|On 14 April this year, just over a month after the death of Comrade Hugo Chávez, the election for his successor took place in Venezuela. Five days later, Chávez’s vice-president and endorsed successor Nicolás Maduro was being sworn in as president.
His victory was, of course, hotly contested by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. Backed by both Venezuelan and US corporate media, the opposition’s calls of foul play – begun long before polling day – have been amplified by their masters in Washington, with the Obama regime refusing to recognise the election and continuing to fuel the opposition’s claims.
Following his defeat at the polls, Capriles called for his supporters to take to the streets and insist their votes be recounted, telling them to “take all your hatred out, all your frustration in the name of peace”. This call to arms resulted in the brutal murder of nine civilians, as a multitude of violent attacks were launched against neighbourhoods known to be loyal to President Maduro on the evening of 16 April.
Two of the nine victims were children. They were run over by a truck that was deliberately driven into a procession of workers who were celebrating Maduro’s victory.
As is so often the case, this violence by the imperialist-backed opposition has been excused by Britain’s corporate media, which have ascribed it to understandable ‘tensions’ in Venezuela’s streets following ‘unfair’ elections and a ‘fierce political battle’ in a ‘deeply-divided’ country. The reality, however, is that the violence was deliberately incited by the oligarchic opposition in an attempt to foment division and destabilise the country – all with the aim of helping the US imperialists regain control of the country’s economy and resources.
A 1.8 percent margin of victory for Maduro was clearly not as resounding as Chávez’s victory over Capriles back in October 2012, when he came away with an 11 percent lead in spite of his serious illness and the best efforts of US imperialism. However, with an impressive turnout of 79 percent of the population, the additional 260,000 votes Maduro secured over Capriles in April still constitute a clear victory. Moreover, the 20 percent of Venezuelans who did not turn out to vote are far more likely to be poor workers and peasants than well-off voters – not a prime constituency for the comprador Capriles!
For Capriles and his US backers to call for a recount on the basis of the closeness of the vote is nothing short of ridiculous, given that Obama’s re-election in 2012 was secured by a mere 0.7 percent of the votes cast, and on an election turnout of only 57 percent.
In fact, US history is littered with similar examples of extremely close, not to say dubious, results. John F Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in 1960 with the narrowest of margins: 0.1 percent. And, of course, the most notorious example is that of George W Bush, who became president in 2000 after losing the popular vote but winning by a few hundred votes in Florida, in a clearly fraudulent contest and where a recount was blocked by the US Supreme Court.
In Venezuela, by contrast, 54 percent of the votes cast were audited, as is standard practice there. This ‘hot audit’ was carried out in the presence of observers from both campaigns and witnesses from the local neighbourhoods. At no point during the process were any reports of discrepancies made.
Claims of foul play
Despite this audit, on hearing the outcome of the election the opposition went into overdrive with its claims of foul play and demands for a full 100 percent recount, which Capriles claimed was “an important, prudent and necessary step” to eradicate the notion of fraud. Again, this claim was made in spite of the fact that, according to the calculations made by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, the odds that the remaining 46 percent of votes could contain enough discrepancies to reverse the outcome of the election were 1 in 25 thousand trillion!
Under intense pressure from imperialism, the National Electoral Council did in the end agree to audit the remaining votes, in what can only be seen as a goodwill gesture in the face of obvious attempts to undermine the Venezuelan government.
As was expected, the results of the second audit gave the same result as the first, showing once again that there has been no foul play and that Maduro’s victory at the polls is indisputable. Unsurprisingly, however, this has not stopped Capriles and his band of compradors from shouting their claims through their own and the imperialists’ media. Nor has it persuaded the US to throw in the towel and officially recognise Comrade Maduro as the duly elected president of Venezuela.
The opposition has now moved its demands from the sublime to the ridiculous, and is demanding a full audit of the entire electoral list and the votes cast.
In the first place, the electoral register is audited before every election. In the second place, undertaking an audit between the register and votes cast would mean painstakingly matching the fingerprints of millions of voters, since Venezuela uses a sophisticated fingerprint recognition method of voting that even former US president Jimmy Carter has described as the safest and most foolproof in the world. And all this to check the result of an election that has been endorsed by 170 international observers!
The aim is clearly not to recount votes. Indeed, Capriles insisted that he would not recognise the outcome long before polling day! Rather, the opposition hopes to destabilise the country with a view to opening the door to counter-revolution.
Victory for Nicolas Maduro
Comrade Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver and trade-union leader, was the candidate whom Hugo Chávez had recommended as his successor when he feared his cancer might be terminal.
From 2006, Maduro served as foreign minister in Chávez’s government. During that time, he faithfully and skilfully carried out President Chávez’s revolutionary internationalist line of building links with and extending solidarity to anti-imperialist forces in all parts of the world.
For example, guided by Chávez and Maduro, Venezuela gave staunch support to Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya when US, British and French imperialism waged their genocidal war against the country. This anti-imperialist solidarity continued with a strong defence of President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria. In the face of a barrage of lying imperialist propaganda to justify yet another illegal regime-change aggression by Nato, Venezuela’s firm stance in support of the victim has been exemplary.
While the opposition has been doing its best to distract the people with post-electoral wrangling, Maduro and his government have not lost sight of the important tasks at hand. At the end of April, just two weeks after the election, Comrade Maduro held discussions with Cuba that resulted in the two countries signing 51 agreements to the tune of $1bn covering health, education, transport, sport, energy and ‘social missions’.
Speaking at the signing ceremony Maduro said “We have come to Havana, Cuba, to say to the people of Venezuela, the people of Cuba, all the people of Latin America ... [we] are going to continue working together, we came to ratify a strategic, historic alliance that transcends time, that is more a brotherhood than an alliance.” (Quoted in ‘Venezuela’s Maduro pledges continued alliance with Cuba’, reuters.com, 28 April 2013)
Further attempts to divide
In addition to the attempts to undermine the election result, the opposition has also mounted a campaign to sow division within the government.
On 20 May, Ismael Garcia, an opposition leader, released an audio clip that purported to contain a conversation between government supporter Mario Silva and Aramis Palacios, a Cuban military official. During the 50-minute clip, ‘Silva’ can be heard making several comments that seem to implicate leading Chavista and head of the national assembly Diosdado Cabello in acts of corruption and plotting against president Maduro.
Responding straight away to the alleged recording, Silva stated it was a “set-up” and was “absolutely false”. He made it clear he was available for investigation and said “Let the justice institutions do what they have to do, I’m not scared of the fascists, much less of justice.” (Quoted from his daily news analysis programme La Hojilla, 21 May 2013)
President Maduro’s response to the opposition’s latest attempt draws the correct conclusion: “We have to keep our defences up high and on alert because behind this garbage called Ismael Garcia there is a psychological war to try to destroy the Bolivarian revolution and to divide it.” (Quoted in ‘Venezuala’s Maduro warns of “psychological war”’, antaranews.com, 22 May 2013)
This is a message that should be heeded not only by the Venezuelans but by all who support the huge advances that have been made over the last ten years under Chávez and now President Maduro. The corporate media in the US and Britain have an agenda that runs counter to the progress being made in Venezuela.
Since 2002, when President Chávez gained control of the country’s oil revenue and nationalised a number of state industries, per capita income has grown by more than 50 percent, unemployment has been cut in half and free health care has been expanded to many millions. As a result, poverty has declined by a massive 50 percent, absolute poverty by 70 percent and infant mortality by a third.
These are the true indicators of a ‘successful’ economy as far as the masses of the people are concerned. They are also the reasons that economists from the imperialist heartlands describe Venezuela as a ‘basket case’ (as they also described Zimbabwe when it was in the process of transferring wealth from large landowners to poor peasants). Big gains in the living standards of ordinary people cannot but hit the profits of imperialist looters and local moneybags alike – to the dismay of the hired hacks of the imperialist financial press.
Is it any wonder that the US is ready to try anything to be rid of this dangerous example and back in control of this lucrative territory? Anything that we read in British or American bourgeois media is therefore inevitably going to be focused on destabilising the current government and also at trying to convince British and US workers that there is no viable alternative to the rule of monopoly capital.
We wish comrade Maduro, the United Socialist Party, the communists and the masses of Venezuela every success as they continue on the path towards ridding Venezuela of the scourge of monopoly capitalism and in building a new socialist society.