Amidst the global turmoil unleashed by the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. has decided to ramp up its imperialist aggression and interference in the Venezuelan government. On Friday, 27 March, the U.S. Department of Justice filed charges of drug trafficking, corruption and the promotion of terrorism against Nicolás Maduro, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and 13 high-ranking state officials, all in an attempt to legitimise any future acts of intervention and insurgency in Venezuela. On 25 March, Jorge Rodriguez, Minister of Communication, also presented the country with evidence of a new conspiracy, organised in Colombia, to traffic arms into Venezuela, conduct terrorist operations and carry out the potential assassination of Maduro; Juan Guaidó and U.S. advisers were aware of this. Both cases are closely related. Lucha de Clases, the Venezuelan section of the International Marxist Tendency, is vehemently opposed to this recent reactionary attack.
The charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice also implicate Diosdado Cabello, President of the National Constituent Assembly; Maikel Moreno, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Vladimir Padrino López, Minister of Defence; and Tareck El Aissami, Minister of Industries and Vice President for the Economy, among others. The Department has offered a reward of $15m for any information which may lead to Maduro’s arrest and prosecution, and $10m for the rest of the officials. It’s worth noting that Hugo Carvajal and Cliver Alacalá Cordones, the former currently being investigated by the Spanish courts on charges of drug trafficking and both of whom previously held high-ranking positions within Venezuelan government, also figure on the Department’s list of accused. As is customary in these cases, the two have switched from the Bolivarian camp and now bear strong animosity towards a government they defended not so long ago.
Successive conspiracies to oust Maduro from power have resulted in failure. Juan Guaidó has proven to be politically bankrupt, his presidency a work of fiction, and the Venezuelan right is splintering; it clearly struggles to mobilise its base. In light of the chaos, U.S. imperialism has decided to create conditions to give legal cover to increasing its intervention against the Venezuelan government. The U.S. has revived a judiciary process against Manuel Noriega (ex CIA collaborator from Panama who later distanced himself from his former masters) on counts of drug trafficking. This process launched prior to its brutal and bloody military invasion of Panama in 1989 which culminated in Noriega’s overthrow. Iván Simonovis, the assassin appointed by Guaidó as Venezuela’s Special Commissioner for Security and Intelligence in the U.S., had the following to say about this on his Twitter account:
"I’ve been saying this for some months now: there’s no way that @NicolasMaduro and his close collaborators will be able to escape justice. Justice will be unsparing, and coronavirus won’t be able to save them. Soon, we’ll have legal recourse and take action."
Desde hace algunos meses he dicho que no hay forma que @NicolasMaduro ni sus más cercanos colaboradores escapen de la justicia y que ésta será implacable. La excusa del Coronavirus no los salvará. Tendremos pronto la plataforma legal y actuaremos .— Iván Simonovis (@Simonovis) March 26, 2020
Beyond the opposition’s enthusiasm for future military incursion into Venezuela, where U.S. troops would be tasked with carrying out what the right could not out of sheer incompetence, its threat to government, Chavismo and the poor is clear and cannot be ignored.
Lucha de Clases has maintained on numerous occasions that, apart from a few speeches, U.S. imperialism has not been able to take any military action against Venezuela (mainly due to the American public’s resistance towards the possibility of a new war). Nevertheless, pedantic legal proceedings (current proceedings included) seek to set a precedent for future intervention and meddling ahead of potential changes in circumstance or better opportunities to intervene directly, only if the U.S. finds it necessary. Undoubtedly, the Trump administration’s abysmal management of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States will have considerable political impact on the upcoming presidential elections in the country. The WHO warns that the U.S. could become the new epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, which, thus far, has claimed the lives of over a thousand people within its borders. It would come as no surprise if its ruling class were trying to resolve its internal problems by reawakening its earlier hostilities against Iran and Venezuela. If this is their intention, it will not pay off.
We must not forget that the current pandemic caused by the spread of coronavirus has been the catalyst for the inevitable global recession on our doorstep that was being prepared beforehand. In the coming days, weeks and months, we will bear witness to a veritable economic catastrophe. Failing a revolutionary uprising, all capitalist governments bent on intensifying their austerity measures in order to make the worker pay for the crisis of capitalism will fall into disrepute. The Trump administration is no exception, and the American ruling class knows it. The U.S. election scene is another one to watch. The current situation – the legal action being carried out against the Venezuelan government, the need to gain popularity amidst a growing health crisis and a recession possibly worse than that of 2008 – offer up a range of risky options for imperialism, and a desperate Donald Trump, to resort to. This isn’t to say that a U.S. invasion is imminent, but it should be noted that this scenario is in the realm of possibility. For it to become a reality, a series of events, such as those aforementioned, must occur in conjunction with each other.
U.S. imperialist hypocrisy knows no bounds; it is trying once again to appeal to its anti-drug rhetoric and use it to underpin its foreign policy. The provision of U.S. air force planes for drug trafficking operations to fund South Vietnam during the bloody Vietnam War, the exponential increase in the exportation of cocaine from Colombia to the U.S. since Plan Colombia came into force, the increase in the production and exportation of poppy seeds (for opium) from Afghanistan since the county’s invasion, and the massive circulation of blood-soaked cash from the drugs trade that washes through the American finance system; these are just a few cases which point to imperialist involvement in this grimy underworld. The drug trade leads to thousands of deaths every year in countries producing the drugs and within the drug route. In the meantime, U.S. demand for narcotics continues to rise. Additionally, the White House’s extensive rap sheet for promoting terrorism is long enough for anyone to do a double take. Let’s not forget where the driving force for the death squads in Central America came from during the ‘80s, nor the armed and financial support for Al Qaeda, such as the Al Nusra Front, during the Syrian civil war, just to name a few. The acts of terrorism which defective officials in Venezuela are attempting to carry out in order to depose Maduro are fully sponsored by the U.S. government.
Cliver Alcalá Cordones’ statements
Former Major General Cliver Alcalá Cordones, put out a statement from his house in Barranquilla, Colombia, during a radio broadcast. In the broadcast, he claimed responsibility for leading the coup plot denounced by the Venezuelan government on 25 March. This recent coup plot was revealed following the seizure of a vehicle with 26 rifles, night vision goggles and silencers on Colombian territory. These tools were destined for Venezuela, and Alcalá claimed he had the support of approximately 90 officers from the National Bolivarian Armed Forces.
Alcalá disclosed an important piece of information: he makes reference to an agreement between himself, Juan Guaidó, U.S. advisers and JJ Rendón to carry out this plan. The ex-army official nervously remarked that his name appearing on the U.S. Department of Justice’s list is due to the plot’s failure after the arsenal was seized by police in the region. Furthermore, he contradicted himself by saying that “Not a single Colombian official was aware of the plot we were planning against Venezuela. Not even President Iván Duque or the military. They only found out 48 hours ago.” Alcalá clearly saw the amount of legal trouble in store for him and decided to rat out all those involved so he wouldn’t have to shoulder all of the blame. Nothing in his statement surprises us.
The reasons behind Alcalá’s name being on the U.S. Justice Department’s list despite him having become an enemy of Maduro and an active conspirator against his government is subject to multiple interpretations. His story, that his name appearing on the list was due to the plan’s failure, challenges another version of events that points to the former Major General as being considered by the U.S. government as a double agent. Until proven otherwise, everything seems to show that the ex-official was rejected by the United States after they were unsuccessful in using him for destabilising purposes. A popular old phrase relevant for cases such as these is: “that’s how the devil pays those who serve him”. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that Maduro’s constant calls for dialogue with Guaidó and the U.S. and Colombian government have, again, fallen on deaf ears. Instead of arresting Juan Guaidó and all those implicated, Maduro stubbornly continues to urge the nation’s political right to reach a national agreement, and now seeks an agreement to find a solution for containing the coronavirus.
A counterproductive policy in combating the forces of reaction
Our condemnation of this recent imperialist offensive does not at all constitute a vote of confidence in Maduro’s government. For many years, we have denounced his very marked change in policy against the interest of the people and the workers, alongside similar repressive tendencies against leading figures among workers, the peasantry and the community, in order to brutally align the country with bourgeois interests, as is already the case with the economy. This forces most of the workers and the poor to pay for the structural crisis in Venezuelan politics.
Policies holding wages down and removing labour benefits, in accordance with Memorandum 2792, have led to many in public administration defecting; convenient for a government that is attempting to reduce the size of the state and its budget deficit. The end result? Hunger and destitution for millions of families. Meanwhile, the multiple layoffs registered daily in the public and private sector is manifest evidence of the Ministry of Labour and Labour Inspectors’ bias towards the bosses. Employing state repressive bodies, such as the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) and the Venezuelan National Police’s Special Actions Force (FAES) to resolve workers’ struggles is also something we emphatically reject. The support of state security forces, judges and officials for old and new landowners has resulted in evictions, violence and death for hundreds of peasants who also have to endure persecution by paramilitary groups.
COVID-19’s arrival in Venezuela has eclipsed the demand for justice for Orlando Chirinos and Aryenis Torrealba, who were unjustly imprisoned for standing up to the corrupt mafias within Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA. As the days go by, the nine communards from the Socialist Axis in Barinas remain detained for daring to create a “Communal State”. Likewise, legal proceedings against three state employees working in Sucre’s provincial government, who were arrested for demanding better salaries, just like the two workers from El Palito, are still ongoing. Everything described above has taken place while state enterprises are being privatised. Under the complacent gaze of the President of the Republic and his cabinet, the informal dollarisation of the economy is underway.
Among the emergency measures adopted by the country’s government to address the current situation that the coronavirus has created, a request for a loan of $5bn from the IMF through its Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) stands out. Although the conditions set by the RFI are not as strict as those attached to its other, more conventional loans, it does include a list of “political agreements” and parameters to subjugate the country and provide it with “technical assistance”, aimed at implementing a “reform plan”. In reality, it entails more austerity measures and more control. Although the request was denied, it demonstrates the government’s willingness to submit to the economic policies of the IMF, and to imperialism. It shows the government to be inconsistent. The government denounces the imperialist economic blockade, which we too reject, as well as the constant destabilising and insurgent acts of aggression from the White House. Yet, in the same breath, it freely submits to the financial institutions of the same power. It is self-evident that extra debts from other means of financial support that the government is actively pursuing, inevitably from allied countries such as China, will in the end have to be paid by the workers and the Venezuelan people in general, through more cuts to funding for healthcare, education and public services, more privatisation, or the exploitation of national resources by capitalists to improve conditions for small businesses.
Venezuelan oil prices falling way below the cost of production as a result of a fall in consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the trade war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, endangers the already diminished state budget. The government is covering accounts that are in the red and paying all the wages of small-and-medium-sized industries in the country by issuing money without any backing from national production and international reserves, which will worsen the hyperinflation the country has been suffering from since 2017. As if that weren’t enough, we will soon see a significant reduction in the purchasing power of salaries in the country (under $6 USD per month) while the so-called “patriotic capitalists” have their profits protected and traders speculate without any control.
All in all, this policy will lead only to the erosion of the social bases of revolution, the only hope for rescue in the face of any threat. For Marxists, there is no doubt that stubborn support for conciliatory policies has brought us to this point. The absence of revolutionary, and by extension anti-imperialist, governance threatens to destroy the few remaining vestiges of revolution. This does not require an eventual victory from the reactionary side, but merely that the government continues to steer the country in a pro-capitalist direction. “The truth is revolutionary”.
In order to reduce the chances of an imperialist victory in the country, we need to save the revolution. Trotsky wrote the following during the Spanish Civil War: “You are right to fight against Franco. We must root the fascists out in order not to end up with the same Spain as before the Civil War, because Franco came out of that Spain. We must extirpate Franco’s bases, that is, the social system of capitalism.” (Spain 1936-39. Cited in Lenin and Trotsky – What They Really Stood for). Therefore, we assert that defeating the right and imperialism means eradicating capitalism in Venezuela.
All imperialist multinational corporations should be expropriated as soon as possible, under strict control of the workers and the people, as a response to the economic blockade and the freezing of the nation’s assets in U.S. and European banks. Assets must also be confiscated from all the corrupt state officials (whether they call themselves “Bolivarian” or not) and destabilising agents financed by Washington. A state monopoly of foreign trade should be established. Industrial monopolies belonging to the parasitic national bourgeoisie must be nationalised without compensation, as well as large agricultural estates and private banks. These resources must be employed for a revolutionary emergency economic programme and workers’ councils and peasant communes must participate fully in and oversee the planning of production. These communities will be created or mobilised to monitor and control the social wealth produced, where it comes from and where it is channelled. Obviously, carrying the revolution out fully will not automatically lead to the nation’s economic development. The difficulties originating from the backward, adulterated form of capitalism and its structural crisis will leave the country with a set of problems to be solved during the socialist transition. However, these measures will guarantee that national resources remain in the country and are earmarked for investment in the country’s means of production. The Venezuelan Revolution should serve as a catalyst for the global revolution. Only the complete demise of capitalism will lead to decisive victory!
Juan Guaidó and all the politicians on the right who answer to and are financed by the White House must be arrested at once. Enough with the impunity! Comrades who argue that taking these measures would mean an imminent invasion of our country by U.S. troops should ask themselves this: what good have half measures done to reduce the threat of invasion? And were the revolution to be carried out fully, would it not be under better circumstances? Would it not occur during a time of economic and political control, with a nation organised and able to steward their own fate and repel the interventionist threats or even resist an eventual invasion? Hébert, the French revolutionary, once said “The moderates have buried more victims than those that fell before the steel of our enemies. Nothing is more harmful in a revolution than half measures.”
In all honesty, the revolutionary ideal is not something the leaders of PSUV are pursuing. This is why it is necessary to create an alternative organically. The alternative should be based on the Marxist programme and the most genuine interests of the working class, to guide the masses towards self-organisation and to seize power effectively.