Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity; Roger Harris, Task Force on the Americas; Jesus Rodriguez-Espinosa, editor, Orinoco Tribune; former Consul General of the Consulate of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Chicago
Combating the US Economic War on Venezuela - Differences in the Chavista Ranks
The Popular Revolutionary Alternative, a new coalition within the Chavista movement in Venezuela, stresses the importance of fortifying the communes, popular organizations, peasant movements, and production cooperatives to further advance the Bolivarian struggle. Indeed, these are necessary tasks to develop a self-sustaining economic system.
Yet, success in these fields alone will not resolve the overwhelming economic obstacle Venezuela faces: the US-European Union (EU) imperial blockade, combined with their outright looting of Venezuelan wealth and resources. That is a boot on Venezuela's neck; day in, day out, changing only by becoming more severe the more Venezuela valiantly stands up for itself.
Alfred de Zayas, the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur on Venezuela, called the sanctions on Venezuela "economic asphyxiation." CEPR reported in 2018 that the sanctions killed about 40,000 Venezuelans in little more than a year. The cumulative number of sanction-caused deaths is now much higher. To place the blame elsewhere than on the blockade is letting the imperial powers off the hook. It is capitulating to the anti-Venezuela propaganda by Washington and the rightwing opposition in Venezuela.
Formation of a new Chavista coalition independent of the ruling party
It is in this context that the new Popular Revolutionary Alternative (APR) coalition was recently formed to run their own candidates independently of the dominant Chavista party, the PSUV, in the December 6 election for the National Assembly. The leading members of the APR are the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) and Patria Para Todos (PPT). They are minor parties, holding 10 of the 167 seats in the National Assembly, currently stripped of its powers.
The APR advocates issues important to the workers and peasants and, in this respect, plays and important and positive role. As Venezuelanalysis has noted when the APR was formed: "the parties have converged in criticising a range of government measures, including the privatisation of public assets, impunity for escalating rural violence, policies marginalizing communal empowerment and an economic agenda dubbed 'anti-worker'."
The APR proposes cutting national funding to the capitalists while increasing funding for the people to more fairly distribute national wealth. Luis Britto Garcia, a leading Chavista intellectual close to the VCP, takes issue with government handouts to big companies and to the present tax system that benefits the 5% who are business owners at the expense of the remaining workforce.
The APR calls for "the construction of a political reference for the revolutionary overcoming of the crisis of capitalism." PCV leader Oscar Figuera states, "The objective of the APR and its precursors is bringing together the working-class, campesino, and communard forces in a revolutionary way."
Risks for the Chavista movement
The US is actively engaged in interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela by calling for a boycott of the National Assembly elections as part of its larger campaign to delegitimize and overthrow the elected government of Venezuelan President Nicola's Maduro. The demand for an election boycott has been echoed by the Venezuelan puppet president Juan Guaidó, recognized by the US and its allies, and the far-right opposition.
The National Assembly is now controlled by the opposition. The recent pardoning of many opposition members imprisoned for criminal actions served to benefit the anti-imperialist struggle by furthering divisions among the opposition over participation in the December election.
But it remains to be seen if two separate Chavista slates in the National Assembly elections allows the opposition to win more seats than otherwise. Many rank-and-file Chavistas, sympathetic to the PCV, consider themselves more Chavistas than Communists (i.e., PCV). Many of these Chavistas sympathetic with the PCV believe that voting for the APR coalition might endanger the Chavista project by subtracting votes from the PSUV, which would put control of the National Assembly in jeopardy.
While having the APR alternative within the Chavista movement may engender healthy debate and airing of issues, it also comes with risks. For instance, given the dire economic condition in Venezuela caused by the US-EU blockade, the Maduro government has been forced to make certain compromises with major capitalist corporations to ensure vital necessities reach the populace.However, the APR/PCV criticisms of the government's tactical moves to avoid further economic collapse, while not inappropriate, could be misinterpreted as abandonment of the Maduro administration.
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