"We are ratifying once again the democratic vocation of the people," "It is not the United States that determines the fate of Venezuela, but the people. We came to seal our commitment to the Constitution." - Vice President Tareck El Aissami, October 15, 2017
On October 15, 2017 the people of Venezuela went to the polls to elect state governors. Revolutionary candidates won in 18 out of the 23 states, a great and decisive victory for the Venezuelan people and the government of President Maduro!
These outstanding results, which have shattered the already fractured, violent and desperate Venezuelan right-wing opposition, are an important step-forward towards advancing the Bolivarian revolutionary process. They have also ignited a new surge of intervention from imperialist countries like the United States and Canada that have, in all irony, taken this electoral victory for the people of Venezuela, and used it to introduce further illegal and cruel sanctions in the name of “democracy.”
Venezuela’s Regional Elections
Elections in Venezuela are organized and implemented by a branch of government called the National Electoral Council (CNE). This is the governmental body that sets the dates of elections, creates the ballots, determines the eligibility of candidates, as well as announces the outcome, and then further audits the results, among other functions.
Over the last 18 years of the Bolivarian revolutionary process, the CNE has worked with the people of Venezuela to shape one of the most transparent electoral systems in the world. This system includes digital fingerprinting and electronic voting, which is verified by a print-out for each ballot cast.
The October 15, 2017, regional elections were broadly supported throughout Venezuela, with 220 candidates running in the 23 states, and a 61.4% voter turn-out. There were nearly 14,000 voting stations throughout Venezuela. Candidates ran as part of two coalitions, the Grand Patriotic Pole (GPP), which is the coalition of governing revolutionary party of Venezuela, and the MUD, which represents Venezuela’s counter-revolutionary opposition.
54% of the over 11 million people that voted that day chose to support the governing party, the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), whose candidates won in 18 out of 23 states. The victories of revolutionary candidates in 17 of the 23 states were announced only hours after the polls closed. The winner of the election in the state of Bolivar was decided after a re-count. The revolutionary candidate was also victorious, though with a less than 2000 vote difference.
Despite what is being reported in major capitalist media, there were over 1300 international observers present in Venezuela during the elections, including a delegation from the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA). In their report, the President of CEELA stated, “The vote took place peacefully and without problems… the vote reflects the will of [Venezuelan] citizens.”
Almost immediately following the announcement of the results of the elections, Venezuela’s defeated opposition was broadcasting allegations of electoral fraud all over major capitalist media. To date, not only has the opposition not offered any proof of their allegations, they have also not filed a single official complaints; either the CNE, or even to the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA).
At the end of July, 2017 the people of Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolutionary process also had another victory with the election of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC). Over 8 million people in Venezuela elected the ANC, whose 545 members are now working on improving and broadening Venezuela’s Constitution in order to strengthen the Bolivarian revolutionary process.
As per Venezuela’s Constitution, the Constituent Assembly is now the highest governing body in Venezuela. Therefore, following the regional elections, the victorious candidates were sworn in by the ANC. Four out of the five MUD governors agreed to by sworn in by the ANC, therefore recognizing its legitimacy. In fact, only one of the opposition governors refused to be sworn in by the ANC. Because he refused, there will be a new election in December in the state of Zulia.
Right-Wing Opposition in Venezuela Defeated
The regional elections in Venezuela dealt a decisive blow to the Venezuelan counter-revolutionary opposition. Today, they are weaker than ever, despite the support that they continue to enjoy from the government of the United States, Canada, and the European Union. In the October 15 election, right-wing opposition parties lost 2.2million votes as compared to the election for the National Assembly in 2015.
As they become further isolated, the right-wing opposition is also increasingly divided, often engaging in public arguments in the media and social media over what each faction thinks is best to do next in order to carry forward their counter-revolutionary agenda. So much for the right-wing’s so-called belief in democracy in Venezuela!
Even the Economist magazine, which has been one of the main proponents of the Venezuelan opposition and foreign intervention in Venezuela, wrote an article which included “The opposition is directionless and demoralized” in its title. The article, which was published on October 23, went on to state that “Leaders at first responded to the results with stunned silence, then conferred for more than an hour. They emerged to say that the MUD would not recognise the results; they did not make specific allegations of fraud,” and “Splits within the MUD have widened,” referring especially to those opposition governors that agreed to be sworn into office by the Constituent Assembly.
This election was also a decisive victory against the right-wing opposition’s brutal campaign to overthrow the democratically elected government of President Nicolas Maduro. This has included an economic war of hoarding, price gouging and other acts of sabotage that has resulted in shortages of food and basic goods, as well as violent street riots and barricades on the streets of Venezuela that resulted in the deaths of over 120 people between April-July, 2017.
For more about the violence and sabotage of the “democratic” and “peaceful” Venezuelan right-wing opposition, read the Fire This Time Interview with the Venezuelan Ambassador to Canada, Wilmer Barrientos, in the following pages.
Imperialist Governments Step Up Their Attack
The fracturing of Venezuela’s right-wing opposition gives the revolutionary government space to continue advancing the Bolivarian revolutionary process. No one knows that better than imperialist governments that have been working to overthrow the government of Venezuela since Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998. Have no doubt that the election made imperialist governments angry and frustrated with the process of their counter-revolutionary work in Venezuela.
With their puppets in Venezuela falling apart, the government of the US and Canada have increased their attacks and sanctions.
For months the US government had been demanding that the government of Venezuela organize regional elections. However, the minute that it is clear that the pro-US candidates have lost, the US government condemns “the lack of free and fair elections yesterday in Venezuela.” Continuing with, “The voice of the Venezuelan people was not heard.” This statement, issued by the US State Department, goes on to say “As long as the Maduro regime conducts itself as an authoritarian dictatorship, we will work with members of the international community and bring the full weight of American economic and diplomatic power to bear in support of the Venezuelan people as they seek to restore their democracy.” Didn’t the people of Venezuela just finish exercising their democracy?
Canada is also part of the network of imperialist countries that responded rapidly to the US demand for increased attacks and sanctions against Venezuela. Almost immediately following the October 15 elections, Foreign Minister of Canada, Crystia Freeland issued a statement that said “Sunday’s elections were characterized by many irregularities that raise significant and credible concerns regarding the validity of the results.” Since when does Canada have the right to make inflammatory statements regarding the electoral process in another, sovereign country without offering a single shred of evidence?
Canada's Record of Illegitimate and Undemocratic Attacks on Venezuela
Canada is part of the imperialist attack on Venezuela, and this time it seems that they are more coordinated with US attacks on Venezuela then before. Beyond the rhetoric of Canada’s Foreign Minister, the government of Canada has also imposed sanctions on Venezuela, as well as opened up Canada to international meetings and visits focusing on promoting foreign intervention.
On October 26, 2017 Canada hosted the third meeting of the Lima Group, a group consisting of representatives from right-wing governments in Latin America and the government of Canada. This meeting concluded that "If necessary we must put added pressure on the Maduro regime by taking concrete steps to further isolate it from the international community," as reported by Foreign Minister Crystia Freeland.
Make no mistake about it; the government of Canada is not just following the orders of US President Trump when it comes to attacks on Venezuela. They are also protecting their own interests.
In fact, the government of Venezuela has been in the targets of Canada ever since Hugo Chavez was first elected. This is when the Bolivarian revolutionary process began to put the powerful natural resources of Venezuela into the hands of the people of Venezuela. For example, in 2008, the revolutionary government expropriated two Canadian firms, Gold Reserve and Crystallex International Corp. both of which had invested hundreds of millions of dollars into gold mining projects in Venezuela.
A report by the Senate of Canada on Venezuela, issued in July 2017, also sheds light on the government of Canada’s interests in Venezuela. These interests that have nothing to do with “democracy” and “human rights” and everything to do with making sure that Canada remains competitive in the world financial market. As the report says, “In other respects, the government has become increasingly dependent on financial support from Russia and China in order to sustain the oil industry, giving these two countries an important stake in the future of the Maduro regime.”
US/Canada Hands Off Venezuela!
Working class and oppressed people around the world should celebrate the October 15 regional elections as a victory for the people of Venezuela. By voicing their support of the government of President Maduro loud and clear that day, Venezuelans have once again stood up for their right to sovereignty and self-determination in the face of imperialist and right-wing attacks.
Venezuela’s violent, counter-revolutionary right-wing is becoming more and more desperate, and in turn, the United States government and their allies will also increase their attacks against Venezuela. As people living in Canada, we must demand stronger than ever that Canada take their hands off of Venezuela and cancel the sanctions. We must also call on the United States to end their threats, sanctions and intervention in Venezuela.
Follow Alison Bodine on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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