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Ousted Honduran President Zelaya Says 2009 US-Backed Coup Led to Election Crisis

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In an exclusive interview, former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 US-backed coup, says US actions led to the current political crisis in Honduras. The government continues to withhold the results of the November presidential election, which pitted US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández against opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla. Massive protests erupted after the government-controlled electoral commission stopped tallying votes when the count showed Nasralla ahead. Zelaya now heads the opposition LIBRE party, which is part of the Alliance Against the Dictatorship coalition led by Nasralla.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: In Honduras, the political crisis continues as the government is still refusing to release the results of the November 26 presidential election, held almost two weeks ago. The election pits US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández against opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, head of the National Alliance Against the Dictatorship. Massive protests erupted over the weekend, after the government-controlled electoral commission stopped tallying votes when the count showed Nasralla ahead of Hernández by more than 5 percentage points. After the delay, the electoral commission then claimed Hernández was ahead, sparking protests in which as many as 11 people were killed and more than 1,200 detained. Earlier this week, the Honduran police mutinied against the government, saying they would no longer enforce a curfew and crackdown against protesters.

Well, on Wednesday, in a Democracy Now! exclusive, I spoke with President Manuel Zelaya. He was president of Honduras from 2006 to 2009, before he was ousted in a US-backed coup on June 28th, 2009. He’s now head of the opposition LIBRE party, part of the coalition of the Alliance Against the Dictatorship, which is led by the opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla. We spoke via Democracy Now!video stream. President Zelaya was in Tegucigalpa. I began by asking him to describe the situation in Honduras right now.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Look, people are in the streets. There are a million people in the streets. There are takeovers. There are checkpoints. There are demonstrations. People are also being killed, assassinated by the repressive apparatuses of the state. There is a massive protest of society because of the lack of transparency in the electoral system.

Today, we are calling our candidate, who is now president-elect — we are calling for a count of all polling places. There are only 18,000 polling places. It’s not such a large number. That can be done in a matter of four days. So that the people can regain calm, because based on the data that the state itself put out, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the Alliance of Opposition Against the Dictatorship, on the day of the election, the tribunal said that we had a 5 percent lead, with 71 percent of the votes counted. They said, with 57 percent counted, the alliance already had a 5 percent advantage, and then, with 71 percent counted, the 5 percent trend was maintained — 71 percent. It was a 5 percent lead and growing.

Then, the system went down for three days. They say that the server was overloaded. That’s like putting three needles into a room. How is a server going to be overloaded with so little data. The server can take billions and billions of pieces of data. So, three days, it was the — the vote count was stopped. And then there was a change in service, in the server. And we were told that they had reset, when we asked for the backup, and it was all lost. And then it was resumed, and we’re told, with 29 percent of the vote left to be counted, that we were losing. And so people were indignant, felt bothered.

And we resent the fact that the United States has this duplicitous discourse with respect to Honduras. They control the country. I was the president. They control the media, the private enterprise, the churches, the military. And they are silent. It’s very striking that there’s a twofold discourse, a duplicitous discourse, here on the part of the State Department.

AMY GOODMAN: President Zelaya, what are you calling for right now?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] At this time, we are asking for two things. First, for people to stay firm and stay in the streets, because if we don’t defend what we’ve won at the polls in the streets — the Honduran institutions have been coopted from the coup d’état to date. There’s no democracy here. There’s no rule of law here. We are suffering repression here. People are being persecuted. There are human rights violations every day. Every day. There’s no due process. There’s nothing. Since the coup d’état, the United States has done what it wants with this country. They changed all the laws. This is a military state, with laws like Plan Colombia, like the laws in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is what’s happening in Honduras. And they’ve done away with guarantees and with respect. What’s being done in this country is unjust. We are calling for people to defend themselves in the streets, so that what we won at the polls, we defend in the streets.

And second, the little bit of institutional framework that the state has — well, the OAS is calling for this, the European Union. Let’s count the 18,000 polling places. They say let’s count or let’s review the reports on the votes. But that’s manipulated. Let’s actually look at the votes. Let’s see where the voters signed. And let’s see if the signatures on the reports of the votes coincide with what’s on the actual vote. We’re asking for something — this is a very sensitive demand. And we think that the international community should support democracy in Honduras. We want peace in Honduras.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you calling for a full recount or a new election?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] We know that Salvador Nasralla won the election. Salvador Nasralla, in a matter of six months. We had an alliance with the LIBRE party, which was founded after the coup d’état. We entered into an alliance with him. He’s practically a TV personality and sports journalist. And in a matter of six months — with happiness, dancing in all of the towns, with music — he won the elections. We won.

We defeated 130 years of bipartisan rule in Honduras. We defeated them. The people defeated them, because of the poverty, the misery and the violence. The people cannot put up with it anymore. So, the elections were won. They recognized it the day of the elections. It was in the press worldwide that the alliance had won the election. And today, silence. Let’s hear the voice of the church, the voice the military. Well, they react only when the United States gives them the order.

AMY GOODMAN: President Zelaya, the US State Department certified the Honduran government has been fighting corruption and supporting human rights, clearing the way for Honduras to receive millions of dollars in US aid. This came just a few days after the election took place on November 26th, in the midst of the dispute. Can you talk about the significance of this?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Well, one month ago, the United Nations in Geneva, which looks out for human rights, directly introduced Honduras in the list of countries that violate human rights. One month ago, the United Nations organization in Geneva that looks out for human rights involved Honduras and put it directly on the list of countries that violate human rights. Just one year ago, they assassinated Berta Cáceres, a defender of nature, a defender of the rivers. They went to assassinate her. And the indicia indicate that the masterminds of this crime are being protected by the state.

Nonetheless, the State Department comes out with these things. The State Department is a very political organization. They protect the dictators who are their friends. Nonetheless, in Honduras, it has been clear — well, in the last six months, there’s not been an ambassador of the United States. The ambassador of the United States is like a governor. It’s like a state that is under the dollar. And we find it shameful that the State Department is so indifferent to the Honduran people, who are suffering. There have been 12 assassinations in the last 48 hours. We’re under a state of siege. You know, they’ve declared a state of siege against the protests. They are counting the votes under a state of siege, with a military highly repressive state in Honduras.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the United States doing behind the scenes, President Zelaya?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] They want to leave the dictator in, endorsing a fraud, endorsing a dictator.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is it doing? How do you know that? What is it doing to ensure that?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The Organization of American States put out a report yesterday, which is mostly satisfactory, about how the operational side of the elections are being held. And the OAS — well, this is a report that must be analyzed with the State Department, as well. And they say clearly that the OAScannot consider the results of the — put out by the election tribunal, to be reliable. They’re saying that the current president is being illegally re-elected. They’ve violated the Constitution. They’ve assaulted the institutions of the state. They carried out a fraud. They did not want to carry out the national election census. And now, since they were not able to win at the ballot box, they’re now manipulating the system, the count system. The OAS already put out a report that we find very satisfactory.

Based on that report, today we will be presenting challenges to the election. We will be calling for a general count of all the votes. Now, if the State Department would like to rectify its position, it should go along with us in this, that there should be a count. If the current president won, what’s the problem with having a recount? If they say he won, well, Mr. President, let’s have a count. You or the United States, let us look. Let’s have a count in Europe. Let’s have a count. What’s the problem? If the electoral tribunal says that you won — well, they’re all employees of the presidency — let’s have a public count, in front of cameras and television and international organizations. The three parties that participated, the main parties, let’s be there. And they say everything is transparent. I would hope it would be. And I would hope that that can happen in coming hours.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in 2009 in a US-backed coup. We’ll be back with our exclusive interview with him, and then we’ll talk about The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assessing a President. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Honduran band Café Guancasco, one of the most politically outspoken bands in Honduras. After the 2009 US-backed coup, they became known as the “Band of the Resistance.” This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to Democracy Now!’s exclusive interview with the former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in the 2009 US-backed coup. The political crisis in Honduras today is continuing as the government still refuses to release the results of the November 26 presidential election, that pit the US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández against the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, head of the Alliance Against the Dictatorship. Massive protests erupted over the weekend, after the government-controlled electoral commission stopped tallying votes when the count showed Nasralla ahead of Hernández. I asked President Zelaya whether he’s suggesting the US is still running the show right now in Honduras.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I have no doubt about it, Amy. And you know why? Because I was president of the country, and they tried to run everything. And their opposition is what took me out of power. The coup d’état against me was planned in Miami at the Southern Command. So I know, here, they run the churches — not all of them, not all of the pastors or all of the priests, but the main heads. They finance the main churches, evangelical churches, as well — not all of them, but most of them. They run the large owners of the media corporations. They feed them a line, day after day. And the military obey them, because they were trained by them at the School of the Americas. It now has another name, but the graduates are throughout Latin America. The private business — well, if you’re going to be a businessperson and make money in Honduras, you need to export to the United States, and so you have to have a good relationship, you have to have a visa. So, anything the United States says is the law for the private sector here. If they say, “Go into the abyssum,” they will. That’s how the history of this country has been. They run the transnationals, private sector, the churches, the major media — not just here, around the world. The major media conglomerates answer to the US line.

And that is why it’s necessary for them to reflect upon the harm that they’re doing to a small country like this. It’s incredible. But they’re not going to be able to govern here. If Juan Orlando is imposed in the next four years, they’re not going to be able to govern. The people will be in the streets. Everyone is shouting “Fuera JOH,” which means, “Out, [Juan] Orlando Hernández,” the president.

AMY GOODMAN: Has the United States reached out to Salvador Nasralla? Has he been speaking to the US government?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Yes, quite a bit. They have been meeting with him. But they want Salvador to sign an agreement with the president to review only some of the vote reports. They’re asking him to sign that. Salvador has refused, because he knows that it’s a trap that they’re trying to lead him into. They want just a partial review, and that is obviously not enough.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does Nasralla say to that? What’s his response?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The answer is the same that I’m giving you. I’ve spoken with him. We’re in coordination. I’m the coordinator of the alliance. He is the candidate and the president-elect. The answer is: Let’s have a general count, and let’s have the people in the streets.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about General Kelly, General Kelly who is this White House chief of staff right now, formerly head of SouthCom, certainly involved with matters relating to the United States in Honduras? Do you see him playing a role in the Honduran election?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Well, please extend my greetings to General Kelly. He came here several times. I did not meet him personally, but I know who he is. When he was the head of the Southern Command, head of SouthCom, he was given responsibility over Honduras, and he exercised a great deal of influence in the changes in the country. President Obama said it’s a mistake to put the military in charge of drug trafficking, because their armed forces are going to become contaminated. Well, here, General Kelly made that mistake of getting the armed forces involved. Instead of involved in defense, they’re involved in security. That’s a big mistake, because the military have a patriotic function to defend and support security, but not to be the first line on security. And so, he is, in large measure, responsible for the tragedy that the country is experiencing.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a difference between the Trump administration’s involvement in Honduras today and the Obama administration, clearly involved in the coup against you, that toppled you, President Zelaya, in 2009?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] There’s less hypocrisy with Trump. He’s more direct about what he’s going to do, and he does it. Under the previous administration, there was a lack of sincerity in the words. And so, in a way, we like this. But Trump is very repressive. He’s very cold and harsh. He only sees the world from the standpoint of business. I think that we, human beings, be it in the eyes of God or in the eyes of the law, have the same value. This is what Jefferson said. It’s what Washington said. It’s what the US Constitution says. He lacks humanity.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a connection between the coup against you in 2009 and the violence that has grown in Honduras, leading up to, for example, the assassination of Berta Cáceres in 2015?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The world is a global village. Everything is interrelated. You were here after the coup d’état, and you experienced that tragedy in Honduras. Since then, those who carried out the coup and removed me have been governing. I organized the people, and we’ve now defeated them. At the polls, in a civic manner, without violence, we defeated them. They have the weapons and all.

And, of course, they changed the state. They turned it into a military repressive state, violator of human rights. And there’s no more respect for due process. They’ve introduced new laws. There’s a law on secrecy, for example. I had a law called law for access to public information and law for transparency and a law on citizen participation. Now, these are prohibited. Public — popular consultations are provided by this tyrannical government.

They say there can be elections, but the elections are not the essence of democracy. Elections are: You’re presented a piece of paper with a bunch of photos, and you mark it. That is not the full extent of democracy. People making decisions is democracy, and it’s not accepted here now, almost 10 years after the coup d’état.

There’s a tie-in of death squads. People are being massacred, killed in series. We hadn’t seen that before in this country. That is a result of the state. Instead of seeking to be democratic, well, it simply centralized power and made it authoritarian and military. In addition, as indicated in State Department reports, the amount of drugs coming through Honduras has tripled. Of course, now there is directly military control of all movement of the country, and so it’s easier for the drug traffickers than in an open democratic system. Now, there is too much control by the security forces, and therefore the drugs go through very openly through Honduras.

Of course, all of that has been the result of the control that the United States came to acquire after the coup d’état. First, remember, Otto Reich came through with accusations against Honduras and so forth. But even so, we won the elections. Roberto Carmona, a Venezuelan CIA agent, came through. The United States took possession of Honduras after the coup d’état. And they’ve done a very bad job running the country. The economy has been low. The poverty has grown. Violence has grown.

Let me cite one datum: Violence went down in the six months leading up to the elections. Well, that was clearly an indicator that those who are running the violence and control those who are producing the violence are those who reduce the levels of violence. Why? Because there’s elections. And then, after the elections, the violence will come back. They are the ones who are running it. It’s like a Plan Colombia for Honduras. That is what we have called it.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you for the passage of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act in the US Congress that would cut off military aid to Honduras until human rights violations stop?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Yes, I agree with passage of the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act, because the United States is financing a repressive state, violating human rights, and we need to have an in-depth investigation into all of that.

AMY GOODMAN: The former Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga is heading the Organization of American States, the OAS, election observation mission in Honduras. He said the tight margin, along with the irregularities, errors and systematic problems that have surrounded this election, does not allow the mission to be certain about the results. President Zelaya, what’s your response to the former Bolivian president?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Look, Tuto Quiroga, as we know him in Latin America, is a man from the far right. He’s a peon of the CIA. He works with them. He informs them. He was vice president of a dictator in Bolivia. In Bolivia, he appears to be critical of the system and of Evo Morales. Here, he has come to defend a dictator. So I don’t believe him. A traitor once, a traitor forever.

AMY GOODMAN: In The Wall Street Journal, there was an opinion piece that said that you are doing the bidding of Venezuela, President Zelaya. It’s also what the PR firms in Washington that represent the Honduran right are trying to say. What is your response to that?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I didn’t know the Venezuelans until I became president of Honduras and I met Hugo Chávez. My record as a citizen is well known throughout my entire life in Honduras. I am a democratic-minded man. I am a pacifist. I don’t use weapons. Plus, I have a clean record, throughout my life, my private life, my public life, my administrative life. No one can have any doubts about me.

Now, in terms of my thinking and my ideology and my ways of thinking, I share directly with all peoples struggling for justice — Venezuela, the people of Bolívar, the people of Central America, of Morazán, the people of Cuba, Martí, and Artigas in Ecuador, the people of Mexico, the people of Farabundo Martí, the Sandinistas. All have struggled against dictatorships, opprobrious dictatorships, for centuries. That is consistent with my way of being. I defend the Bolivarian Revolution and the revolution of Martí and Morazán here, and the revolutions in the African countries and the Middle East, who are putting up with so much pressure by the empire. I am the defender of just causes, and I identify with that.

Now, if because of that they say that I have some affinity with the people, tell them it’s true. It’s true. The struggle being carried out by Nicolás Maduro to defend his natural resources, that the United States wants to recover — oil, the oil wells — and the European countries’ companies, as well, is a just struggle of the Venezuelan people. And I am with Nicolás Maduro in that struggle, because the actions carried out by the United States against Venezuela are public. The Obama decrees against Venezuela, declaring it to be an enemy of the world, is public. The aggression by Trump, saying he’s going to invade Venezuela, is public.

We Latin Americans and Caribbeans, Hispanic Americans who are here, just as we defend immigrants in the United States, we also defend peoples who fight for change. Here in Honduras, I began a process of change, and they took us out by bullets. And it was the Latin American left that defended me. At that time, the right united, but as a matter of hypocrisy, because within months they were with those who carried out the coups here, so they don’t want changes in Latin America, the Caribbean or anywhere in the world. Not even in the United States do they want changes. There was a candidate proposing democratic socialism. And similarly, we have a proposal along the same lines at the opposition alliance. So, the United States is denying reality. They might stop changes momentarily, but changes of humankind cannot be stopped. We continue going forward. Despite all of the forces that historically try to keep things as they are, humankind has gone through all sorts of change — war, revolution, peaceful demonstrations, like Gandhi, as Jesus Christ taught us. And we’re involved in that process. So, my identification with those causes is a matter of public record.

I come from a right-wing party. But in exercising power at the top level of the public life of any human being holding power, we realized we needed to help the workers, the campesinos, the teachers. I wanted this country to have relations with the world. I brought Lula. I brought Chávez. I brought President Bachelet, presidents of Mexico. I maintained good relations with the United States. You might not believe me, but they had a center with Chávez. They wanted to destroy Chávez because he wanted to free these peoples from the oppression of the big transnationals, the military and the transnationals. It’s the US and European military-industrial complex. With that, they’ve gone to destroy the Middle East.

We have anti-imperialist principles and anti-capitalist principles, because capital is good. Capital needs to be developed. Private enterprise plays a fundamental role in the history of our peoples, the private sector. I, myself, own agricultural businesses and so on. But capital was created by man, and it’s not possible that now capital is dominating human beings. Here, they want to run the nations. They want to run the states. They want to oppress and exploit the peoples. I’m a businessperson, but the role of a businessperson is to drive the economy, but not to guide the nation. The nation should be guided by common sense and reason. And that is democracy.

And I am grateful for this opportunity. I see this is not coming from the coup d’état. We are resisting with force, so we will maintain this position the rest of our lives. And we see that the people are the ones who are on the right side of history. The people is like the concept of God. The people is justice. The people is transparency. The people is calling for justice, demanding justice. So, if they want to judge me or criticize me for these views, they may do so.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say that Salvador Nasralla shares your views?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] In large measure. Salvador is a fair man. He is a man of the right, but he is a fair man. And we entered into an alliance, and we signed this, and we said we’re going for a participatory democracy because representative democracy is a betrayal. It represents betrayal of the people, who need to be involved in referendums and in popular consultations. We consider him to be an advanced and progressive man. He’s not a socialist, but he is a progressive man. And that’s why he was our candidate. And that’s why we won the election. The people were able to pick up on his message.

AMY GOODMAN: President Zelaya, the significance of the police refusing to impose the curfew, enforce the curfew, for President Hernández?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] There was a mutiny in the COBRA Group, which is a special commando group, a rebellion. And that then spread to all of the civilian police. There was like 24 hours of rebellion. Logically, these are disciplined bodies that have their esprit de corps, and they defend their own integrity at the end of the day.

But it sends two messages to the nation: You are governing poorly, we want clean elections, and we want the winner to be recognized as the winner. We don’t want impositions. We’re not going to accept impositions. And we’re not going to obey the president when he orders us to lash out against the people. They are our sisters and brothers. And they said, “We are not going to repress the people. The people demand transparent elections and a transparent vote count.” And it was won. And the police now have stepped back. They reached a specific agreement. But they really left a revolutionary message with the people. It’s a group that is with the people. And we have confidence, and we’re grateful for this historic gesture on the part of the police, unlike the military. The military are the ones who are killing us. They are the ones who are assassinating. And they should reflect upon this, because they, too, are persons of the people.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, what do you see happening from this point on, President Zelaya?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Ask General Kelly. I already told you what we are going to do. And we are going to uphold the will of the people. I’ve told you what Salvador Nasralla is doing. We’re calling on the people to defend themselves in the streets, to take to the streets. If they do not defend their triumph, if we — what we don’t defend in the streets, we’re not going to be able to defend in the institutions, which are totally coopted and controlled by the tyranny that has been established in Honduras and with the support of the State Department.

And the State Department, to conclude, I ask you, look, you, in the United States, you have a major responsibility in the world. You have the money, the weapons, power in the world. You have the technology, some of the greatest strides in science. Don’t do this to this people. Stop supporting a fraud in Honduras. Please, allow us to act democratically. We’re a peaceful people, and we want to have a good relationship with the United States. But in this way, all that is done is for the United States to get a poor image, worse than it already might be.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s former Honduras President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 US-backed coup. He was speaking to us from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He heads the operation LIBRE party, part of the Alliance Against the Dictatorship, which is led by Salvador Nasralla, the opposition presidential candidate. The Honduran government-controlled election commission still refuses to release the final results from the election nearly two weeks ago. You can go to democracynow.org to see all of our coverage of Honduras, including our coverage of his return to Honduras in 2011 on a plane from Nicaragua. This was after he was deposed and then returning to Honduras after the US-backed coup.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll be talking about The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assessing a President. Stay with us.

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UN Expert: No Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela

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By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas | Venezuelanalysis 

An independent United Nations expert has publicly stated that Venezuela is not suffering from a humanitarian crisis following a recent trip to the country.

Alfred De Zayas, an independent expert on International Democratic and Equitable Order at the United Nations (UN), visited Venezuela in late November to assess its social and economic progress.

On arriving back in Geneva Tuesday, the UN official told press that he did not think the country’s current economic problems had given way to a humanitarian crisis.

“I agree with the FAO [UN Food and Agriculture Organization] and CEPAL [Economic Commission for Latin America & the Caribbean] that the so-called humanitarian crisis does not exist in Venezuela, although there are shortages, scarcity, and distribution delays, etc.” he said.

“What is important is to get to know the causes and take measures against contraband, monopolies, hoarding, corruption, manipulation of the currency and the distortions in the economy caused by an economic and financial war which includes [the effects of international] sanctions and pressure,” he added.

Venezuela’s opposition and private media have often alleged that the country is suffering from a humanitarian crisis in a bid to promote international intervention from foreign governments and agencies such as the UN. Opposition leaders have made the “opening of a humanitarian channel” to allow more food and medicine imports into the country one of their chief demands in negotiations with the national government, which began on December 1.

However, according to De Zayas, international solidarity is what is needed to help Venezuela overcome the current crisis. He also said that mainstream media coverage of the country is often “theatrical” and “does not help to resolve the problems” that the country faces.

During his visit, De Zayas met with government representatives, including Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, as well as with opposition leaders and civil society organizations. He also accompanied the initial talks held between the government and opposition in the Dominican Republic on December 1-2.

The UN expert said he would formulate a series of constructive recommendations to address Venezuela’s crisis and present them as a report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018. He has now departed to Ecuador, where he will be carrying out a similar visit.

Venezuela’s economy has been severely hit by the decline in global oil prices since 2014, directly impacting on the state’s ability to import the same quantity of food and medicine as in previous years.

The Trump administration imposed economic sanctions on Venezuela in August, prohibiting US financial agencies from negotiating debt relief with the beleaguered country. Canada has also passed sanctions against individual government officials.

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Washington Post’s One-Sided Cheerleading for Coup and Intervention in Venezuela

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The only voices allowed in the Washington Post on the subject of Venezuela over the past year have been those calling for the overthrow or sanction of its government. A review of 15 opinion pieces featured in the Post shows voices even remotely sympathetic to the government of President Nicolás Maduro are omitted entirely. For the capitol’s paper of record, Venezuela joins the status of Adolf Hitler or ISIS: a settled evil without any nuance.

Columns and editorials in the Post are uniformly pro–regime change, pro-intervention, pro-sanctions or outright pro-coup. Meanwhile, nations with deplorable human rights records that are in good standing with the US government, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, are routinely given puff piece op-eds (7/14/15), softball Q & A’s (8/7/17) and framed over and over again as “reformers” of their own abuses (FAIR.org4/27/17). The opinion pieces on the topic of Venezuela, however, range from pro-sanction to pro-invasion:

  1. “Venezuela Is Lurching Closer and Closer to Chaos” (Editorial, 12/26/16)
  2. “In Venezuela, We Couldn’t Stop Chávez. Don’t Make the Same Mistakes We Did” (Andrés Miguel Rondón, 1/27/17)
  3. “The Organization of American States Decides to Have a Serious Talk With Caracas” (Francisco Toro3/29/17)
  4. “What It’ll Take for Venuezela’s [sic] Protests to Work, According to an Opposition Expert” (Amanda Erickson, 4/26/17)
  5. “Analysis: In Venezuela and Turkey, Strongmen Fear the Limits of Their Power” (Ishaan Tharoor, 4/27/17)
  6. “Beware Maikel Moreno, the Hatchet Man Who Runs Venezuela’s Supreme Court” (Francisco Toro and Pedro Rosas, 4/28/17)
  7. “Venezuela Is Heading Toward Cataclysm” (Editorial, 5/3/17)
  8. “Goldman Sachs Makes an Irresponsible Deal With the Corrupt Venezuela Regime”  (Editorial, 6/4/17)
  9. “The Region Cannot Just Stand By as Venezuela Veers Toward Civil War” (Editorial, 6/30/17)
  10. “Why One Man’s Bizarre Attack on the Government Is Reverberating in Caracas” (Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez, 6/30/17)
  11. “Venezuela’s Lawless Regime Staggers Toward a Coup”  (Editorial, 7/27/17)
  12. “Venezuela Is Imploding. These Citizens Were Desperate to Escape” (Tamara Taraciuk Broner, 8/2/17)
  13. “The Specter of Civil War in Venezuela” (Editorial, 8/13/17)
  14. “Venezuela’s Warning to America: Beware the Populist-Turned-Dictator” (Federico Finchelstein, 9/18/17)
  15. “The Odds of a Military Coup in Venezuela Are Going Up. But Coups Can Sometimes Lead to Democracy” (Ozan Varol, 11/15/17)

The last contribution on the list, from law professor and PR consultant Ozan Varol, suggests a coup could bring about “democracy,” despite Maduro winning in 2013 by roughly 1.5 percentage points (not exactly dictatorial numbers), in an election overseen and sanctioned by international election monitors—including the US-based Carter Center. While one can debate the democratic properties of measures taken since, few doubt Maduro won the election held in April 2013 after President Hugo Chávez’s death, nor can one easily explain how, if the elections were rigged, Maduro’s party overwhelmingly lost the Assembly election two years later. Maduro will face voters again in less than a year, in October 2018.

Since a CIA-backed coup in 2002 temporarily removed Chávez from office (a coup both the Post 4/14/02—and the New York Times4/13/02—cheered on), every election has been contested by the opposition as unfair. Perhaps this is sometimes true, perhaps it’s not. But for the Post, it’s never discussed. It’s simply taken for granted Maduro is a cartoon dictator; the only question dissected is how best to kick him out—regardless of what voters may think. When it comes to Venezuela, the paper’s self-aggrandizing, Trump-era motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” reads less like a warning and more like advice.

The Post’s editorial board was no less bellicose than the op-eds—though it did stop short of outright calling for a military coup. In six editorials over the past year, the board routinely used the delegitimizing label “regime,” echoed the Trump administration’s arbitrary use of human rights language, and called, again and again, for “tougher” sanctions on both the Maduro government and its allies.

One editorial (6/30/17), mimicking Alex Jones, casually advanced a conspiracy theory that Maduro had assaulted his own government in a false-flag attack. (“Opposition leaders understandably wondered whether the incident was orchestrated by Mr. Maduro. If so, it wouldn’t be surprising.”)

The Post, always alarmed and morally superior in tone, constantly implored the United States government to “do something”—as, of course, has been Washington’s wont in Latin America for more than a century.

Without any clear criteria, the Post has decided the subject of political repression in Venezuela is a settled question, beyond debate; the Maduro “regime” is categorically evil and must go. Any assessment as to how US sanctions or Trump’s surly rhetoric or street violence by opposition extremists (including lighting black Chavistas on fire) or food-hoarding by wealthy industries may contribute to the unrest is never broached, much less discussed.

Essentially, the Post is curating a media conversation in which Venezuela is in the same moral category as Hitler or ISIS—unworthy of any defense. The paper presents only one side of that nation’s crisis—one in which a sizable percentage of the people, disproportionately the poor and indigenous, remain supportive of Maduro. Dozens of other controversial governments receive “both sides” coverage in the Post’s opinion pages—including the Trump administration, which has its own in-house PR rep on the Post’s staff. The only discernible criteria for why Venezuela doesn’t is that its government is out of favor with the US State Department.

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on Washington Post’s One-Sided Cheerleading for Coup and Intervention in Venezuela

Western Media Calls Hugo Chavez a “Dictator”, While Endorsing a “Real Dictator” in Saudi Arabia

An NBC news article on Venezuela stated

Thanks to the “free press” how many people would know any better? Even Bernie Sanders’ campaign was ignorant (or dishonest) enough to call the late Hugo Chavez a dictator. Hugo Chavez and current president Nicolas Maduro were both democratically elected, but when Washington (and its accomplices in Ottawa and London) want a foreign government overthrown the corporate media is always eager to help. Facts will not stand in the way.

When the media isn’t calling Maduro and Chavez dictators outright, it does all it can to insinuate that they are. It is unsurprising that they simply label them dictators from time to time. Almost two decades of propaganda pays off.

But surely a more liberal outlet, like say the Guardian in the UK, would be better – less subservient in its reporting to the foreign policy objectives of the US and its allies.

Well no. Not at all.

In recent days the Guardian has been passing off unabashed PR pieces for Saudi Arabia – perhaps the most brutal and backward dictatorship on Earth – as news articles. Saudi Arabia is also being heavily armed by the US, UK and Canada as it perpetrates a slaughter in Yemen, so it literally gets the royal treatment from the western press.

Below are two stomach churning examples from recent days.

As FAIR pointed out, hyping “reform” in Saudi Arabia has a been regular feature of corporate news for at least the past 15 years, especially for one high profile pundit. Any reader who casually imbibes corporate media “news” over the past two decades will be dismayed by “repression” in Venezuela but feel hopeful about “reform” in Saudi Arabia. The propaganda system works and big NGOs like Human Rights Watch are part of it, not just the corporate media.

Consider how Human Rights Watch wrote about the death of King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia.

Mild criticism combined with upbeat spin about “reform” for the late US–armed beheader-in-chief.

Now consider what Human Rights Watch put out a few hours after the death of Chavez.

Harsh criticism and not a positive word about a democratically elected president who greatly reduced poverty in his country despite the US-backed opposition’s efforts to overthrow him by force.

Recently, Ken Roth, head of Human Rights Watch, called Nicolas Maduro a “buffoon” on Twitter. I reminded Roth that he called his own mass murdering government “the world’s most powerful proponent of human rights”.

Do you want rich western states to have civilized foreign policy? Prepare to do battle with liberals like Ken Roth and the editors of the Guardian.

Posted in Media, Saudi Arabia, VenezuelaComments Off on Western Media Calls Hugo Chavez a “Dictator”, While Endorsing a “Real Dictator” in Saudi Arabia

Don’t Mention It! Russia Pardons $1 Billion of Venezuela’s Debt for 2017

NOVANEWS

Russia will not demand Venezuela repay its owed debt in the amount of $ 1 billion for 2017 alone, said the head of Russia’s Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov.

Thus, Moscow continues to support Caracas and the Maduro led government. At the same time, there is no coherent reason to demand a return of the money from Venezuela, due to the severe economic and social crisis in the country, accompanied by a currency deficit, would not allow it to be payed off.

“Venezuela turned to us for debt restructuring. The terms of this restructuring were discussed. We have worked out the conditions with the Ministry of Finance in general. If the Venezuelan side can quickly initial these agreements, there is every reason to agree and sign the terms of the restructuring before the end of this year,” the minister said.

At present, the conditions under which the debt will be restructured have already been prepared, the agreement must be approved by the Venezuelan authorities.

This is the second restructuring of Venezuelan debt on the part of Russia over the past two years. Earlier, in September 2016, the debt was of $ 2.84 billion. This money Caracas should begin to return only in March 2019 in equal installments within three years.

Under the new restructuring, the conditions are likely to be similar, so payments will begin no earlier than 2020.

In total, over the past 11 years, Russia has invested $ 17 billion into Venezuela, including loans from Rosneft for $ 6 billion as an advance payment for the supply of Venezuelan oil.

Due to the fact that Russia will not receive funds from Venezuela, the Russian budget will be 54 billion rubles less than it could have been. The Commerce Chamber predicts that in the future, the amount of lost revenues will be greater, since it is “almost useless” to await the return of these funds from Caracas: according to the IMF, Venezuela annually requires up to $ 30 billion only to save the economy from collapse.

The economic situation remains very dire in Venezuela, inflation is expected to accelerate to 1660%, as well as the continued devaluation of the national currency and the growth of public debt. Venezuela currently has a 95% of economic collapse.

Posted in Russia, VenezuelaComments Off on Don’t Mention It! Russia Pardons $1 Billion of Venezuela’s Debt for 2017

War As Business in Colombia Threatens Venezuela’s Security

NOVANEWS
  • Alberto Mejia, Commander of the Colombian National Army, talks to a peasant during the army
    Alberto Mejia, Commander of the Colombian National Army, talks to a peasant during the army’s arrival to an area that was previously occupied by FARC rebels. | Photo: Reuters
A military under the orders of a U.S. government that has declared Venezuela to be a potential military objective is a serious threat to its national security.

On Oct. 5, Colombian anti-narcotics police and soldiers murdered nine rural workers and wounded 50 more in a sweep to forcibly eradicate illicit crops in the Tumaco municipality of the department of Nariño.

RELATED: Colombia Attorney Pledges for Forced Eradication of Coca Crops

The Colombian government is not complying with point four of the peace agreement signed in Havana with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, guerrillas which, although not completely satisfactory, proposes the substitution of illicit crops rather than the use of force. This latest massacre in Tumaco demonstrates the Colombian elite’s lack of commitment to peace.

The warlike attitude of Colombia’s security forces is rooted in two things that directly concern Venezuela, since they also define Colombia’s actions toward its neighbor. One is the Colombian authorities supine obedience to the United States and the other is their need to continue a state of war as a business that has generated so much money for Colombia’s economy and especially for its armed forces.

U.S. government pressure on the Colombian State has been twofold, first for Colombia to cooperate in destabilizing the Venezuelan government and second not to abide by the peace accords with the FARC guerrilla and instead continue with the U.S. anti-narcotics model. The link between the two was clear from the speech by Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Colombia last August.

As in the case of the camps for putative Venezuelan refugees announced by the Colombian government, one of the main motivations is the funding assigned to war and its related businesss activities. Each year the U.S. contributes millions of dollars to Colombia for various reasons, all linked to war. This year the U.S. Congress approved US$74 million more than last year, making a total of US$450 million which could be suspended unless Colombia follows U.S. orders.

The new military doctrine of the Colombian army has discovered in the so called “system of permanent threats” its excuse to continue treating war as a business even after the signing of the peace agreeement with the FARC guerrillas and the bilateral ceasefire with the ELN guerrillas. In January 2016, marking 15 years of the U.S. funded Plan Colombia, the country’s then Minister of Defense announced that by his reckoning the so called post-conflict could cost around US$3 billion. It is hoped that money will be provided by the U.S., making the pending business much bigger than its predecessor which has already surpassed the Marshall Plan for Europe several times over.

The Colombian army follows U.S. orders

Colombian rural families that depend on growing coca leaf, along with cocaine’s end users, are the most vulnerable links in the chain of the cocaine business, for which events like the massacre in Tumaco increase the drug’s price. Both end users and the rural families that grow the leaf just to survive get killed, but cocaine continues to be a great business whose profits sustain the capitalist economy and its narco-states.

Ten days after the Tumaco massacre the Afro-Colombian leader José Jair Cortéz was murdered, also in the Tumaco municipality, when he returned home anxious for his wife’s health. He had received death threats over a long time resulting from the large number of economic interests that converge in that area. According to his comrades from the local Community Council of the Autonomous People of Alto Mira and Frontera, the only support Cortéz got from the Colombian government’s National Protection Unit was a bullet proof vest and a mobile phone.

RELATED: FARC Militant Turned Social Leader Killed in Colombia

For Colombian sociologist Camilo Álvarez, “The anti-narcotics strategies applied in Colombia are burdened with the feeling that “only the gringos win” because the cocaine price rises when its costs go up, because anti-narcotics spraying destroys crops, and because they control our sovereignty.” Alvarez also thinks the Colombian government should do more to subordinate the armed forces to its peace policies, referring specifically to point four of the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas which establishes the substitution of crops and rural development as an alternative method to outright eradication.

The Colombian government’s apparent non-compliance with this point is a threat to Colombia itself and to the whole region, given that it is in line with Donald Trump’s threat of decertification. It noted “Ultimately, Colombia is not designated because the Colombian National Police and Armed Forces are close law enforcement and security partners of the United States in the Western Hemisphere, they are improving interdiction efforts, and have restarted some eradication that they had significantly curtailed beginning in 2013.” Trump expressly excluded the Colombian government from his remarks. That is why the indignant protests in Colombia this week included expressive slogans like “Peace shouldn’t cost lives!” or “Stop screwing us around!”

A military under the orders of a U.S. government that has declared Venezuela to be a potential military objective and is ready to kill even its own citizens so as to carry on profiting from war is at once a tragedy for the people of Colombia and a serious threat to Venezuela’s national security.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on War As Business in Colombia Threatens Venezuela’s Security

Splintered Venezuelan Opposition Meets with Mediators in Dominican Republic

NOVANEWS
  • Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas and President Danilo Medina.
    Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas and President Danilo Medina. | Photo: EFE
After their loss in regional elections, the Venezuelan opposition is showing further signs of internal rifts.

Officials of the Dominican Republic, which is serving as mediator, said Venezuela’s opposition is expected to resume dialogue with the government after meeting with members of the splintered group on the Carribean island.

RELATED: Venezuela Opposition Leader Capriles Threatens to Withdraw From MUD Coalition

The new round of talks, the dates of which has yet to be confirmed, will be held in Santo Domingo according to Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado.

The opposition, led by Julio Borges and other members of the MUD coalition, met with President Danilo Medina saying that they need certain guarantees to return to negotiations, which they scrapped by failing to attend the last round of scheduled talks.

The Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition, which was hoping to make major gains in the regional elections on Oct. 15, instead lost 18 out of 23 governor’s seats to the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

Tensions within the coalition came to a head after four governors from the Democratic Action party decided to take the oath of office in front of the National Constituent Assembly.

Henrique Capriles, from First Justice and the past opposition presidential candidate, announced he will withdraw from the coalition, further exposing the cracks within the right-wing.

RELATED: Venezuelan Opposition Governors Cave In, Take Oath Before Constituent Assembly

Some opposition factions have accused the government of President Nicolas Maduro of rigging the elections and using undemocratic means to gain votes. Opposition lawmaker Luis Florido said a part of the opposition will travel to the United Nations to demand “a complete audit” of the elections, even though to date, they have not submitted a single official complaint to the National Electoral Council.

Ali de Jesus Uzcategui, Venezuelan ambassador in the Dominican Republic said that the opposition should bring forward proof of irregularities, and work towards peace in the country.

“We have to remember that President Nicolas Maduro has presented the idea of coming to the Dominican Republic to sign the agreement that will come out of this dialogue,” Uzcategui said.

The government and the opposition began a dialogue in 2016, with the support of the Vatican and Unasur, to overcome the Venezuelan political crisis, but the opposition left those talks.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Splintered Venezuelan Opposition Meets with Mediators in Dominican Republic

Denounce the massacre of campesinos in Tumaco, Colombia

 NOVANEWS

Denounce the massacre of campesinos in Tumaco, Colombia

Navy Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command, meets with Colombian military leadership in Tumaco, Colombia, in April 2016

The Party for Socialism and Liberation denounces the massacre of campesinos in the municipality of Tumaco, Colombia on October 5th, 2017 by part of Colombian National Police, Escuadron Movil Antidisturbios ESMAD and the Colombian National Army. These government and military groups violently attacked farmers in Alto Mira, Frontera del Corregimiento de Llorente and left between nine and 16 dead and over 50 injured.

Farmers in the area have been peacefully protesting since thursday September 28th, demanding that the Colombian government comply with Section 4 of the peace agreement. Section 4 of the peace agreement deals with the voluntary substitution of illicit crops. These farmers and agricultural workers were attacked because of their political organizing and participation, continuing the legacy of political repression in Colombia. Such attacks have been conducted by right wing, Uribistas, fascist, state military and paramilitary groups who are funded and directly trained by the government of the United States.

The U.S. government has continuously pressured the Colombian government to conduct forced eradication programs and violate Section 4 of the Peace Accords, which work to minimize coca production via voluntary substitution programs. These forced eradication programs instruct military officers to go into farmers’ homes, terrorize them and destroy all of their crops. Furthermore, forced eradication programs include the aerial fumigation of illicit crops with the toxic Monsanto’s RoundUp Ultra, which has been linked to causing cancer among agricultural communities, and have also completely killed off legally grown crops. The massacre in Tumaco is not a random act, but instead an extension of the forced eradication programs that the U.S. is promoting.

In 2016, the President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize, but has time and again failed to follow through on the peace deal. He has ignored the attacks on the people of Colombia by right-wing groups. He dragged his feet in releasing former combatants, leading to a massive prison hunger strike. While insisting on FARC disarmament, he has remained silent when armed right-wing terrorist groups move into the zones that the FARC vacates.

We demand that the U.S. government stop undermining and sabotaging the Peace Accords. We join with Colombia’s popular and left-wing forces to demand an immediate investigation of the attacks that took place on October 5th, 2017; that all officials who are involved in the attacks be held accountable; and that the Colombian government truly comply with the Peace Accords.

We further call for justice and protection for grassroots, union, political and human rights organizations of Colombia and an end to the repression, attacks and murders targeting people due to their political activity.

Posted in South AmericaComments Off on Denounce the massacre of campesinos in Tumaco, Colombia

Venezuelan socialists make election gainsn socialists make election gains

NOVANEWS

Venezuelan socialists make election gains

Venezuela held its second election in four months, the 22nd election since the beginning of the socialist Bolivarian revolutionary process in 1998. These elections, for the governors of Venezuela’s 23 states, saw a turnout of 61.14 percent of registered voters, much higher than expected, second only to 2008 where regional elections saw a 65.45 percent turnout.

The ruling party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and their alliance, the Great Patriotic Pole, won 54 percent of the total vote share and at least 17, or 75 percent of the states. It seems like the GPP won an 18th state but the count is still ongoing as of this writing.

The opposition, as the above makes clear, won only 5 states on 45 percent of the vote share. In typical fashion, after losing, significant parts of the opposition are claiming fraud, claims uncritically echoed by many major U.S. media outlets.

As we have pointed out in the past, the opposition’s claims of fraud simply don’t hold water.

First, note the split responses of the opposition. While the overarching electoral coalition of the opposition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) has been aggressive in its claims of fraud, its largest component has not. The Vice-President of opposition party Democratic Action (AD), which won four of the five states that went to the opposition, stated “so far there is no evidence of fraud.” The other opposition winner, from the Popular Justice (PJ) party has also–not surprisingly–recognized his own victory, while major opposition figure Henri Falcon has recognized his defeat.

There is also the inconvenient fact that MUD participated in all the pre-election procedures and approved of the process and preparations. If the PSUV wins the contested Bolivar State, it will have won the same number of governorships–18–as in the 2008 election with similar turnout.

The opposition vote tumbled by 2.2 million from the 2015 elections when they took control of the National Assembly. The 45 percent of the vote they received in this election is relatively close to the 47 percent share they achieved in the 2010 National Assembly election.

Further, on October 15 major opposition strongholds like Amazonas, Lara, and Miranda states all fell to the socialist forces. In Amazonas the opposition vote totally collapsed down 59 percent from 2012. The opposition vote in Lara was down 18 percent from 2012, and 28 percent from 2008. In Miranda the opposition vote was down 5 percent from similar totals in both 2008 and 2012.

2015 was a high point for the opposition when they surprisingly won even some traditionally Chavista areas, so undoubtedly there is also the factor of a diminishing protest vote cast by those who usually vote Chavista.  All these factors comport with a reduced vote for the opposition.

Revolution capitalizes on opposition disarray

Ultimately the poor opposition result is the fruit of their own totally failed strategy. The strategy had three prongs: Refusal to recognize the authority of either the executive branch or the Supreme Court; total gridlocking of the National Assembly; and a street protest campaign.

The first two were entirely unsuccessful in doing anything other than exposing the opposition’s fundamental opposition to almost all of the most popular elements implemented by the Bolivarian government. The third resulted in 147 deaths and a number of gruesome scenes in which opposition supporters burned people alive just for being suspected of being Chavistas, some marked as such because of their Black skin.

Clearly these factors drove people away from the opposition camp. Add to this the clear blow to their credibility by their participation in the elections of a government it had previously referred to as a fraudulent dictatorship, and one can see why the opposition had such a poor showing.

The Bolivarian forces, in contrast, in the lead up to the elections concretely addressed the problems in the country. In the face of an economic crisis the Bolivarian government established a new basic goods distribution network to combat shortages and black market extortion; introduced productivity into the tax code to reduce reliance on oil revenues; and took initial steps to broaden exports and reduce exposure to the fall in oil prices.

In the face of attempted isolation by U.S. and Europe, the government has responded with a concerted diplomatic effort to forge new economic ties, attempt to restore oil prices and defend the principle of national sovereignty. In addition, they have made moves to de-dollarize its international trade.

As all of this took place, the government never backed off its commitment to social justice. Examples of this are the pushing forward of existing programs like the almost two million low-cost and in some cases free homes, as well as  new endeavors such as launching in recent months a massive push for more comprehensive neonatal care for all pregnant women.

Finally, the Bolivarian government spoke to the issue of popular power. These issues are more directly outlined here, but the essential thrust has included mechanisms to empower masses of people to directly fight the hoarding of and speculation with basic goods; as well as creating the constituent assembly as an arena to finally programmatically harmonize the the many thousands of communal councils and communes with the formal structures of the existing government.

This latter factor is heavily underplayed. It should be remembered that the Chavista movement is a revolt of the majority against the tyranny of a minority. It is a unique project that aims to give people real power, beyond the ballot box, over what is produced and distributed, socialism–in the words of the Venezuelans–of the 21st century. Clearly between the Constituent Assembly elections and now the regional elections the core Chavista base has rallied to prevent a rollback of this process, doubling down on the PSUV-led government as the instrument for their own liberation.

The road ahead

The initiative still lies with the socialist Bolivarian movement. The opposition is now clearly divided. On the one hand are those, led by the AD, that see the street protest option as counterproductive and seem content to take their chances at the ballot box and the negotiation table. These members of the opposition are undoubtedly hoping for international pressure as well for the Chavista government to cut some sort of deal with them.

On the other side of the coin are sectors of MUD now calling for a return to the streets. This seems to be the preferred route of the core opposition supporters, typically gathered together in richer, whiter neighborhoods. They violently oppose the revolution for giving power and resources to the poor. They seek chaos which would allow them to bring forward a coup. Ominously these seem to be the forces with the most backing from the United States and from Organization of America States President Luis Almagro.

Now the Chavista forces are also confronted with many serious issues to work through in the Constituent process and serious challenges uprooting corruption and implementing more decisive proposals to lessen the impacts of the economic crisis and definitively start to further improve lives.

We repeat here, what we said in our earlier piece:

For revolutionaries around the world then, the tasks could not be clearer. A people decided in 1998 to break decisively with neo-liberal capitalism, and to share their wealth more equally. They also decided to institutionalize and expand massively efforts at communal, popular power. In that time living standards have increased, poverty has decreased, healthcare, education and housing are formally rights and policy is aimed at achieving that. Indigenous communities and Afro-Venezuelans have been empowered to reclaim their culture and heritage and push back against the legacies of genocide and slavery. In effect, Venezuela has relaunched a worldwide discussion on socialism, what the next round of attempts to build socialism can and should look like, and what they can borrow from the past and must invent for the future.

If the Bolivarian movement is derailed, or overthrown, all that goes away. The cause of people being able to collectively decide how to best use their resources and talents for their own benefits will be irreparably set-back. There are challenges and contradictions to discuss for sure, but first and foremost the Bolivarian revolution must be defended.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Venezuelan socialists make election gainsn socialists make election gains

Time for a Vigilant Celebration in Venezuela

NOVANEWS

In one day, on October 15, Venezuela has achieved several outstanding landmarks in our region at a time when we face dangerous world conflicts and unrest. By carrying out fair elections for governors of the 23 states, Venezuela has shown that people value the opportunity to participate in decision-making even under hard circumstances.

The Gran Polo Patriotico (Great Patriotic Pole), a coalition of ten parties, including the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela – PSUV), and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), have won 17 governorships and lost 5 to the coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica – MUD) (One State still pending at the time of writing).

This represents winning a significant battle, but the war may still be brewing.

The significance of this victory lies in the different fronts in which Venezuela has established a clear claim.

On the democratic front 64% of the voters who participated in the elections have made an implicit statement that there is no dictatorship in Venezuela, contrary to the propaganda of Western right wing corporate media. In fact, there has been no shortage of elections in Venezuela. This has been the 22nd free, secret ballot in the last 18 years, including a failed referendum to revoke Hugo Chavez from the presidency in 2004.

This display of building democracy flies in the face of the recent action of the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, who staged a swearing in ceremony in Washington, DC of a “supreme court” whose members are Venezuelans opposing the Maduro government who have left the country. This is a fragrant illegitimate, anti-democratic interference in internal affairs of Venezuela. Luis Almagro has no shame to show his personal antipathy for Nicolas Maduro but he should be ashamed to involve the organization he represents.

This victory for democracy in Venezuela has been succinctly expressed by Bolivian President, Evo Morales, who posted a tweet that said,

“Democracy has won over intervention and conspiracy. The people defend their sovereignty and dignity.”

The second front where this election can claim a victory is likely the most welcome: Desire of people to live in peace. The large turn out of voters is both a testimonial to fearless defiance and a statement of aspiration for a country at peace. Around 10 million Venezuelans have agreed to engage in this electoral dialogue in the understanding that violence cannot be a bargaining chip.

Telesur reported the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez praising the Venezuelan people for going to the polls and ratifying their desire to live in peace.

“This was an election convened by the National Constituent Assembly and we were not mistaken,” said Rodriguez. “This election has allowed us to consolidate the peace and to defend (our) sovereignty.”

The victory of Chavismo on the political front is perhaps the most tangible for political analysts. Despite the economic hardship in Venezuela caused by harsh US sanctions, despite negative media propaganda, and despite months of street violence triggered by the opposition that caused 126 deaths, Venezuelans are still putting their trust in support of the governing party, the PSUV, with a 54% overall popular vote. Considering that the PSUV is a party openly anti-imperialist that fiercely advocates for independence and sovereignty, the vote signals a rejection of any direct intervention by the United States. Evo Morales rightly interpreted this sentiment in his tweet,

“the people triumphed over the empire. Luis Almagro lost with his boss Trump.”

The opposition MUD has not performed badly if we take into account that they gained two more states compared to the three they had in the 2012 elections. (States gained by the opposition in the 2017 elections: Anzoategui, Merida, Nueva Esparta, Tachira and Zulia)

However, early indications suggest that the opposition will not respect the democratic process in the days to come, will reject the offer of peace and dialogue, and will not recognize the elections results. In fact, they have already called for a recount and at the same time for “street actions” in protest.

In a true democracy differences in state politics is not a ground for revolt, but the continued belligerent attitude of the opposition MUD is dangerously fueled by the US, Canada and increasingly by the EU. This is precisely the kind of interference that Venezuela does not need and the Bolivarian Revolution is fighting back. Under these circumstances, the opposition cannot be trusted and nobody can lower the guard.

For now, we join all Venezuelans in a vigilant celebration for their victory for democracy over violence.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Time for a Vigilant Celebration in Venezuela

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