Pedro Marin
Latin America, Ukraine, North Korea

Venezuela: Radicalizing the revolution

Facing a deep economic crisis, a ruthless oppositionist bloc in the National Assembly, and protesters in the streets, Maduro seems to have handled it correctly and has radicalized the revolution. But he must go further.
23 May 2016

The Bolivarian revolution is facing its biggest threat since former President Hugo Chávez was overthrown in 2002. President Nicolás Maduro, in response to the fact that the opposition has led the National Assembly since the last election, announced an expansion of the State of Exception first issued on January this year. The State of Exception and Economic Emergency decree, published last Tuesday (May 17th), cites threats to Venezuela’s national security and allows Maduro to rule with greater independence and use the military to maintain public order.

Meanwhile, the opposition is pushing for a recall referendum in order to remove Maduro from office. Violent protests erupted on May 18th, during a nationwide mobilization to push the National Electoral Council (CNE) to move faster to recognize the 1.8 million signatures delivered on May 2nd asking for the referendum.

It seems that the once hidden battle between the revolutionary forces and the right-wing oppositionists is now becoming an open battle. Last Tuesday, the oppositionist leader Henrique Capriles called on the military to “prepare the tanks and warplanes,” adding, “the hour of truth is coming to decide whether you are with the Constitution or with Maduro.” That came after former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe also made an appeal to the “democratic countries” who are willing to “put their armed forces at the service of the protection of the Venezuelan opposition” during an event in the U.S, and after an American sentry plane entered Venezuela’s airspace twice – on May 11th and 13th.

The threat to Venezuela’s sovereignty is real. In addition to the State of Exception, Maduro ordered what the head of the military Vladimir Padrino López called “unprecedented military drills,” as well as the seizure of factories that were paralyzed to undermine the country’s economy, and the arrest of their owners.

21st Century socialism – the way out of global dominance

The present moment is the only chance left for Maduro to instigate the revolution, but to do so he must radicalize it. The government has been taking a defensive stance in front of the opposition and the U.S. since 2002, to say the least. The Venezuelan opposition and Washington won’t cease their attacks against the Chavistas until the government is disposed of. After the global economic crisis – and especially after Russia thwarted Obama’s plans in Syria and Ukraine – the U.S. is now focusing again on Latin America, both to stop any potential regional power and to weaken Russia and China. It’s time to make it stop.

Maduro’s call to seize paralyzed factories is a good start, but he must seize all factories, implement land reform, and maybe most importantly: not make debt payments – to U.S. companies, at least – as Venezuela has a $ 10 billion debt burden for this year. Maduro must finally carry out the revolution.

Of course, as history showed us, that would bring an economic embargo to Venezuela. The country would need foreign help (Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, recently said the country is willing to help Latin American countries under foreign intervention) and to further establish partnerships, especially with China, whose imports of crude petroleum (Venezuela’s main exportation commodity) amounted to $205 billion in 2014.

Solving the country’s shortages and answering to the people’s needs is the only way out of this political crisis. Taking a radical stance is the only way to do so. As Maduro himself recently said, quoting Simón Bolívar: “The time has come. To waver is to lose.”