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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 33 New Delhi August 6, 2016

We Need Solidarity, Not Intervention

Wednesday 10 August 2016

by Archishman Raju

A recent Washington Post editorial says that ‘Venezuela is in desperate need of a political intervention’ mirrored in the Indian press by a recent editorial in The Hindu asking if ‘the country can afford to wait for the political process to play itself out’ and calling for international (read US) mediation. Coming after weeks of news showing empty supermarkets and long food lines, these editorials reflect a highly sinister attempt to try and politically intervene in the country. Luis Almagro, head of the Organisation of American States (OAS), invoked Article 20 of the Organisation’s Charter against Venezuela which allows him to call a Permanent Council meeting ‘in the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state’. This is a process that could lead to the suspension of Venezuela from the OAS. This is happening even as an earlier meeting of the OAS on June 1 had rejected intervention in Venezuela and called for dialogue between concerned parties and the OAS agreed to review Almagro’s actions as the Secretary-General.

The US defended invoking Article 20 by saying the June 1 declaration ‘expresses support for “all” diplomatic efforts directed at solutions to the situation in Venezuela’ affirming its commitment to intervening in states that they don’t like. This seems to come about from what is presumably a misreading of the UN Charter which speaks of ‘...friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples’.

The United States has with great consistency taken this to mean that they will determine the character of governments in nations and the history of South America is a particularly telling example. The Obama Government recently signed an executive order which declares Venezuela to be a threat to its national security, which is usually ‘the first step in starting a US sanctions programme’.

The mainstream media, meanwhile, has acted obediently in creating a situation where any reasoned discussion is difficult, given the very sparse information available on the situation in the country. The situation is in some ways similar to that of Iraq in 2002 when the US decided to politically intervene to restore democracy based on patently false claims about weapons of mass destruction which were reported in the media. We are all witness to the results of that intervention today. An important commonality with Iraq is that Venezuela is one of the biggest oil producing nations in the region. A major part of its current problems is because of the drop in oil prices. Much more than that, however, is the fact that it is part of the only surviving experiment with socialism today.

A very direct intervention may not be seen as required in Venezuela, given that the internal Right-wing has been on an upsurge, including a win in parliamentary elections last year. These elements are backed by the big businesses, which are creating a situation of blockade in the country. The dissatisfaction of businesses and the Right- wing elite can only be recognised in the context of the gains that the Bolivarian revolution has made in Venezuela. Their imaginative idea of decentralising power and gaining control of the production structure through cooperatives is seen particularly clearly through its effect on women, who have historically not had the decision-making power. Women lead in several of the community councils, and are most visible and active in forms of participatory democracy. Addressing the lack of women in legislative bodies, President Maduro announced an approved proposal to have complete gender parity in the National Assembly, a historic move (which came too late to influence the current National Assembly). Venezuela’s new Consti-tution was framed under Hugo Chavez, in consultation with several women’s organi-sations, and it recognised the work of women at home as economically productive work.

Dissatisfied big business has been now gaining popular support trough the Right-wing, as evidenced by their win in elections. Such popular support is probably influenced by the expectation that the Right-wing will ease tensions with the US and may lead to better economic growth. However, it is important to ask which section of society will benefit from such a transition. The voices of the oppressed sections are usually marginalised. Gaining further control of the production structure may be the way to preserve the gains of the Bolivarian revolution. Maduro recently hinted at such measures when he said: ‘I’m ready to hand over to the Communal Power any factory stopped by any rich person in the country..’ and agreed to fund projects under ‘Communal power’ for food production and distribution.

It is most important to note however that such debate is the right of the Venezuelan people and cannot take place in a situation of economic and media war. It is therefore necessary for India to extend solidarity to the Venezuelan people in this time of crisis. The United Nations was at some point a serious candidate for being an organisation which could extend such solidarity. The most vocal proponent has arguably been Cuba. In his historic speech at the UN General Assembly, Fidel said: ‘..we are on the side of those peoples that wish to be free, not only politically — for it is very easy to acquire a flag, a coat of arms, an anthem, and a colour on the map — but also economically free, for there is one truth which we should all recognise as being of primary importance, namely, that there can be no political independence unless there is economic independence.’ This was not just confined to words, however. Cuba has regularly sent medicinal help, doctors, and teachers around the globe to the Third World in times of need. The most dramatic gesture was when they sent 30,000 troops to Angola who helped defend Angola against a colonial attack by the erstwhile apartheid regime of South Africa. Such inter-nationalism is required in the Third World to try and create a just society. It is valuable for us to organise meetings, write articles and make information available to the public to ensure that the Indian people and Indian Government support Venezuela at international forums.

(The above article is based on the deliberations at the solidarity meeting on the “Crisis in Latin America and people’s response” organised in Pune on June 17, 2016 by the Joshi Adhikari Institute of Social Studies, Delhi and Shankar Brahme Samaj Vidnyan Granthalaya, Pune. The invited speaker was Augusto Montiel, the Ambasador of Venezuela. He, along with his wife and comrade, Mili Montiel, spoke of the crisis in Venezuela, US imperialism, media war, and women’s status in Venezuela. This was followed by questions and discussion on other countries in Latin America including Bolivia and Brazil.)

The author is a Ph.D student in Physics at Cornell University.