30th October 2017
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro
Little media coverage over the past week has been devoted to the outcome of the recent regional elections in Venezuela. Given how much energy was devoted to the build up to the elections this should be something of a surprise. It is not though, is it? Why not? Because the Venezuelan people did not vote the way in which the United States, the UK and the European Union wanted.
Every effort was made to persuade them. Right wings groups organised anti-government violence in the weeks leading up to the poll, resulting in 100 deaths. International media in the West gave the impression of lawlessness and chaos throughout the country. From the coverage afforded the elections in the West it was evident that President Maduro had little or no chance and was on the brink of being swept from office.
In fact, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 18 of the 23 governorships up for election. The opposition lost all three governorships won in 2012. Overall participation rates were at 61%, up from 54% five years ago, although a disbelieving New York Times asserted that “turnout appeared to be lower” while the international Reuters agency claimed that voters had been forced to turnout at gunpoint!
Opposition to the newly formed Constituent Assembly did not stop 8 million turning out to vote on the 30th July, giving the government a further significant boost. For the regional elections held in October the opposition combined their street violence with an exhortation to “vote against the dictatorship”. Inevitably, given the outcome the only course left for the opposition was to claim that the results were “fraudulent”.
The claims of fraud have no substance and are not upheld by international observers. Even some defeated opposition candidates have had to concede that the claims have no substance.
In typical fashion, supporting a US leaning opposition, the Trump administration backed the overthrow of the Maduro government, by whatever means. Having failed to do so by a democratic route the fear is now that the US will resort to increased sanctions against Venezuela or even follow up on Trump’s threat of military intervention.
With clear support from the poor and working class sections of the population, it is crucial that the PSUV maintain momentum in advance of the presidential elections next year. It would be remarkable if the economic war waged by the US and its allies was not stepped up in the coming months and more remarkable still if there is any let up in the anti-government media campaign.
Like Cuba, with whom the Venezuelan government have close relations, the emphasis of the PSUV has been on investing in the needs of the people through education and healthcare. With the assistance and solidarity of Cuban medicals teams Venezuela achieved nationwide health coverage for its people in April this year, a major success for a developing nation.
Following the recent elections Cuban President Raúl Castro sent a message of solidarity to the government of Venezuela, stating,
“I congratulate you for the results of the state elections. Venezuela has given another great lesson in peace, democratic vocation, courage, and dignity.
The legacy of Chávez is alive. He and Fidel would be very proud of this victory.
You can always count on the support and solidarity of Cuba.”
Sentiments we should all echo and endorse.