In defence of Venezuela’s achievements against their usurpation by darkest reaction. SAM HEATON
Venezuela’s government and people are taking important measures to defend the country’s sovereignty and dignity in the face of the assault of the reactionary forces which have staged a comeback in that country.
To their merit, the achievements of the Venezuelan people and government under Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro are all the more noteworthy given the context of the period of retreat of revolution in which the world has been mired since the 1989-90 period. From 1998 to today they have taken serious measures to right historical wrongs so that the people would no longer suffer the abject poverty, deprivation and racism inflicted on them by one of the most brutal, racist and reactionary oligarchies any country has had the misfortune to be saddled with.
Under the presidency of Hugo Chávez, extensive pro-social measures were taken to raise the standard of living of the people and now that the reactionary oligarchy has managed to make a comeback, President Nicolás Maduro is using his presidency to safeguard the achievements of the Venezuelan Bolivarian process to the best of his ability. Extreme poverty in Venezuela has been reduced from 21 per cent in 1998, the year Hugo Chávez was elected President, to 5.4 per cent in 2015. In December 2015 Venezuela’s Great Housing Mission completed its initial goal set in 2011 of providing one million low-cost or free homes to Venezuelans. The importance of similar measures in the fields of health care, education and food sovereignty cannot be overstated.
In the past, whenever the country suffered under the rule of such an oligarchy during periods of global economic crises, it was not uncommon for Venezuelans to be massacred when they protested for their rights, as was the case during the Caracazo in 1989. Now, in the context of another crisis and brutal counter-revolutionary actions to disrupt the pro-social measures, such as hoarding of food and disruptions of all sorts, and despite the low prices for Venezuelan oil, the government of Nicolás Maduro is taking extraordinary measures to defend the people’s rights.
Now is the time to defend the Bolivarian nation-building project as never before. It is under great threat of being reversed by the reactionary forces which have put everything at their disposal to once again usurp power and put the country’s human, material and natural resources back under their control. It is not a time to lose heart but to set a firm direction of how the New can prevail over the Old.
In 1907 when Russia suffered a period of reaction following the crushing of the 1905 revolution, the Great Lenin pointed out: “Every zigzag turn in history is a compromise, a compromise between the old, which is no longer strong enough to completely negate the new, and the new, which is not yet strong enough to completely overthrow the old.”
In an effort to hold on to the Old, the Venezuelan and regional oligarchies as well as their U.S. backers are waging vicious campaigns that include the outright sabotage of the Venezuelan economy and people’s well-being, the subversion of Venezuela’s institutions and popular constitution and unceasing attempts to undermine the presidency. The vicious campaign being waged not only shows the necessity to settle historical scores but puts the lie to the claims of the international financial oligarchy, institutions and imperialist system of states that they stand for democracy, freedom and human rights.
The offensive on the part of the forces of reaction and retrogression clearly shows the direction the forces which stand for the New must take. The need for the working class and people of Venezuela to defend themselves against the revanchism of the brutal oligarchy which has ruled the country in the past with no redeeming features is evident.
TML Weekly calls on all Canadians who see the necessity to defeat the moribund forces which cause nothing but misery and leave nothing but destruction in their wake to step up their support for President Maduro and all those who are closing ranks so as to defend the gains of the Bolivarian process. With the participation of the working class and people of Venezuela, by continuing to build their consciousness and organization, the crisis can be resolved in their favour. The Venezuelan people will deprive the exploiters, oppressors, racists, and brutal revanchists of their power to deprive the people of their modern right to govern themselves and advance their Bolivarian Revolution.
Source: TML Weekly Information Project, February 20, 2016, No. 8
President Maduro outlines measures to strengthen social programs and diversify national economy
The Venezuelan government and people are taking important measures to overcome a serious economic crisis magnified by the global economic crisis, imperialist oil price war and the ongoing economic war of the Venezuelan and foreign oligarchy to usurp power which seriously undermines the people’s well-being.
On January 19 Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced the formation of a 45-member National Council for Productive Economy, composed of ministers, governors, mayors, academics, organizations of working people and collectives and businesspeople. The Council is tasked with confronting the longstanding economic imbalance in the form of over-reliance on petroleum extraction due to the historic failure of the Venezuelan ruling elite to develop a diverse and self-reliant economy.
President Maduro outlined 14 engines on which to base Venezuela’s economic growth. These are agri-food; pharmaceuticals and health; industry; exports; communal and social economy; oil; petrochemical; mining; tourism; construction; forestry; military industry; telecommunications and technology, and banking and finance. Maduro outlined the importance of each sector for Venezuela’s self-reliance and development. For instance, he emphasized the need to expand forestry and wood processing for “producing double the amount of paper needed in Venezuela for books and newspapers, to export and break the dependency on importing.”
In light of the collapse in the price of oil, the sale of which has paramount importance for Venezuela’s national revenue, the government has also taken measures to defend and strengthen the social programs on which Venezuelans rely as well as the people’s food sovereignty, which is under constant attack by the oligarchy. President Maduro announced during a major national address on February 17 changes to Venezuela’s exchange rate, an increase in the domestic price of gasoline, the implementation of a new tax system, and expansion of community control over food distribution.
Gas prices will rise from $0.02 per litre, by far the cheapest in the world, to $0.20 per litre, still the cheapest in the world. All revenue will go towards Venezuela’s social programs such as education, housing and health care. Maduro informed that oil revenue had plummeted from U.S.$3 billion in January 2014 to U.S.$77 million in January 2016. Changes to the exchange rate of the Bolivar will result in a dual currency with a fixed and preferential exchange rate of ten bolivars per dollar for the food sector, health care and other social programs and national industries to guarantee the people’s access to necessities and combat speculation.
President Maduro also announced that the Venezuelan government will work with the Ecuadorean government to implement a tax-collection system similar to the Ecuadorean model to combat tax evasion, fraud and avoidance. Additional tax revenue will also support Venezuela’s social programs, Maduro said.
Also in support of Venezuela’s food sovereignty, which has been a particular target of the oligarchy’s economic war, President Maduro announced that control of the state supermarket chain Abastos Bicentenario will be handed over to local communal councils. The move comes after 55 officials in the supermarket chain were arrested for corruption earlier in February. “Either we have a distributive system run by mafias and parasites, or we change,” Maduro said. A new price calculation system will also work to better reflect prices of production in costs for subsidized food items such as cornflour and milk.
Venezuela’s national minimum wage will also rise by nearly 20 per cent and workers’ food coupons will double. As many as 796,000 vulnerable families will also be provided with direct subsidies through the creation of “Socialist Mission Cards,” President Maduro announced. Venezuelans are also beginning a 100-day drive to expand urban agricultural production.