their leaders were arrested. The government has also not done anything to defend peasants struggling for agrarian reform, despite promises to the contrary.
Some have even said it doesn't matter who wins as the living conditions of workers and peasants are already so bad. They delude themselves. If Washington has its way, it would be an even greater disaster for working people in Venezuela, even leaving aside the political impact in the region and beyond.
Our position remains the same: we do not support Maduro's government, whose policies are undermining the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution and are unable to address the economic crisis. At the same time, we oppose with all means at our disposal the reactionary Trump-Bolsonaro-Almagro coup.
Marxists, labour movement activists and any consistent democrats have a duty to reject this ongoing coup attempt and defend the right of the people of Venezuela to decide their own future, free from imperialist meddling.
Hands off Venezuela!