The 12 Victories of Venezuelan President Maduro in 2017

By Ignacio Ramonet , from Fire This Time, originally published on TeleSUR.

Maduro has confirmed – with his twelve brilliant victories of 2017- that he continues to be “indestructible.”

To begin with, we must remember that President Nicolás Maduro is the most unjustly harassed, slandered and assaulted president in the history of Venezuela. Even more than Hugo Chávez himself, founder of the Bolivarian Revolution … Ousting Nicolás Maduro from the Miraflores palace by whatever means has been and is the unhealthy goal of the internal reactionary opposition and its powerful international allies, especially the government of the States United of America.

As soon as 2017 began, the attacks against the President started immediately. The first aggression came from the National Assembly, controlled by counterrevolutionary forces, who decided on Jan. 9 to “disavow” the President and accused Nicolas Maduro of having “abandoned his position” – something false and absurd.

Faced with this attempt at a constitutional coup d’état -inspired by the parliamentary coup model that overthrew Dilma Rousseff in Brazil in 2016 – the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) intervened to point out that, under the Constitution, the National Assembly cannot dismiss the head of state, directly elected by the people.

For his part, the President responded to that coup attempt by organizing a massive civic-military exercise called “Zamora 200 integral anti-imperialist action” on Jan. 14. Some 600,000 were mobilized including military, militiamen and militants of social movements, and in doing so gave an impressive demonstration of the unity between the armed forces, the government, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the popular masses. That was the first victory of 2017. Encouraged by the election in the United States of Donald Trump – candidate of the right-wing who took office in Washington on Jan. 20, the Venezuelan opposition tried to intimidate the Maduro government with a large march in Caracas on Jan. 23, the date of the fall of the dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958. But here they failed pathetically. This was because, among other reasons, President Maduro had responded by organizing on the same day the transfer of the remains of Fabricio Ojeda, revolutionary leader during the overthrow of Pérez Jiménez, to the National Pantheon. At the call of the president, hundreds of thousands of Caracas residents flocked to fill the avenues of the capital. And it was possible to clearly see how popular Chavismo dominates the streets, while the opposition exhibited its divisions and squalor. That was President Maduro’s second victory.

Shortly after the Supreme Court intervened to emphasize that the National Assembly was in a situation of “contempt” since 2016. As should be recalled, in the legislative elections of Dec. 6, 2015, there were allegations of fraud in Amazonas state. The claims were backed up by recordings in which the secretary of the state government offered sums of money to groups of voters to vote for opposition candidates. Consequently, the TSJ suspended the election of those legislators. But the National Assembly persisted in swearing them in, because the addition of these three additional members of the assembly would have given the opposition an absolute majority (two thirds of the lawmakers) and the power to repeal organic laws and to limit the action of the President himself …

Tensions between a Parliament and a Supreme Court are relatively frequent in all large democracies. In Europe, for example, when a constitutional conflict arises between branches of government, it is common for the Supreme Court to assume powers of Parliament. And in the United States, even such an esoteric president as Donald Trump has had to abide by recent decisions of the Supreme Court …

But in Caracas, the counterrevolutionary forces used that debate to relaunch an international campaign on the alleged “absence of democracy in Venezuela.” With the complicity of the new U.S. Administration, they mounted a colossal, global media lynching operation against Nicolas Maduro. Mobilizing dominant media outlets from CNN and Fox News to the BBC in London, along with the major media houses in Latin America and the Caribbean, the most influential global newspapers, pillars of conservative communication hegemony, as well as social media networks. At the same time, the Venezuelan right wing maneuvered with the intention of internationalizing the internal conflict by transferring it to the Organization of American States (OAS) – “the ministry of the colonies of the United States,” according to Che Guevara. Obeying the slogans of the new government of Donald Trump and with the support of several conservative regimes in Latin America, Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS, assumed the deplorable role of leading the demand that the application of the Democratic Charter against Venezuela.

But Caracas counterattacked at once and secured the diplomatic solidarity of most of the Latin American and Caribbean States. Despite the dishonest schemes and false arguments of the Secretary General of the OAS, Venezuela was never put in a minority position and won irrefutably. And the enemies of the Bolivarian Revolution, including Washington, were defeated by the solid strategy enacted by President Maduro, based on facts and reality, political honesty and ethics. Finally, in April, Caracas decided to withdraw from the OAS, accusing the organization of “intrusive actions against the sovereignty of Venezuela.” With imagination and audacity, in this complex international scenario, Nicolas Maduro achieved his third great victory in 2017. Meanwhile, tensions increased in Caracas when, on March 29, the Constitutional Chamber of the TSJ declared that “as long as the situation of contempt and invalidity of the proceedings of the National Assembly persists, this Constitutional Chamber will ensure that parliamentary powers are exercised directly for this Chamber or for the body that it designates, to ensure the rule of law.” Previously, the TSJ had already pointed out that the parliamentary immunity of the deputies “only covers themselves during the exercise of their functions,” which was not the case when the National Assembly is “in contempt“…

The anti-Chavez opposition cried to the heavens. And with the help, once again, of conservative forces internationally went on to propel a seditious counter-revolutionary plan. The long and tragic “crisis of the guarimbas” began. For four interminable months – from April to July – the counterrevolutionaries launched the most desperate and brutal war offensive against the Bolivarian Government. Funded in dollars by the international right, the anti-Chavez forces – led by Primero Justicia and Voluntad Popular, two far right-wing organizations – did not hesitate to use paramilitaries, terrorists and mercenaries of organized crime in a deployment of simultaneous irregular tactics, along with elite experts in psychological warfare and “democratic” propaganda. All with the pathological purpose of overthrowing Nicolas Maduro.

Drunk with violence, the rioters rushed to assault Venezuelan democracy. They attacked, burned and destroyed hospitals, health centers, nurseries, schools, high schools, maternity hospitals, food and medicine stores, government offices, hundreds of private businesses, subway stations, buses, public infrastructure, while the barricades multiplied in the bourgeois urbanities they controlled.

The violent groups, throwing Molotov cocktails, were particular in their targeting of security forces. Five officials were shot to death. On the other hand, many ‘guarimberos’ showed terrible savagery by mounting tensed, fine steel cables on public roads to behead motorcyclists … Or when, overflowing with hatred and racism, they burned young Chavistas alive – 29 in total, of which nine died. The result: one hundred and twenty-one people killed, thousands injured and millions of dollars lost.

During those four months of counterrevolutionary rapture, the opposition also made calls to attack military bases, and tried to push the armed forces to turn against the legitimate government and to assault the presidential palace. The extreme right, intent on a coup, tried everything to start a civil war, fracture the civic-military union, and destroy Venezuelan democracy.

At the same time, on an international scale, the frantic media campaign continued, presenting those who burned hospitals, murdered innocents, destroyed schools and burned people alive as “heroes of freedom.” It was the world in reverse – the world of ‘post-truths’ and ‘alternative facts’ …

It was not easy to resist so much terror, so much aggression, and restore public order with a vision of democratic authority, proportionality and respect for human rights. The constitutional and legitimate President Nicolas Maduro got it, and he achieved what seemed impossible: an exit from the labyrinth of violence. He did so with a great idea that nobody expected but upset and disconcerted the opposition: a return to the original constituent power.

The pretext of ‘guarimbero’ terrorism was, in effect, the disagreement between two legitimate bodies: that of the Supreme Court of Justice and that of the National Assembly. Neither institution wanted to allow its arm to be twisted. How to get out of the impasse? Based on articles 347, 348 and 349 of the Chavez Constitution of 1999, and using his position as Head of State and maximum arbiter, President Maduro decided to reactivate a popular constituent process. It was the only way to find, through political dialogue and words, an agreement with the opposition, to moderate the historical conflict and to devise solutions to the country’s problems. He thought it out well and waited for the right moment. Until, on May 1, all the conditions were met. That day, the President announced that the election of the delegates to the Constituent Assembly would take place on July 30. It was the only option for peace.

But, again, confirming their desperate political blunder, the opposition rejected the outstretched hand. Amid cheers from the world press, as part of the brutal and inclement campaign against the Bolivarian Revolution, opposition parties agreed not to participate, and instead devoted themselves to sabotaging the elections, to prevent the exercise of suffrage, to barricade, to burn polls and threaten those who wished to exercise their right to choose.

They failed. They were unable to prevent the massive showing from people who wanted to bet on democracy and against violence and terror. More than eight and a half million citizens went to vote, overcoming all kinds of obstacles, facing paramilitaries and ‘guarimberos,’ crossing blocked streets. crossing streams and rivers. Doing the impossible to fulfill your civic, political, ethical, moral duty … overcoming threats inside and outside.

Few expected such a high degree of popular mobilization, the turnout of voters and the resounding electoral success. The next day, as the President had predicted, the ‘guarimbas’ dispersed. The violence was fading. Peace reigned again. With subtlety, patience, courage and determination, and a fine strategic intelligence, President Maduro managed in this way to defeat the ‘guarimbas’ and abort the evident coup attempt. He stood firmly against the threats, and he did so without altering the basis of his policies. This was his most spectacular victory of 2017.

The arrival of the Constituent Assembly,” said Nicolas Maduro, “meant, without a doubt, the arrival of a climate of peace that allowed the political offensive of the Bolivarian Revolution.” And that offensive led to what many believed impossible: two other sensational and resounding electoral victories. That of the regional elections on Oct. 15, where 19 of 23 governors were won by Chavismo including Miranda and Lara, two states whose social policy was almost made extinct in the hands of the opposition. And later a triumph in Zulia, a strategic state with great demographic importance and where important deposits of oil and gas are located.

Likewise, the Bolivarian Revolution won the municipal elections of Dec. 10, obtaining of 308 of 335 mayoral offices, that is, 93 percent of the municipalities. Chavismo won 22 (out of 24) capital cities, including Caracas. Meanwhile the counterrevolution confirmed their unpopularity with a sharp decline of their voters, losing more than 2,100,000 votes.

Showing the vitality of its democratic system to the world, Venezuela was the only country that organized three major national elections in 2017 – all three won by Chavismo. While the right, demoralized by so many successive disasters, was atomized, disunited, groggy. Their leaders challenged, followers stunned. They nonetheless retained the support of their international protectors, in particular the most aggressive of them: the new president of the United States, Donald Trump.

Throughout 2017 – building from the executive order signed by Barack Obama on March 8, 2015, in which Venezuela was declared an “unusual and extraordinary threat to U.S. security” – Donald Trump issued a list of sanctions against the Bolivarian Revolution.

In particular, on August 11, he threatened military action. Speaking to reporters at his New Jersey golf course, Trump said: “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary.” Then, on August 25, Trump prohibited that “any person, entity, company or association, legally domiciled or engaged in activities in the United States, may conduct business with new debt bonds that are issued by any instance of the Venezuelan Government, namely, bonds of the Republic issued by the Venezuelan Central Bank or the state company PDVSA.” These sanctions look to push Venezuela into default (default on its external debt) because they close the state and PDVSA from accessing financial markets associated with the United States by preventing them from offering bonds there, and subsequently from being able to obtain foreign currency.

Already Lawrence Eagleburger, former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, had openly acknowledged in an interview with Fox News, that the economic war against Venezuela had been effectively designed in Washington.

“We must use economic tools,” said the former -Secretary of State, “to worsen the Venezuelan economy, in such a way that the influence of Chavismo in the country and in the region gets buried (…) All we can do to sink the Venezuelan economy into a difficult situation, is well done.”

The current Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, officially confirmed that the new sanctions aimed to “strangle Venezuela.

Faced with such insolent aggressions, Nicolas Maduro declared that default “will never come.” First, because Venezuela is the South American country that has paid more of its debt than any other nation. In the last four years, Caracas paid off nearly US$74 billion … because the Bolivarian government “will always have a clear strategy” aimed at the renegotiation and restructuring of the external debt. The president denounced that what Chavismo’s enemies desire is the financial isolation of the Bolivarian Revolution until it has no possibilities to obtain credit. To drown it little by little. They want to generate fear in private investors, so they do not buy bonds, do not participate in the renegotiation of the debt and therefore, investment is no more. Nicolas Maduro explained that beyond a blockade, what Venezuela faces is an authentic “persecution” in which countries like Canada and those of the European Union also participate. Active persecution of trade, bank accounts and financial movements.

But the president knew how to avoid those attacks, and he surprised, once again, his adversaries when he announced on Nov. 3 the creation of a Commission to consolidate the refinancing and the restructuring of the external debt, with the purpose of overcoming financial aggressions.

“We are going to make a complete reformatting of external payments to achieve balance,” he said. “We are going to break international schemes. “

So it was. A few days later, in defiance of the financial blockade, and as part of the first approach to the renegotiation and restructuring proposed by the President, a group of Venezuelan debt holders from the United States, Panama, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Japan and Germany arrived in Caracas to meet with the Bolivarian Government, which was an undeniable victory for President Maduro. Here it is worth pointing out that the fourth-generation warfare declared upon the Bolivarian Revolution has several fronts and includes, simultaneously and continuously, four fronts:

  1. an insurrectional war designed by experts in subversion, sabotage and mass psychology, with the use of mercenaries, cyclical explosion of criminal ‘guarimbas’ and terrorist attacks against barracks, military targets and infrastructures (electricity network, refineries, water distribution, etc.);
  2. a media war, with the press, radio, television and social networks converted into new armies of conquest through the planned use of propaganda aimed at taming minds and seducing hearts;

  3. a diplomatic war with harassment in some international forums, particularly in the OAS, and attacks by the countries of the so-called “Lima group” to which the United States, Canada and the European Union are regularly added;

  4. an economic and financial war with hoarding and shortages of food and medicines, manipulation of the exchange rate of the currency, induced inflation, banking blockade and distortion of the country’s debt risk.

With regard to country risk, it should not be forgotten that, in the last four years, as already stated, Caracas honored all its debt payment commitments, without exception, for more than US$74 billion, which should have drastically reduced the country risk. Well, there is no risk in lending to Venezuela as it religiously pays all its debts. However, the country risk has continued to increase. Currently, according to the JP Morgan bank, its country risk is 4,820 points, that is, thirty-eight times higher than that of Chile, which has the same debt /GDP ratio as Venezuela. So, Caracas is being made to pay high cost for having democratically chosen a socialist political system.

As for the banking blockade, throughout 2017, and particularly after the sanctions of Donald Trump, the unilateral cancellations of contracts multiplied. In July, for example, the payment agent Delaware reported that its correspondent bank, the PNC Bank of the United States, refused to receive funds from PDVSA. In August, Novo Banco de Portugal notified Caracas of the impossibility of carrying out operations in dollars due to the blockade of the U.S. intermediary banks. Later, the Bank of China Frankfurt, a Caracas ally, could not pay US$15 million owed by Venezuela to the Canadian mining company Gold Reserve. In November, more than US$39 million – a payment of 23 purchase operations of food destined to the Christmas holidays – were returned to Caracas because the intermediary banks of the suppliers did not accept money from Venezuela.

On the other hand, in early September, it was learned that the financial company Euroclear, a subsidiary of the U.S. bank JP Morgan, blocked a payment of US$1.2 billion made by the Bolivarian government to buy medicines and food. This prevented the acquisition of 300,000 doses of insulin. At the same time, a Colombian laboratory, belonging to the Swedish group BSN Medical, refused to accept the payment by Venezuela of a shipment of primaquine, medicine for the treatment of malaria.

The objective of all these blockades is to prevent the Bolivarian Government from using its resources to acquire the food and medicines that the population needs. All with the intention of pushing the people to protest and to generate chaos in the health system, endangering the lives of thousands of patients.

In this case, thanks to his international relations, in November the President ensured the urgent arrival of important shipments of insulin from India. Hundreds of patients, at risk of death, were saved. Which, without a doubt, constituted a new victory for Nicolas Maduro.

To break the financial blockade, the President announced another initiative in November: the creation of a digital currency, the Petro. That announcement aroused a lot of enthusiasm in the cryptocurrency investor community, placed Venezuela at the forefront of technology and global finance, and generated enormous expectations. Even more so as the price of the Petro would not be subject to the whims and speculation of the markets, but would be associated with the international value of real assets such as gold, gas, diamond and oil. Venezuela thus took an enormous step to possess a revolutionary financing mechanism that no foreign power can impose sanctions on, or boycott the arrival of capital. In that sense, the Petro is a clear victory for President Maduro.

It should be added that in the midst of all these battles, despite the overall breakdown of model oil dependence, the President was particularly concerned that Bolivarian socialism would not be detained and that no one was missing school, work, shelter, care doctors, income, food. The revolutionary government did not stop financing fundamental public works, nor did they stop building housing. In 2017, more than 570,000 homes were delivered. The Barrio Adentro Mission and all the Social Missions were maintained. The Plan Siembra planting program was consolidated. The Sovereign Supply Mission extended. The Sovereign Field fairs multiplied. In the middle of so many storms, President Maduro achieved the social miracle of saving the country. The counterrevolution could not stop the advance of socialism.

In that regard, the Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAP), centralized direct distribution model continued to evolve throughout the country and reach four million Venezuelans from popular sectors who are being protected from the shortages caused by the economic war. In addition, throughout 2017 President Maduro launched new social initiatives. The most spectacular was the Carnet de la Patria, a new identification document that uses QR codes to identify the socioeconomic status of citizens and through this provide favorable access to the socialist missions for families in need. At the end of December 2017, a total of 16.5 million citizens had registered for the Carnet de la Patria.

The President also promoted the creation of the ‘Somos Venezuela’ movement in order to speed up the process of allocating social aid. The 200,000 volunteers of ‘Somos Venezuela’ have as their task the identification, house by house, of the needs of the registered families. They then allocate aid to families according to the real needs. Another of the important objectives of the ‘Somos Venezuela’ movement is to guarantee 100 percent of pensioners throughout the country, as Nicolas Maduro promised.

The President also proposed the ‘Youth Gig’ plan aimed at young people aged between 15 and 35 years old, with a view to incorporating them into employment fields aimed at satisfying human needs identified through the Carnet de la Patria areas, and framed in the ‘Somos Venezuela’ movement. The plan is aimed, in particular, at unemployed university students, out-of-school youth, single mothers with family responsibilities, and young people living on the street. It is estimated that this new plan will generate some 800,000 jobs.

All these social advances constituted, without any doubt, some of the most prized victories of President Maduro in 2017. We could also mention the successes obtained in the field of foreign policy, in particular the extraordinary international tour of the President in October, through Belarus, Algeria, Russia and Turkey, which led to the successful signing of important bilateral agreements aimed at winning the battle against economic warfare. Or the incessant negotiations maintained by the President with the oil producing countries (OPEC and non-OPEC) that permitted a spectacular increase in barrel prices by more than 23 percent in 2017!

We could also mention the great offensive against corruption that finally began in November with the announcement of several dozens of spectacular arrests among the top management and executives of Pdvsa and Citgo, including front-line leaders. Nothing similar had happened in a hundred years of Venezuelan oil industry. This was undoubtedly the most commented on victory of President Maduro at the end of 2017.

To conclude, it is necessary to point out again that the destruction of the image of Nicolas Maduro is the main purpose of the world propaganda campaign directed by large media corporations. Without forgetting the permanent digital war in the Internet through multiple platforms on the web, and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, etc. All these weapons of mass manipulation try to degrade the figure of the President and manipulate the Venezuelan reality, invisibilize the level of real support of broad sectors of the population towards the president, and hide the violence of the opposition. The objective is political: to defeat Bolivarian Venezuela, a key player in the global system, not only because of its considerable wealth but, above all, because of its revolutionary social model. And obviously because of its geopolitical importance as an anti-imperialist power of regional influence.

So far, all those plans to ruin Nicolas Maduro have failed. As he himself said: “Imperialism has not been able to suffocate us, nor can it be against the Bolivarian Revolution in any of the fields that seek us.” On the contrary, the President has been strengthened in 2017.

This has allowed him to resume the strategic initiative for the pacification of the country. Concerned about defending the great national interests, and adhering to the principles of honesty and humility, Nicolas Maduro has proposed sitting down with the opposition at the negotiating table and resuming dialogue on the basis of respect and mutual recognition. This time in the neutral scenario of Santo Domingo, with the idea of restoring a permanent national negotiation as a democratic method to defend the best interests of the nation and to regulate the conflict that naturally arises from political differences in the midst of a revolution. Such progress towards peace has been perhaps the President’s most appreciated victory.

In this heroic year of brutal attacks and infinite aggressions, Chavismo has demonstrated its strength and ability to excel. And it has managed to expand its base of support, increasing the political and social forces in favor of the revolution. There it stands, more solid than ever. Which means a relief and a hope for all of Latin America. Despite his enemies, President Nicolas Maduro has confirmed – with his twelve brilliant victories of 2017 – that he continues to be, as his followers say, “indestructible.”


Ignacio Ramonet is a Spanish journalist,author, and intellectual. He was editor-inchief of renowned newspaper, Le MondeDiplomatique from 1991 until 2008. He is the author of the acclaimed books “Cien horascon Fidel” (100 hundred hours with Fidel)and “Hugo Chavez, Mi Primera Vida”(Hugo Chavez My First Life).

Reprinted from: www.telesurtv.net

 

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