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      Nothing But Destruction: 1 Year Since the Right-Wing Takeover of Venezuela's National Assembly

      By Alison Bodine

      2017 is the 19th year of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. For nearly two decades this revolution, which began with the election of Comandante Hugo Chávez in 1998, has been making tremendous gains for poor, working and oppressed people in Venezuela. Including massive improvements in education, healthcare and housing. The fact is, in Venezuela today more people are living just and dignified lives.

      The Bolivarian Revolution has made these gains despite being under continuous attack from the capitalist class in Venezuela. Venezuela's ultra-rich, which still control a majority of the production and distribution in Venezuela, have tried through many violent and criminal actions, to reverse the current of the Bolivarian Revolution. This includes waging a vicious economic war of price gouging, hoarding and smuggling, in an attempt to destabilize Venezuela and provoking civil unrest. They have also led direct attacks on the leaders of the revolution, including assassinations and failed coup d'états against the late Comandante Hugo Chávez, as well as President Nicolás Maduro. Venezuela's counter-revolutionaries are not working alone. Ever since the first days of the Bolivarian Revolution, Venezuela has also been a target of the U.S. government and their imperialist allies. From economic sanctions and military threats, to financial and political support for the violent counter-revolutionary opposition in Venezuela, the U.S. government has been working non-stop to overturn the Bolivarian Revolution and re-gain their hegemony in Latin America.

      As the people of Venezuela have been facing these right-wing attacks, Western mainstream media has also joined in the assault. Media outlets from the Washington Post and the New York Times, to social media sites like Buzzfeed have all joined in the campaign to demonize the government of the Bolivarian Revolution and call for international intervention in Venezuela. By using lies and manipulations to paint Venezuela as a state on the verge of complete collapse, mainstream media opens the door for further imperialist intervention.

      What's Happening in Venezuela Today

      In December, 2015 a right-wing majority was elected into Venezuela's National Assembly. For only the second time in the history of the Bolivarian Revolution, revolutionary forces lost in a general election. The U.S. government and mainstream media would have us believe that the results of these elections meant that the people of Venezuela do not support their government and the Bolivarian Revolution. However, even a brief examination of the past year in Venezuela, starting with a look at the economic conditions that shaped the election, demonstrate just the opposite.

      Venezuela's economy in December of 2015 was already struggling; faced with a sharp drop in oil prices (which had dropped by over $65 a barrel in only two years), as well as right-wing internal and international manipulation and sabotage. Then, in the months leading up to the election, Venezuela's capitalist class increased their attacks on the economy creating massive shortages that were leaving shelves empty of food staples and basic goods. In this way, the National Assembly elections were really a litmus test of the impact of the economic situation on the people of Venezuela.

      It has now been one year since Venezuela's right-wing majority National Assembly has been elected. In this time, the right-wing majority in the National Assembly has been working with one goal in mind - to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro and return the country to the hands of Venezuela's capitalist class, the U.S. government and their allies. They have, however, failed to achieve any of their reactionary objectives. Despite tremendous internal and external pressure, the people of Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution have continued to mobilize in defense of President Nicolás Maduro and their revolution.

      Right-wing Demonization Brings Chaos to the National Assembly From the very first, the right-wing majority National Assembly has made their counter-revolutionary intentions clear. Before they even met for the first time, they removed portraits of Comandante Hugo Chávez as well as Latin American revolutionary Simón Bolívar from the walls of the National Assembly.

      With every subsequent action, they have also made apparent their willingness destroy the rule of law in Venezuela, and contravene Venezuela's Supreme Court, as well as violate Venezuela's constitution. This began with the swearing-in of the newly elected deputies. Due to allegations of fraud and vote-buying during the 2015 National Assembly elections, four people that had been elected were ordered by Venezuela's Supreme Court (TSJ) to not take their seats. Instead of allowing Venezuela's judiciary branch of government to complete its investigation, three of these politicians, who were all members of the right-wing opposition, were sworn in by the right-wing majority National Assembly. The TSJ immediately declared the National Assembly to be in contempt of court.

      Along with this disgraceful fiasco, the National Assembly has also been plagued by absenteeism by the right-wing. As of November, Prensa Latina reported that the National Assembly has failed to meet quorum on 34 different occasions.

      "Legislation" That Violates Venezuelan Law

      However, the right-wing majority in the National Assembly has still managed to pass 16 pieces of legislation. The first was a law meant to privatize social housing. Another, known as the "National Production Law," was yet again to move towards more privatization, this time of land and basic industries. This law was also a direct assault on Venezuela's labour laws and state-run corporations.

      The Amnesty Law was a law calling for the release of 115 so-called ‘political prisoners’ in Venezuela. The criminals that this law would have released were members of Venezuela's violent opposition who have been charged and convicted of serious crimes. These crimes include arson, drug trafficking, and corruption, as well as those related to the violent riots that took place in Venezuela in 2014, known as the Guarimbas, which killed 43 people. The Amnesty Law would have also released people imprisoned for their involvement in the failed coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002.

      Other laws that have been passed by the majority right-wing opposition have been those attempting to re-write the constitution by shortening the Presidential term, or changing the procedures for the recall of elected officials. All of them have had the intention of bringing instability and destruction to Venezuela.

      Of a total of 16 laws passed, 15 have been ruled as unconstitutional and annulled by the Supreme Court of Venezuela. This is no surprise given that Venezuela's constitution, which is a product of the Bolivarian Revolution, has enshrined the rights of people over profit. In Venezuela, laws that alter the spirit of the constitution must be passed by a majority of the people of Venezuela, not by a National Assembly led by counter-revolutionaries.

      Counter-Revolutionary Attempts to Overthrow President Maduro Rather than working on legislation to improve the lives of people in Venezuela, the right-wing majority National Assembly has instead focused their efforts on overthrowing the President of Venezuela. As the leader of the revolutionary bloc in the National Assembly, Hector Rodriguez summarized, "The role of the National Assembly (AN) has to be analyzed from the point of view of a family. They have conspired instead of working. Faced with a situation of difficulty like this, the opposition chose to impose its political ambitions." (Correo Orinoco)

      From the onset, the counter-revolutionary ex-President of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup was very clear about his vision of the role of the National Assembly. He even went as far as to declare that they would oust President Nicolás Maduro “in less than six months”. This is how the recall referendum against President Maduro became number one on agenda of the right-wing members of the National Assembly.

      According to Venezuela's constitution any elected official, including the President, can be recalled in a popular referendum as soon as they have served one-half of their term. The constitution has laid out a very specific process, and a timeline, that must be followed in order for this to happen. However, due to a late-start in the process as well as tens of thousands of fraudulent signatures, the counter-revolutionary opposition has now failed in this attempt.

      Now, the right-wing majority National Assembly itself has taken direct steps. Since late October they have been attempting to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Maduro. There is, however, no mention of "impeachment" or any kind of political trial in Venezuelan law. Essentially, the counter-revolutionary dominated National Assembly, which is supposed to introduce laws to support and protect the people of Venezuela, is instead working extra-legally to try and overthrow the President. On November 15, the Supreme Court even issued the injunction calling on the right-wing parliamentarians to end their attempts at a political trial.

      It is important to know as well, that not only does the National Assembly resolution call for a political trial against Maduro declaring, "Venezuela has suffered a coup d'etat and the constitutional order has broken down" (BBC), but it also appeals to international organizations to intervene in Venezuela.

      National Assembly Appeals for International Intervention This is not the first time that the majority right-wing National Assembly has called for international intervention in Venezuela. This dangerous counter-revolutionary campaign began with an appeal to the Washington, DC based Organization of American States (OAS). In May of 2016, the opposition dominated National Assembly sent a letter to the President of the OAS, Luis Almagro, calling on the OAS to invoke the "Democratic Charter" against Venezuela. If approved by a vote of the OAS member-groups, Venezuela would be removed from the regional organization, which would only bring more economic instability to Venezuela. So far this campaign of the opposition has been unsuccessful, despite additional pressure from right-wing governments in Latin America, as well as the United States (which provides 59% of OAS funding). However, the larger question is - what kind of National Assembly would request that their country be isolated from a regional body and under what authority?

      Prior to sending the request letter, right-wing members of Venezuela's National Assembly also travelled to the headquarters of the OAS in Washington, DC to request intervention in the internal affairs of their country. A trip to the United States was not surprising for many of these reactionary politicians. Venezuela's counter-revolutionary opposition is, in fact, quite comfortable interacting and making deals with the U.S. government. This is despite the fact that not only does Venezuela not currently have an Ambassador in the U.S., the U.S. government is also actively working to destroy the lives of the majority of people in Venezuela through both overt and covert attacks and interventions.

      In March of 2015, US President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order declaring Venezuela to be an "extraordinary threat to U.S. national security". This order, as well as the criminal economic sanctions which it enables the Congress to uphold, are still in place today. On top of support and funding for Venezuela's violent opposition parties and so-called civil society organizations, U.S. intervention has also included numerous threatening actions by the U.S. Naval fleet in the region, as well as, CIA radio and TV programs meant to sew unrest in Venezuela and more.

      Foreign threats and intervention against Venezuela continue to expand. On December 26, 2016 the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Relations issued a statement regarding NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) military cooperation with Colombia. Recently, the President of Colombia announced the signing of a military cooperation agreement between Colombia, which borders Venezuela, and NATO. What is NATO, a reactionary mainly European military alliance -against the former Soviet Union and now Russia- led by the United States that has brought untold death and destruction upon millions of oppressed people from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan to Libya, doing in Colombia? This agreement is an effort to expand imperialist military alliance and war mongering in Latin America and yet another U.S.-led attack on the Bolivarian Revolution and the revolutionary current of change in Latin America.

      Why People of the World must Defend the Venezuelan Revolution

      As the New Year arrives, there is no sign that U.S. intervention, and the campaign of the counter-revolutionary opposition is slowing down in Venezuela. In 2017 the people of Venezuela will have to fight harder than ever to defend the Bolivarian Revolution. The past year has proven that President Maduro, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the vast majority of the people of Venezuela will continue to organize and mobilize to not only maintain their achievements, but to expand them. Most recently, on December 17, 2016, the people of Venezuela responded to a call for mobilization by President Maduro and took to the streets to demonstrate against the continued hoarding and price gouging of Venezuela's capitalist class.

      From Canada, the United States and around the world it is vital that we echo their demands and continue to mobilize people in defense of President Nicolás Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution. We must not be silent as major Western media demonizes a country that is fighting for a more united and sovereign Latin America. A country that along with Cuba, has been working to build a revolutionary Latin American counter-balance of power and end U.S. hegemony and destruction once and for all. Every victory for the Bolivarian Revolution and the people of Venezuela, whether for their sovereignty, self-determination or a more just and equal society, is also a victory for poor, working and oppressed people around the world.

      Viva Venezuela!
      U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!
      No to Yankee Intervention!

      Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette

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