Late in the evening of Sunday, April 14, the National Electoral Council (CNE) issued its ruling: Nicolas Maduro was elected president of Venezuela. Thousands of compatriots were waiting outside the Miraflores presidential palace to celebrate the victory that was not just to win a governmental post, but that means the continuation of the Bolivarian Revolution.
What was at stake were two opposite choices: deepening of the revolution along the road toward socialism — represented by Maduro and the Chavista forces — or the return to neoliberalism led by the representative of the bourgeoisie and U.S. imperialism, Henrique Capriles.
With shouts of “Victory!” and “No going back!” Venezuelans expressed their joy and clearly showed they were willing to defend the process initiated by the late Hugo Chávez, whose presence is still felt.
The congratulatory messages started arriving from governments, individuals and groups in many parts of the world. Some Latin American and Caribbean governments showed in their messages the joy that this victory also ensured the continuity of Latin American integration and the processes of change that the region is going through.
With a 79.2 percent voter turnout, Maduro won with nearly 50.7 percent of the votes. Capriles scored 49.0 percent. (For comparison, Barack Obama won 51.2 percent of the U.S. popular vote last November, with only 58.2 percent turnout.)
Despicable counterrevolutionary campaign
Participation, though high compared to countries like the U.S., was slightly lower than the 82 percent in the presidential election Chávez won last Oct. 7. Some 20.8 percent of the electorate abstained in this quick election, which the constitution demanded following the inability of the elected president to hold office, in this case because of Commander Chávez’s death on March 5.
According to various sources, including Juan Contreras, deputy to the National Assembly for the Popular Movement and resident of the famous January 23 neighborhood, with whom Workers World/Mundo Obrero spoke on April 16, most of those who abstained from voting were poor people, who Maduro said were confident his victory was assured and therefore saw no great urgency to go to the polls. From the start, Maduro’s victory was projected and estimates gave a big lead to the Chavista forces.
The opposition, however, encouraged voting from the middle class and from part of the poor with opportunistic speeches that appeared deceptively similar to the revolutionary project. With maximum cynicism, its electoral campaign leadership named itself the “Simón Bolívar Command.” Capriles said he would “perfect” the popular missions and end the insecurity caused by violence. Such violence really worries the people, but it has been caused by decades of right-wing governments in Capriles’ camp.
Using clothing and logos similar to those of the Chavistas and waving the Venezuelan flag, Capriles tried to superficially imitate the revolutionary forces. His goal, however, is to take the country back to the rule of the oligarchy. Capriles was part of the 2002 coup against Chávez that abolished the Bolivarian Constitution and was among those who participated in the attack on the Cuban embassy during the coup.
The rightists have been preparing this destabilization campaign through their privately owned media, which dominate Venezuela’s air waves. From the beginning they insulted and denigrated the president and the CNE, spreading the idea that the CNE would commit fraud and they would not recognize the election results if Maduro won. Capriles has refused to sign the agreement to recognize the election results.
Aided by the U.S. State Department, an international campaign cautioned Venezuela, demanding that elections be open and clear. These warnings ignored the transparency of Venezuelan electoral processes, which are recognized internationally as the most transparent and sophisticated in the world, including by the Carter Center.
However, the worst aspect was a vile campaign of power outages, food shortages and systematic lies in the media leading up to the election. In his presidential inauguration address to the NEC on April 16, Maduro described this campaign: “We know the role of the U.S. embassy. It was an electrical war, a war against the people, four months of economic warfare, with shortages. It was a brutal and psychological war. They hacked my Twitter account and that of many leaders.” The website of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the ruling party, was also attacked.
Vice President Jorge Arreaza held a press conference on April 15 to announce that the CNE website had received and repelled 45,000 attacks in an hour. He said the attacks had come from abroad, considering the codes of different countries they noted, including some from the U.S. and Europe. (Telesur)
Days earlier, President Maduro had reported an attack against him by two Salvadorans: “Once again, the inclusion of Salvadoran rightists in terrorist acts can be seen in conversations filtered by intelligence agencies that reveal that Central American mercenaries are being used and given clear instructions to create conditions that facilitate a greater onslaught by Washington against the Bolivarian Revolution.
“Two Salvadorans are participating in this plan: former Colonel David Koch Arana and Roberto D’Aubuisson, currently an elected deputy of the National Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, who is the son of Roberto D’Aubuisson, founder of ARENA and the death squads in El Salvador and the mastermind behind the death of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero in March 1980.” (alainet.org/active/63173)
Omens of a coup in preparation are apparent. Capriles said April 16 that if the CNE gave the presidency to Maduro, there would be a rebellion that night and the next day a march to the CNE. (panamericanpost.blogspot.com)
All these threats are extremely dangerous, but the most pressing danger comes from U.S. imperialism, without which the Venezuelan right-wing opposition would have no support.
New phase of the Revolution
Despite the great pain of losing Chávez, a giant of a political leader, there are signs of great hope that indicate a new phase of the Bolivarian Revolution. In his speech on April 16, President Maduro restated the need and his intent to “build a powerful revolutionary movement … consolidating the collective military and political leadership of the revolution.”
All this depends on the participation of the people. Deputy Contreras told WW-MO: “The fundamental task for deepening the Bolivarian Revolution … must be accompanied by a set of important measures for the people, who are poor and hungry for revolution, who said ‘yes’ to socialism and continue to stand for this.
“That would involve the proposal now being raised from our streets. If it is really true that there was a [currency] devaluation, then it has to have an adjustment program of measures, and we say that this adjustment program the government proposes must be prepared with popular consultation. And the people are wise about these things. For example, we believe in a proposal from the rank and file that the Popular Movement is discussing, among workers, students, peasants, Indigenous people and people of our neighborhood, such as nationalizing banking and commerce.
“That the PDP [the price to consumers] should be respected, the retail price that food has should be kept on its label and there should be no commercial exploitation to prevent speculation. Those who own the big companies should be the ones paying higher taxes. Taxes should not fall on the backs of the poor people, who have nothing. There should be a set of measures and mechanisms to keep this revolutionary process moving forward to the left, which will accompany what is the key to this process: the participation and readiness of the people to follow the road to socialism.”