In early 2016,Venezuela’s authorities had very difficult problems to
solve. Namely, 1) the neoliberal opposition had won the legislative
elections of 2015 and controlled the National Assembly, 2) the price
of oil, the main export of Venezuela, had fallen to its lowest point
in decades, and 3) US President Barack Obama had signed an executive
order that declared Venezuela to be an “unusual and extraordinary
threat to the US national security and foreign policy”.
That is, in three decisive areas (political, economic and
geopolitical), the Bolivarian revolution seemed to be playing
defensively. Meanwhile, the counter-revolution, both internal and
external, seemed to have power at its fingertips.
Furthermore, Chavismo had been under media attack since Hugo Chávez
had arrived to power in 1999. The negative propaganda had intensified
since April 2013 and reached unseen levels of violence after the
election of President Nicolás Maduro.
This permanent aggression by the media created and propagated such a
level of disinformation about Venezuela that it even confused many
friends of the Bolivarian revolution. In particular because, in this
“post-truth era”, lies, intellectual fraud and deceit aren’t
sanctioned with any sort of negative consequence, not even in terms of
credibility or image. Anything goes, everything that’s useful to
achieve an end is valid in this era of post-factual relativism, and
sometimes not even the most objective facts or pieces of data are
enough to disprove false statements. Denunciations against this
strategy are ridiculed by media as “conspiracy theories”, and an
obsolete element of an “old narrative” that has no basis.
As I was saying, all odds seemed to be against the President of
Venezuela in early 2016. The head of the National Assembly, opposition
member Henry Ramos Allup even dared to say, emboldened by the
Parliamentary majority they had achieved, that he would oust Maduro
“in less than six months”. He was undoubtedly inspired by the
institutional coup that had ousted President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil,
and hoped to achieve a victory in the recall referendum.
That was the state of affairs when President Maduro, in a masterful
series of moves that nobody had predicted —and that were perfectly
legal according to the Constitution— surprised everyone. He renewed
the members of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), whose
Constitutional Court has the last word when it comes to interpret the
And then the opposition made two huge mistakes:
They decided to ignore the warnings of the TSJ and carry out a session
with the three deputies of the Amazonas state, whose appointment was
under cautionary suspension due to irregularities in their election.
Of course, the TSJ blocked this act of disobedience and declared the
National Assembly to be in contempt due to the presence of three
“irregularly elected” deputies and therefore stripped all validity
from decisions made by the organism until this situation is solved. So
not only did the assembly fail to legislate to control the government
but it annulled itself, wasting the power it held. That was Maduro’s
first victory in 2016.
In their obsessive effort to overthrow the President, the
anti-Chavismo opposition also decided to ignore the legal requirements
to launch a recall referendum in 2016. And therefore, they failed
again. And that was Maduro’s second victory.
Even so, there was a phase, in March and April, where everything got
terribly complicated. Because the usual attacks by the enemies of the
Bolivarian revolution were joined by another destabilizing factor: a
huge drought, the second biggest since 1950, and extreme heat caused
by El Niño. In Venezuela, 70% of electricity is generated by
hydroelectric plants, and the main hydroelectric central comes from
the Guri Dam. When the amount of rain decreased, the water levels of
this dam dropped to next to minimum.
The counter-revolution sought to take advantage of this situation and
sabotage electricity to enrage the people and create chaos and
protests. This was even more dangerous because the lack of rain also
caused drinking water shortages.
But once again, President Maduro acted swiftly and took dramatic
measures: he decreed that millions of incandescent light bulbs had to
be replaced by energy saving light bulbs, that old air conditioning
systems had to be replaced by new, energy saving ones, he ordered
public administration to work half time, and he decreed a special plan
of national savings of electricity and water consumption.
Thanks to these bold measures, the President managed to avoid
energetic collapse, and obtained one of his most popular victories in
Another important problem, probably the biggest that the government
had to face, partly caused by the economic war on the revolution, was
the shortage in food distribution. Before Chávez became president in
1999, 65% of Venezuelans were poor and only 35% had a high quality of
life. That means that only 3 out of 10 Venezuelans regularly ate meat,
chicken, coffee, corn, milk, sugar and other basic goods. But Chávez
wanted everyone to be properly nourished, and in the last 17 years the
food consumption grew by 80%. This required a massive investment to
increase national food production, but it didn’t grow enough to
satisfy the growing demand.
Demand grew, and also speculation. And due to the structural
limitations to produce enough, prices hiked out of control, while the
black market, or "bachaqueo," expanded. The government set ceilings on
prices of essential goods. Many people bought those cheap,
government-subsidized products and sold them for higher prices. Or
smuggled them across the border to Colombia or Brazil, where they sold
them for double or triple the price. Therefore, Venezuela lost its
dollar reserves (which were already scarce due to the drop in oil
prices) to the bloodsuckers that stole basic goods from those in need
to get rich. Such a madness had to stop.
Once again, Maduro decided to act with a firm hand. First of all, he
changed the philosophy of social welfare. He corrected a very
important mistake that Venezuela had been making for years. Instead of
subsidizing products, the government had to subsidize people. So that
those who were truly in need had access to cheaper products. Everybody
else pays the market price. This eliminates speculation and smuggling.
And he also announced a change in the economic model of the country:
from a “rentist model” to a “productive model”, and defined 15 key
sectors to restart the economy in the private, public and communal
One of the practical implementations of these two measures is the
creation of Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAPs), a new
form of popular organization. The representatives of these organized
communities deliver bags full of low-cost food to each home. Many of
these foods are produced by the new national industry. In the upcoming
months, CLAPs will feed around four million families.
Another victory was the government’s record in social expenditure:
71.4% of the budget was allocated there. That’s a world record. No
other state in the world dedicates that much resources to the
wellbeing of its people.
In healthcare, for example, the number of hospitals grew 3.5 times
since 1999. And investment in the new model of humanitarian,
free-for-all healthcare grew ten times.
The Barrio Adentro Mission, aimed at caring for the health of those
who live in the poorest urban areas of the country, has received
almost 800 million visits and saved 1,400,000 lives. Free medical
universities have trained 27,000 new doctors, and other 30,000 will
graduate in 2017. Eight states have achieved a 100% coverage with the
Barrio Adentro Mission (the goal had been set at 6). In 2016, the
percentage of retired people who earn a pension (regardless of whether
they were able to pay for retirement deductions during their active
years) reached 90%—a new record for South America.
Spectacular results were achieved by the Housing Mission, which builds
accessible homes for disadvantaged families. In 2016 alone, this
Mission delivered 359,000 homes for the humble. (While a developed
country like France made 109,000 in 2015). Since the beginning of his
administration in 2013, a million and a half houses have been made for
Venezuelan families. This achievement isn’t even mentioned by
Last but not least, we must recall some of the brilliant victories
that Venezuela obtained in the geopolitical arena. For example, it
prevented the Organization of American States, which is dominated by
Washington, from condemning Caracas by invoking the Democratic Charter
It also reaped success at the XVII Summit of the Non Aligned Movement
that was held in September 2016 in the country, with the attendance of
many heads of State and of government, and representatives of 120
countries that expressed their solidarity with Venezuela.
The main victory of President Maduro in this area was the
unprecedented deal between OPEC and non-OPEC countries to coordinate
together to reduce exports of oil. To achieve this, Maduro made many
This historic agreement, signed in November 2016, immediately stopped
the drop in oil prices, which had been plummeting since mid-2014, when
the price was at 100 dollars a barrel, to 24 dollars in January.
Thanks to the agreement, the price hiked to 45 dollars by the end of
In the longest and hardest year, in which many thought he would fall,
President Maduro, overcame all obstacles and proved his exceptional
ability as a Statesman. And as a trustworthy leader of the Bolivarian
Reprinted from: http://www.venezuelasolidarity.co.uk
*Ignacio Ramonet is a specialist on geopolitics, economics and the history of culture and a professor of communication theory at the University Denis Diderot in Paris. He was the editor of the French magazine, Le Monde Diplomatique. He is the author of “100 Hours with Fidel”.
Back to Article Listing