[News] Venezuelan Opposition “Consultation”: Playing Alone and Losing

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 19 11:06:14 EDT 2017


https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/07/19/venezuelan-opposition-consultation-playing-alone-and-losing/ 



  Venezuelan Opposition “Consultation”: Playing Alone and Losing

by Ricardo Vaz <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/ricardo-vaz/>
------------------------------------------------------------------------

/Sunday, July 16, was a significant day in Venezuela’s political 
history. The right-wing opposition MUD, backed by the United States, 
threw all its weight behind a “consultation” that they hoped would show 
that their coup attempts had a formidable public backing and trigger the 
“zero hour” of a new phase that would lead to the removal of the 
Bolivarian government. In the end the stunt backfired, leaving the 
opposition more or less stranded. The real surprise was the show of 
force from chavismo, which went out on the streets to rebuke the 
opposition’s stunt and take part in a dry-run for the July 30 
Constituent Assembly elections./

The opposition “plebiscite”, or “referendum”, which in reality was 
nothing more than a non-binding “consultation” without any legal status, 
was predicted as a major political earthquake that would instantly 
change the country’s landscape. Maria Corina Machado, one of the most 
extreme opposition leaders, likened 
<https://twitter.com/MariaCorinaYA/status/886713522876547072> it to the 
destruction of the Berlin wall, Mandela being elected or the toppling of 
Saddam Hussein (no subtlety there!).

The process would have been laughed into oblivion had it taken place 
anywhere else. No electoral records were used, expired documents were 
accepted and there was nothing stopping people from voting more than 
once <https://twitter.com/marxistJorge/status/886755416495067136>. There 
was no monitoring and in the end all the evidence was burned, so no 
audit was possible. As for the ballot, it had 3 questions 
<https://www.laizquierdadiario.cl/El-plebiscito-de-la-MUD-una-maniobra-para-objetivos-reaccionarios> 
to be answered yes/no: whether people rejected the upcoming Constituent 
Assembly, whether they called the armed forces to intervene (i.e. a 
coup) and whether all public powers should be renewed, free and fair 
elections held, and a national unity government formed to restore order. 
_(1)_

The final result of 7,186,170 votes falls short of the opposition’s 
total in the 2015 legislative elections, and unlike what Henrique 
Capriles says, it would not be enough to recall 
<http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/oposicion/capriles-hoy-fuera-revocatorio-nicolas-maduro-seria-revocado_193546> 
Maduro, who received 7,587,579 votes in the 2013 presidential election, 
even with all the manipulation of figures _(2)_. It also fell way short 
of not-so-wise predictions of 11M (Capriles 
<http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20170715/424120875521/capriles-espera-que-11-millones-de-venezolanos-participen-en-el-referendum.html>) 
or even 14M votes (AD leader Negal Morales 
<http://elsiglo.com.ve/2017/07/11/esperan-que-14-millones-de-venezolanos-participen-en-consulta-popular-del-16j/>)!

And it is worth mentioning that with 2000 voting centres and 14000 
booths, this vote total would imply that every centre was full for 9 
straight hours with a new vote roughly every 65 seconds. Given that the 
process implies walking up to the booth, showing ID, writing the name 
down on the electoral register, receiving the ballot, going to the booth 
and filling it, folding it, putting it in the box and walking away, this 
number raises a few eyebrows. And that is excluding people like Lilian 
Tintori who had to make a little speech 
<https://twitter.com/i/web/status/886679632984068098> before voting!

It is hard to understand the over-the-top statements of opposition 
officials and media. The turnout, while significant, was smaller than in 
previous elections, way smaller than the outlandish predictions, and 
that is giving a pass to all the dubious number manipulations. The 
demands have been heard for weeks and were echoed by leading figures 
even before the “results” were tallied. The entire show was irrelevant 
because “victory” had been pre-announced, and the corresponding massive 
chavista participation in an electoral dry-run (see below) was surely 
not expected. Jorge Martín summarised 
<https://www.marxist.com/venezuela-july-opposition.htm> the current 
crossroads for the Venezuelan opposition:

    “We can therefore say that the opposition “referendum” backfired. At
    the time of writing, the opposition leaders have not yet come out to
    say what are the next steps they intend to take. Their rhetoric
    before July 16 was fiery. The consultation was to be the “zero hour”
    for a national uprising and the removal of the government before the
    July 30 Constituent Assembly elections. They might still try that,
    but now it looks less likely that they will achieve any such thing.
    Of course they will not stop trying. Both Spain and the US are
    already mulling over the idea of sanctions against Venezuela
    (perhaps targeted at selected officials) “if the Constituent
    Assembly goes ahead.”

At a press conference on Monday the opposition announced a “civic 
strike” for Thursday, and that they would be nominating new supreme 
court justices on Friday, whatever that means. This is a far cry from 
the premonitions that the end of the “dictatorship” was near, and we 
will have to wait and see how the opposition intends to escalate further.

*The Cubans are coming*

A common theme amongst the Venezuelan upper classes and plain idiots 
(these two groups overlap very often) is this idea that chavismo’s 
ultimate goal is to turn the country into their hell-on-earth propaganda 
version of Cuba, or even that it is the Cubans who are running the show 
<http://peru21.pe/cultura/henrique-capriles-nicolas-maduro-fue-cuba-recibir-ordenes-su-jefe-2128380>. 
Opposition leader Julio Borges 
<http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-40624313> said that “We 
don’t want to be Cuba”, while “patriot” _(3)_ Oscar Perez 
<http://www.elpais.com.co/mundo/reaparecio-el-piloto-oscar-perez-y-advirtio-una-segunda-fase-para-rescatar-a-venezuela.html> 
said that holding the Constituent Assembly means handing the country 
over to the Cubans.

It must have taken all the opposition’s collective common sense to omit 
“Cuba” from the ballot. The media often tries to omit the more 
embarrassing aspects of the Venezuelan opposition, but the waving of the 
Cuban bogeyman is quite prevalent for the right-wing in Venezuela, and 
Latin America in general.

Several right-wing former leaders came to Venezuela for the occasion, as 
“observers”. People like Andres Pastrana and Jorge Quiroga, with 
enviable resumes of corruption and human rights abuses, flew down to 
lecture others on democracy. The most memorable moment was undoubtedly 
this tweet by former Mexican president Vicente Fox:

    Diosdao Cabello, Yow’r the one behind Dictator Maduro, You’r the
    killer, you torture, your hands’r full blood, You’ll meet Halle
    Court. Prepare

One can only wonder why he is addressing Diosdado Cabello, a leader of 
the PSUV, in English. And it is anybody’s guess what a “Halle Court” is. 
If Fox wants to showcase his multilingual usefulness to his imperial 
masters he should install a spell-checker on his phone.

*Staggeringly dishonest media*

The coverage of Sunday’s events in the mainstream press had all the 
usual bias 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/17/venezuela-protests-death-thousands-vote-unofficial-referendum> 
and dishonesty <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-40624313>. 
Rather than report the event for what it was: a non-binding consultation 
with no records, no monitors and no control on people voting more than 
once, the media just ran with the line that this was a big show of 
support that shook the government and refer to the event like it was a 
legitimate electoral process.

More than that, they resorted to their usual tactic of /“Maduro said”/ 
to try and discredit the other point of view. So instead of this being a 
popular consultation with no verification or binding status, it was a 
poll that /“Maduro said was meaningless”/. This is akin to, for example, 
the US Food and Drug Administration finding something wrong with Burger 
King and the company making a “Trump does not like our burgers” 
publicity stunt.

As always, nobody can quite compete with the New York Times 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/16/world/americas/venezuelans-vote-on-measures-devised-to-weaken-maduro.html> 
when it comes to dishonest reporting. The NYT starts by announcing that 
“Venezuelans Rebuke Their President by a Staggering Margin”. Imagine 
that… Anti-government supporters go to an anti-government initiative 
and, believe it or not, they “vote” against the government! Next they 
will be asking about the right of return of Palestinian refugees at a 
Zionist convention and be surprised at the /staggering/ results.

The NYT follows this with a litany of falsehoods and distortions that 
would merit an entire article on their own. It says that the 1999 
constitution has a provision authorising this kind of consultation (it 
does not), that the Constituent Assembly will do away with elections (it 
will not) and that Maduro will “appoint” “handpicked” members to it 
(they will be elected). The article also mentions that the government 
has postponed /every/ election since the December 2015 legislative 
elections, but in fact only /one/ poll was scheduled since then. That 
was the regional/governor elections that were due to take place last 
year and were postponed because they conflicted with the opposition 
recall referendum process, being finally set for December 2017. The NYT 
also misleads its readers by saying that the third question on the 
opposition consultation was about “free elections to pick a new 
“national unity government””, when in fact the question 
<https://www.laizquierdadiario.cl/El-plebiscito-de-la-MUD-una-maniobra-para-objetivos-reaccionarios> 
mentions a “national unity government” /now/, to “restore constitutional 
order”, and free elections /later/. The key is in the name. “National 
unity” governments are usually not elected…

*Chavista response*

Simultaneous to the opposition consultation, the Venezuelan electoral 
authorities ran a dry-run for the July 30th Constituent Assembly 
elections, to test the process and help voters familiarise themselves 
with the voting machines. This turned out to be a chavista show of 
force, with queues forming from early morning and the voting deadline 
extended in a few places. Photo galleries attest to this large 
mobilisation (see here 
<http://albaciudad.org/2017/07/en-fotos-miles-de-personas-participan-en-el-simulacro-para-la-constituyente/>, 
here <http://www.avn.info.ve/node/403576> or here 
<https://www.facebook.com/lucia.zerpa/posts/10154940806149426>).

The mainstream mostly ignored or downplayed the pro-government 
mobilisation, but some outlets stumbled on the pitfalls of their 
one-sided coverage. Spain’s El País 
<https://www.facebook.com/ManosFueradeVenezuela/posts/1795991100430047> 
published photos of people who were clearly chavistas, with the caption 
/“chavistas were queuing to vote in the opposition consultation”/. This 
was beyond ridiculous because people had banners supporting the 
Constituent Assembly, so the inconvenient photos were deleted and the 
blame assigned to EFE Agency.

Even with all the hardships and months of opposition political violence, 
the chavista bases have made it clear time and again that they are not 
going to sleepwalk into an opposition coup and have seized the 
Constituent Assembly as an opportunity to strengthen the gains of the 
Bolivarian Revolution and radicalise even further. Whether these 
impulses will be able to overcome the more conciliatory sectors of 
chavismo and the concessions to “patriotic businessmen” remains to be seen.

What is clear is that the opposition is not where it hoped it would be 
by now. With the exception of a rogue state’s attorney and a handful of 
opportunist former chavista officials, trying to position themselves as 
a “third way”, the opposition’s campaign has failed to cause breaks 
inside chavismo. Despite the constant appeals for a military coup, they 
have also not caused any movement inside the armed forces. And most 
importantly, they have not made significant inroads in getting the 
popular classes on their side, not even in getting them to demobilise 
_(4)_. The upcoming Constituent Assembly is therefore a golden 
opportunity to strike a serious blow to the coup-plotters and their 
imperial backers.

*Notes*

(1) In retrospect, the opposition might also have tried to frame this 
consultation as a vote for their “national unity” government, assuming 
they could ever agree on one. The US, its allies and the media might 
have started referring to it as the “legitimate representative of the 
Venezuelan people”, like they did with Syria. A few dozen puppets, 
nominated by the backers of the Syrian war (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, 
etc), living in Turkey, chose a “government” which was referred to as 
the “legitimate representative…” for a while, before it became clear 
that nobody cared about it.

(2) Perhaps aware of Maduro’s total, the opposition claimed the 7.1M 
corresponded to 95% of total ballots, and later came out with the total 
convenient figure of 7.6M. One wonders how a total can be updated after 
the ballots are burned 
<http://www.lechuguinos.com/mud-incendio-actas-plebiscito/>. However, 
given that they claimed that 98.4% voted “Yes”, because 100% would not 
be as respectable, this brings the total of “Yes” votes to 7.48M, again 
below Maduro’s 2013 total!

(2b) On Monday night, PSUV leader and mayor of Libertador Jorge 
Rodríguez revealed <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKPJJe3dSIE> a phone 
conversation between two opposition leaders in Aragua who openly talked 
about cooking the numbers and adding 50.000 to the total for the state. 
He also claimed, but did not provide evidence, that the 7M+ VOTES did 
not correspond to the same number of VOTERS, but that the opposition was 
counting every voter 3 times, since the ballot had 3 questions. So the 
event would have had only around 2.5M voters and the opposition revealed 
the total number of “Yes” votes.

(3) On June 27 Oscar Perez stole a police helicopter, fired weapons and 
threw grenades at government buildings, and yet the Guardian 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/28/venezuela-helicopter-attack-oscar-perez-rumors> 
referred to him as a “patriot” or a “government plant”!

(4) It is hard to convince the poor and working-class that you have 
their best interests at heart when your foot-soldiers are setting people 
on fire 
<https://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjluYqZoZHVAhWL8RQKHXfmDD4QFggtMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.telesurtv.net%2Fenglish%2Fnews%2FVenezuelan-Youth-Burned-for-Being-Chavista-Dies-from-Injuries-20170604-0011.html> 
because they /look/ chavista.

/This article originally appeared in Investig’action 
<http://www.investigaction.net/>. /

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