Photo: National march on Washington to demand “U.S. Hands off Venezuela”, March 16, 2019
Sunday’s legislative elections in Venezuela are crucially important not only for the country’s working class, but for all people around the world who are opponents of U.S. imperialism’s domination of the planet. A victory for forces supporting the process of change known as the Bolivarian Revolution would deal a blow to the interventionist schemes and economic warfare waged by the U.S. government and its junior partners. And such a win would boost the prospects for people’s movements across Latin America, which have been gaining major momentum in recent months.
There is no doubt that Venezuela is one of the top targets on U.S. imperialism’s hit list. The country has been under increasing attack in recent years, most notably since the 2015 economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration that gradually turned into a full-on blockade, and the January 2019 right-wing coup attempt by self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó.
On March 26, U.S. Attorney General William Barr sent lawyers to file charges against Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, for so-called “narco-terrorism” and “international cocaine trafficking” and offered a 15 million dollars bounty for Maduro. On May 5, the Venezuelan army captured eight armed mercenaries who were in direct collaboration with Guaidó. In September, Maduro announced Venezuelan authorities arrested Matthew John Heath, a former U.S. marine who worked at MVM Inc. during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Heath was arrested in a secret attempt to sabotage Amuay and Cardon refineries, which are among the world’s largest.
The managers of the U.S. empire have good reason to focus so obsessively on overthrowing the government of Venezuela. The country has become a key focal point in the broader struggle over whether the people or the elites will rule in Latin America, and over whether the United States will retain its position of dominance over global economic and diplomatic affairs.
China, Iran and Russia’s solidarity with Venezuela
The People’s Republic of China has developed a long-term political and economic relationship with Venezuela based on mutual respect for sovereignty and independence. In 2018, Chinese president Xi Jinping and Maduro signed several political, economic and cultural agreements to improve development in the country. This includes Chinese support in the Gran Misión Vivienda project to assist in building free homes for the Venezuelan people.
This year, China has provided Venezuela with medical supplies such as testing kits, ventilators and medication to more effectively fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Current efforts such as the China-Venezuela Investment Fund, which include the Strip and Route project and Cultural Exchange Plan, aim to improve commercial, financial and cultural relationships between the two countries and help mitigate some of impacts of the ongoing unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States.
China-Venezuela political relations are a threat to the dominance of U.S. banks and corporations in the region. In 2018, the United States developed the América Crece (Growth in the Americas) program to increase U.S. private investment in Latin American and the Caribbean. In reality, the program was developed as means to prevent China from further investing in Latin America.
This week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed new sanctions on the Chinese National Electronic Import & Export Corporation (CEIEC) for their friendly relationship with Venezuela. The company has been providing Venezuela with technological equipment and software for security.
Iran too has emerged as a key ally of Venezuela. The country’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to Venezuela last month to discuss strengthening alliances between the two countries that continue to challenge US hegemony. Earlier this year, Iran defied U.S. military threats and sent shipments of fuel and supplies to support restarting refineries in Venezuela.
Additionally, Venezuela began a clinical trial with the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine. Medical cooperation between the two countries has stepped up as a consequence of the pandemic. The agreement between Venezuela’s Health Ministry and Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology will allow the country to mass produce the vaccine as soon as trials are completed.
Uprisings against the right wing sweep Latin America
Venezuela’s legislative election comes on the heels of a string of important breakthroughs for progressive and pro-socialist forces throughout Latin America. This is not lost on the U.S. government, whose efforts to discredit and sabotage the election are informed by regional calculations.
After a long, 11-month struggle against the U.S.-backed military coup in Bolivia and multiple delays in the election, on October 18 Movement Towards Socialism presidential candidate Luis Arce was elected by over 52 percent of the popular vote. The defeated coup regime of president Jeanine Áñez was a symbol of the right wing offensive that had swept the region and rolled back much of the gains of the period between 1998-2009 when progressive political forces were ascendant. The return of democracy and sovereignty in Bolivia injected important energy into popular struggles across the continent.
Just one week later on October 25th, Chileans voted to scrap the 1980 constitution written during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. 78 percent of voters approved to select a convention that will write a new constitution. This win came after a year of ongoing mass mobilizations across the country calling for the end of the ultra-capitalist, neo-liberal economic system that denied a dignified life to the Chilean working class. Dozens lost their lives and thousands were brutalized and tortured in the course of the struggle that also raised demands for the resignation of right-wing president Sebastian Piñera, the nationalization of basic services and resources and an end to oppression against the indigenous Mapuche people.
On November 19, President of Peru Martín Vizcarra was impeached by the Congress. People in Peru packed the streets in some of the largest protests in the history of the country. These actions were less so about defending Vizcarra, and more about expressing outrage at an impeachment maneuver designed to let the broader political elite off the hook for widespread government corruption. The movement successfully ousted interim president Manuel Merino. Demands have grown to include the formation of a constituent assembly that is able to represent the majority of working people.
On Nov. 21, flames engulfed the Guatemalan Congress as huge crowds gathered to protest an austerity budget that cut spending on healthcare and education while padding the pockets of legislators with special benefits. These demonstrations have continued and have placed enormous pressure on right wing president Alejandro Giammattei to resign.
In Ecuador, voters will go to the polls early next year in a presidential election where the left has a serious chance of returning to power. The people of Chile will need to elect a constituent assembly as well as a new president next year. And undoubtedly mass people’s struggle will continue with the potential to become the decisive factor. A victory for supporters of the revolution in Venezuela’s legislative election Sunday will put all these forces in a better position to win.